The Jamal Adams trade was big news last month, but the Jets also acquired safety Bradley McDougald in the deal and the veteran could play a significant role in 2020 and perhaps beyond. We’re therefore going to take an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 29-year old McDougald, who was undrafted out of Kansas, spent most of his first four seasons with the Bucs and the last three in Seattle. He has started 75 games and racked up 451 tackles and 10 interceptions in his career.
McDougald played as a running back and defensive back in high school but was initially recruited to Ohio State as a wide receiver. He changed his mind and opted to go to Kansas instead but remained as a receiver, catching 52 passes for 558 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 31 yards on six carries in his first two seasons.
During those two seasons, McDougald had also contributed on special teams and made a couple of appearances on defense, including two starts at the end of his sophomore season. The Jayhawks opted to move him to safety full-time ahead of his junior year.
He was an honorable mention all-Big 12 selection as a junior and then was voted as a third-teamer following a senior year that saw him rack up career highs in tackles (92) and interceptions (three). He ended his college career with 203 tackles and seven interceptions.
After being invited to the senior bowl and the scouting combine, McDougald was viewed as a possible late-round pick but went undrafted and ended up with the Chiefs. As a rookie, he didn’t see any action on defense. However, he played on special teams in one game for the Chiefs and three more with the Bucs after they claimed him on waivers that October.
In 2014, his second season, McDougald made the team as a reserve and ended up making five starts due to injuries. He racked up 50 tackles and the first interception of his career. Over the next two seasons, he started 31 games and posted a career-high 91 tackles in 2016.
Seattle signed him in 2017 and then extended him at the end of the season after he started nine games due to injuries.
Over the past two years, he’s started another 30 games. He recorded a career-high three interceptions in 2018 and had 70 tackles and two more interceptions in 2019.
McDougald was acquired along with a package of draft picks in the Jamal Adams trade last month.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what McDougald brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
McDougald’s performance at the scouting combine was disappointing after he ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash and posted a disappointing 34.5 inch vertical and poor agility numbers.
However, he attended the Illinois pro day shortly afterwards and got his 40-time down to 4.52 and improved his short shuttle from 4.44 to a still-disappointing 4.33. He could not improve on his vertical.
McDougald did post a good broad jump and a solid 19 bench press reps at the combine. He has decent size and length.
McDougald has played a versatile role throughout his career, with plenty of reps as a deep safety, in the box, in the slot or on the outside and plenty of man-to-man coverage assignments. He doesn’t rush the quarterback very often though.
McDougald’s coverage numbers have generally been good and he has fared particularly well in man-to-man according to Pro Football Focus.
In 2018, he gave up a higher percentage of catches and five touchdowns, but he surrendered a higher yards per catch average in 2019.
He does a good job of limiting yardage after the catch, having surrendered less than five yards per target when matched up in the slot over the past three years.
In man coverage he can handle assignments against bigger receivers. On this play, he latches onto the receiver within five yards and makes contact, then stays close to him so he can break on the route to make the play.
McDougald has posted good numbers for interceptions and pass break-ups throughout his college and pro career. His closing speed is good and he uses his length well to disrupt.
His experience as a former wide receiver probably helps him in terms of contesting the ball at the catch point and also coming up with interceptions, a few of which have come on tough diving catches.
Missed tackles were an issue for McDougald with the Bucs, but he seemed to have improved in Seattle as his numbers were much better in his first two years there. However, in 2019, he had a career-worst 16 missed tackles.
The vast majority of his missed tackles throughout his career have come against the run, but here was a costly one he had on a short pass.
McDougald has always been a productive tackler so his tackle efficiency was always at least in the middle of the pack, even in the seasons where he had a high number of missed tackles. He was actually in the top 10 for tackle efficiency among safeties in 2018.
He has four forced fumbles at the NFL level, all of which have come in the past two seasons, as he’s shown a knack for knocking the ball loose.
McDougald is a physical player, who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in the box and can hit hard.
He isn’t regarded as a dirty player. However, a few years ago, he knocked Amari Cooper out of a game on this play, although he probably should have been flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
McDougald has always been productive against the run, including in 2016 when he was in the top 10 for total run stops among safeties.
He is at his best when he anticipates the play and can get out in front of his blocker, rather than having to take on a block.
McDougald doesn’t tend to blitz very often, although he’s generally done a good job of generating pressure when he does.
In college, he registered one sack in each of his two seasons as a starting safety but he had no NFL sacks until he was credited with a half sack towards the end of last season. However, he also picked up a sack in the postseason, albeit not on a blitz.
McDougald hasn’t played much special teams over the past few years, as he was primarily just on the field for field goals and extra points, but he has played on every unit while in Tampa and in his first year with the Seahawks. In that season (2017), McDougald had seven of his 11 career special teams tackles.
He had two special teams penalties in his first two seasons, both of which were for holding while blocking on a return, but hasn’t had one since.
In college and high school, McDougald also got plenty of work as returning punts and kicks. As the collegiate level, he averaged less than 19 yards per kickoff return with a long of 47 and just over seven yards per punt return with a long of 19.
Coaches and teammates have raved about McDougald’s intelligence. You can see that in effect here, as he reads the play and gets out in front of the blockers to blow it up.
He can make errors in play recognition at times though. On this play, he dropped to the outside, leaving the tight end open down the seam.
There have been occasional mix-ups in downfield coverage too, although it’s always difficult to discern which player was at fault on such plays. On this play, the cornerback obviously expected McDougald to be in coverage support downfield, but he had vacated the area to bite on a route over the middle.
McDougald has outstanding character and a great work ethic. He’s been highly motivated since witnessing and being inspired by his brother’s fight against cancer several years ago.
He should immediately assume a leadership role in the secondary, replacing the void left by Adams’ more polarizing leadership style. According to his former teammates, McDougald was respected by everyone and was a consistent presence in the locker room.
His on-field discipline has been good, although he had three penalties in 2019 - all of which were for defensive holding. Prior to that, he had seven penalties in his career, all of which were for pass interference except this one.
McDougald had been considered a workhorse over the past several years. When he missed a game last season due to a back injury, that was the first game he had missed since 2014.
However, he was banged up all year and had to show some toughness by playing through a knee injury. He was eventually diagnosed with a torn MCL and had surgery after the season.
McDougald also missed some time with a pec strain during preseason in 2018, but still started all 16 games in the regular season.
McDougald has been in the league long enough to be comfortable within any system, but the Jets are still likely to have to shake things up with him coming into the line-up and Adams exiting.
When Adams was out last year, Marcus Maye filled in for him and Darryl Roberts took on the deep safety role. However, Maye was used differently as he didn’t rush as much as Adams typically does and spent more time playing in two-deep sets.
The Jets could opt to do the same thing this year and have Ashtyn Davis come in and play as the deep safety or they could run three safety sets and introduce more interchangeability. However, the most likely option would seem to be using Maye as the deep guy and McDougald in a role similar to the one he had in Seattle.
There’s little question that McDougald is a downgrade from Adams talent-wise but recent events seem to indicate he’ll be a big net positive for the locker room.
Hopefully, the secondary won’t therefore take too much of a hit, especially when you factor in the upgrades that the Jets will hope Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson and Davis should bring. It was definitely a smart move to get a veteran starter to mitigate the loss of Adams to some extent.
McDougald is out of contract at the end of the year, but then again so is Maye, so it will be interesting to see what the position looks like in 12 months’ time.