It is not uncommon for first year players to struggle in the NFL. When a team drafts a player in the 3rd round they are expecting somebody with potential who could one day become a playmaker. Joe Montana was a 3rd round pick. So were Mel Blount, Dan Fouts, Jason Witten, even our own Curtis Martin was drafted in the 3rd round back in 1995. These results are atypical. These players far exceeded their expected Draft selections. For every 3rd round Jackie Slater or Art Shell there is an ArDarius Stewart or Dexter McDougle.
It is still very early in training camp with the first preseason game yet to be played, but eventually you have to show a team that you belong on an NFL team. Space is limited. former coach Jerry Glanville used to say, “This is the NFL which stands for Not For Long.” Jachai Polite has been running primarily with the 3rd team in training camp which is usually reserved for guys on the very fringe of the 90 man roster. If you stay there you probably will not make the team.
Also remember this is GM Joe Douglas’ first rodeo so we have no idea what he values in a player. Does he give some leeway for a player with potential or does he do a Bill Belichick and jettison players (even 3rd round picks) who do not give the the team a chance to win now? How much does he believe in athletic ability over production at this early stage of a career? Does he make exceptions, or does he have a hard fast rule?
Joe didn’t draft any of the Jets picks so he is not married to them like an established GM would be. Joe is about to establish his own rules, his own identity as the Jets GM. We don’t know what those rule are, but are about to find out shortly. The clock is ticking. Sand is draining from the hourglass. Cutdown day is coming.
What is there to like about Polite?
When I scouted Polite I saw some great traits along with some troubling aspects of his game. First let’s take a look at some of the qualities which I found appealing for the Jets about Polite.
I thought his first step quickness was elite when he is balanced and under control. He has fluid hips and great ankles which allow him to bend the edge around tackles especially when he comes with speed. He is the quintessential “quicker than fast “ player who can race by tackles and chase down QB’s.
Here is an example:
This is about as rudimentary pass rush as you can get. There is no nuance here, no advanced technique involved. The LT doesn’t even get a finger on Polite as he whizzes by. That is severe first step quickness, a nimble bend around the edge, and an almost 90 degree turn on that left ankle to get straight to the QB. This is innate, God given talent for a 6’3 258 lbs man.
Sometimes talent like this is a curse. I equate it to a high school Baseball pitcher with a 100 mile an hour fastball. He just strikes everyone out with speed. There is no need for a curveball or slider. A changeup? Are you kidding? He gets drafted high and does almost as well in rookie ball. By the time he makes it to AA ball guys are rocketing his fastball into the parking lot (no upper deck in AA parks). He can’t get a lot of guys out because he never developed a secondary pitch, something that augments his fastball.
Watch him again, pure quickness...
He is able to get upfield so quickly, get by the left shoulder of the LT, and cut on a dime to the QB. The LT has no shot unless he grabs a hold of Polite. The one thing that Polite neglects to do is swipe the right arm of the QB as he grabs him. He should recognize that with the ball far away from the QB’s body he is just ripe for a fumble with even moderate aggression. That shows a little lack of detail in his rush which is disconcerting. He sacks the QB at the 5 yard line. A fumble recovered by the defense would end this game right now. When you play at a high rate of speed you have to plan that you are going to sack the QB and think about how you are going to do it. hen you play this fast you have to have insane inborn abilities to think quickly if you want to make up plays as you go. Those abilities I believe are part of the makeup of our 1st round pick Quinnen Williams. He exhibits those exact traits, Polite does not.
More of the same in this clip...
If you watch the right tackle, he has a poor slide step so Polite wisely heads straight upfield against him. Once he gets past the depth of the tackle he angles directly towards the QB with the RT helpless to stop him. Polite even has to stop his momentum or go offsides as he jumps early; anticipating the snap count. This matters little as Polite’s quickness overrides the minor imbalance.
Again though this is just a pure speed rush without the need of a counter move or even a hand slap. You will also notice that this was a 3rd and 10 play so Polite could just pin his ears back and rush upfield without worry of guarding the edge. Polite was mostly a situational pass rusher at Florida starting only 5 of 13 games in 2018. He only played in 7 games in 2017 (had season ending injury against Georgia) and totaled 22 total tackles and 2 sacks. He lacks upper body or even lower body strength to hold up against the run so he needs to improve his power if he wants to be a successful Jet. He doesn’t play on special teams, and without improvements he has a very limited skillset.
This next clip Polite takes advantage of a backup utility lineman from Michigan. He (#70) didn’t start any games (in 2018), and you can see here he doesn’t even use a slide step on this passing play and gets beaten easily.
Again Polite uses no true moves (only a speed rush) to get by the tackle. He basically beats him off the snap, gets just past his right shoulder, and heads for the QB. You can see he impressively spins back at a 45 degree angle (doing almost a 180 turn) with his right ankle and is able to trip up the QB before he escapes the pocket. This is his entire skillset right now, quickness of a first step, great bend, and those elastic ankles. This is a great natural set of talents. Now he has to build off that if he expects to compete in the NFL.
What is troubling about Polite?
Polite has a severe lack of power. Add to that he has no great technique, no great hand usage, and a frame that is ill-suited to play against big tackles. Size (used against him) is Polite’s poison. He gets engulfed, and worse yet he will get pushed aside like he doesn’t fight for his space on the field. If you can’t make the tackle at least make them have to go around you. By holding your ground you string the play out and allow other defenders time to make a play. He will hustle after the play, but making a play 30 yards downfield is still a failure.
On this next play Polite is the contain to the left and gets easily pushed out of the way when he is in for a 2nd and 3 snap. He is playing way too high and simply gets blown off the ball with an average block. You see him chase after the play, but it is still a 27 yard gain.
Technique has never been something that Polite has worked on as a collegian, but he will need to start. He doesn’t have the speed (4.84/40) or the quickness to play OLB, and he is not strong enough, have the size (6’ 3” 258 lbs) or arm length (32 5/8) to be effective as a DE. He has some exceptional traits but not enough to become a starter or a player who plays significant snaps.
Here Michigan has a starter in at RT who is 6’ 7” with long arms and has a decent slide step to cut off Polite. This is a short two step drop from a shotgun snap so Polite was not going to affect the pass anyway. He still is stopped dead in tracks by the behemoth RT.
I liked Polite as a prospect, but I knew he was very lacking in some areas of his game. I did think he had great ability in other aspects of his game. I had Polite as my 57th ranked player in the Draft guide so I really liked him. The lower part of the 2nd round is a gold mine for NFL players, and I thought Polite could be one of them. He had problems I thought that could be corrected. His elite traits were like a drug I could not escape. I had hoped that the Jets would have kept on Kevin Greene as a coach as someone who could light a fire and show Polite his true potential. When I scouted Kevin Greene I saw a player who lacked elite skills except for his determination and desire. He is now a Hall of Famer. This is a guy I thought could reach Polite and make him achieve his potential.
This article is not an indictment of Polite or implying that Polite was a poor selection. On the contrary I am on record saying I had Polite rated a little higher than he was drafted. I just want him to step up, be a professional and prove me right. I think Polite has too much natural talent to be waived this early in his career, and Joe Douglas likes talent. We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes or what the coaches think of him. We are about to find out shortly, though.
What do you think?