Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is safety Marcus Maye. Maye is the less heralded of the two rookie safeties starting for the Jets in 2017, overshadowed a bit by the brilliance of first round sensation Jamal Adams.
Marcus Maye is a 24 year old, 6' 0", 210 pound safety out of the University of Florida. Maye had a very productive career at Florida, amassing 205 tackles, 7 for loss, 16 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles and 5 interceptions. He was a first team All American as a junior. He was continuing his highly productive play his senior year before a broken arm in the ninth game of the year ended his college career. Maye was selected by the New York Jets with the 39th overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL draft. Maye was the second safety selected by the Jets in 2017, following the 6th overall pick of the draft, Jamal Adams. Together the two rookie safeties were counted on to completely overhaul the back end of the Jets defense. Both 2016 starting safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor were jettisoned in favor of the rookies. There was some concern that two rookies in the last line of defense could be a problem for the 2017 Jets, but thus far they have instead been a revelation.
While Jamal Adams has gotten the lion’s share of the attention, and deservedly so, for his spectacular play thus far, Maye has quietly solidified the last line of defense for the Jets. The two safeties are in many ways interchangeable, but thus far Maye has gotten more work in a free safety role and Adams more work closer to the line of scrimmage. With Maye often the only thing standing between the Jets and disaster in the back end it has been encouraging that the constant big play breakdowns from a season ago have for the most part become a thing of the past. Maye has not made a lot of big plays himself, with no sacks, no passes defended and no interceptions, but he has been solid in tackling and has rarely been beat over the top.
This week’s game against the Cleveland Browns presents Maye an opportunity to take on more of a playmaker role. Maye is an instinctive player who likes to read the quarterback’s eyes and get a jump on the ball. With the Browns featuring the worst starting quarterback in the NFL in DeShone Kizer, who has already thrown for 8 interceptions in just 4 games, Maye may have the opportunity to catch Kizer staring down a receiver, the way rookie quarterbacks are wont to do, and get a jump on the route.
Maye also figures to be instrumental in limiting the damage done by the Browns’ leading receiver to date, running back Duke Johnson, who has 20 catches for 207 yards through 4 games. If Maye can help take Johnson out of the game the Browns will be forced to rely on their deeper passing game, which should be to the Jets advantage.
The contest in Cleveland presents the Jets with the opportunity to make it over the .500 mark for the first time in the 2017 season. A rookie quarterback who looks unready to take on a starting role in the NFL should present the Jets’ defense with play making opportunities to turn the game in the Jets favor. Marcus Maye should have some opportunities to step out of his more celebrated rookie’s shadow and make some game changing plays on Sunday. Marcus Maye, this is your time in the spotlight. This is your chance to shine for the Jets. Time to stake your claim along with Jamal Adams as one of the most promising young safeties in the NFL.