With the Jets out of the Playoff picture, the NFL draft still 6 months away, and the trade deadline recently passed there are still a few things the Jets could accomplish in 2020. We have seen the top 3 receivers work together for the first time. So far the reviews are favorable. I would like to see Vyncint Smith added to the mix in a 4 WR set, but he was inactive for the game against the Patriots. That is a shame because the Jets need to use these last 7 games as a measuring stick for their roster.
There are many players available to the Jets off the practice squads of other teams. The Jets should be doing a rigorous self-scouting of their team then discard players they feel will not be a part of the future. If you release a player you will have a spot open on your roster to fill with possibly a future asset. Use these last 7 games as a gauge to see how well they compete.
One note: any player you pick off a practice squad must be paid 3 game checks as an NFL player. That is at least $114,375 for three weeks depending on his years of service in the NFL. The team can release a former practice squad player at any time, but they have to pay the 3 week salary and that roster spot in not open for those 3 weeks. Players are free to sign (or not sign) with any team but a rookie practice player is making $8,200 a week. The minimum salary for that same player on an NFL roster is over $38,000 a week. So while you can negotiate a contract with the team that selects you, the team holds all the power.
The idea here is to bring the best players you can find onto the team so you can figure out what your most pressing team needs are heading into the Draft. The Jets are going to have at least 5 picks in the top 100 selections with three being probably inside the top 33 baring trades (which could possibly/hopefully happen). This is probably the most crucial Draft the Jets have had since the year 2000 when they had four first round picks.
The Jets just recently added Pat Elflein off waivers which was a good move. The team gets some time to evaluate Elflein and determine whether he can find his rookie form or he is still suffering from the injury that caused him to decline since. They should know what the have by years end and whether or not he has a future in New York.
So let’s see what else is out there for the Jets to possibly add to the team.
1) Michael Jackson CB ( New England) 6’ 1” 210 lbs
Jackson has superior size, speed, and athleticism for the cornerback position. He lacks lateral quickness, and he has tightness in the hips. Still that that is normal for a player his size. He has tremendous length (32 1/2” arms) that aids him in contested situations.
Here he is in man coverage with no safety help over the top. His pedal is a little slow, and he doesn’t keep his head down which makes him a little off balance to start. These are correctable mistakes. What he does have is terrific makeup speed (4.45/40) with tremendous “hops” (40.5 vert) to make this play look easy.
What I would like to see is Jackson make a play for the ball. In 2017 he had 4 INTs. but he had zero INTs in 2018. This is partly due to his team being less competitive and a younger corner opposite him. Still he needs to work on technique and he could also get stronger.
This second view of the same play shows how high he gets on his jump even though he doesn’t turn his body toward the pass then use two hands to intercept the ball. He still was in the hip pocket of the receiver while being left alone on an island. This next play he is alone in coverage again and does a nice job of reading the receiver’s eyes.
Here he plays the ball about as well as it could be done for an interception. Once the receiver reaches back with his hands for the ball Jackson gets his head around to find the pass. He also does a great job of running in contact with the opponent but also keeping himself between the player and the QB. This way the ball has to be thrown over him to be completed. One thing you don’t see is Jackson using press coverage. This may be because he lacks sufficient strength to make the receiver adjust his route. This is also something that could be worked on.
Given his terrific physical abilities I would like to see the Jets take a shot at Jackson and maybe work him in some zone schemes. The Jets just sent one CB down the road (Desir) and another to IR (Poole) so it is definitely a position of need.
2) Stanley Morgan Jr. WR (Cincinnati) 6’ 0” 205 lbs
Morgan is one of those players who is a “sum of his parts” type of talent. He is not elite in any facet of the game but he is very good in most aspects of his position. He doesn’t have great speed but be is not slow. He runs good routes with plus hands. He is a high character player who is team first. Below he shows off some of those hands with a nice catch in the end zone.
He sees the safeties in a wide split and is able to get to an open spot between the two dropping ILBs to give his QB an open window to throw through. He has the ability to run any route and is fearless across the middle of the field.
Whereas the Jets have a number of tall, speedy receivers who all can get vertical they lack a intermediate pass catcher who can read a zone and find the soft spot in that zone. This would also give the Jets QB a look at all three zones of the defense to dissect a scheme.
Morgan is not especially slippery or elusive in the open field, but he is a gamer who usually finds a way to get extra yards. Here below is an example as he makes a couple tacklers miss on his way to the end zone.
The addition of Morgan would not be a game changer in the short term but it would fill a hole in the Jets offense. Morgan was not the player of the year in the Big Ten, but he did have some significant number with 131 reception sfor 1,990 yards and 17 TDs his last two years combined playing with a lack of talent around him.
3) Adrian Killins RB (Free Agent) 5’ 8” 165 lbs
The addition of Morgan would be about all around skills. The addition of Killins would be all about speed. Killins was not invited to the combine despite playing 51 games in 4 years a UCF with 407 rushing attempts. His pro day was cancelled due to COVID-19, but he was timed at 4.39/40 during the year; plus he looks that fast.
The Jets lack speed and quickness especially at the RB position so adding some should be a priority. As an added bonus Killins had 70 receptions out of the backfield at UCF so he could also help the passing game. Here below is another aspect of his ability; special teams where he can use his speed and elusiveness to be a game changer.
The ability to change the game in an instant is now left to our big receivers. The Andy Reid approach (which makes a ton of sense) is to have as many game breaking players on the field as possible, as often as possible. He still uses powerful RBs, but he also has a stable of young, fast, quick players as well.
This next play isn’t a ankle breaking great run, but it shows that he can be lethal if the defense makes a mistake in alignment and gives him a crease. Few players will catch Killins once he gets up to top speed.
This play and the next are very similar but it shows the same point. Speed can make defensive mistakes deadly to a team. With many NFL games (not too many Jets games) being one score affairs, a single play with a player with game changing speed could be the difference between victory and defeat. The threat of speed changes a defense, more so when you put a player like Killins in the slot. In his 70 receptions he averaged over 12 yards a catch.
Remember these players would not cost the Jets anything other than guaranteed salary for three weeks. With about one-third of the season remaining now is the time to get a jump start on the offseason to see if we can find some pieces to the 2021 Jets. Even if you find two quality players to add to the fringe of the roster out of 10 possibilities, it’s worth the effort. These are young players who could possible develop into significant contributors; if not then you have lost nothing but the effort.
4) Deon Cain WR (Pittsburgh) 6’ 1” 210 lbs
Cain is another speedy, big bodied wide receiver with great length (33” arms) and excellent speed (4.43/40). He also has surprising agility for such a linear receiver while being a load to tackle at 210 lbs. He lacks many nuances of a seasoned receiver but he is not without some technical skill. Here he uses a jab step inside to freeze the defender before he breaks outside and into the clear.
You can get a better look at this from another angle. You can see the quick move inside as the defender reacts, not wanting Cain to cross his face. This gives him a clean release to the outside as he has the defender in trouble. Watch the QB. This is an easy 3 step drop with a quick release to avoid any pressure. The QB is looking for Cain to get his shoulders even with the defender then he releases the pass. The receiver adage “if I’m even I’m leaving” (the defender behind) rings true in this battle.
As this play ends Cain has made this an easy pitch and catch with him basically strolling into the end zone. The Jets have a number of receivers like Cain. There are advantages to size diversity on your team, but there is also advantages to having an abundance of large powerful receivers.
You saw with Mims, V. Smith, Perriman, J. Smith all at or over 6’ 1” the offense was set up for that type of receiver. When many of those players were out it left a hole that could not be filled. Cain would give another speedy, big wideout to protect the offense in case of injury. Plus he could develop into a quality receiver. I would like to see him work with Shawn Jefferson (who I believe to be one of the team’s best position coaches) to see what he can do with a player like Cain.
This last clip of Cain shows another one step move on the opposite side of the field but this time crossing the face of the receiver to give an even easier throw to his QB. It should be noted he is doing this without facing press coverage which he could struggle with at the NFL level. One of the areas Cain needed work coming out of Clemson was strength training and working on beating press coverage.
There is no denying the speed, which along with the length makes him an attractive player to develop. Once he beats the defender he makes an easy catch then glides into the end zone. This again is “pitch and catch.”
5) Willie Henry DT (San Francisco) 6’ 3” 305 lbs
The former Michigan defensive tackle has been around the NFL since 2016 so he is no kid. He played in Baltimore in 2017 starting 3 games and playing in 14 after being on IR in 2016. He did a good job in Baltimore as a rotational tackle getting 3 1⁄2 sacks 33 tackles with 6 TFL and 11 QB hits. He played only 3 games in 2018 because of hernia surgery that ended his season. He was waived the next season then signed a futures contract with the 49ers who have a loaded defensive front.
The Jets have recently traded Steve McClendon and lost Kyle Philips to IR so there could be some snaps to be had. You would figure Henry is entering the prime of his career so he might be worth taking a look at.
Henry was never a real big power player, but he has a nice anchor to be stout against the run. He has plus agility with some nice quickness to be an effective rusher from the defensive tackle position. He is more of a 3 tech as a player, but he does have the ability to two gap as well. He is able to split the o-line but then miss a shot at the QB.
He does show some of the things he needed work on coming out of Michigan. He is out of control, doesn’t break down, and has some balance issues. These things can and may have already been corrected, only game tape can tell if that is the case. The Jets have a few games and a handful of practices to make a decision on Henry and all these players.
In the same game Henry makes the same move to split the blockers, but this time he doesn’t let the QB escape his clutches. You can see he is more under control, keeps his head up, and makes a sure tackle.
Bottom line here is the Jets need to start compiling young talent, and with the Draft six months away this may be the best way to do so. Yes, there is a reason these players are not on active rosters now, but all players develop at different rates. If the Jets can even find a couple of useful players who can at least be rotational type guys, it will speed up the timeline for the team to be competitive.
Basically this is a tryout, and I am looking for someone to step up so they can be helpful next year. This year is for evaluation, next year is for performance.
There are other players who could be highlighted as well, but this is a start. Let me know what you think.