In an under-the-radar move, the Jets signed safety Jaiquawn Jarrett to a futures contract, a move actually announced on the same day as Mike Tannenbaum's firing. What's exciting about Jarrett is that he was a second round draft pick in 2011. However, the fact that the Eagles gave up on him early in his second season is worrying. As Bassett wrote in January, the Jets have tried a number of these reclamation projects in the past (guys like Aaron Maybin, Jason Smith and Ricky Sapp) with mixed results. However, is there any chance that Jarrett could compete for a significant role in the Jets defense?
After the jump, I look in detail at footage from Jarrett's first two seasons in the league to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Jaiquawn Jarrett?
Jarrett was a teammate of Muhammad Wilkerson's at Temple and impressed with his hitting, character and positional sense. However, he was regarded as somewhat undersized (under 6-0 and less than 200 pounds) and perhaps a step slow for the NFL level (4.62 forty time). It was therefore a surprise when the Eagles selected him in the second round, as he was considered at best to be a third or fourth round prospect.
Nevertheless, Jarrett made some plays in preseason and got some opportunities for significant playing time as a rookie when Nate Allen went down with an injury. Unfortunately for Jarrett, he did not fare well. He returned to the Eagles in 2012, but was cut early in the season after straining his shoulder and did not manage to find another NFL job.
He's regarded as more of an in-the-box safety, although he did have nine interceptions in his collegiate career, earning all-MAC conference first team honors in both 2009 and 2010. He also managed to remain injury-free throughout his four years at Temple.
Let's look at his numbers from his pro career so far:
Six games where he saw action on defense
18 tackles (two on special teams)
Four missed tackles (one on special teams)
Coverage numbers: 7-for-11, 140 yards, no TDs, interceptions or passes defensed
Completion percentage: 63.6%
Yards per attempt: 12.7
QB rating: 107.2
2011 Regular Season
Let's look in detail at Jarrett's contributions during the 2011 season.
He only played on special teams during the first half of the year, flashing once on a tackle down at the 15 in kick coverage against the Redskins. Allen's injury happened early in the Bears game in week nine, thrusting Jarrett into full time action.
Week 9 - v Chicago
Jarrett's first NFL action saw him do a reasonable job, but the Bears were still able to mount a comeback to win the game. He was targeted a couple of times, giving up a 14-yard completion downfield on a play where he was too far off his man in zone coverage. The opening touchdown also saw them exploit his lack of experience, as the Bears set up a bunch formation on the right side and tight end Matt Spaeth bumped him and then stopped his route at the goal line, as both Jarrett and linebacker Moises Fokou (#53) went to the outside receiver. While it appears that Fokou was likely the player most at fault on this play (which can be seen here), that may have been a product of Fokou reacting to Jarrett making contact with Spaeth. Jarrett did make one good play in coverage, coming over in support to help break up a pass. As a tackler, he made one mistake, allowing a ball carrier to break out of his grasp for an extra six yards. There was one other play where a runner dragged him for five extra yards. However, that came on an open field tackle which prevented what could have been a huge gain.
Week 10 - v Arizona
Jarrett started this game and had seven tackles. However, he also gave up four catches for 96 yards in a tight loss and was really picked on in the fourth quarter. The game started off reasonably well for him as he made a good play against the run. He read the play well as the runner tried to bounce a run outside and forced the runner back inside then made the tackle, forcing the Cards into a third and short situation. Later on in the first quarter, he ran across the field to make a touchdown saving tackle as Larry Fitzgerald got behind Kurt Coleman and down the sideline. In the second quarter, he got forced to the inside on one running play, but did make a good play downfield on an end around, forcing Andre Roberts to cut back inside, again probably saving a touchdown. In coverage, he got lucky on one play as he was caught peeking into the backfield and burned down the seam. The ball was overthrown otherwise it would have been a big gain. His did appear to be at least partially at fault on Fitzgerald's opening touchdown though.
Let's look in detail at this play. The Cardinals set up like this with Jarrett the weakside safety (ie towards the top of the screen).
They then sent Roberts in motion to the right side and lined him up in the slot. The Eagles adjusted by shifting their middle and left outside linebackers to the left, while Jarrett dropped off a few yards.
At the snap, Fitzgerald (the right wide receiver) and Roberts run a criss-cross, so Fitzgerald goes inside and Roberts goes outside. The linebacker made contact with Roberts to slow down his route and then basically did the same to Fitzgerald.
At this stage, the linebacker appears to pass off Fitzgerald to the man behind him. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (the left cornerback) seeming to have Roberts covered, Jarrett could easily have come up to make the tackle on Fitzgerald at this point, or even break on the ball if he anticipated quickly enough.
However, Jarrett pays no attention to Fitzgerald and goes with the other receiver, leaving the middle of the field wide open for an easy catch and walk-in touchdown.
Finally, you can see Rodgers-Cromartie giving the universal sign for "What the heck are you doing?"
In the fourth quarter, Jarrett was victimized for four big first downs. On the first, he was actually in terrific position, only to tip the ball into the air where Fitzgerald still made the catch. The next one, on a key third and five, saw Jarrett unable to stay with Fitzgerald in zone coverage - a difficult assignment even for an elite player - as he ran an inside route, then broke it off to the outside. On the third, they again motioned Roberts over to his side and then ran him on a crossing route for a 20-yard gain as Jarrett trailed him across the field. Finally, he was beaten for a huge gain over the top to set up the winning touchdown. There was a mix-up on the play, as he clearly wasn't expecting the cornerback to pass Fitzgerald off to him.
Some of the plays from that game (the in-out route, the tipped pass and the throw over the top) can be seen here. The first play is the one where he made a touchdown-saving tackle, although that isn't shown.
Week 11 - at New York Giants
After his struggles on defense, Jarrett returned to a special-teams only role over the next few weeks. He made a good block against the Giants to set up a big punt return, although he was lucky not to get called for a block in the back.
Week 13 - at Seattle
Jarrett made his return on defense against the Seahawks, but it didn't last very long. On his first snap, he took an awful angle on this Marshawn Lynch run and Lynch scored a 40-yard touchdown. That would end up being his only snap. Two weeks later, he saw action on four defensive snaps at the end of the Eagles blowout win over the Jets.
Week 16 - at Dallas
Against Dallas, he got another chance for some extended playing time, but didn't fare too well. On one play, he was way too far off his man in zone coverage, giving up an easy first down. He also had a bad missed tackle near the marker to allow a 3rd-and-13 conversion.
Week 17 - v Washington
Given an opportunity for his second career start, Jarrett didn't grasp the opportunity. He gave up two first downs in coverage in the first quarter, one as he initially ran with the fullback, then inexplicably dropped off and left him wide open on the outside for 20. The other saw a tight end motion to his side and then easily get inside leverage on him on a post pattern. He also had some mistakes in the running game, missing a tackle in the hole on a run that went for 28 yards and getting blocked to the inside on another play. There was another play where he got dragged for eight extra yards after having wrapped up the ball carrier. His only real positives saw him assist on a tackle for no gain in the red zone and almost intercept an overthrown pass - although that wouldn't have counted anyway because the Eagles roughed the passer.
His overall rating for the year from PFF was 18th worst in the league. However, many of those with lower ratings played considerably more than he did. Only Jordan Pugh and Jamarca Sanford had a worse rating on a per-snap basis.
Clearly Jarrett had his struggles during his rookie year, but was it too soon for the Eagles to give up on him? Let's see if there were any other positive signs from his preseason appearances in 2011 and 2012.
In his first game against Baltimore, he intercepted an overthrown ball, reading the quarterback's eyes well and making a low diving grab. He added a special teams tackle. The following week in Pittsburgh, he again showed promise, creeping up to the line with great timing to make a tackle for a loss and later assisting on a five yard run as he came from deep and made a big hit. He also made a tackle on a short grab underneath to force the Steelers into a third and long situation. In week three against the Browns he had a couple of tackles, but didn't make any obvious mistakes. Finally, in the Bollinger Bowl, he did get beaten across the field for an 11-yard catch by Jeff Cumberland.
In 2012, the Eagles opened against Pittsburgh again and Jarrett hesitated on a 4th and one play, making the tackle but only after the first down had been earned. He was also involved in a coverage mix-up that led to a 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-11, as he was late getting over - although this did appear to mostly be Nnamdi Asoumgha's fault. After Jarrett failed to make any kind of impact in New England, the Eagles headed to Cleveland and Jarrett was slow rolling the coverage over to the outside, giving up a 10-yard catch. In the final game against the Jets (backups), he started and made a couple of impressive plays. He closed and broke up a pass, came up fast to prevent a runner from bouncing outside and tackle him for a short gain and, most impressively of all, showed excellent instincts to blow up a screen pass (although his teammate was offside so the play was negated).
There's no doubt that Jarrett struggled with the Eagles in his rookie year. He seemed to get confused in coverage, made some mistakes as a tackler and was out-physicalled on a number of occasions. It's telling that not many Eagles fans were sorry to see him go when they released him. As much as recent Jets' second rounders Vladimir Ducasse and Stephen Hill have been criticized, could you imagine a situation where Hill was released early in 2012? Or if Vlad had been released in September 2011? Obviously, Jarrett fell out of favor fast.
Andy Reid admitted it was a bad pick, implying that Jarrett was not a good fit for their scheme, with some Eagles fans noting that he has had a tendency to reach for "overachievers" in the past and this time got burned. If it is scheme-related, though, perhaps there's a chance that he could fit better into a different system.
Let's therefore consider briefly the Eagles and their application of the "wide nine" defense (which, ironically, they abandoned anyway in December). Although there are intricacies up-front and at the line, that doesn't affect the safeties, which are generally pretty uniform in their assignments. The Eagles tend to employ one deep safety and one about 5-6 yards from the line of scrimmage, outside the tackle box. The Jets system is, of course, much different to this, because the safeties are interchangeable and often switch places just before the ball is snapped. They also only really employ a true deep safety in sub-package situations. The Eagles safeties are interchangeable too and - despite his reputation for being better in the box - Jarrett was the deeper guy about 60% of the time. They also seemed to avoid placing him in man coverage assignments too often - he only matched up against a receiver in the slot three times. As you will note from some of the analysis above, teams often motioned a receiver over to his side to exploit his inexperience in coverage situations.
Although, on balance, Jarrett did not look good, he was just a rookie at the time. Had Antonio Allen or Josh Bush been forced into extensive action last year, I don't doubt that either would have struggled. That being the case, would we be advocating cutting them now? Instead, they weren't forced to play before they were ready and now will get a chance to try and prove they can handle a bigger workload. Had Philadelphia's safeties remained healthy throughout the 2011 season, would Jarrett's rookie struggles have instead happened on the practice field and given him a better chance to build his confidence before getting to play? It's difficult to know. Had he not played in 2011 such that the only footage to assess him on was the preseason footage, then I probably would have a more optimistic outlook. The Jets now have a chance to find out if he still has the potential to play at this level.
For Jarrett to stand a chance in the competition for playing time at the safety spot, he probably needs to have bulked up since last September in order to compete physically. He's obviously overmatched in direct coverage and isn't much of a pass rusher either (no pressure in 14 blitzes in 2011, no sacks in his college career), so his best role would seem to be as a run stopper in the box (a role he's slightly undersized for) or as a deep safety in coverage support. In terms of size, skill-set and 40 speed, he compares pretty closely to Eric Smith, whose role is up for grabs. Jarrett will perhaps need to contribute more on special teams to earn that kind of role though.
It seems like a long shot for Jarrett to make the roster, but right now he's actually the Jets' most experienced safety. If nothing more, he should provide a good measuring stick against the progress of guys like Allen and Bush once the Jets take the field this Summer.
Until the Jets make some more signings, I'm going to continue to look at some of the long-shot sleepers at the bottom of the roster. The next one will follow in a few days.