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Jets Film Review: Safeties Show Their Potential

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New York Jets v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It’s generally a good idea to keep your expectations low for rookies. There are players here and there who are stars the second they set foot on an NFL field, but most players need some time to grow.

With that in mind, I get excited about a rookie when I see two things.

  • He looks like he belongs on an NFL field over the course of a full 16 game season.
  • Every now and then he gives you a taste of something special.

If you look like a credible player as a rookie, there is a good chance you will improve into something more with experience, and those flashes of something special will become more consistent.

I think it is fair to say the Jets’ two rookie safeties have fit both pieces of criteria this season.

When I reviewed the game Sunday against the Broncos, I came away thinking Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were the two best Jets on the field.

You can’t really judge safety play accurately watching the game in real time. The broadcast camera angle tends focus on players at the position unless they mess up. You may miss some really important work they do.

In this game, it might have been easy to miss those tastes of something special.

Here was a play where Adams baited Trevor Siemian into a bad decision.

The Jets are showing a look where Siemian thinks he has a one on one matchup at the bottom of the picture. Maye (orange) appears to be the only deep safety while Adams (yellow) is closer to the line. If you like the matchup on the bottom, that is an opportunity to take a chance.

Adams, however, backed out at the snap. He was actually providing help over the top on this pass. There was double coverage at the bottom of the picture.

Siemian ended up attempting a dangerous pass into an almost impossible window.

The pass was incomplete, but this was a dangerous throw. Decisions like this lead to interceptions. The decision was made because Adams played cat and mouse with the quarterback and fooled him.

Maye was not to be outdone. One of the great dilemmas defenses face is how to deploy their safeties. If you only leave one deep, you are vulnerable to the deep pass. One safety cannot cover the entire field.

If you leave two deep, you are vulnerable to the run. Offenses will have one blocker for every defender, and the back can rip off a nice gain. On this play, the Jets are showing two deep safeties, Adams (yellow) and Maye (pink). In this instance, they actually are playing two guys deep.

With two deep safeties, there are only seven defenders in the box. There are also seven blockers. When you hear from time to time about the necessity of a team playing eight men in the box, this is why. Add an eighth guy, and somebody can’t be blocked. Again, though, moving a safety down into the box exposes the deep part of the field to the pass.

Look at the way Maye flies down to make this tackle. He didn’t need to be in the box to make the play. With this kind of range, it was like having eight in the box without exposing the deep part of the field.

When we talk about safeties people frequently categorize the players as either “deep centerfielders” who can help against the pass or “in the box” guys who help against the run. In some schemes, that is the way it works.

In other systems like the one the Jets run, you want your safeties to do a little bit of everything. These plays exhibit why this is so.

They also show a lot of potential at the position in the future.