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Scouting Jets defensive back Montrel Meander

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Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions

With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Montrel Meander.

Meander is a 24-year old defensive back who was undrafted out of Grambling State last season. He is 6’2” and 215 pounds and spent preseason last year with the Cleveland Browns. Meander has also spent time with the Oakland Raiders.

Background

Meander’s college career was derailed by a sexual assault allegation before his redshirt freshman season in 2014 after he had been recruited to Texas as a wide receiver.

The team suspended him and he never played a down for them, even though the charges were ultimately dropped in 2015. He opted to transfer to Grambling State in January 2016.

In his first year with the Tigers, Meander caught two passes for 19 yards and recorded eight tackles, as he made the transition to safety part of the way through the season.

He started at safety in 2017 and racked up 49 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups.

After a solid pro day, there was some buzz that Meander might be drafted but he eventually went unselected and the Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent. He played for them in preseason, registering three tackles in four games and then spent 12 weeks on the Browns’ practice squad.

Meander was poached from the Browns’ practice squad at the end of November and spent the rest of the year on their 53-man roster, although he was inactive each week.

When he was waived in June, the Jets claimed him, making him the first player acquired in the Joe Douglas era.

Now let’s take a look at what Meander brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Meander has good size and length and posted some excellent athletic numbers at his pro day. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and posted a 37.5” vertical and 124” broad jump. He also recorded 15 bench press reps. In high school, he ran a sub-10.8 in the 100 meters.

Usage

In preseason action with the Browns, Meander played most of his reps as a deep safety. However, he also matched up a lot in the slot and played a couple of snaps as an outside cornerback.

In college, Meander was a safety, primarily lining up in the box. The Raiders and Jets both listed Meander as a cornerback when they signed him, though.

Coverage skills

Although he played most of his preseason reps at safety, Meander was targeted several times while matched up in coverage and held up really well.

In fact, he only gave up one catch and that was on an underneath dump-off on an unsuccessful 4th-and-long play. One other pass was dropped, but that was also underneath.

On this play he manages to disrupt the receiver’s route which perhaps prevents him from being able to locate the ball.

A better pass might have gone for a first down on this play, but again Meander contributes to the incompletion by slowing the receiver up by jamming him as he comes off the line.

When playing as a safety, Meander displays impressive range as he covers a lot of ground and keeps plays in front of him.

Ball skills

This was Meander’s best play from preseason. He displays blanket coverage here and makes a clean play on the ball for the pass breakup.

He can be late to get his head turned around on downfield throws at times though.

Meander had two interceptions in college, including one where he made a diving catch on a tipped ball. However, he dropped this chance for a third.

Tackling

As noted, Meander’s range in pursuit is good and he takes good angles. At Grambling State, he often played in the box and made plays going from sideline-to-sideline.

He had one missed tackle in preseason, but it didn’t prevent his teammate from making the play right behind him.

Physicality

As you’ve already seen, Meander was employed a lot in press coverage, where his length is an asset.

On this play, he lines up for a rare rep on the outside and does an excellent job in press coverage, slowing the receiver’s route so that the ball is overthrown.

He didn’t seem to have major issues with penalties at college and didn’t have any in preseason.

Run defense

Meander is used to mixing it up in the box, since that was his primary role with the Tigers. He made plenty of plays against the run, including three tackles for loss in 2017.

In preseason action, he came off the edge on this run blitz to get in on the tackle in the backfield.

On a few occasions, a blocker got their hands on him and drove him out of the play. While these runs didn’t go for much yardage, Meander needs to work on anticipating, avoiding and getting off blocks like these.

Blitzing

Blitzing isn’t something Meander has had a chance to do much of yet, other than the run blitz mentioned above.

Special teams

Meander has covered kicks and punts and been a blocker on the punt return unit but hasn’t made much impact in either role. He was in on one special teams tackle in preseason last year. His skill-set suggests he might have some potential in this role.

Instincts/Intelligence

Meander’s college film shows plenty of plays where he made a good read and went to make a play or wasn’t fooled by a fake.

On this play, the end jumps up and picks the ball off for a touchdown. However, if you focus on Meander, you’ll see he does a good job of getting through traffic so he can trail his man to the perimeter.

Attitude

Meander seems to have a good work ethic and is prepared to battle for a role with the team.

Since his arrest, Meander hasn’t had any other off-field issues. As noted, he was cleared of all charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault.

Injuries

Meander hasn’t had any serious injuries reported over the course of his career, but a quad injury when he arrived in Oakland contributed towards him being inactive for the final month of the year.

Scheme Fit

Meander should be comfortable in Gregg Williams’ system after having spent most of last year with the Browns. Williams may have been behind the Jets making the move to claim him. After all, he was never cut from the Browns; the Raiders poached him.

Conclusions

While Meander has mostly played at safety, some of the plays he put on film as a cornerback were actually pretty impressive and therefore that’s probably where his future lies. It was equally impressive that he had hardly any negative plays.

Contrasting him with Mark Myers, who has more experience as a cornerback, it looks like Meander has more potential and is closer to being NFL-ready, although he too is going to be raw.

It will be interesting to see how he is employed in preseason and whether he can establish himself as someone Williams wants to continue to keep in the fold.