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 Jamal Adams. Adams is the more heralded of the two rookie safeties starting for the Jets in 2017, starting along with second round pick Marcus Maye.
Jamal Adams is a 22 year old, 6' 0", 215 pound safety out of Louisiana State University. Adams has NFL bloodlines; his father is George Adams, former NFL running back for the 1986 Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Jamal Adams had a very productive career at LSU. In his sophomore year he was voted 2nd team All SEC when he tallied 67 tackles and four interceptions. In his junior year Adams was voted first team All American. Adams was noted for his outstanding leadership qualities, his advanced knowledge of the game and his almost preternatural ability to diagnose plays quickly and correctly. Adams finished his three year college career with 209 tackles, 18 for a loss, 5 interceptions and 14 passes defended. Adams was widely considered the second best player in the 2017 NFL draft, and was selected by the New York Jets with the 6th overall pick in the 1st round of the draft. Adams was the first of back to back safeties selected by the Jets in 2017, as safety Marcus Maye was selected with the Jets second round pick. 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.
The Jets have used Adams in a variety of roles this season. He has lined up as a cornerback, a safety and a linebacker. Adams has rushed the passer, he’s shot gaps to shut down running backs, and he’s covered tight ends, wide receivers and running backs in pass coverage. While Adams has had a few problems covering tight ends, for the most part he has looked like he belonged as an NFL starter from day one. He also has danced a little. Together with fellow rookie Marcus Maye the two rookies have stabilized what was a leaky back end of the secondary a year ago.
This week’s game against the Carolina Panthers presents an interesting challenge for Jamal Adams’ jack of all trades skill set. The Panthers’ offense runs through quarterback Cam Newton, a dual threat quarterback who makes almost as many plays with his feet as he does with his arm. The Jets will need to contain the damage Newton does with his running and limit him to being a pocket passer; Adams seems well suited to do some of that work. In addition the Panthers are getting star tight end Greg Olsen back from injury for the game; Adams will probably do some work covering Olsen in the passing game. The Panthers also like to throw a bunch of passes to rookie running back Christian McCaffrey; it won’t come as a surprise if Adams plays a prominent role in limiting the damage McCaffrey does with balls thrown his way.
In short, the Panthers offense seems tailor made to feature Adams in a prominent role in attempting to limit the damage the Panthers offense is capable of. How Adams measures up in this game may go a long way towards determining the outcome. This won’t be easy; Adams will be tested early and often. But this is the kind of challenge a top draft pick like Adams should live for.
The contest against Carolina presents the Jets with an opportunity to stay in the playoff hunt for another week. A former NFL MVP quarterback, a Pro Bowl tight end, and a first round draft pick running back will certainly not make things easy. Jamal Adams should have numerous opportunities to sink or swim in this game. Sink and the Jets likely sink with him. Swim and the Jets should have a good chance at emerging with a win. Jamal Adams, this is what you were born to do. This is your time in the spotlight. This is your chance to shine for the Jets. Time to stake your claim as one of the most promising young safeties in the NFL.