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A Look Back at Jamal Adams

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The first in a series

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A look back at Jamal Adams

In this look back series I would like to pay homage to some of the players I believe are the cornerstones to the future of the New York Jets. These players are the building blocks that Joe Douglas will use to construct the impending Jets rebirth, morphing them into a serious playoff contender. Without these players I seriously doubt Joe Douglas or any top GM candidate would have chosen to pin their futures on the Jets.

I also don’t want to show you just highlights but how the play was made by the player. What did he do that another player at his position couldn’t have done? Basically I want to give you an idea why these are great young players and not just a bunch of bogus hype.

I originally was going to start this series with Sam Darnold, the wonder kid, our great hope. He has also done a nice job of evolving and growing (in a single year) into a viable NFL QB. Yet I wanted to honor accomplishment and the All Pro award given to Jamal Adams was significant. Jamal was so good last year he made the team on a 4-12 squad who gave up the 2nd most points allowed in the teams history.

Only one other young player was selected to the All Pro Team with a team with a losing record. That was Xavien Howard and the Dolphins who were 7-9. Almost all the winners came from playoff teams and teams with winning records.

I want to show you this clip because of the things Jamal does when he is not on the field. That makes him an All Pro also.

This was at last training camp and he made the day of a very grateful Jets fan. He even had pictures taken with the fan by their family. Jamal can be brash at times, but he took the time to do the right thing. I think he enjoyed it as much as the fan.

Now this clip is from before the game getting himself ready. He also gets the team fired up in the tunnel before the introduction. Jamal gets some grief because he is passionate and may say some things people don’t like. You realize Jamal just wants to win, but he is a leader first, and his team knows it. You see the “C” on his jersey. It was put there by his peers.

Remember in all these clips Jamal had not been recognized as an All Pro yet, but I’m sure many of the players around the team could see the player he was and bestowed the captain honor on him as a show of respect and admiration. It’s a high honor for a 2nd year player, I said before the Jets drafted him he has two sides to him, the great football player and the team leader. He reminds me a little of Ronnie Lott. He is not there yet, but he is still an ascending player. You have not seen his best yet.

Now let’s get to the game footage and watch some great football.

This first play is from the opening game in Detroit. The Jets handed Detroit a butt whooping, but every play means something to Jamal Adams. He is not just dialed in when the game is on the line. He is on point every play of the game. The Jets are high on themselves with the score 48-17 in the 4th quarter. The game is in the win column. The clock just needs to tick down. Jamal is playing spy coverage in the flat on the running back who is the safety valve on the play. Adams in in perfect position to watch the RB and the QB.

He can see that Matthew Stafford is eyeing Marvin Jones in the deep flat as he is breaking free, uncovered. Jamal uses his instincts, eyes, and understands the defense the Jets were playing at the time. Jamal has his man (the RB) but “eyes” the QB and breaks back to the area the WR is running to. That is the key. He will never get to the WR in time to cover him, but he can race back to the spot he believes he will be break up the play. He used his 4.33/40 speed he ran at his pro day and made it to the spot just as the ball arrived.

Adams often uses his helmet as a weapon. but not in such a way that he will get flagged for it. Here he simultaneously makes his helmet hit Jones’s shoulder pad as Jamal’s own shoulder pads are violently hitting Jones in the ribs. The result is a sure TD catch broken up and a receiver who felt the brunt of the menacing hit.

This was just a great play all around by Jamal, the instincts, the speed, the perfectly timed hit, the vision, and the ability to put that all together to make a play. This was happening in a 48-17 game. Many players wouldn’t have even bothered. That makes the play special as well. The never give up a play attitude and desire to make every play.

In this play against the Dolphins, Adams realizes that Miami is in a wildcat formation with Kalen Ballage as the primary ball handler. Ballage is also a rookie who had only 36 rushing attempts for the year so he is probably fairly nervous and will try and do something quick with the ball rather than trying something cute. Most running plays from the Wildcat formation are run directly up the middle of the defense.

So you see Adams amble over from the right edge of the defense and shoot towards the “B” gap at the snap. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil tries to block Adams, but Jamal is far too quick and fast for the big lineman. Adams angles in, making a TFL on the play. It wasn’t a devastating tackle, but it was effective.

Adams made a huge jump in effectiveness from year one to two in all areas of his game. He cut his missed tackle rate from 13.6% as a rookie to just 7.5% in his 2nd year. That is rather impressive when you realize that he had 115 tackles last year with 86 of them being of the solo variety. He lowered his passer rating against (when in coverage) from 124.7 to 67.6. He also increased his effectiveness as a pass rusher. His pressure rate (when he actually rushes the passer) went from 13.7% to 28.1%.

Here in the second game of the season he shows you why he had such a great improvement from year to year. Granted, most great players are going to get better and learn from their first year playing in the NFL. It is a different game than college with much more skilled players. Yet Adams had a huge leap from good player to NFL elite player in a single year and still has room to improve.

In this clip Adams is playing off the ball as a 3rd ILB, barking orders to Trumaine Johnson on the other side of the formation. He is in coverage right? No he is playing possum. and as soon as the QB (Ryan Tannehill) ducks down (with under 10 seconds on the play clock) Adams quickly moves into position outside of OLB Brandon Copeland. As the ball is snapped Copeland is easily held in check by Laremy Tunsil while Adams is being blocked by rookie 6’ 6” Mike Gesicki. Adams makes short work of Gesicki and leaves him behind.

As Tannehill rolls to his right to escape pressure you can see Adams gaining on him quickly. Remember, Tannehill is an exceptional athlete and spent his first two year at Texas A&M as a wide receiver. He was timed in the 40 at 4.65 on his pro day so this was not some immobile QB. You can see as Adams approaches Tannehill he first secures the tackle with his left hand while simultaneously using his right hand as a jackhammer to dislodge the ball from his prey. This is a veteran pass rusher’s move being done by a safety playing in his 18th NFL game who only had 2 sacks his previous year.

Here is another look at the same play from another angle.

This view gives you a better picture of how far Adams had to traverse in order to make the play. He keeps his feet moving at the snap then disposes of Gesicki (who I don’t think Adams was expecting to be there) rather quickly then chases down Tannehill in rapid fashion and decisively forces the fumble.

This play was also helped by the call Adams made to Trumaine Johnson. With Adams blitzing Johnson steps up to play press man coverage. By doing so it took away Tannehill’s second read on the play. You can see at first glance Tannehill looked left to draw the safety then figured he would have his man on the right wide open but he was not. This allowed Adams the time to cross the near width of the football field to make a play. If the Jets had recovered the fumble it would have put the offense inside the 35 yard line.

Now let us look at some coverage aspects of Adams game. The Jets rarely played Adams in direct man coverage on TEs, RBs and slot receivers. They wanted to move Adams around so much as to make the offense wonder what he was doing on any given play. So a lot of Adams’ coverages were from zone looks where he may spy a player but he also was guarding a place on the field.

In this play from later in the same Dolphin game Adams is spying rookie TE Chris Myarick. If Myarick goes out in a pass pattern Adams will cover. If he blocks Adams will play the run or drop into zone coverage depending on the type of play being run. That is Adams at the top of the screen with his foot on the tip of the NFL logo about 8 yards off the ball.

Once the play starts, and Myarick goes out into a drag pattern Adams is off like a shot. He quickly formulates in his mind the earliest area to overtake the TE and runs to that spot. With his speed he is able to dive in front of the rookie and either deflect the pass or make Tannehill throw it too far from the receiver. The results are the same in any case. This is done with speed, play recognition and decisive quick action. If Adams waits a split second longer to move on the TE it will be a completed pass.

This is a play from the Patriots game where Adams is in zone coverage. I have a couple of looks at this to get a better understanding what was going on here.

In the first look you see Tom Brady back to pass with all the time in the world. He is looking for Gronk the entire time and is waiting for him to clear into the flat. This is a 3rd and 10 play so Brady is hoping that Gronk can catch his pass in space and charge his way to a 1st down. Brady’s pass reaches Gronk just as Adams arrives and is able to break up the play. This brings up 4th down and the punt team.

The second look gives you an idea on how the play occurred and what Brady was looking at. At the snap Gronk is in the left slot with Frankie Luvu on his inside shoulder ready to rush the edge and Adams 9 yards off the ball. When the ball is snapped Gronk makes his way straight ahead. Luvu actually drops back and steps into Gronk to impede his progress. Brandon Bryant now blitzes, replacing Luvu as the rusher.

Jamal Adams drops back into zone coverage with a wary eye on Gronk and Brady as well. Gronk releases from Luvu, clearing him with a left arm shove then cuts at the 27 yard line (he is doing an out route). Adams is on the 31 yard line with his eyes keyed on Brady. As soon as Brady cocks his arm to release the ball Adams makes a beeline to Gronk. As Gronk turns to give Brady a wide target Adams closes in to where he believes Gronk will catch the ball. Gronk turns to move upfield as the ball arrives and is blasted by Adams.

In the 3rd look you can see the violent collision and Adams landing on a stunned Gronk. But watch as Adams approaches Gronk. He again uses his helmet as a weapon putting the crown of his helmet right on Gronk’s hands and the ball. The brutal impact Adams used made it nearly impossible for Gronk to hold onto the ball. Gronk is a massive man, but he got just trucked by Adams. You can see as Gronk gets up that he felt the brunt of that hit, and it didn’t feel nice.

In this play you can see the total awareness of the play, the vision to see multiple things happening at the same time, and the violent but effective tackle that also sends a message to anyone looking to catch a ball in Adam’s locale. The excellent speed and the ability to turn that speed into savage power.

Speaking of savage power when tackling. Adams makes a point of making sure tackles that leave a mark. Adams tries to send a message on every tackle he makes. Now that is not always possible on every play, but the intent is clear. If you come into Jamal’s lair you pay a heavy price. A reputation like that will spread around the NFL like a wildfire, and opponents who are playing the Jets for the first time will have their head on a swivel when they try to make a play in his sphere of influence. These are just a small compilation of plays where a tackle and message is sent.

Adams doesn’t have to throw his body around like a madman to make a tackle, but he does it because other players notice that type of play and how it will affect them. When a player is running a pass route and he tries to sneak a peek to see where Adams is on the field then you know his plan is working. When a receiver has even 5% of his concentration used to see where Adams is it takes away his effectiveness as a player. He may run a poor route or drop a very catchable ball. When I see that, I call it the Ronnie Lott effect. That is high praise from your peers when they treat you like that.

The hard hitting is not only to intimidate but has other useful advantages as well. Adams has forced 4 fumbles in his two years in the NFL (3 last year). Turnovers are sometimes game changing plays. Here is Adams with a punishing blow to Colts RB Robert Turbin.

Adams uses excellent fundamentals throughout the play. First Turbin sees the middle of the line is clogged up nicely by the Jets interior defensive line. He then looks to kick the play outside, but someone is there (Adams) so he tries to slide between Adams and Leonard Williams.

You see Adams force the play back inside (where all the help is) by playing the run from the outside in. He doesn’t get over anxious and try and make a quick tackle. Adams comes from the flank, forcing Turbin to make up his mind where he wants to go. Adams has the edge completely sealed so this forced Turbin inside. Once Turbin commits to the inside run, that is when Adams attacks. His perfect form tackle (shoulder pad to the ribs and head slides just outside the chest plate of Turbin’s shoulder pads) and right on the ball forces the fumble. The turnover helped the Jets score an impressive upset win 42-34.

Another area that Adams has developed a keen ability (from his 1st to 2nd year) is the ability to blitz effectively and not only to rush the QB. A good blitz is timing, being sneaky as to not give your intentions away and speed.

In this play from the Vikings game is a good example of this exact process. You see the Vikings lined up with Kirk Cousins under center, but you don’t see Adams in the picture. Adams plays close to the line of scrimmage often so it is not alarming to a QB to see him up close. Only when you see Cousins look down for the ball do you see Adams enter the picture. This is great timing and doesn’t give the linemen or QB the ability to change any blocking assignments.

Adams’ stealth is rewarded with an unblocked access to the backfield. The play is helped by the penetration of Nathan Shepherd who blows by tackle Rashad Hill. Shepherd is not able to make the tackle because Hill just grabs him and wrestles him to the ground (and no flag is thrown), but Adams is able to clean up on an easy TFL. This play was successful due to excellent timing by Adams; something he obviously worked on between his 1st and 2nd years. Great stealth is a learned trait. You can’t be over anxious or you will give it away.

This last clip is of Adams using that good timing to blitz (with impressive speed) and get through the Houston line untouched for a sack of a very mobile DeShaun Watson.

There is not a whole lot to say here other than it shows great timing, speed and sure tackling. The Houston line did a very poor job last year. Adams almost gave his intentions away by starting a hair early, but it did the trick.

There you have it. Adams is t he Jets only All Pro player, and he will become a better leader because of that designation. Players respect talent, and the Jets on paper have a very solid center of the defense on all three levels. You have Quinnen Williams as a 1 tech, C.J. Mosley as an ILB and Adams in the third level down the middle of the defense. This is the way Tony Dungy built the Tampa Bay great defense with Sapp as the 1 tech, Derrick Brooks on the second level and John Lynch as the hammer on the third level.

The Jets now have to keep adding pieces to this team to keep the build going. Adams was a great piece to add to this organization. I am sure that the 49ers would like a redo and have a player like Adams in their secondary instead of Solomon Thomas.

If you can get a steal with the 6th pick in the draft then the Jets stole one here. Adams is a force on defense, a great leader who is still learning and an ascending player. We have not seen the best of Adams yet. He is an important keystone to the Jets future and the sky’s the limit for this soon to be 3rd year player. In the future you just might be telling people far younger than you about watching a Hall of Fame career unfold in front of your eyes. He is not there yet, not even close, but this is a good start.

Doesn’t watching Adams make you salivate for some great football? It does to me.

What do you think?