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 quarterback Mike White.
The 24-year old is listed at 6’5” and 218 pounds and was a fifth round pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 having played for USF and Western Kentucky in college. White hasn’t played yet in an NFL regular season game and has been with the Jets since signing to their practice squad last September.
White initially seemed set to become a professional baseball player but ended up at South Florida on a football scholarship.
He started five games at quarterback in his true freshman season, but struggled, throwing nine interceptions and only three touchdowns.
As a sophomore he became the full time starter but still only completed 50 percent of his passes, although he did this time throw more touchdowns (8) than interceptions (7) in his 10 starts.
At the end of the season, he decided to transfer to Western Kentucky and had to sit out the 2015 season due to the transfer rules.
In his first year as a starter for the Hilltoppers, White led the top-scoring offense in the FBS and averaged 10.5 yards per attempt. He was named as the Conference-USA’s newcomer of the year and was a second-team all-CUSA selection.
In 2017, his numbers dropped off across the board but he still played well enough to earn second-team all-conference honors.
White really boosted his NFL credentials with a solid performance during Senior Bowl week, including a two-touchdown performance in the game that saw him complete 8-of-11 passes.
White also attended the scouting combine, after which he was widely regarded as a potential mid-round pick. The Cowboys selected him in the 5th round, which is notable because he’s the only quarterback other than Dak Prescott to be drafted by the franchise in the last decade. He’s also just the sixth quarterback drafted in the Jerry Jones era.
White remained on the roster throughout his rookie season, although Cooper Rush was the number two so he was never active for a game. During last year’s training camp, he failed to beat out Rush for the back-up role and the Cowboys released him in final cuts. He had struggled in preseason in both years.
The Jets signed him to their practice squad in September and retained him for the rest of the year, signing him to a futures deal at the end of the season.
Now let’s take a look at what White brings to the table, divided into categories.
White has good height and size and certainly looks the part. However, he’s not very athletic. During the scouting combine, he ran a 5.09 in the 40-yard dash and his explosiveness numbers were terrible. He did run a 4.4 in the short shuttle, which is still below average but much better than the rest of his numbers.
White’s arm talent is considered to be one of his best attributes. He can throw the ball with good zip but also with touch when required. As a former baseball player, he was apparently capable of throwing a 90+ miles per hour fastball.
During his first year at Western Kentucky, White led the nation in 30+ and 40+ yard passes, many of which came on downfield throws.
However, he didn’t have the same kind of success when he got a chance to air it out in preseason action, as he completed just one of his 15 downfield attempts for 20 yards, with two interceptions.
Here’s an example of a deep chance he missed by throwing it too late to the open receiver. It was a common habit in college for White to rely on his arm to zip the ball to his target quickly rather than making an anticipatory throw and that’s what happened here. Obviously you can’t get away with that as often at the NFL level.
White also attempted this deep throw which was underthrown and inaccurate, although the receiver was deemed to have been interfered with. That almost could have been ruled uncatchable.
In one preseason game, White threw a Hail Mary from near midfield and it fell short of the end zone.
White’s completion percentages were poor at USF, but he completed 66 percent of his passes in his two years at Western Kentucky. His preseason numbers in Dallas were underwhelming for accuracy, but he did have several passes dropped.
According to PFF, White was the best in his class at hitting receivers with one step or less of separation, something they describe as one of the more telling and predictive numbers for quarterback prospects.
He is capable of hitting receivers in stride and timing his throws well. On this play, for example, his receiver never gets open but he throw it up in a position where the receiver can make a play on it.
However, in preseason action, he was disappointingly erratic at times, throwing behind or wide of receivers and overthrowing one pass over the middle that was intercepted. He also had one underthrow that should have been intercepted but the tight end was able to wrench it away from the defender for a completion.
One of the things that made White difficult to project was the fact that his offensive line was really bad in his senior year, which was considered the main reason for his reduction in production. White was sacked 46 times.
In addition, he had the lowest interception rate in the nation when throwing from a clean pocket that year, according to PFF.
That experience may have had a longer-term effect on White’s pocket presence because blitz recognition continued to be a problem for him with the Cowboys. He was sacked 13 times in his eight preseason appearances, which is almost once for every 10 attempts. Many of those - and presumably those in his senior year - were attributable to him.
Fumbles are a major concern because he had 12 in his senior year and four more in his preseason appearances. He had only had five as a junior though. White’s issues were a combination of getting hit when he wasn’t expecting it and failing to protect the ball adequately if he tried to step up.
Another issue was that when pressure came and he looked to check down on a short pass, he would often rush this throw and put too much zip on it.
White looks the part when he has a clean pocket, displaying sound mechanics and throwing from a strong, balanced platform. His throws generally have a tight spiral and he is considered to throw a catchable ball.
When pressure comes off the edge, he can climb the pocket while maintaining good footwork, but he looks less capable when required to go off script. He will usually attempt to reset his feet before throwing when rolling out.
At times, White shows an ability to lean or change his arm angle to keep passing lanes open but did have a few passes batted down at the line in his senior year. He also seems to have the ability to make convincing fake handoffs on play-action passes.
The book on White is that he has a high football IQ but there are times when he will stare down his primary target.
On this play, as the Cowboys looked to tie the score late in a preseason game, White had a receiver wide open over the middle - and another semi-open at the top of the screen - but never got his eyes off his primary target and made a weak throw when flushed from the pocket.
White is not afraid to throw passes into tight windows, but he is capable of hitting on these. Obviously that’s a riskier throw at the NFL level though.
White’s mobility is poor, which is another reason for the high sack count in 2017. He’ll occasionally manage to spin away from pressure or step up to get a throw off, but it’s not something you’d want to see him doing much of, especially given his inability to protect the ball.
He offers next to nothing as a running threat, although he entered his senior year with just three career first downs as a runner only to surprisingly rack up 12 first downs and the first six rushing touchdowns of his career as a senior.
As you can see, even on this play where he manages to get positive yardage, he doesn’t really look much of a threat.
White hasn’t contributed on special teams at the college level or NFL level and won’t be expected to.
White initially transferred on the grounds that USF was set to change from more of a pro-style offense to a spread system, so obviously that’s his preference.
Unfortunately, head coach Brian Brohm left Western Kentucky at the end of the 2016 system and the team moved from a vertical offense to more of a dink-and-dunk west coast style. This led to his yards per attempt dropping by almost three yards.
White clearly has his preferences therefore, but his combination of arm talent and poor mobility would seem to make him a fit for Adam Gase’s system as long as he can adjust to the speed of the pro game.
White was briefly a teammate of Jets defensive lineman Charles Tapper back in 2018.
White hasn’t had any injury issues in college or the NFL although he was knocked out of a game briefly after a sack by one of his current Jets teammates, Jordan Willis.
In addition to his football IQ, White has the leadership abilities and work ethic you’d expect from any quarterback and is regarded as a competitor. He has a high level of confidence in himself, having stated he should have been the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
White is a bit of a reclamation project after the Cowboys were quick to give up on him at the end of his second training camp with them.
He failed to impress in any of the areas which were regarded as his main strengths in preseason action, as you could tell he was struggling to adjust to the jump in competition level. Unless the lightbulb suddenly goes on for him, it seems unlikely he will get much of a chance to show he has an NFL future.
Nevertheless, the fact that Gase’s coaching staff gave up on Davis Webb and Luke Falk pretty quickly but opted to bring White back after a few months in the system perhaps suggests he has shown them more than either of those players did. With David Fales and Trevor Siemian out of contract, White could potentially compete for a back-up role. However, the Jets would be wise to bring in some more established options.