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 continue today with a look at defensive back Anthony Cioffi.
The 25-year old is listed at 6’1” and 200 pounds and was undrafted out of Rutgers in 2017. After failing to make the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie, Cioffi went to play in Canada and had two productive seasons with the Ottawa Redblacks. The Jets signed him to a futures deal last week.
Cioffi was a three-star recruited in football in high school and was also a successful sprinter, beating the favorite Anthony Averett (now a Baltimore Raven) to win the state championship.
Having been earned a scholarship at Rutgers, Cioffi spent his first two seasons at cornerback, where he racked up 60 tackles, six passes defensed and two interceptions.
He moved to free safety as a junior and recorded career highs with 1.5 sacks and four interceptions. In his senior year, he moved to free safety and posted a career-best 64 tackles. He ended his college career with 169 tackles, 2.5 sacks and eight interceptions.
Cioffi wasn’t invited to the scouting combine but drew some interest after his pro day and was eventually signed as an undrafted free agent by the Raiders. After recording six tackles and a forced fumble in preseason, Cioffi was released in final cuts and did not play in his rookie year.
Having decided to play in the CFL, Cioffi joined the Ottawa Redblacks and racked up 110 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in two seasons. The Jets worked him out and signed him when his contract expired earlier this month.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Cioffi brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Cioffi’s pro day numbers were solid, as he ran a 4.50 officially in the 40-yard dash, 4.22 in the short shuttle and 6.90 in the three-cone drill. He also posted a 114” broad jump and 15 bench press reps.
However, Cioffi was clocked at below 4.4 by some sources in that pro day workout and had been clocked at between 4.30 and 4.37 at a private workout a few weeks earlier.
His speed shows up on film, notably on a few plays where he impressively ran down players from behind for touchdown-saving tackles, including Jabrill Peppers.
His listed height appears to be overstated because he actually only measured 5’11” at his pro day.
As noted, Cioffi played cornerback, free safety and strong safety at Rutgers. When he was a cornerback, he played almost exclusively on the outside, but did get experience in the slot having moved to safety. Interestingly, he also worked out as a receiver during his pro day workout.
In Canada, Cioffi played a hybrid safety/linebacker role. However, based on his size, he would most likely be a safety with the Jets, as he was with the Raiders.
Cioffi’s most impressive attribute on film is his closing speed. When playing safety, this enables him to keep things in front of him and limit the damage on passes underneath.
His experience as a corner means that his coverage skills are more developed than most safeties. On this play, he picks up a receiver in press coverage in the slot and stays close to him to break up the pass.
However, he still shows some signs of rawness. On this play, he is late getting into position, overruns the receiver and then struggles to locate the ball as he attempts to recover.
He initially had some struggles after converting to safety, giving up six touchdown catches in 2015, but he fared much better in every other season.
Cioffi has shown an ability to break up passes on film and racked up eight interceptions in college and two in the CFL. However, he’s never racked up big numbers for pass break-ups in college, with four being his highest total.
As noted, he worked out as a receiver at Rutgers’ pro day and he has shown an ability to go up and make a play on the ball or come up with contested catches. On this play, he makes a spectacular one-handed interception.
Having said that, he also dropped this chance of an interception while playing for the Redblacks.
As noted, Cioffi has excellent range and closing speed. That’s apparent whether he’s trying to make a play on the ball or attempting to make a tackle.
While he has some impressive tackles and big hits on his film, missed tackles have been an issue for Cioffi, especially since he started playing more in the box. He had 15 missed tackles in his senior year alone. Many of these are because he comes up too fast or doesn’t wrap up.
He has a knack for forcing fumbles with seven in seven years with the Raiders, Redblacks and Scarlet Knights, although at times he will miss a tackle because he tries to claw at the ball instead of wrapping up the ball carrier. This one came on a big hit though.
As noted, Cioffi is a big hitter, but one problem is that he often has hits that could be flagged as helmet-to-helmet hits or launching at a defenseless player under the current rules. Here’s another big hit on a play over the middle. This one appears to be clean.
Despite this, he surprisingly didn’t have any penalties at all at Rutgers or in preseason action with the Raiders.
Since he started to play more and more in the box at Rutgers, Cioffi became a lot more productive in terms of stopping the run with 20 run stops over his last two years. He only had four in his first two years. He was even more productive in Canada and made this good play with the Raiders.
Cioffi’s burst off the edge makes him an effective blitzer, which is something he’s been able to do more of since transitioning away from the cornerback position. He had 2.5 sacks in four years at Rutgers and four in two years with the Redblacks in the CFL.
On this play, he creeps up and blows up a play by coming off the edge with good timing and speed.
Special teams is somewhere Cioffi has a good chance to contribute for the Jets. He had 13 special teams tackles in two years in Canada and also blocked this punt.
He didn’t play much on special teams at Rutgers because he was a defensive starter. However, he was a decent return man in high school with seven returns of 60 yards or more. He fielded one punt in his college career and returned it 39 yards and also showed some return ability on interceptions.
Having played every position in the secondary, Cioffi should have a good understanding of his roles and the system and his instincts are regarded as a strength.
He shows some ability to read and react well against the run and on short passes like this one.
Aside from his versatility, Cioffi brings good character, a team-first attitude and a strong work ethic.
On the field, he’s a fiery character and plays with high energy and effort, but good discipline.
Cioffi hasn’t had major injury issues, missing only a few games in his college career due to an upper body injury - usually code for a concussion - in 2015 and unspecified injuries in 2016. He was praised for his toughness because he played through some issues in his senior year.
Cioffi is likely to return to a safety role with the Jets who need some depth at the position. Gregg Williams seems to like having some safeties that have cornerback skills, although it’s worth noting that they didn’t really use Blake Countess having signed him last year.
Cioffi has been a teammate of Blessuan Austin at Rutgers and was in training camp with Keon Hatcher while playing for the Raiders.
Cioffi raised his profile by playing well in Canada as he was a productive player who was often all over the field while bringing good versatility to the table.
However, the obvious place he can make an impression is on special teams where his range, effort and closing speed could make him a viable candidate to contribute.