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Jets Relying on Ashtyn Davis to make the Jump

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Maye will miss 3-4 weeks. When you have a secondary that consists of multiple rookies and little experience, that’s not what you want to hear.

So far the Jets secondary has bent but hasn’t truly broken and while Maye’s not had his finest start, he’s still been a key player in terms of his own play and helping the young corners.

If you look at the depth chart of the Jets, the safety position is hardly filled with experience or for that matter, talent. So the Jets will be relying on one of their promising 2nd-year players to make the step up.

Joe Douglas’s 2020 draft class has come under scrutiny recently, mainly because the majority of the picks haven’t been seen on the field. Becton and Davis have suffered their share of injuries so far and Denzel Mims...well that’s another story for another day.

The thing about Davis is that until he arrived in New York, he wasn’t considered injury-prone. He appeared in 48 games out of a possible 50 for Cal and was heralded as one of the best safeties in the 2020 draft.

Unfortunately for the Jets, we’ve not been able to see much of Davis, but now more than ever, we need him to step up and be the player that many expect him to become.

As a former walk-on, Davis knows all about earning the trust of coaches and fans. Known for his lightning speed (he was a track and field guy and excelled in the 110m hurdles), Davis is a kind of hybrid safety who could line up just about anywhere, or at leat that’s what the Jets thought in 2020, lining him up all over the field, but most agree that playing deep utilizes his skill-set

Davis managed only 8 games in his rookie season and with Greg Williams calling the shots, he didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. In five of the games he lined up as the strong safety, appearing as the free safety in three.

At Cal he was known for his ball-hawking ability with 7 career interceptions, but with the Jets he sometimes looked lost in coverage. He allowed 3 touchdowns on 24 targets in 2020, and never looked overly comfortable. He was moved around a lot and the injuries disrupted the learning curve. Just because he struggled in coverage in 2020 doesn’t mean the same will happen in 2021, it’s a new season, a new system, and thankfully, new coaches.

Over his career at Cal he played over 1,100 snaps as a deep safety, compared to just 378 either in the box or directly on the defensive line. With the Jets in 2020 the balance was more 50/50. If the Jets want to get the best out of Davis, they need to put him in a position to succeed, having him predominantly play as a free safety is the way to do that.

Davis returned to practice this week after being on IR for the first three games and Jeff Ulbrich said that he will be active, but how many snaps he sees is another question entirely. The Jets defensive coordinator hinted that they could use a committee approach to replace Maye against the Titans.

Over the final two years of his college career, Davis had more interceptions and forced incompletions than he allowed receptions. That’s a good stat line for any safety who played a lot of single-high coverage which is exactly what he did. When put in the right position, I have confidence that Davis can become a good starting free safety in this league. His change of direction and break on the ball haven’t been showcased on Sundays, but we saw plenty of that on Saturdays.

Marcus Maye’s situation is interesting. He wants to get paid and his agent wants him to get paid, Maye has largely been quiet about the situation, but his agent has been anything but. The Jets will now get a 3-4 week window to evaluate how Davis looks in this defense. I’m not sure Maye is going to get the contract he wants from the Jets, so now is the time to start looking at a succession plan.

Davis is about to be tested, if he passes it’ll go a long way to silencing the 2020 Joe Douglas draft critics.