Now that the season is over, we’ll be looking at the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We start today with a look at outside linebacker Ahmad Gooden.
The 24-year old is listed at 6’2” and 245 pounds and saw action in three regular season games last year as an undrafted rookie for the Broncos. The Jets added him to their practice squad after he was waived in December.
Gooden was a three-star prospect as a high school defensive end and opted to attend Samford despite reportedly getting several offers from FBS schools.
He was productive over four years with the Bulldogs, racking up 273 tackles and 22 sacks. After recording eight sacks in his sophomore year, Gooden only had 11 over his last two seasons, but was the all-Southern Conference defensive player of the year in his junior year after racking up a career-high 101 tackles. While he only had 49 tackles as a senior, he had 15 tackles for loss and a career-high four pass break-ups and was an all-conference first-teamer.
Gooden wasn’t invited to the combine or the senior bowl and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Broncos having gone unselected in the 2019 draft.
In preseason, Gooden recorded 13 tackles in five games but was released in final cuts and landed on the Broncos’ practice squad. However, he was promoted to the active roster in November and saw action in three games, although he only played 24 defensive snaps.
He was waived in December and the Jets scooped him up for their own practice squad and then signed him to a futures deal at the end of the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Gooden brings to the table, divided into categories.
Gooden measured in at 6’1” and 251 pounds at his pro day, so obviously lacks the ideal length and bulk for a defensive end role.
His workout numbers were below average at best across the board with a 4.96 time in the 40-yard dash and underwhelming explosiveness, strength and agility numbers.
Gooden mostly lined up on the edge in college, but he was regarded as a versatile player who could play on either side, standing up or with his hand in the dirt and in pass rush or coverage assignments.
At the Tropical Bowl college all-star game, he also worked out as an off-ball linebacker, a process he said went smoothly because he had played the position in high school.
With his less than ideal measurables, Gooden is forced to win with relentless effort. He displays that in the pass rush on plays like this one where he was initially repelled but kept on coming.
He’ll also display this relentlessness when coming downhill in the running game and when in pursuit.
While he didn’t play many snaps in regular season action, Gooden displayed his ability to handle a starter’s workload in preseason by playing 96 snaps over the last two games.
Gooden’s effort also shows up in the running game and saw him get in on several run stops in preseason.
When on the backside, he’ll pursue runs downhill but also plays with good discipline so he can stay at home and make the play if the runner cuts back.
His lack of size is a minor concern, although he has showed some ability to set the edge when blocked by a tight end.
However, he allowed himself to be blocked off the line by a tight end on this short yardage conversion, so he could do with improving his strength to ensure he’s more consistent at the point of attack.
While Gooden’s sack numbers were not outstanding in college, despite having played at a lower level, he was productive in terms of generating pressure with 34 quarterback hits over his last three seasons.
He also allayed concerns about his level of competition by having productive games against Georgia and Florida State during his last two seasons. He had four pressures against Georgia whose tackles were Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wynn.
In his limited action with the Broncos, he only got to the quarterback a handful of times and was only credited with one hit and no sacks.
He flashed a few times though, including on this play where he rocked his man off his spot, leveraged his way off the block and then almost picked up the sack.
Gooden shows some flashes of good technique as a pass rusher, as on the play above, but he needs to refine this as much as possible, as his limited athleticism means that becoming a better technician is probably his only realistic hope of becoming a productive pass rusher against NFL competition.
He also shows flashes of good technique against the run. On this play, he cleanly sheds a block on the edge to get in on an run stuff.
Gooden generally does a good job of wrapping up his man when tackling and, despite his below average length, has an ability to reach beyond his frame and get hold of the ball carrier. He did get dragged for a few extra yards on a couple of plays with the Broncos, though.
On this play, he shows his determination to make the play as he initially over-shoots the receiver and slides past him but then gets back to his feet to get in on the stop.
As noted, Gooden has some experience of dropping into coverage and totaled five pass break-ups at Samford, including four in his senior year.
However, he has looked a little uncomfortable in the few coverage reps he’s had with the Broncos so far. For example, on this play, he’s lined up opposite a running back in the slot and the back easily gets separation out of the break although the pass is incomplete.
As noted, Gooden plays with good discipline in terms of staying in his lane against the run. He also didn’t have any penalties in his eight preseason and regular season appearances.
In coverage, he perhaps doesn’t have the same comfort level. As you can see here, he drops off into zone coverage but is slow to react to the receiver coming over the middle rather than anticipating it.
Gooden saw plenty of action on all of the special teams units with the Broncos and impressed in the preseason game against the 49ers in particular where he had two tackles in punt coverage.
Establishing himself as a potential special teams contributor might be his best chance of earning a roster spot with the Jets next year.
Gooden doesn’t seem to have any character issues or red flags. He is apparently a hard worker with a good personality, leadership traits and passion for the game.
Injuries haven’t been an issue for Gooden so far in his career. He played in 46 games in his four seasons with the Bulldogs.
Gooden probably needs to be able to improve some of his physical traits if he can thrive as an edge defender with the Jets but at least has the kind of versatility that is essential for any front seven player in Gregg Williams’ team.
The potential for him to move into an off-ball role in intriguing but would probably be a longer-term project.
Like most of these futures signings, Gooden is a major long-shot, but you never know who might step up. For example, Arthur Maulet and Harvey Langi were both part of last year’s crop of futures signings, so Gooden could definitely earn himself a shot if he turns some heads.
Although he’s a player with some limitations, Gooden was effective in preseason with the Broncos, held his own in his limited regular season action and put some good things on film. He’ll come to camp hoping to compete for a role.