Throughout January and February, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at some of the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at former Bears offensive lineman Jordan Morgan.
The 24-year old Morgan is listed at 6’4” and 311 pounds and was a fifth round pick out of Kutztown in 2017. Morgan has yet to play in an NFL regular season game having spent his rookie season on the Bears’ injured reserve and part of last year on Tennessee’s practice squad.
Morgan only took up football as a high school senior, playing as a defensive end and offensive tackle. However, he immediately showed some good potential and eventually ended up walking on at Kutztown.
After redshirting his first year, during which time he had to bulk up from 235 pounds, Morgan was a four-year starter. In his senior year, he won the Gene Upshaw award given to the top Division II offensive lineman and also took home the PSAC Offensive Athlete of the Year; an award usually given to skill position players.
Morgan attended the 2017 scouting combine and senior bowl, where he got his first chance to play guard and impressed by holding his own against the likes of Carlos Watkins. He entered the draft with a mid-to-late round projection and was eventually selected by the Bears in the fifth round.
After spending his first season in Chicago on injured reserve, Morgan was released in final cuts. He spent several weeks on the Titans’ practice squad during the season but was out of contract when the Jets signed him earlier this month.
Now let’s take a look at what Morgan brings to the table, divided into categories.
Morgan has good size with a strong frame and long arms, but lacks the athletic ability to be able to play at tackle like he did at Kutztown.
At the combine most of his numbers were below average or poor, with just his broad jump and short shuttle being average for his position. He ran a 5.36 40-yard dash and did just 21 bench press reps.
As noted, Morgan played left tackle in college, but he said NFL teams had told him he’d need to play guard at the NFL level and started preparing for that at the Senior Bowl.
In preseason action, he mostly played at right guard, but in his lone start - the 2018 Hall of Fame Game - he started off at left guard and played there into the second quarter.
Morgan has had to make a big adjustment since leaving Kutztown because of the position change and the higher level of opposition.
His best asset is his length, which he uses well by extending his arms to buy himself time to react to the defender.
Despite his underwhelming numbers he is quite light on his feet. You obviously don’t get as much room or time to recover when you lose leverage as an interior lineman. However, here’s an example of a play where he is initially overpowered but shows quick feet to recover back towards his man:
In preseason, he wasn’t tested to the limit in his rookie year, as he was often simply tasked with double-teaming or just being the spare man. However, the Bears asked more of him in his second season and he gave up some pressures by being driven back off his spot by bull rushers, although he also displayed an ability to re-anchor at times too.
Here’s another play where his man flushed the quarterback from the pocket by beating him to the initial punch to rock him back and get upfield on him:
One more issue that was readily apparent was that he allowed his opponent to get his hands up to bat down a pass on a number of occasions.
Morgan was a dominant run blocker in college, excelling at creating big gains or making highlight reel blocks. In his limited preseason action, he’s made less of an impact, but at least he’s limited any really bad mistakes.
On this play, Morgan shows he’s capable of moving a player off his spot to create a running lane:
It seems to have taken him some time to adapt to the guard position though, as he’s still adjusting to the angles required to be effective at the second level and sometimes struggles to sustain blocks. He plays with aggression and finishes strong, though.
On the whole, Morgan’s footwork and hand placement isn’t bad. However, one common problem with Morgan is that he’s off-balance as he fires off the line. This often causes him to topple over and makes him ineffective at locking onto blocks at the second level:
His other main problem was that he was losing hand fighting battles, enabling his man to gain a leverage advantage and throw off his block.
Initially, he was also struggling to adjust to the fact that you take a deeper drop into your pass rushing stance as a tackle, but he seemed to get to grips with that eventually.
Morgan was called for two penalties in his rookie preseason campaign. One was an illegal man downfield penalty, which was more of a lapse in concentration than anything else and proved irrelevant because it came on an incomplete pass on the last play of the game.
The other penalty saw him called for a holding penalty on this play:
Morgan’s only special teams contributions in preseason action with the Bears were as a blocker on the placekicking unit.
Despite being a late-starter, Morgan is a player who has worked hard at understanding his assignment. He didn’t seem to make any mental errors in preseason action, despite the fact he had to change positions and adapt to the complexity of NFL schemes.
On this play, he executes well against an E/T stunt as he passes off his assignment to the right tackle and picks up the stunting end to set up a first down conversion:
Morgan’s coaches have praised him for his hard work and described him as coachable. He seems determined to make himself better and was happy to make the position change when pro teams requested it.
Morgan didn’t have injury problems in college, but his shoulder issue damaged his NFL chances. The Bears probably would have kept him on their active roster as a rookie had he been healthy and he found himself on the third string in his second year, after the Bears drafted another lineman.
Nearly every running play the Bears ran with Morgan on the field in preseason was an inside zone run, which the Jets figure to run a lot of this season. He pulled outside on one run, although he had to adjust on the move and seal his man to the inside rather than picking him up coming around the edge and kicking him out to create a cutback lane as the play seemed to be designed. On one other play, he pulled left but this was a (failed) play-action pass on a two-point conversion.
Morgan’s offensive coordinator in his rookie season was current Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, so that will help him with scheme familiarity.
When the Bears drafted Morgan, they knew they were taking on a project who would probably be at least a year, if not more, away from contributing. However, they abandoned the project at the end of his second camp, so now the Jets will hope that they can take on this partially-developed player and see if they have the patience to get him to realize his potential.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get too much of a read on him from his limited preseason action. He barely played in two games as a rookie and then got hurt in the last one. Then, having played every snap in the first game in 2018, he only played 20 snaps the rest of the way.
Based on what he did show, he looks the part at times, but is also still raw. A few tweaks here and there technically could make a big difference to his base and will provide him the foundation to win more battles in the trenches. If new offensive line coach Frank Pollack can get him to make strides, that will be a good sign for this staff.