Last week we took a look at one of the most infamous moves the Jets made last season, playing Marcus Williams in place of Calvin Pryor against the Raiders. This has been frequently discussed in the months that followed. Less discussed is the way the Jets changed course the following week, increasing the playing time of backup safety Dion Bailey.
Bailey had started the season with the Seahawks. The Jets picked him up before the Week 4 game against Miami. In the aftermath of the ugly game in Oakland, Bailey saw 39 snaps, the most he played all year with the Jets. It got lost in the weeds a bit, but Bailey played a really nice game against the Jaguars, stabilizing the position with Calvin Pryor still injured.
Bailey played linebacker in college before transitioning to safety.
This game did feature a lot of Bailey playing sort of like a linebacker. Even if he wasn't in the box, he was playing downhill quite a bit against the run.
This play was fairly basic. The Jets appear to be one gapping against the run. Bailey plugs his gap and makes a play when there is daylight in front of him.
This is a pretty basic play where Bailey did his job, but there were a few other plays where Bailey showed a lot of range and ability to work through traffic to defeat run plays.
It flew under the radar, but Bailey actually led the Jets in tackles in this game. They put some other things on his plate as well.
Here was a play where Bailey recorded half a sack. This is not the greatest attempt at a blitz pickup by T.J. Yeldon, but Bailey still gets through it to get to Blake Bortles.
Bailey's specialty isn't necessarily coverage, but he held his own when he did drop. On this play, you can see him stay close enough to cover the man in the flat while dropping back to clog Blake Bortles' passing lane on the deeper route.
He also held up pretty well in man coverage. Here was a pretty basic coverage play.
Here's a not so basic one where he's left on an island against Julius Thomas down the field and wins.
The extensive use of Marcus Williams against Oakland was probably one of the worst coaching decisions the staff made all season. They received heavy criticism, and rightly so. I don't think they got enough credit for the prompt way they fixed it, though, by not doubling down. They immediately reevaluated things and got Bailey into the lineup. Bailey for his part showed he could play.
Going back to last week, I speculated the Jets wanted Williams' strong cover skills at safety against the Oakland passing game. They paid for it with Williams' weak tackling. While Bailey did play well in coverage against Jacksonville, he is undoubtedly not the cover guy Williams is.
What the Jets did was play Bailey on early downs when tackling was going to be needed. Bailey was at least strong enough to hold up in coverage. Then on passing downs, situations where covering would be more important than tackling, Williams would frequently come into the game. He had an interception at safety in one such situation.
In the NFL, the salary cap forces teams to have a lot of minimum wage players, particularly in backup roles. It is up to front offices and coaches to find players who have some skillsets, frequently limited, and find roles that fit those skillsets. The Jets had success in this game and showed they might have some legitimate safety depth.
Unfortunately, Bailey was hurt on the play the video showed covering Julius Thomas deep. This gave another young safety a chance to step up, but that is a story for a future post.