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Scouting Jets defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall

Alabama v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We wrap up this year’s draft class today with defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall.

The 23-year old Marshall is listed at 6’3” and 310 pounds and was the 207th overall pick in the sixth round of this year’s draft. He was a reserve for three seasons before starting every game last year and earning all-SEC second team honors. He had 71 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his four years with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Background

Marshall was a three-star recruit out of high school where he also excelled at basketball and in the shot put. He originally committed to TCU and then Oklahoma State before finally deciding to attend Arkansas and redshirting his first season.

In his first two years, he didn’t see much action as a reserve, registering just 19 tackles in 23 games, including half a tackle for loss. His playing time increased as a redshirt junior and he had 17 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and half a sack.

He finally got a chance to start in 2020 and had the best year of his career with 35 tackles and one sack. He also led the team in pressures and at one point recorded a tackle for loss in six straight games. Marshall was named as a second-team all-SEC selection at the end of the year.

After a solid pro day, Marshall established himself as a possible late round pick and was eventually selected by the Jets with their final pick in the sixth round.

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

Measurables/Athleticism

Marshall has decent size, although he lacks ideal length. He displays his strength, quickness and explosiveness on film and his workout numbers support this.

Several Arkansas teammates and coaches have waxed lyrical on how strong Marshall is, so it was no surprise when he managed 36 bench press reps at his pro day. He reportedly can bench 450 and the team maxed out his squats at 650 but his defensive line coach said he could have handled more.

After weighing in at 310 pounds, Marshall ran a 4.81 on his first 40-yard dash at the combine, but then pulled his hamstring on the second one and didn’t do any agility drills as a result.

His explosiveness numbers (32-inch vertical, 114-inch broad jump) were also excellent.

Usage

Marshall primarily played as a three-technique tackle for most of his career and that’s the role he’ll play at the NFL level. However, he also had occasional reps as a defensive end or nose tackle. In 2020, he played primarily at nose tackle.

He was miscast in that role, although he had the strength to hold up at that spot and was a nightmare matchup for most interior linemen due to his quickness.

Back in high school Marshall had almost been recruited to play on offense as a tight end.

Motor

Some scouting reports indicate that Marshall has a tendency to lose some steam in the second half and that he gets rotated out a lot, but that information must have been based on his first three seasons because he played a ton in 2020 and his coaches and teammates were effusive about his non-stop motor.

In one game, Arkansas were without six linemen due to Covid protocols and Marshall insisted on playing a full time role and on special teams even though he was hurt.

Here’s an example of his never-say-die attitude as he keeps working to get pressure against two blockers. This led to an interception.

He plays to the whistle, as you can see here. On this play, he is on the ground but gets up to hustle back and make the tackle after a completed pass.

Run defense

Marshall has been consistent and had good production as a run defender throughout his career with the Razorbacks, whether or not he was starting. He did still improve over the course of his career though.

At the nose tackle position, Marshall was able to use his quickness to shoot gaps and burst into the backfield on a regular basis.

He’s extremely quick out of his stance whether he’s driving straight ahead of moving laterally to shoot a gap.

Despite lining up at the nose tackle position, Marshall isn’t a natural two-gapper and can struggle to anchor against double teams at times. However, he has the strength and low center of gravity to hold up at the point of attack.

Since he’s looking to shoot gaps, offensive linemen can sometimes use this against him by sealing him to the inside on outside runs.

Pass rush

Marshall didn’t have much sack production during his career with just 1.5 sacks in four years. However, he was disruptive in terms of collapsing the pocket and did lead the team in pressures during the 2020 season.

While his primary role was as a bull rusher because he was lined up at the nose tackle position, he does also show some ability to dip past a blocker or spin away from their block. He shows his quickness on this outside stunt.

Technique

When discussing his obvious strength, Marshall’s coaches have commented that they needed to work on his technique to enable him to fully harness that strength so this is an important area with him, although sometimes he can get by just on brute strength.

You can see here how powerful he is when he’s able to get under his opponent’s pads on plays like this one.

Marshall does a good job with his pad level but in order to truly dominate his man, he’ll have to master his hand usage techniques.

As a pass rusher, he didn’t get a chance to show off many moves but has the combination of quickness and strength that could make him deadly if he can transition smoothly from one move to another and he shows some early signs of being able to master that.

Tackling

A lot of Marshall’s tackle production came on plays where he bottled up runs going up the middle and he also helped blow up some runs where other players got credit for the tackle.

He moves well laterally and will chase plays out to the sideline or from the backside with good hustle.

He doesn’t miss a lot of tackles but here’s one where he stepped too far to the inside on a quarterback keeper and couldn’t recover to make the stop.

Coverage

Marshall never dropped into coverage at Arkansas, although he did sometimes drop off to get in on a tackle following a short pass. He was credited with one pass defensed during his career, on this play.

Instincts/Intelligence

Marshall has good play recognition and often his ability to burst into the backfield is tied to his preparation and reading of pre-snap keys as he can beat a reach block or anticipate a gap.

He reacts quickly on this short pass and shows good athleticism as he hustles downhill to get in on the stop.

Special teams

You don’t usually expect many contributions from a defensive tackle on special teams but Marshall has rushed punts and field goals, blocked on the placekicking unit and even covered punts as part of the punt protection unit.

He had two tackles last season but was also called for one penalty due to an illegal formation.

Attitude/Demeanor

Like most of the Jets’ offseason additions, Marshall was a team captain with high character and a soft-spoken gentle giant personality. Teammates and coaches have all praised his attitude, work ethic, toughness and leadership.

His on-field discipline was good with just four defensive penalties in his career. His only penalty in 2020 was for jumping offside.

Injuries

Marshall only missed one game during his career and displayed good toughness as a senior when he played despite having eight stitches in his thumb. As noted, he also injured his hamstring during his pro day workout.

Scheme Fit

Marshall has some good scheme versatility but should be an ideal fit as an attacking defensive tackle in Robert Saleh’s scheme. He projects similarly to Sheldon Rankins in that regard and the veteran may end up taking Marshall under his wing this season to essentially groom his own heir apparent.

Conclusions

Marshall is an impressive athlete and his teammates couldn’t seem to find enough good things to say about him last season, with the linebackers and safeties giving him plenty of credit for their own statistical production due to his disruptiveness in the trenches.

The Jets are already pretty loaded on the defensive line so it might be a year or two until Marshall plays a significant role. However, with Nathan Shepherd and Folorunso Fatukasi scheduled to be out of contract at the end of the season, he could soon move up into an important role.

It will be interesting to see how he performs in training camp and how quickly he progresses up the depth chart.