Earlier this week, the Jets signed defensive lineman Marquiss Spencer to their practice squad. Today, we break down Spencer in detail.
The 25-year old Spencer is listed at 6’4” and 295 pounds and was a seventh round pick out of Mississippi State in 2020. He has only played on one NFL regular season game, recording one tackle.
Spencer was a four-star prospect out of high school, as he was ranked in the top-300 nationally having registered 21 sacks in his senior year.
Having been recruited to Mississippi State, Spencer was a backup in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He totalled 39 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks. Four games into the 2018 season he opted to take a medical redshirt due to injury.
In 2019, he became a full time starter and registered a career-high 37 tackles, adding 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He then started nine more games in 2020 but missed the last two due to injury. He ended up with 30 tackles, but had career highs in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (three).
After a solid pro day, he was drafted by the Broncos in the seventh round, but spent the year on the practice squad after being released in final cuts. He was elevated for one game at the end of the year.
In 2022, he returned but was waived/injured during preseason. The Jets signed him to their practice squad after Conor McDermott was poached on Monday.
Now let’s take a look at what Spencer brings to the table, divided into categories.
Spencer is a bit of a tweener. At the NFL level, he’ll be an undersized tackle, but in college he was more of an oversized defensive end. He has average length.
At his pro day, Spencer weighed in at over 300 pounds but posted excellent numbers, including a 4.87 40-yard dash, 111-inch broad jump and a sub-7.3 three cone drill. His bench press (12 reps) was poor though.
Spencer began his college career as a 240-pound linebacker, before moving to an edge role and eventually becoming a 5-technique end with the Broncos. He’s played inside on sub-packages with them.
Spencer has a reputation as someone with an inconsistent motor who has had issues with his weight in the past. However, some of his film shows someone who will pursue across the field and work hard in the trenches.
Spencer is a player whose pass rush production in college was okay but not great. He only had seven sacks in five seasons.
He does have potential though, because of his experience of playing on the edge. He does have the ability to both overpower defensive players and to beat them with quickness or technique. On this play, he displays his raw power.
One area where Spencer can excel is on stunts with his explosiveness coming up the middle and familiarity with lining up and rushing from all over the line.
He can even be the sort of player you use as part of a stunt in an effort to free up another pass rusher.
Footage from Spencer’s early career appearances at the NFL level show that he needed to work on his strength. He was quite regularly driven off the line in those limited appearances and struggled to hold up to double teams.
In college, he made a lot of explosive plays with his ability to shoot gaps and close on the runner. He sheds the block here to penetrate and, although he doesn’t complete the play, the Broncos still bottle it up.
As noted, Spencer has some experience on the edge and this adds some pass rush moves to his arsenal. On this play, he uses his hands superbly to swat his man’s hands away and even shows some impressive bend for a 300-pounder as he beats him around the edge.
He also has a spin counter move which he can go to when initially repelled that he has had some success with.
In the trenches, pad level can sometimes be an issue for Spencer, who often ends up on the ground.
Spencer’s main special teams contributions have been rushing kicks and punts, but he’s never made any big plays. He covered punts in his first two years in college and also had a few snaps covering kicks and blocking on the kickoff return unit.
Spencer closes well and can hit hard and stop a runner in his tracks, but he does show poor technique at times when throwing a shoulder at a ball carrier or reaching beyond his frame and this can lead to missed tackles.
He showed a bit of a knack for forcing fumbles in key moments in college, including one that was recovered and returned for a score and another near the goal line.
With his experience at linebacker, Spencer is perhaps better equipped to drop off into coverage than most young linemen and he displayed that on this impressive interception.
He did drop into coverage a few times a game throughout his college career and was targeted on some short passes but didn’t give up any big plays. He only had one pass defensed other than his interception, though, batting a pass down at the line.
Spencer has experience at a variety of positions and good versatility but he can be a little slow to react at times. Now and again he’ll get out of his stance a beat later than everyone else, for example.
Here’s a play where he reacts to the screen and hustles back to make the play, taking a good angle.
Spencer got onto the SEC academic honor roll three times while he was at Mississippi State.
Spencer is considered to be a player with good character, a good work ethic and a mature, responsible attitude. He loves to train and practices hard.
His on-field discipline was good. He was ejected from one game in his senior year for targeting, but that was his only penalty that year. He only had two penalties in his other four years and none in his limited games at the NFL level.
The injury that caused Spencer to redshirt the 2018 season was just described publically as an upper body injury. At the end of his college career, he missed the last two games due to a head/neck injury which saw him stretchered off.
At the NFL level, he missed practice time with an ankle injury in 2021 and was carted off in preseason this year with a knee injury which was regarded as not serious but still saw him waived/injured in August. Presumably he’s back to 100 percent now.
Spencer was a 3-4 defensive end with the Broncos but has previously said he is comfortable in any scheme. With the Jets, they’d presumably line him up inside and he could respond well to an aggressive attacking role.
He was a teammate of current Jets practice squad member Diontae Spencer when he was with the Broncos.
Spencer is a player with some unique traits that has presumably been brought aboard so the Jets can see if he has any potential or could fit into a situational role within their system.
With Sheldon Rankins injured, they also need some additional cover at the defensive tackle position for the next few weeks, but it seems unlikely they’ll turn to Spencer because Tanzel Smart and Jonathan Marshall have more experience. There’s no doubt Spencer will be trying to impress early on though to get into the mix.