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Scouting Jets safety Sharrod Neasman

Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Over the next few months, we’re taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. However, before we start looking at the undrafted free agents, we have another veteran addition to review in safety Sharrod Neasman.

The 29-year old Neasman is listed at 5’11” and 213 pounds and was undrafted out of FAU in 2016. During his NFL career, he has started two games and recorded 77 tackles, four passes defensed, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Background

Neasman was not recruited out of high school and couldn’t even earn himself a tryout but was determined to play college football and convinced he had the ability to do so.

He ended up taking two years off while he saved up the funds to go to college so he could eventually walk on at Florida Atlantic.

He finally made his debut in 2012 and contributed in a reserve role over his first two seasons as he recorded 15 tackles and a forced fumble in 18 games only to then get injured.

In his junior year, Neasman finally was given a scholarship despite the injury and earned a role as the team’s starting nickel. He racked up 59 tackles and two interceptions, earning the team’s comeback player of the year award.

As a senior, he racked up career highs for tackles (74), interceptions (three) and passes defensed (four). This earned him a shot with the Atlanta Falcons on an undrafted free agent contract.

As a rookie, he was released in final cuts but then added to the practice squad and activated halfway through the season. He played in 14 games over the next season and a half in a special teams role, recording five tackles.

Having not been offered a contract at the end of his second season in Atlanta, Neasman signed for the Saints and was released in final cuts by them. He ended up back in Atlanta when they signed him a few weeks later.

On his return to Atlanta, Neasman saw significant playing time on defense for the first time and ended the season with 44 tackles and four passes defensed in 12 games. However, he returned to a special teams role in 2019 and recorded four tackles and a fumble recovery in 15 games.

2020 saw him play all 16 games for the first time, including the first two starts of his career. He ended the year with 27 tackles and also recorded his first career sack but was out of contract at the end of the 2020 season. The Jets signed him last week.

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

Measurables/Athleticism

Neasman has decent size, having added 15 pounds since his last season in college. He weighed in at 206 pounds at his pro day but is now listed at 213.

He put together excellent numbers at his pro day workout five years ago. While his 40-yard dash time was only 4.68, his explosiveness, agility and bench press numbers were all excellent.

Usage

Neasman originally joined the FAU team as a wide receiver but they had a need at defensive back and so he moved there. He played a versatile role during his time with the Owls with plenty of reps in the box, playing deep or matched up in coverage.

The Falcons initially used Neasman as a deep safety but he got some time at strong safety and responded well so they opted to leave him there. When he finally got to play some defensive reps in his third season, he was in that role, moving around and matching up as required.

However, when he played in 2020, he saw most of his action as a deep safety since that’s where the Falcons had the biggest need.

Coverage skills

Neasman moves quite well in coverage and shows an ability to stay with his man and close on the ball. Here’s an interesting play where the Giants tried to use deception to get Odell Beckham a mismatch out in the flat, but Neasman anticipated, reacted and was able to stay with him and force the pass to go elsewhere.

He matched up in coverage a lot more in 2018 than in 2020, and his coverage numbers weren’t bad although he did get beaten for four touchdowns. He also has plenty of experience of ranging deep from the safety position.

He intercepted a pass in preseason action, showing good reactions to come up with this ball that was tipped up into the air.

Ball skills

Neasman displayed some playmaking ability in college as he made five interceptions in his last two years. However, his totals for passes defensed were generally low.

He exhibits good closing speed and timing to strip this ball away from the receiver near the goal line.

On downfield routes, he can have issues with letting his man get behind him, leaving him unable to get his head turned and make a play on the ball.

Tackling

Neasman was a pretty productive tackler in college and has also been productive at the NFL level considering he hasn’t been a full-time player.

He shows his ability to come from deep, close on the ball and make a secure tackle on this third down stop.

Neasman had several missed tackles on defense in 2018, but showed signs of improvement as he only had two last season.

He had two forced fumbles in his college career but doesn’t have one so far in his NFL career.

Physicality

Neasman displays some good physicality when in coverage, although he was hit with a defensive pass interference penalty on this play because he grabbed the receiver’s wrist. That was the only defensive penalty of his career so far though.

He’s not really considered to be a big hitter, but does make a concerted effort to fight off blocks and displays some aggression in doing so.

Run defense

Neasman has shown a willingness to contribute in run support, especially in 2018 when he was playing more in the box.

He was only in on a few plays against the run when playing as the deep safety in 2020, though.

Blitzing

Neasman hasn’t had many chances to blitz over the course of his career, but had one preseason and one regular season sack with the Falcons. He shows impressive disguise and acceleration to close and make this play against the Bucs.

Special teams

Neasman established himself as a core special teamer with the Falcons, playing on all the main units and racking up over 300 special teams snaps in each of the past two seasons.

He’s contributed well in kick coverage with 20 special teams tackles in five years, including nine last season, and also recovered a fumble. He added another six special teams tackles in preseason play. He has also missed several tackles though.

On the punt coverage unit, Neasman hasn’t played as a gunner, instead lining up in punt protection. In one game, he allowed a rush up the middle that led to a blocked punt and in another he tried to run for a first down on a fake and lost a fumble. However, he did successfully convert on this fake punt.

Neasman also almost had a big play on special teams when he spectacularly ran back a blocked extra point, breaking several tackles, but he was stopped short of the end zone.

During his career, Neasman has had four special teams penalties, including two while blocking on return units. One was controversial as he was called for a costly fair catch interference penalty late in a close game that Atlanta lost. Neasman claimed not to have touched the return man.

Instincts/Intelligence

Neasman is obviously smart because he was the student-athlete of the year in college and came away with an engineering degree.

He shows some ability to diagnose plays on runs and short passes and has the quickness to beat blocks and blow these plays up.

He’s less comfortable in downfield coverage as he was involved in a few blown coverages and miscommunications with the Falcons.

He had one penalty for jumping offside on a short field goal attempt, but it was declined because the kick was good anyway.

Attitude

Neasman is an impressive story, who displayed his determination and hard-working attitude by working two jobs for a couple of years just to get into college football.

He was a captain in college and has impressed people throughout his career with his desire to prove people wrong.

Injuries

After working so hard to get to a college team, Neasman thought his career was in tatters when he tore his ACL in his sophomore year. However, he again showed the determination and toughness that defines him when he made it back within five months.

At the NFL level he’s missed 10 games since his rookie year, some of which were as a healthy scratch. He had a shoulder injury in 2019 and a neck issue in 2018.

The Saints released him with an injury settlement in final cuts in 2018 but this can’t have been serious because he was back in Atlanta a few weeks later.

Scheme Fit

Neasman’s special teams contributions give him a good shot at a roster spot, but he also has a good relationship with Marquand Manuel, who was Atlanta’s secondary coach in Neasman’s rookie year and then got promoted to defensive coordinator for two years. Manuel is now the Jets’ safeties coach.

Current Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich coached on the same defense along with Manuel, albeit with the linebackers. Clearly they must like his versatility and ability to contribute in this defense.

Neasman played with Tevin Coleman while in Atlanta and was also briefly teammates with Justin Hardee, Sheldon Rankins and Saquan Hampton while he was with the Saints.

Interestingly, he was also a high school teammate of Brian Poole, who could conceivably still rejoin the Jets.

Conclusions

There is a vacancy in the Jets’ safety room at the moment with the top three spots seemingly locked up by Lamarcus Joyner, Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis. The Jets are certain to carry at least one more safety and the rest of the safeties on the roster lack the experience to be considered a lock.

The edge could go to the one who contributes the most on special teams, because the fourth safety isn’t likely to get many defensive reps unless there are injuries. Neasman held his own when filling in under such circumstances in Atlanta, so he would seem to have an excellent shot at making the roster.