Over the past few weeks, we’ve been breaking down the Jets’ rookies. We’ll move onto the undrafted free agents later this week, but the Jets also made another veteran addition last week, when they signed former New England Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste. Today, we break down Cajuste in detail.
The 27-year old Cajuste is listed at 6’5” and 310 pounds and was a third round pick out of West Virginia in 2019. He’s only started five games in his NFL career, which has been blighted by injuries.
Cajuste didn’t play football until his senior year of high school but was a three-star recruit and had plenty of interest from top schools including Florida. He eventually opted to enroll at West Virginia and redshirted his first season in 2014.
After starting the first six games of his redshirt freshman season, Cajuste suffered an injury and wasn’t able to return until the team’s bowl game. He then missed the entire 2016 season with another injury.
In 2017 and 2018, he was finally healthy, starting 24 games. He was an all-Big 12 second-teamer in 2017 and a first-teamer in 2018. He was also a second-team all-American and the co-Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Big 12 in 2018.
Cajuste was ranked highly by some draft analysts and some felt he was worthy of being selected in the first round. However, another injury impacted his pre-draft preparation and he was eventually selected by New England in the third round.
Injuries continued to plague him early on in his NFL career, as he didn’t make his debut until his third season. He started two games in 2021 and three more in 2022.
Perhaps surprisingly, Cajuste was signed to a restricted free agent tender earlier on in the offseason but then was released in May.
Now let’s take a look at what Cajuste brings to the table, divided into categories.
Cajuste, who weighed in at almost 10 pounds lighter than his listed weight at the combine, has a long wingspan and big hands.
He was unable to work out at his pro day or the scouting combine but is regarded as athletic and looks comfortable on the move and changing direction. This may have been compromised somewhat by his injury history.
He did manage to participate in the bench press at the combine, racking up an impressive 32 reps.
Cajuste played almost exclusively at left tackle in college with just one snap at left guard, one at right tackle and two at tight end.
With New England, all five of his starts have been at right tackle, although he did kick over to the left side in some unbalanced line packages. He has played more reps at left tackle than on the right in preseason action and has featured at times as a sixth blocker in jumbo packages.
As he entered the league, Cajuste’s film as a pass blocker was really good and some draft analysts felt he was potentially the best pass protector in the draft. He showed that he has balanced sets and smooth footwork, uses his length well and can react to counters and anchor against bull rushes.
This yielded good results too. After giving up three sacks in his first year as a starter, he only gave up one in his last two seasons and his rates for allowing pressure were low.
At the NFL level, Cajuste hasn’t been able to live up to this potential. He’s given up four sacks despite starting only five games and often got help from the inside or chips on the outside with the Patriots, suggesting they didn’t trust him to block on an island.
Since entering the league, Cajuste doesn’t seem to be able to drop back into his stance to stop pressure from getting around the edge as comfortably, perhaps due to some of the injuries.
He’s also found it harder to re-anchor against bull rushes, making it easier to move him off his spot.
He still displays an ability to pick up an inside counter and to control his man once he gets his hands on them, though.
As a draft prospect, Cajuste wasn’t known as much for his run blocking but he was strong, powerful and capable of moving people off the line.
Generally speaking, you’d like to see more consistency from him but he can be dominant climbing to the second level.
He is perhaps most adept at blocking down on a defensive tackle and shows the strength to set the edge on outside runs.
He has the athletic ability to make blocks on the move but didn’t seem to have much consistent success on reach blocks and in finding and engaging a target on pulling blocks with the Patriots.
Cajuste saw some action as a jumbo package tight end with New England, where he established himself as someone you can run behind.
On this play, he shifted to the left side in an unbalanced package and sealed off the edge to allow the run to bounce outside.
Cajuste can be effective in the screen game. He shows impressive hustle and mobility to get out in front and make a block to spring this play for a positive gain.
On this play, he picks up his block early and also shows his aggressive side by staying on his man and taking him completely out of the play.
Despite looking so polished in college, Cajuste’s technique has let him down sometimes at the NFL level. One thing he has struggled with is preventing defensive ends from being able to get his hands off them.
On this play, he does really well to stay in front of his man initially, but basically over-balances as he’s moving upfield and the edge is able to toss him aside so he has a chance to sack the quarterback when he hesitates.
Cajuste has just one penalty at the NFL level, for holding on a running play that was stopped for no gain anyway. He also had two in preseason action.
He was quite penalty-prone in college though. He had four penalties in six starts in his first season and 17 over his last two seasons.
Perhaps he will have learned some techniques with New England to get away with apparent penalties since their linemen tend to be adept at this.
Other than one snap on the punt protection unit in college, Cajuste has only ever contributed as a blocker on the placekicking unit on special teams. He hasn’t allowed any pressure but did have one penalty in college.
The Patriots are generally excellent at coaching their linemen up to pick up stunts and games and Cajuste probably wouldn’t have seen the field if he didn’t meet their standards.
With that said, there are times where he seemed a little hesitant and uncertain about who to block on a given play. He didn’t seem to make any glaring errors though.
Cajuste is a player with a nasty edge, who brings toughness and a good work ethic to the position.
On the field, he will finish strong and display good aggressiveness, especially against smaller players.
He was ejected from one Mountaineers game for throwing a punch.
According to a report last month from Evan Lazar of the Patriots Official Site, Cajuste is currently 100 percent. However, he has a troubling injury history.
In 2015, he missed several weeks with a knee injury, then had a more serious knee injury - a torn ACL - which caused him to miss the entire 2016 season.
When he was drafted, he required quad surgery and spent his entire rookie season on the non-football injury list but then missed his second season as well with another knee injury.
He spent a month on injured reserve last season but that was just due to a thumb injury.
New England operates a different system to the Jets. Their system is more power-based and, unlike most NFL teams, has more gap blocking than zone blocking concepts.
Cajuste still got plenty of experience of zone blocking with West Virginia anyway and the Jets are expected to do a bit of everything. He should be athletic enough to fit into what they should do.
He was a teammate of current Jet Adam Pankey’s in college and was briefly Isaiah Mack’s teammate in New England.
Cajuste has had a disappointing career so far, but if he can stay healthy and live up to his potential, he has a chance to compete for a roster spot in a loaded offensive tackle group.
When called upon to start with New England over the past few years, he fared okay, so at worst the Jets will be getting another veteran comfortable enough with their system to give them another option if they have a series of injuries at the tackle position again.
The Jets have Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell returning but still added Billy Turner and drafted Carter Warren so they are serious about having enough depth to cope with any injury issues. There may not be room for six tackles on the roster though, so the competition in camp could be intense.