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Scouting Jets cornerback Isaiah Dunn

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past month or so, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We’re now moving on to look at the undrafted free agents, beginning with cornerback Isaiah Dunn.

The 22-year old Dunn is listed at 6’0” and 193 pounds and was undrafted out of Oregon State. In four years with the Beavers, Dunn had 115 tackles and 15 pass breakups but no interceptions.

Background

Dunn was a three-star recruit out of high school and received scholarship offers from 10 teams before deciding to attend Oregon State.

He was originally going to red-shirt his freshman season but there were some injuries in the secondary so he opted to suit up from the fifth game onwards. He started five of the last seven games, but struggled as he gave up seven touchdowns and ended the year with 28 tackles and a pass defensed.

In his second season, Dunn missed some time due to injuries but fared a lot better as he again started five of seven games. He ended the year with 32 tackles and six passes defensed.

Dunn became a full time starter in 2019, as he started 11 of 12 games and had career highs in tackles (42) and passes defensed (eight). He then started all seven games in 2020, registering 13 tackles and three pass breakups.

After being invited to the Hula Bowl and putting together a solid pro day, Dunn was expected to be drafted so when he wasn’t the Jets worked hard to get him locked up as a priority free agent. They gave him the highest UDFA cornerback contract of all time, including a $20K signing bonus and $160K in guarantees.

Reports indicate that Dunn has been getting some first team reps in practice with the Jets and that he was a standout on the second day of mandatory minicamp with multiple pass breakups.

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

Measurables/Athleticism

Dunn entered his senior year listed at 178 pounds but has added 15 pounds to his listed weight since then and now has solid size and above average length.

His workout numbers were solid across the board, especially in terms of his 40-yard dash (4.38) and broad jump (127”). He also shows flashes of explosiveness and speed on tape.

Usage

Dunn mostly played outside during his career but ahead of his senior year, he made an effort to learn the assignments so he could also play the slot and both safety positions. In the first game of the 2020 season he played exclusively in the slot, but then went to the outside again for the rest of the year.

He had played occasionally in the slot during his first three seasons, but not very often.

Coverage skills

As noted above, Dunn really struggled in his first season as he gave up seven touchdowns in seven games. However, he was much better over the next two seasons as he gave up a catch on less than 50 percent of his targets and only gave up six touchdowns in 19 games.

He took things to the next level in the shortened 2020 season, as he only gave up one touchdown. He gave up several catches in the slot but only three catches for 16 yards on 12 targets when lined up outside.

He has played a mixture of man and zone coverage, with the ability to disrupt off the line or latch onto receivers downfield.

Dunn is a good athlete with the explosiveness to close on the ball and mirror his man. However, there are a few technical adjustments he needs to make to his game to become more successful. He can be slow to turn his hips on the receiver’s release and often sits heavy while backpedaling so he can be slow to react to breaks at the top of the route.

His positional sense and ability to compete at the catchpoint have improved over the course of his career though.

Ball skills

One of the main reasons Dunn went undrafted is probably the fact that he didn’t intercept any passes in college. In fact he hasn’t had an interception since junior varsity in high school. He was a wide receiver as well in high school though, so he should have decent hands.

He does, however, show a good ability to break up passes, either by closing and delivering a well-timed hit or by stripping the ball loose from the receiver.

He generally does a good job of getting his head turned and locating the football on downfield throws, but this seemed to be something he was less comfortable with when playing inside.

Tackling

Dunn’s tackle efficiency is another area where he has made improvements. He missed 17 tackles in his first three seasons but only one in 2020. Scouting reports indicate his technique was less than ideal as he had a tendency to lunge for tackles, which is apparent on film.

He seems to take good angles in pursuit and his closing speed is good enough for him to deliver a good hit from time to time.

Dunn forced one fumble in his career, which saw him strip the ball away from the ball carrier, much as he has a few times in coverage.

Physicality

Dunn is a physical defender, who is often employed in press coverage and does a solid job of route disruption and competing for the ball.

He may need to work on his strength to prevent NFL-level receivers from being able to separate from him at the catchpoint.

There can be occasions when he panics and grabs, but he only had 11 penalties in four years. His only two penalties in 2020 were both for pass interference in the Cal game.

Run defense

For an outside cornerback, Dunn has been a productive run defender and shows a willingness to crash down and make plays.

He generally exhibits good discipline in terms of maintaining contain but can be blocked out of plays in space from time to time.

Blitzing

Dunn rarely blitzed in college and didn’t record a sack or quarterback hit. On this play, he comes off the blindside unblocked but doesn’t get there in time to stop the completion.

Special teams

In order to make the Jets roster, Dunn will probably need to demonstrate he can contribute on special teams. He didn’t do much in college, although he had a couple of tackles in kick coverage as a freshman.

In his last two years, Dunn only saw action as a vice on the punt return unit and on the field goal defense.

Dunn was a good kickoff returner in high school, with one spectacular touchdown in a nationally-televised game. However, he didn’t do this with the Beavers.

Instincts/Intelligence

It’s been suggested that Dunn’s lack of interceptions may have some teams concerned about his instincts but he does actually show some ability to anticipate and break on the ball early.

There were, however, a few examples where he got preoccupied with his coverage assignment and was late to recognize that it was actually a running play so he found himself out of position as a result.

As noted, he made an effort to learn every position in the secondary to give himself a better understanding of the system and everyone’s role within it.

He was an all-Pac 12 academic honorable mention in 2018.

Attitude

Dunn developed into a leader over the course of his career at Oregon State and has a lot of confidence in his ability.

Clearly he made the effort to prepare himself for the pro level in his senior year by adding weight, improving his positional versatility and also working hard at improving his lateral quickness. This paid off as he did well in his final season, although it wasn’t enough to see him drafted.

He has no off-field issues and his on-field discipline has generally been good as he’s averaged just three penalties per season.

Injuries

Dunn has been relatively lucky with injuries in his career so far. He missed five games in 2018 due to a minor knee injury but has played in all 19 games over the last two seasons.

Scheme Fit

Dunn has been working on the outside with the Jets and that seems to be his best position although he has played in the slot at times.

He’s comfortable in both man and zone schemes and has the ability to play press coverage which will be useful for his roster chances in Robert Saleh’s system.

2020 was the first season in his career where he had the same defensive backs coach as in the previous season, so the stability of joining a brand new coaching staff should benefit him, especially since the head coach also has a background in coaching secondaries.

Dunn was a teammate of his fellow undrafted rookie Hamilcar Rashed while at Oregon State.

Conclusions

The Jets obviously viewed Dunn as one of their most important undrafted free agent pickups based on his contract and it’s already apparent he’s going to be in the mix for playing time.

At the end of the mandatory minicamp, Jeff Ulbrich said that the Jets expected Dunn to be drafted and that he’s making a push not only to make the roster but also to contribute this season.

The Jets’ cornerback position has lots of uncertainty at the moment and the Jets might be tempted to make an addition at some point if a starter-level veteran hits the open market. However, if they don’t, Dunn has a shot at being in the mix for a starting role if he can keep up the momentum from the past few months.