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Scouting Jets cornerback Jason Pinnock

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We continue today with cornerback Jason Pinnock.

The 21-year old Pinnock is 6’0” and 205 pounds and was the 175th overall pick in the fifth round of this year’s draft. He recorded 54 tackles, 19 passes defensed and six interceptions in four years at Pitt.

Background

Pinnock was a three-star high school recruit following a senior year where he scored three defensive touchdowns and was voted as the top defensive back in the state of Connecticut.

After committing to Pittsburgh, he saw action on special teams and as a reverse cornerback as a true freshman in 2017. He ended the season with four tackles and a pass defensed while also recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

In 2018 and 2019, Pinnock earned nine starts and was credited with 31 tackles, 13 passes defensed and three interceptions. He had started to make a name for himself against Clemson in 2018 when he broke up three passes.

However, it wasn’t until the 2020 season that he was ingrained as a full-time starter. Pinnock recorded career highs with 19 tackles and three interceptions.

After he improved his stock with an impressive pro day workout, the Jets selected Pinnock with the third of their three fifth round picks in the 2021 draft.

Now let’s take a look at what Pinnock brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Pinnock has good size and length, profiling similarly to some of the boundary corners that head coach Robert Saleh will have worked with since his time in Seattle.

Scouting reports indicate that he’s slow and doesn’t possess long speed or recovery abilities. However, his pro day performance dispelled some of these concerns as he ran a sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash, 4.1 in the short shuttle and 6.9 in the three-cone drill.

He also displayed good explosiveness with an elite 10-yard split, 39.5-inch vertical and 128-inch broad jump.

Pinnock also managed 15 bench press reps to complete a solid set of numbers across the board.

Usage

Pinnock primarily played as an outside cornerback which figures to be his main position at the pro level. However, he also saw some limited action in the slot, including a game or two where he moved their full time due to injury. When aligned inside, Pinnock’s coverage numbers were excellent.

In high school, where he also played some wide receiver, Pinnock’s coaches often found that opposing teams weren’t throwing his way, limiting his influence on the game. So they therefore occasionally employed him in a spying linebacker role to neutralize the running threat of dual threat quarterbacks.

Coverage skills

Pinnock had some great coverage numbers over the course of his college career, giving up a catch on just 41 percent of his targets for his career and less than 30 percent in his senior season to lead the nation.

However, it should be noted that such numbers at the college level do not always translate to NFL success and there have been some recent prospects with similar numbers that did not develop into NFL starters.

In addition, Pinnock has been susceptible to giving up big plays during his career as he gave up five touchdowns in coverage in each of his last three seasons. This included six of 25 yards or longer since 2019.

Here’s one long touchdown that he gave up, which encapsulates a couple of his most common issues.

First of all, he loses early on in the route and has to try to recover. This is something he struggles to do from time to time as he doesn’t always trust his technique and can appear to show signs of panic. On this occasion he actually recovers well and gets into a good position. However, that leads to the second issue which is that he slows up as he tries to locate the ball, losing contact with his man.

When he is able to stay in phase and gives himself time to locate the ball, Pinnock looks good and this is perhaps a sign that he will respond well to some detailed pro-level coaching.

If Pinnock gave up so many downfield plays but his overall results were good, then it stands to reason that he’s been solid on routes closer to the line of scrimmage where his atheticism and physicality enables him to stay close to his man.

Other than allowing his man a clean release off the line, the main thing he needs to work on closer to the line of scrimmage is in how he anticipates and reacts to sharp route breaks because he can sometimes lose his balance.

Ball skills

Pinnock has shown an ability to make plays on the ball over the past three seasons with 18 passes defensed and six interceptions. He shows his athleticism and some of his high school wideout skills on this diving pick.

At a half inch over six feet tall with a 78-inch wingspan and a 39.5-inch vertical, Pinnock can lay claim to being able to get up about as well as any of this year’s cornerback class when it comes to contesting a jump ball.

As noted, he can find it difficult to locate the ball when trying to recover, but if he can avoid putting himself in such situations, that will give him a better chance of making plays on downfield throws.

Tackling

Pinnock wasn’t a very productive tackler in college, but that stands to reason when he was aligned on the outside so couldn’t contribute much in run support, didn’t give up many catches and surrendered touchdowns on a lot of the catches he did give up.

Nevertheless, he had some solid hits in college and displays some good closing speed and an ability to break down in space.

He only averaged three missed tackles per season during his college career, although this one was particularly bad.

Physicality

Pinnock is an extremely physical corner, who can play press and relishes the challenge of keeping his man in front of him.

He’ll use his hands to slow up receivers on routes and is strong at the catchpoint, although he plays right on the edge of potentially being called for holding or illegal contact at times.

During his college career, Pinnock was called for four penalties, all of which were for pass interference. One of these was negated because it was a touchdown anyway.

As noted above, Pinnock unloaded some big hits in college, including a few to break up passes.

Run defense

Pinnock improved his contributions against the run over the course of his career, but still didn’t get many chances to contribute on the outside.

He reacted well on a couple of red zone runs, including this one where he wasn’t afraid to take on a blocker.

Blitzing

Pinnock hasn’t had many chances to blitz in college, but did manage to register this sack in his sophomore season and a few other pressures.

Special teams

On the face of it, Pinnock didn’t seem to make many contributions on special teams, as he had zero special teams tackles during his college career with limited snaps as a punt gunner or otherwise covering kicks.

However, he does some impressive work as the vice on the kick return unit, once again using those physical coverage skills to consistently keep his man in front of him. This is a role he could secure for himself and potentially excel at, even as a rookie.

Pinnock also saw action on field goal defense and rushing punts. In high school, he blocked a punt that was recovered by a teammate for a touchdown. He also scored this touchdown on a botched snap in his freshman year at Pitt.

Instincts/Intelligence

Pinnock hasn’t established himself as a player with a high football IQ and top-level play recognition yet, but he shows an ability to carry out his assignment and react well in coverage on this play, as he drops off into a quarters-style zone coverage for the interception.

However, on this play, the Tigers exploit his complacency at the line as he relaxes when the receiver doesn’t run a route, but then lets him break in behind him for a big play.

Attitude

Pinnock is regarded as a great teammate and is extremely vocal, having earned himself a reputation as a trash-talker at Pitt. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and has confidence and belief in his own abilities.

There is one minor red flag in terms of off-field concerns and this is because he was suspended for a game by the team for undisclosed injuries. That seems like a minor issue though.

Injuries

Pinnock only missed four games over the course of his career, including the season opener in 2018 and Pitt’s bowl game in 2019. His other two missed games were earlier on in 2019 due to a sprained knee.

Scheme Fit

The Jets obviously need to upgrade at outside cornerback, whether that comes by replacing the current starters or developing them to improve and take their game to the next level.

Either way, at least one of the starting roles could be up for grabs this season, so Pinnock will no doubt be battling to climb up the depth chart and get himself in contention for playing time.

The number of big plays Pinnock gave up are a cause for concern but within the right system, his abilities on shorter routes could be useful, while mitigating the risk of him being exposed down the field. For example, if he’s pressing at the line and then bailing out and passing his man off down the field, then he can keep the action in front of him and react accordingly.

Conclusions

Pinnock wasn’t necessarily a widely-touted prospect, although his stock did rise after his pro day performance.

While there are a few clear holes in his game, these may be issues that can be corrected by coaching or mitigated by the system and therefore the Jets might have specifically identified him as someone they believe they can coach up into being a solid contributor within their schemes.

At worst, he has the measurables that teams often look for in a project cornerback, so the team will hope to develop him. However, he could have a high upside, given some of his success at the college level, which came despite certain aspects of rawness to his game that suggest he’s not yet the finished article.