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Practice squad players who could interest the Jets, Part 1: Jalen Collins

Finding a diamond in a box of rocks

Chicago Bears v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

We know Joe Douglas will leave no stone unturned when looking for talent. The question is whether Joe look under enough rocks. Is he passing up gold in search for the diamond? Well we here at GGN will look under those rocks, stones, pebbles, boulders, crags, and anywhere else we can find players. We turn our attention to the practice squads of other teams.

Just like the Jets, some players didn’t quite make the grade to be part of the 53 man roster of other team. It doesn’t mean these players lack talent, though. In some cases it was a numbers game. In others a player may need a little more “seasoning.” In any case I want to bring you some interesting players for your perusal in this series.

First you have to understand the rules regarding practice squad players. When you select a practice squad player from another team you must sign him and add him to your roster. This, of course, means you have to subtract a player from your roster. If you sign a practice squad player it can’t be from your next opponent unless it is 6 days before the game or ten days if his team is on a bye week. Once you sign the player he must receive 3 paychecks from your team which count against your salary cap. You can release the player before the three weeks but you have to pay him the money for that time.

The salary for practice squad players can vary, but the minimum you can pay a player is $8,000 a week. So if a player stays on the practice squad the entire year he will make $136,000. If the team makes the Playoffs these players continue being paid at their normal rates. The minimum salary for an NFL rostered player with zero years of accrued experience is $495,000 a year or $29,117.65 a week. So players on the active roster make a minimum of over $21,000 more a week than practice squad players. You clearly would prefer to be on the actual roster.

Some teams pay their practice squad players a little but better to keep them from signing with other teams. A shrewd GM can see how much a team values their practice squad players by the salaries they receive. When you sign a practice squad player it is the same as signing a free agent. The player doesn’t have to sign with your team, and if he does sign his salary can be negotiated. He doesn’t have to sign for the league minimum.

So now you know the rules let’s see who is available.

I have scoured the practice squads of every team. The player who jumped off the page at me was a player I scouted quite heavily. He is an exceptional athlete. He may be the most athletic player at his position in his Draft year. He is a player who is in a position of dire need for the Jets, which is cornerback. Do I have you intrigued?

This player is a stud athlete, but he was tough to scout because he played at LSU and only started 10 games his entire career.

I will say right now I don’t know why Joe Douglas hasn’t signed this player already. (Are you listening, Joe?) He would be the most talented cover corner on the team the moment he walks onto a practice field. I am sure Gregg Williams could get him up to speed quickly. The player is currently on the Colts practice squad.

He is...

Jalen Collins

The 10th pick in the 2nd round (#42 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, Collins had massive talent but also massive personal problems. Collins is a corner who can do pretty much anything he wants to on a football field, but he has been suspended four times by the NFL for various violations. His last suspension was for 10 games to start the 2018 season a PED violation. He has been a troubled kid.

When scouting him I had no idea about the problems he had, only the fact that he started 10 games in his career. A kid with superior talent only starting 10 games is an eye opener. There had to be a reason, but I was not privy to the inside information that teams get. I still don’t know all the info, but I assume the details are not pretty. He was widely considered a first round talent yet he went with the 10th pick of the 2nd round. There had to be a reason.

Anyway my initial scouting report on Collins (sans any personal problems) was a late first round talent. He had speed (4.48/40), quickness (6.77 sec 3-cone drill) plus size (6’ 1” 203 lbs) with good (not great) length (32 1/8” arms). He had the traits to be the best corner in the draft. Little did I know, he failed multiple drug tests in college. Hopefully that is behind him.

This is what I saw at the Combine that excited me about his potential.

When scouts talk about oily hips, this is what they are talking about. Look how smooth and natural his movements are. He has the ability to shift his weight, flipping his hips, moving effortlessly from side to side easily, almost without trying. A good DB coach (not even a great DB coach) could make a player like this into an All Pro as long as the CB worked hard on his technique then followed instructions. This is simply natural talent. This was one of the best DB drills done until I watched Marshon Lattimore in 2017 (who had the best hips I had seen since Deion Sanders). Lattimore lasted until the 11th pick that year which is just amazing to me I had Lattimore #4 behind Myles Garrett, Leonard Fournette, and Jamal Adams.

Collins was reinstated by the NFL in November of 2018 and has so far been a model citizen to this point. Collins said he took steps to ensure he didn’t slip up again. “It’s been a long, long time being out, being away from it. I just took some time for myself to get my head in a good place, and the things that I was struggling with, I put those things behind me.” Collins said “I just want to play football, man,” Collins told reporters. “That’s why I’m here, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

“Over the time that I’ve been out I’ve surrounded myself with a great support system,” Collins added, “I really don’t have a lot of chances, and I’ve learned from my experiences, did my time, and I’m just ready to get going. Plus then working with my agent and Chris now, I know that I have everything I need when, say, a situation might come up.”

To me it is very interesting that the one team who signed Collins to the practice squad was the Colts. If you have read some of my post then you know how much I believe in their GM Chris Ballard. I believe he has a keen eye for evaluating talent and he insists his players have extraordinary character above all. For him to be the one GM to bring in Jalen Collins as a member of his practice squad lends credence to the fact that Collins has truly had an epiphany that has led to a changed behavior.

Collins says all the right things, but let me show you some of the things he has done as a pro. He has had his problems, but he did play reasonably well for Atlanta. Collins can play any coverage press, zone, off coverage, man to man. He is also a big kid 6’ 1” 205 lbs so he can muscle even some of the larger receivers in the NFL. Here he is against Michael Thomas who has good size and strength.

This is nice press coverage playing a big receiver against a back shoulder throw. It is not often, actually it is very rare to intercept Drew Brees, especially in the red zone. What is also nice about this is the fact Collins is in press coverage. When you play press coverage your back is to the QB as you try and push the receiver off his intended path. Collins is able to read Thomas and get his head turned around before the ball arrives.

Because Collins was so physical with Thomas, he keeps Thomas from getting to his designed spot. Drew Brees throws the ball to where Thomas is supposed to be. By hindering him from getting there Collins is in better position to catch the pass than Thomas. This is just a really nice physical play against a dynamic pair of offensive players.

The next play is against Carolina and Cam Newton. This is the year after his Super Bowl run when Cam was an All Pro. Collins appears to be in man coverage at the snap.

Collins show good, confident hands and snatches the ball out of the air like a veteran receiver. His man, Kelvin Benjamin, blocks down which allows him freedom from man coverage. He immediately drops back into a zone look and reads the eyes of Cam Newton. You can see a better view of the pay from the rear angle.

Collins drifts back with one eye on his man (Benjamin) and one on Newton. You can see as Cam gets to throw Collins is moving right into the path of the throw. It’s good anticipation while keeping his leverage on his man in coverage.

Collins is more than just a cover corner. He is a football player who enjoys contact and a smart kid with good football instincts. “I mean, the only way I know how to play football is physical, hitting guys and trying to be in the mix,” Collins said. Here he does just that against the Packers.

This is just a heads up play where Collins knows the RB has been corralled, and he is able to wrench the ball away for a turnover. Not every player will try something like that.

Collins is a great physical specimen with size and speed, but he has been away from the game for a while. He needed refinement on his technique before he was suspended. It is interesting in listening to an interview with him that he didn’t receive any other interest from another team while he was out on suspension after his release from Atlanta.

The Colts brought him in, worked him out, and were impressed enough with his physical tools that they signed him the following day. Collins was drafted in 2015 but is still only 26 years old so he is entering the prime years of his career. He had probably the highest upside of any corner coming out in the Draft in 2015.

If the Jets were to sign him he would definitely need some veteran support of team leaders. I would ask Steve McLendon and C. J. Mosley to take a leading role in doing that. Collins played with Jamal Adams back in 2014 at LSU when Jamal was a freshman so there could be a mutual interest there as well. It might be weird though for Collins to be mentored by a player who was well behind him (freshman) during his time at LSU.

This could be a game-changing signing for the Jets. Again if the Jets were to sign Collins he would still need to work to get him up to speed and gain some needed technique adjustments. I would make Collins a special project for either Dennard Wilson or Steve Jackson (DB coaches).

This is a no risk move for a player who has definite talent on a team bereft of it in the defensive backfield. Quite frankly I am amazed it hasn’t been done already. The Jets need competent DBs, and there is one available for a minimal salary. (Are you listening, Joe?) The Jets shouldn’t wait too long because Indy is one DB injury from bringing Collins up to the 53. He also could be a target of another team who needs a DB.

I’m convinced

What do you think...