The Jets recently added safety Adrian Colbert to their active roster after having signed him to the practice squad earlier this month. He’s started the last two games following the injury to Lamarcus Joyner in week one. Today, we break down Colbert in detail.
The 27-year old Colbert is listed at 6’2” and 205 pounds and was a seventh round pick out of Miami in 2017. He has started 21 games in five seasons, racking up 106 tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
Colbert was a four-star high school recruit who headed to Texas in 2012 and redshirted his first season.
Over the next three years with the Longhorns, Colbert was mostly in a reserve role and recorded just 30 tackles and one interception. He started four games.
For his redshirt senior season, he transferred to Miami and started three games in seven appearances. He had 22 tackles, three passes defensed and an interception.
Initially considered a long-shot to be drafted, Colbert turned some heads at his pro day workout and was drafted by the 49ers in the seventh round.
In his rookie year, Colbert started off in a reserve role but contributed early and eventually ended up starting six games. He ended up with 37 tackles and five passes defensed.
In 2018, Colbert began the year as the starting free safety but struggled badly as he got beaten for four touchdowns and missed six tackles in the first seven games. He then suffered a season-ending injury and was released in final cuts by the 49ers in 2019.
After a brief spell on the Seahawks’ practice squad and active roster during which Colbert did not get to play, he was poached by the Dolphins and made five starts for them at the end of the season and made 22 tackles. He re-signed with them after the season but then was released in preseason.
After spending the rest of preseason with the Chiefs, he was released in final cuts and claimed by Giants for whom he made six appearances including two starts but ended up on injured reserve.
He signed with New England in May but was released in final cuts once again and the Jets initially signed him to their practice squad before having to elevate him to the active roster in each of the first three games.
After Joyner got injured, Sheldrick Redwine replaced him at first but then his mistake on Robby Anderson’s touchdown saw Colbert replacing him and he’s been the starter ever since. He did split reps with Jarrod Wilson on Sunday though.
Now let’s take a look at what Colbert brings to the table, divided into categories.
Colbert, who has adequate size and length, created some buzz at Miami’s pro day in 2017 when he was clocked at 4.25 by multiple scouts. While the official time was eventually clocked at around 4.4, he does cover the ground impressively in center field.
Other than his 40-yard dash, the rest of his numbers were below average across the board, though.
Colbert was a safety in high school and during most of his time with the Longhorns but he played primarily as an outside cornerback with the Hurricanes.
Since being in the NFL he has primarily played as a deep safety, only coming into the box or matching up in the slot on rare occasions.
As a single-high safety, Colbert’s best attribute is his range in coverage support. He can cover a lot of ground to get over and prevent downfield passes like this one.
He isn’t employed in man coverage as often but on this play he handles his assignment well to break up this pass.
As noted, in his second season with the 49ers, Colbert was exploited a lot in coverage and his numbers were poor. However, his numbers are a lot better over the rest of his career, perhaps suggesting he’s better off in a rotational rather than full-time role.
Colbert is yet to intercept a pass at the NFL level and only had two interceptions in college. However, he did intercept this pass in preseason.
In his career so far, Colbert has been credited with eight pass breakups, including five in his rookie year. Most of these came on well-timed hits to jar the ball loose rather than making a play on the ball.
He has dropped a few interceptions in his career, including this easy play against Jacksonville.
Colbert has terrific closing speed and timing with his former teammate Reuben Foster describing him as a “heat-seeking missile” due to his hitting ability on plays like this.
Unsurprisingly, this can lead to him missing a lot of tackles. In a game between the Giants and Dolphins in 2019, he had four bad missed tackles, including one that led to a Golden Tate touchdown and this play.
So far with the Jets, he’s already had a couple of missed tackles, including a bad one on the Damien Harris touchdown run in week two.
Colbert’s reputation as a big hitter is well-known but he had two unnecessary roughness penalties in a 2020 game and was ejected in preseason in 2019 (and later fined) for this hit so he needs to be cleaner.
From his college film, you can see that Colbert tended to have a habit to lead with his helmet, but he’s mostly eradicated that habit at the NFL level.
He does not have a lot of experience of playing in press coverage at the NFL level, instead being employed deep or off the ball.
Colbert doesn’t play in the box very often, but when he does, he is capable of making plays against the run.
Even when playing deep, he has the range to come up into the box and contribute on running plays.
Colbert has never registered a sack in the NFL or in college as he has hardly ever blitzed. He’s only had a couple of pressures at the NFL level but did record two quarterback hits in college.
With his speed and burst, he could be pretty effective if employed in this manner with the Jets.
Colbert has a lot of experience of playing on every major unit on special teams and registered 12 special teams tackles in his first four years, although he did also miss several tackles.
He’s seen action at the gunner position and shown a good ability to get downfield and make tackles or down punts near the goal line.
He has only had one special teams penalty in his NFL career, for running out of bounds on a punt.
While Colbert is quick to burst to the ball when plays unfold in front of him, he’s always been a player who can be susceptible to play-fakes, misdirection or the quarterback using his eye to manipulate his position.
On this play, he completely blows his angle and lets the receiver get behind him for a 75-yard touchdown.
This play smartly exploited his lack of exposure to man coverage assignments as he failed to anticipate the rub route on third down.
Colbert was able to avoid trouble when he was young, despite growing up in a rough area. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is extremely vocal with plenty of trash-talking.
Patriots reporters made note of his work ethic, stating that he was usually the first player out on the field every day.
Despite the penalties mentioned earlier, his on-field discipline has actually been really good. Those two roughness penalties in the Dallas game last year were the only two defensive penalties of his career so far.
Colbert has had various injuries over the course of his career, landing on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain in 2018 and a shoulder injury on 2020.
In college he missed several games due to injuries in his senior year, which included a knee injury.
Colbert has a lot of connections to the current Jets team, but the obvious one is that Robert Saleh was his defensive coordinator when he was drafted by the 49ers. Saleh admitted that Colbert’s second season had been a disappointment after a promising rookie year and was hopeful he’d bounce back in 2019. However, he failed to make the roster.
In college, Colbert was a teammate of current teammates Braxton Berrios and Sheldrick Redwine. At the NFL level, he’s been a teammate of Ronald Blair in San Francisco, Tim Ward in Kansas City and George Fant and Elijah Nkansah in Seattle.
His role here has been clear from how he’s been employed since Joyner’s injury. He’s the deep safety and Marcus Maye has remained in the box. Although Maye is now injured, Colbert will likely stay in the deep role.
Colbert has filled in reasonably well over the past few weeks with not many mistakes. With Ashtyn Davis and Sharrod Neasman both returning to practice this week and Wilson already taking some of his reps on Sunday, it was looking like he might not be starting for much longer, but now the Maye injury changes that.
Colbert, a player Saleh knows well, has proven himself to be a reliable option to fill in, so they could retain him on the roster or practice squad for the rest of the year and consider bringing him back next year too.