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Scouting Jets offensive lineman Parker Ferguson

Colorado State v Air Force Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Over the past few months, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We continue today with offensive lineman Parker Ferguson.

Ferguson is listed at 6’4” and 306 pounds and was a three-year starter at Air Force. He was an all-Mountain West Conference first teamer last season. Ferguson has, however, already been placed on season-ending injured reserve by the Jets.

Background

Ferguson didn’t play football until his junior year of high school and at the time was just a 230-pound defensive end. He was rated as a two-star recruit and the only team who wanted him was Air Force, who immediately began the process of converting him into an offensive tackle.

Having not played in 2017, Ferguson began the 2018 season as a reserve but moved into the starting lineup in week three and remained there for the last 10 games.

In 2019, he started 12 of 13 games, including the last nine of the season and he then started all six games in the shortened 2020 season, earning all-conference honors.

He was not expected to be drafted and the Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent after the draft. However, they placed him on injured reserve near the end of the third week of organized team activities.

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

Measurables/Athleticism

Ferguson lacks ideal length and his workout numbers were about average. He ran a 5.19 in the 40-yard dash and managed 24 bench press reps. His 31-inch vertical was above average but his 4.9 short shuttle was poor.

Usage

Ferguson is one of four offensive tackles the Jets brought in as undrafted free agents and all four have below average length and therefore may be better suited to the guard position at the NFL level.

While he started at left tackle with Air Force, they’d occasionally move him around during the game. Sometimes they would put him as right tackle in an unbalanced line set and they also used him as left guard, often when near the goal line. He displays traits which could make him a viable option to move inside.

Pass Blocking

The issue with scouting Ferguson’s pass blocking abilities is that Air Force typically threw the ball less than anyone in the country and even when they did they didn’t run a lot of conventional pass sets.

Bearing in mind that Ferguson had never played offensive line before he arrived in college, he’s obviously going to be extremely raw.

This also means his pressure numbers are generally very good. He only gave up one sack in his career and didn’t surrender any pressure at all last season. Of course this is mainly due to the fact he’s rarely tested though.

Here’s a play where he lost contact with his man at the line, leading to a clean pressure on the quarterback.

Generally speaking he is well-balanced and his sets up wide to try and stay in front of his man and extends his arms effectively once he locks onto a block. His footwork needs a bit of work though.

Run Blocking

At least we can say Air Force ran the ball a lot, so we can get a good idea of Ferguson’s potential as a run blocker. However, even this isn’t entirely instructive because Air Force operate out of a triple option system that often requires him to simply cut his man immediately at the snap, which wouldn’t typically happen at the NFL level. Nevertheless, there are things within that system he’s shown which can translate.

He shows an ability to block on the move, lock onto and control his target securely in space and finish with aggression on this pulling block.

On this play, he showcases some athleticism by getting downfield ahead of the runner and also does a good job of finding a man to block in space and angling him off.

This play sees Ferguson peel off to the second level and control his man at the second level to create a running lane.

As noted, he’ll move inside at times and he shows promise within that role as he showcases some strength and power at the point of attack here.

Short Yardage

Air Force punched the ball in from near the goal line quite often but seems to have more success on sneaks and outside runs than conventional runs behind the offensive line.

As noted, Ferguson would sometimes move inside to the left guard position in these goal line packages.

Screen Blocking

The screen pass was not a part of the Air Force offense at all. In fact, one analyst from PFF confirmed that it’s been over two years since they generated positive yardage on a screen pass and they didn’t even attempt one in 2020. However, Ferguson did show an ability to contribute on such plays earlier on in his career.

Footwork/Technique

As noted, Ferguson has a lot of technical flaws that will need to be cleared up if he can compete with NFL level talent. He can be a little stiff dropping into his stance in pass protection, struggles to get his hands inside and needs to bend his knees more so he can control his pad level and avoid lunging after blocks.

He can get worked over in pass protection. On his play, his man is able to get him off balance so he can throw him off on the inside move to pick up a half-sack.

Penalties

Ferguson’s penalty count wasn’t too bad, with just eight in his three years as a starter. However, he had three in six games in 2020.

Two of these penalties were for holding with one of them proving particularly costly as he had to bearhug a stunting lineman to prevent him from getting a clean run at the quarterback. That negated a 59-yard play.

He also let his emotions get the better of him after a fumble, shoving an opponent over to draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Special Teams

Ferguson contributed as a blocker on field goals and extra points and also on the punt protection unit with Air Force. He didn’t make any mistakes or significant contributions within these roles.

Instincts/Intelligence

Ferguson seems to do a good job of carrying out his assignments and a good feel for timing his ascent to the second level or picking up a target in space.

However, on this play he and the right tackle both tried to block the same linebacker at the second level and they ended up colliding with one another as the linebacker made the play.

He seems to react well to stunts and twists and didn’t seem to surrender any pressure due to blown protection assignments, albeit that he of course had a limited workload in that area.

Ferguson had been an excellent student in high school as he was a four-time all-conference academic selection.

Attitude

Ferguson obviously attended a program where discipline and maturity would be a pre-requisite so he can bring those traits to his role with the Jets.

His coaches have praised his hard working attitude, humility and desire to constantly improve his technique and conditioning.

Injuries

Ferguson didn’t miss any time in college, but he was affected in high school by inflamed growth plates in his hips.

The nature of his injury with the Jets was not disclosed but he is officially out for the season.

Scheme Fit

As noted, Ferguson played in a triple option offense at the college level so it may be a challenge for him to assimilate into a pro-style system. However, it’s not unprecedented. Shaq Mason is a good recent example of someone who has succeeded at the NFL level having played in such a system in college.

In fact, there are some overlaps between the Air Force coaching staff and Shanahan-style offensive systems so there may be some run blocking principles that carry over.

As noted earlier, it seems most likely Ferguson will be expected to move to the guard position eventually.

He was a teammate of current Jets defensive back Zane Lewis at Air Force. He will also be familiar with current Jets defensive assistant Chip Vaughn who was a defensive backs coach at Air Force during Ferguson’s first two years as a starter.

Conclusions

As noted, Ferguson isn’t going to contribute in 2021 because he’s already been placed on injured reserve. It will depend on how high they are on his potential as to whether he remains on the team until next year’s offseason activities begin. The nature of his injury will also be a factor, of course.

If they’re to retain Ferguson, he can spend the year learning the system and - depending on his injury status - working on his strength, conditioning and technical refinements. That might give him a chance to compete next year, but he’ll be a long-shot even if he lasts that long.