Free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said he wants to return to the Jets but wouldn't elaborate on the contract negotiations.
"I would like to be back," Fitzpatrick said, according to the New York Post.
Fitzpatrick also said he wasn't considering retirement, noting that he's "playing football next year."
The Jets and Fitzpatrick have reportedly been far apart in negotiations, though both sides have remained open to a reunion throughout.
The Jets currently have three other quarterbacks on the roster -- Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and the recently-drafted Christian Hackenberg.
Tags: Ryan Fitzpatrick
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now into the undrafted free agent signings. Saturday, I looked at Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson and now I move on to look at defensive back Doug Middleton from Appalachian State. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Middleton, 22, is listed as 6 foot, 210 pounds, and was regarded by many experts as a potential late-round pick in April's draft. He started every game over the past two seasons and was a key contributor to a good Appalachian State defense. Middleton is a good athlete, with 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Doug Middleton?
Middleton joined Appalachian State as a rotational free safety and showed promise in his true freshman season of 2011 by earning two starts. He had 23 tackles in limited playing time and two huge interceptions - one which he returned for a 97-yard touchdown and another to seal a big win.
In 2012 Middleton moved to cornerback and won a starting role, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury on opening day. In 2013, as a redshirt sophomore, he moved back to safety and started the last five games, when he racked up 25 of his 46 tackles. He also forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
Over the next two seasons, he started every game, playing free safety in 2014 and strong safety in 2015. He had better numbers in 2014, with career highs in tackles (74), tackles for loss (five), passes defensed (10) and interceptions (four). He didn't quite match that production in 2015 with 53 tackles, three passes defensed and no interceptions, but he played well in a key role on a team that improved from 7-5 to 11-2 and ranked in the top 30 in the nation for several defensive categories.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Middleton brings to the table, based on my research and film study. In the gifs featured below Middleton is No. 21.
Middleton had excellent pro day workout numbers for a safety and has adequate size but not much length. His speed, strength and explosiveness numbers are definitely better than his agility numbers, though. While he mostly played at safety in college, Middleton's measurables have led some to suggest he might be able to play cornerback.
That's where things get interesting, because the Jets already drafted a big cornerback whose measurables have led some to suggest he might be able to play safety. A comparison with the numbers of fourth round pick Juston Burris shows that the pair project pretty similarly athletically but with Middleton definitely having superior numbers overall.
Height: Both 6-0
Weight: Burris 212, Middleton 209
40-yard dash: Middleton 4.50, Burris 4.53
10-yard split: Middleton 1.56, Burris 1.58
Bench press reps: Burris 19, Middleton 18
Vertical: Middleton 38.5, Burris 36.5
Broad jump: Middleton 131, Burris 122
Short shuttle: Middleton 4.38, Burris 4.40
Three-cone drill: Middleton 6.93, Burris 7.10
As noted above, Middleton has played free safety, strong safety and corner. He'll often match up with receivers in the slot or come into the box. Even when he was playing strong safety, Appalachian State usually had both safeties lining up deep.
With Middleton's experience at cornerback he should have more advanced coverage abilities than many safeties. He looks pretty fluid in his backpedal, but is often employed in center field.
Middleton didn't get targeted in direct coverage as much in 2015 as he did in 2014 and much of the targets he did have were downfield in coverage support or over the middle in zone coverage. The only touchdown against him was on a 31-yard pass over the middle where the receiver split the two safeties and they both missed the tackle at the 5-yard line.
There was an interesting test for Middleton and the rest of the secondary in 2014's season opener against Michigan as future NFL player Devin Funchess ended up scoring three touchdowns in an eventual 52-14 blowout in a game that had been competitive early.
On one of the touchdowns, Middleton was unable to get over in safety support downfield because he got caught up in traffic. On another he was almost able to force Funchess out of the back of the end zone after he went up for a short catch over the cornerback at the back of the end zone, but the play held up after a review.
Middleton displays good range and closing speed to enable him to limit yardage after the catch on short passes. Here's an impressive example of him doing that:
Middleton is definitely a physical hitter, but I didn't see him operate in press coverage much. With his size and strength that could be something he could learn to do well, though.
Middleton had just three penalties in the last two years, including one on special teams. His only penalty on defense in 2015 was a controversial targeting call that got him injected in an easy win over Louisiana Monroe.
With some good statistical production in terms of passes defensed and seven career interceptions, Middleton obviously has some good playmaking ability. His hands are impressive as he looks natural catching the ball.
Middleton tracks he ball in the air well and has good range, but some draft analysts have suggested he sometimes waits until the ball is thrown rather than anticipating. However, if you look at footage of most of his seven interceptions, you'll see that he jumped routes or anticipated a bad throw on almost all of them. At least he doesn't anticipate too soon and then get fooled by a pump-fake from what I saw.
On this play he latches on to the receiver downfield well and is in excellent position to go up and break up the pass:
Middleton is active in run support and makes good contributions even when he isn't lined up in the box as the ball is snapped. He comes up fast from deep and flashes the ability to break down in space.
Here is one of the plays where he does line up in the box as an extra linebacker and makes a stop on the edge. With these abilities, perhaps one option could be bulking up to play a safety/hybrid role like first-round pick Darron Lee is expected to fill.
He'll come up to make stops in the hole too though, which he does really well here:
An occasional issue in run defense (and also, at times, in coverage) was that Middleton would come up too fast and overrun the play, although it seemed like maybe that was something he cleaned up a little in his senior season. Here's an example of him doing that, although the way he finishes the play is also notable.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Ziering suggested that Middleton's film shows he lacks recovery quickness, by which I assume he means over short distances. The above gif certainly showcases excellent long range coverage speed as he does an outstanding job of running down the back in the open field.
One concern with Middleton is that he plays so aggressively at times, this can lead to him missing a lot of tackles, especially when he comes up too fast. He missed 11 in 2014 and 15 in 2015.
Another concern is that Middleton will often go for a big hit rather than making a form tackle. Obviously this can lead to some impact plays, but it's also something that can backfire. On this play he tried to cut down the runner low and knocks him off balance but he doesn't go down until the next guy hits him.
Some might say that this was actually not a missed tackle by Middleton because he slowed the runner for the next guy to complete the play, but the runner did gain an extra five or six yards by stumbling over his hit rather than being stopped in his tracks. Against more talented NFL plays, there's a higher chance of the runner managing to evade a hit like that and make a big play.
Middleton is capable of some solid tackling though, doing an excellent job on this play to break down in space and force the run back inside so he can make a solid solo drag-down tackle in the hole.
Here's another good tackle, as he is able to take Funchess out in the open field, crucially adjusting his pursuit angle so that he could avoid getting beaten down the sideline.
Middleton didn't get many chances to blitz with Appalachian State, but with his athleticism could be beneficial if asked to do so. Over the last two years, he blitzed fewer than once per game on average and had two half-sacks, one hit and one pressure. One of the sacks saw him blitz from deep, as he and the nose tackle were both unblocked and got to the quarterback together.
Middleton was responsible for making all the calls in the defensive secondary and had a lot of highlights where he made a decisive read and broke to the ball immediately for a stop. However, draft expert Dane Brugler suggested that he felt Middleton sometimes was late to react on some plays. Again, this might be because he was playing conservatively on those particular plays and it's difficult to say whether he was coached to do that (be that all the time or just on those specific plays) or whether he was choosing to be cautious rather than actually being slow to make the reads.
Here is one example of a play where he made a decisive read and a good stop on the edge:
I watched a lot of Appalachian State games over the past few seasons, including almost all of them in 2014. It was apparent from the start that Middleton was the heart and soul of the defense, even though defensive lineman Ronald Blair (a fifth-round pick) proved to be the most draftable commodity on their defense.
Coaches have praised Middleton's leadership and character, so he obviously has a good work ethic and intangibles.
Middleton made some good contributions on special teams in his first two seasons, making eight tackles in kickoff coverage to rank among the team leaders. He also returned a few kicks. He played less on special teams once he became a starter, but did still contribute sometimes. He had one special teams tackle in the collegiate all-star game.
Other than the ankle injury which sidelined him for virtually all of the 2012 season, Middleton doesn't seem to have had any injury issues in college and played in every game since returning from that.
One of the reasons I decided to look at Middleton next was the revelation that, in addition to a $5,000 signing bonus, he also received a $10,000 salary guarantee in his contract, an amount higher that any of the other undrafted rookies the Jets brought in. That suggests that either the Jets had to outbid other teams for his services or that they must have been especially high on him to make a higher-than-usual contract offer. Given that he was reportedly able to agree terms almost immediately after the draft ended, I'm assuming it was the latter.
As I've noted, above, Middleton's measurables are a slightly better version of those belonging to the fourth round pick Burris. Could the Jets have a specific role intended for Burris with Middleton in the mix as competition for that role? If that's the case is there even room on the roster for both of them?
In addition to the superior measurables, Middleton's intangibles are outstanding and he has had more experience at corner than Burris has at safety. He also has more of a special teams résumé than Burris. Maybe that versatility and ability to provide immediate production on special teams gives him a better chance to stick on the end of the roster, but the Jets do have a pretty deep group of young safeties to choose from, so competition will be fierce.
If Middleton can make the team - or stick around on the practice squad and return next season - he has the potential to develop into a good player that can contribute in a variety of ways and, based on his film, has the athleticism and talent to compete for a spot in camp.
Up next: We'll take a look at Michigan State defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas. How does he fit in on the defensive line? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
The Jets have the second-toughest schedule in the NFL for the 2016 season, reports Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal.
Salfino cites Sharp Football Analysis, which looks looks at every team's projected win total for the upcoming season rather than the past year's records. According to this system, the Jets' opponents are averaging 8.6 wins, which is only second to the 49ers' opponents at 8.7 wins.
Five of the Jets' first six opponents are averaging at least 9.6 wins, per this metric.
The Jets will open up their season on Sept. 11 against the Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
With free agency and the draft in the rear view, Corey Griffin and Brian Bassett take a big picture look at the entire offseason, covering the moves made and not made, and where the Jets stand between now and training camp.
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now into the undrafted free agent signings. On Thursday, I looked at USC defensive lineman Claude Pelon, but now I move on to look at Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 23-year old Anderson is listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and was regarded by many experts as a potential mid-to-late round pick in April's draft, especially after he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. Anderson missed the entire 2014 season after being ruled academically ineligible following a promising sophomore campaign that saw him catch nine touchdown passes. However, he returned in 2015 to set career highs in catches (70) and receiving yards (939).
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Robby Anderson?
Anderson went to Temple in 2011 after a high school career that saw him play receiver and defensive back. After redshirting his freshman year and being used as a special teamer the following year, he actually left the program in the spring of 2013, at which time he was working as a defensive back.
Anderson's absence was short-lived, however, as he returned to the team to play receiver in the summer of 2013. After a slow start, he finally had his breakthrough, making it into the starting lineup by Week 5, and then exploding for a school-record 239 yards on nine catches against SMU. Three weeks later, he showed that was no fluke by racking up another 184 yards against UCF.
In all, Anderson caught 44 passes for 791 yards and had nine touchdowns, all of which came in the last five games of the year. Unfortunately, he was ruled academically ineligible after that and was forced to sit out the entire 2014 season. He eventually got himself eligible again and was back on the team in time for the start of the 2015 season.
Anderson's senior season saw him have a career year, leading the team to a 7-0 start and ending up the season with 70 catches, 939 yards and seven more scores. His signature game came in the conference championship loss to Houston, where he caught 12 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, although he did lose a fumble. Other than that, he only had one other 100-yard game, so his production was pretty consistent over the rest of the year.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Anderson brings to the table, based on my research and film study. In the gifs featured below Anderson is No. 19.
Anderson's draft stock got a boost when he ran 4.36-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, but the first thing you'll notice about him on film is his wiry frame. He weighed in at just 187 pounds at his pro day, seven pounds heavier than he was at the East-West Shrine Game. Anderson will assuredly need to bulk up to cope with the physicality of NFL-level defensive players and to ensure he doesn't become a durability concern. Hopefully this won't affect his speed too much.
At his pro day, Anderson was only able to do eight bench press reps, furthering the point that he needs to add some strength.
Anderson's agility numbers were below average, but he has a 36.5-inch vertical and his broad jump (128 inches) was very good. He does use his tall frame to go up to get it over defenders and generally high-points the ball pretty well. Here he goes up to make a sideline catch:
His overall numbers were good enough to get the attention of RotoViz, though. They wrote about the possibility of him being a sleeper. Ultimately, though, most of their article talked its way into reasons why he might not live up to the projection generated from his athletic profile.
Anderson played mostly on the outside at Temple but did get some work in the slot. When in the slot, his catch rate was pretty good, but he had a lower yards-per-catch average. He did score three touchdowns from the slot, however.
As previously noted, he has some limited experience of playing as a defensive back.
With Anderson's speed, he is obviously a threat to make plays downfield, although I didn't really see him running past defenders to catch a long bomb as often as you might expect for someone with sub-4.4 speed.
When Anderson did get beyond a defender to catch a deep ball, he typically did so by using a double move or relying on a defender biting on play-action. But he did reportedly showcase some ability to get downfield separation at Shrine Game practices.
This was Anderson's longest catch of the season, a 53-yarder. However, it was more of a catch-and-run, as they hit him running down the seam. Anderson was also caught from behind on the play, which was noted in the RotoViz article linked above.
With his comparative lack of strength, it's not really a surprise that Anderson doesn't contribute much as a blocker. He seems to put in an effort, but his instincts in space, technique and ability to sustain a block mostly seem to be lacking.
When the team ran a wide receiver screen, Anderson was typically the guy who caught the pass and was rarely, if ever, called upon to block in those situations.
Anderson shows promise at times in respect of his ability to break sharply on a route and did seem to run the full route tree in college.
Something Anderson will need to demonstrate in the pros which I didn't see much from him in college is physical play when running routes. He seemed to have most of his success when running into open space on an out route or crosser, or when defenders were backed off with the threat of him running beyond them.
As noted, Anderson makes use of double moves when trying to get open downfield. Here he uses one on a shorter throw that goes for a touchdown:
I couldn't find pro day measurements for Anderson's wingspan or hand size, but he reportedly was measured with a 30-inch arm length and an 8 3/8-inch hand size at the Shrine Game. That hand size is smaller than all but three of the 42 receivers that had their hands measured at the combine, although that did include Will Fuller, a first-round pick.
As you might therefore expect, Anderson's hands can be a little unreliable. He had 11 drops last season and two more in the Shrine Game itself. He also lost a fumble and had a low catch rate. Many of his drops were down to poor focus or concentration. Here was a tougher one where the quarterback didn't put any kind of touch on the throw and he wasn't able to go up to get it:
Despite the occasional drops, Anderson has a knack for making spectacular and difficult catches. He can go up - or down - to get it, hold on to the ball even when taking a hit and even made a couple of spectacular one-handed grabs, including one on a tipped ball in the Houston game. Here's another spectacular grab on a tipped ball over by the sideline:
Yards after the catch
Anderson perhaps doesn't fare as well after the catch as you might expect for someone with his speed. He didn't break many tackles or put up big numbers for yardage after the catch. Part of the issue is that he's not that big and strong, so he'll usually go down on first contact in the open field.
On this play he makes a nifty side step but is knocked off balance so he can't get away from the second defender coming across:
He does showcase some good speed and acceleration in the open field though, often taking short passes and running away from defenders to create extra yardage, as on this play:
While Anderson doesn't display great instincts in coverage, he has pretty good instincts as a receiver, especially when trying to keep himself alive as an option when a play is extended. For example, in the team's bowl game against Toledo, he scored a touchdown on a play where he was able to sneak to the back of the end zone uncovered after the quarterback had nobody open on the rollout.
He had two penalties last year - one for offensive pass interference and one on an illegal formation call.
Somewhere else that Anderson displays good instincts, which could make him a fit in the Jets' system, is in how he finds gaps defenses when running routes. The Jets' system uses Erhardt-Perkins principles, which mean that the route is based on a destination rather than being precisely mapped out and timed. It would seem Anderson would be comfortable with such a concept.
Here's an example of that, with Anderson running through zone coverage and adjusting his route so that he can catch a ball in a gap in the zone:
Anderson did get some return work in college, but didn't have much success. He fielded 20 kickoffs and 13 punts, averaging just 18.2 yards per kick return and 5.4 per punt return. He had one 19-yard punt return in 2015 but that accounted for almost half his yards.
In 2015, he had one muffed punt return and there was also a kickoff return where he collided with another return man to cause a fumble.
Other than return work, Anderson didn't contribute much in coverage and might need to improve his physicality to be able to use his speed effectively as a gunner.
As was the case with Pelon, when a player has been academically ineligible, it can raise questions about their intelligence and/or work ethic. However, the coaches were once again impressed with how Anderson dealt with the adversity to get himself back in the program.
Anderson actually admitted he had been lazy and should easily have been able to stay eligible. He worked a lot harder in his year off and continued that motivation and hard work into his senior year, so it seems likely that was a wake-up call for him.
He apparently watches a lot of film and uses these to determine how he needs to adjust his routes to get open. Again, this would seem to fit in with how the Jets do things.
I could not find any details of injuries for Anderson while at Temple. However, as noted, durability could be a concern if he doesn't bulk up.
Anderson is an interesting prospect with draftable traits. He looks like he could be a good fit and seems to have good intangibles to go along with his athletic ability.
His lean frame and hands are obvious concerns, but he showed some promising playmaking ability and produced well at Temple. He brings some youthfulness and athleticism to a position group that needs to look ahead, even though there aren't likely to be many reps available in the short-term unless there are injuries.
Like most of the undrafted free agents I've reviewed so far - and indeed the futures contract signings - Anderson does bring some interesting things to the table. It will be interesting to see what kind of an impact he can make in training camp.
Up next: We'll take a look at Appalachian State defensive back Doug Middleton. What hope does he have of making a splash in the battle for roster spots at safety? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
Jets personnel director Brian Heimerdinger thinks highly of recently-drafted QB Christian Hackenberg.
"I think we have high hopes for Hack," Heimerdinger said Thursday, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. "He had a tough time in college, but he's an unbelievable kid. He's real smart. I've really enjoyed him so far since he's been in the building. We'll see how he progresses over the next couple of years."
Heimerdinger also discussed whether the selection of Hackenberg is a reflection on fellow QB Bryce Petty.
"Personally, our opinion is you don't draft on what your roster is," he said. "We like to fill our needs in free agency and draft the best available. In regard to Bryce, that's not really a slight at Bryce anymore than drafting a linebacker is a slight at David Harris in that regard."
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You can probably file Heimerdinger's comments in the "well, what did you expect them to say?" file. And it does seem like he's mostly talking about this from a standpoint of why they drafted Hackenberg rather than anything he's shown in limited practice time so far.
Perhaps more noteworthy are his comments on Petty, who he assures us is still part of the team's plans, while suggesting that adding Hackenberg to the mix seems to be part of an ongoing philosophy of bringing in as many options as possible rather than a slight on the incumbent group. Whether Heimerdinger actually believes this or is just saying what's best for each candidate's confidence (or even trade value) is anyone's guess, though.
Tags: Bryce Petty
New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of the NFL's highest-paid players among non-quarterbacks the past several years, has fired his longtime agents.
ESPN first reported Thursday that Revis had parted ways with Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, the cornerback's agents since his rookie year in 2007.
Schwartz and Feinsod negotiated a few huge deals for Revis, who has made $101 million in his career, according to Spotrac.com. He is due to make $17 million in guaranteed money this season.
Both agents confirmed the split in emails to The Associated Press, but the reasons for Revis' move was not immediately certain. "Jonathan and I wish him the best of luck," Schwartz wrote in an email.
Revis returned to the Jets last year after two seasons away, and signed a five-year, $70 million deal that included $39 million in guarantees.
Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press
Tags: Darrelle Revis
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now into the undrafted free agent signings. On Tuesday, I looked at Temple offensive lineman Kyle Friend, and now I move on to look at Southern California defensive lineman Claude Pelon. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 23-year-old Pelon is listed at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, and contributed on the defensive line for the Trojans over the past two seasons, although he dealt with some injuries in his senior year. Pelon had joined the Trojans as a junior college transfer after the 2013 season. He recorded 45 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and two passes defensed over the course of the two seasons, starting four games. He is a former linemate of current Jets starter Leonard Williams.
Note: Pro Football Focus exclusively provides some stats from this article.
Who is Claude Pelon?
Pelon could be considered as something of a journeyman before he even made it to the NFL. He went to high school in Florida, then redshirted his first year at a junior college in Kansas. After that, he transferred to another junior college in Arizona and recorded 17 tackles and two sacks in his redshirt freshman season. The following year, he stayed in Arizona but transferred to yet another junior college, where he registered 52 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, as he was named as a Prep Star JUCO All-American.
Finally, he transferred to USC for his junior and senior years. He started three games as a junior and racked up 19 tackles, six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. In his senior year, he missed some time through injuries, but still registered 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He was not invited to the combine or any All-Star games, but had a good pro day. Prior to the season, an ESPN article had described him as "likely to be drafted," but there wasn't much draft buzz surrounding him after the season.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Pelon brings to the table, based on my research and film study.
Pelon has good size, looks the part and put up some decent numbers at USC's pro day. I can't find a wingspan measurement for him, but he does seem to have good length, which he uses effectively.
Pelon's best numbers were for strength and explosiveness, as he posted 33 bench press reps, a 32.5-inch vertical leap and a 110-inch broad jump, all of which are excellent for his size. His 40-yard dash and shuttle runs were less impressive -- so you would perhaps expect him to lack agility and range in pursuit. Having said that, he said one team told him it clocked him at under five seconds for the 40 at his pro day.
Pelon supposedly moved from defensive tackle to defensive end in between his two seasons at USC, but I didn't actually find much difference between his assignments between the two years. At the end of 2014, Pelon seemed to be playing more as a defensive end, and in early 2015, he started a game at nose tackle because Antwuan Woods was out. I found that he typically lined up on the interior, although he wasn't shading the center very often and also got some snaps lined up opposite a tackle.
At the NFL level he'd probably be a 5-technique initially, but could also play on the interior in certain situations.
USC has plenty of defensive line talent, so the Trojans rotate their players regularly. That said, there were times when injuries piled up last year, so sometimes players had to take on a bigger role. Pelon played over 30 snaps only three times, but two of those games saw him handle 51 snaps against Arizona State and 49 in the bowl game against Wisconsin. In 2014, he played over 30 snaps eight times with a high of 66 against Nebraska in the bowl game.
I found that Pelon gave a relentless effort in the trenches and was capable of making plays late in games, exhibiting good stamina. He also played his best football at the end of the season each year with his two bowl game performances being arguably the best two games of his career.
His effort seemed less consistent on the backside when plays went away from him, but he wouldn't be expected to have much range in pursuit anyway, as already noted.
Pelon holds up well at the point of attack and can extend his arms to stand up his blocker. This enables him to stay in front of the ball carrier whichever way the play goes or to bottle up runs right at him. He also pretty consistent in terms of his pad level and doesn't get driven off the line much, except when doubled.
Pelon's main issue in the running game seems to be that he'll explode out of his stance looking to penetrate, but won't see the play developing in front of him so might react late. I've seen plenty of aggressive linemen with this problem before, and you never know whether or not they'll learn to overcome it.
Here's an example of him doing that, as he bursts upfield leaving a big lane behind him on the draw play:
On another play, he made a bad read and went after the back on an option keeper.
Another area I'd like to see more from Pelon was in terms of his lateral movement and ability to get downhill, especially through traffic. He has a knack for getting into the backfield and also for making clutch stops on short yardage plays, though.
I didn't see any issues with missed tackles from Pelon, who had four in his two years at USC, but only one as a senior.
Interestingly, even though he played much less in 2015 than in 2014 due to the time missed through injury, he had more statistical production in the running game. He had played a higher percentage of pass rush snaps in 2014, but still had over 30 percent more run snaps than in 2015. One difference, though, was that he made fewer plays in the backfield.
Pelon has a good get-off and is a powerful bull rusher. He showcases that on this play, which sees him drive the left guard back and then get to the quarterback for a big hit before the back can get across to slow him down.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the fact that he was a teammate of Williams, Pelon's go-to move is the swim move. At times, he almost over-relies on this, but he had repeated success with it in the bowl game against Nebraska in 2014, which saw him recording several pressures. It shouldn't go unmentioned that current Jets defensive line coach Pepper Johnson doesn't like this technique and discourages his players from using it.
In general, a lot of the damage he does is just a combination of his athletic ability and pure effort, but he shows signs of being disruptive in such a role. Here he uses an initial upfield leverage advantage to fight off a double team block and hit the quarterback.
Again, vision is an issue, as there were a few plays where he was still trying to beat his blocker without realizing that the quarterback had already taken off.
Pelon does get his hands up at times, although he can sometimes be too pre-occupied with trying to beat his man, as noted. He was credited with two passes defensed at USC, although both of these were in his junior year. He did not drop into coverage.
Pelon actually made some good contributions on special teams, blocking a couple of kicks and a tackle following a long punt return. Here's one of the kick blocks, showing further evidence of his explosiveness at the snap:
I've already alluded to the potential issues Pelon sometimes seems to have with seeing how the play develops in front of him. However, that might just be a symptom of him being forced into a rotational role and then being as aggressive as possible trying to make an impact with the reps he received. Perhaps the Jets can encourage him to play with a more disciplined mindset, but we know Todd Bowles likes his linemen to play aggressively anyway.
Some might view the fact that Pelon was academically ineligible for some time as a knock on his intelligence or work ethic, but eventually overcoming that to get to a big school and retain eligibility is a positive sign.
As noted, the first half of Pelon's 2015 season was disrupted by injuries. He sprained his knee in the spring and needed arthroscopic knee surgery, causing him to miss the first game. He played the following week, but then suffered a high ankle sprain a few weeks later. That proved to be well timed as the team had a week off, so he hadn't missed any games when he was able to suit up two weeks later. However, he lasted just three snaps before spraining his knee, leading to him missing three more games. Finally healthy down the stretch, he played the most consistent football of his career.
The USC defensive line seems like a close-knit unit and, as a group, it worked hard to overcome the loss of Williams and numerous injury issues in 2015. Pelon obviously displayed toughness by overcoming injuries last season to finish the year strong. There don't seem to be any off-field concerns, either.
On the field, Pelon definitely has a fiery personality. In 2014, he committed six penalties, but showed much better discipline in 2015. The only time he was penalized all year was an offside and 12-men on the field double-penalty late in the win over Arizona, which might not even have been his fault.
Since Pelon is following in Williams' footsteps by making the jump from USC to the Jets, you might think he'd be a similarly ideal fit. However, Williams played in three different systems in each of his years with the Trojans (4-3, 5-2 and 3-4) whereas Pelon was just in a 3-4 system. Typically, a 3-4 system would mean that players did a lot of two-gapping, but Pelon played with an attacking mindset, so that could mean he fits in well with the Jets.
Williams might be a helpful familiar face to have in the building for Pelon. Even though they played just one season together, they apparently knew each other pretty well before Pelon decided to go to USC.
If there's a theme to the Jets' undrafted free agent class so far, it's that the Jets have targeted a group of players whose potential value might have been overlooked by other teams. Pelon could have got lost in the shuffle on a USC defensive line with a lot of NFL talent and didn't have much statistical production, but he still contributed well and developed to the point where he was playing his best football right at the end of his final season.
Had he remained healthy all year and produced like he did over the second half of the season, Pelon might have drawn a lot more attention and perhaps would have been a candidate for postseason honors and a projected late-round pick.
Pelon is one of three 300-pound defensive linemen the Jets brought in via undrafted free agency and, if they can all remain healthy, they might end up getting some significant preseason reps with the third unit. If Pelon can repeat some of the impressive things he was able to do in college when given that chance, he'll give himself a strong chance of at least being retained as a practice squad project.
Up next: We'll take a look at Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson. Could he compete for a roster spot? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
New York Jets WR Eric Decker believes QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back with the team by late July, the wide receiver said in an interview on the NFL Network.
"Right now, it's a business and they're so far off in dollar amount, but Ryan wants to be back, they want Ryan back," said Decker. "Something is going to happen. It might be before training camp, the day or two before, but I believe that he'll be back on the team come this fall."
While it is unknown if the Jets have given Fitzpatrick a hard deadline, the team has dropped strong hints about wanting to have a resolution to their quarterback situation by the start of training camp in late July, as reported by Rich Cimini of ESPN.
However other reports say there is a deadline for the two parties to agree on a deal. May 24th, the first day of Jets OTAs, is the first legitimate deadline that both sides want a deal to be done if Fitzpatrick is to remain with the team, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
As of now, the Jets are Fitzpatrick's only suitor. That is unlikely to change unless another team's quarterback suffers an injury over the next couple of weeks, meaning this staring contest between the Jets and Fitzpatrick could potentially go on for another two months.
"All I can say is we have to move on without him right now because they are stuck where they are with the business decision, where they want to go with the money, who's going to break," Decker told reporters. "But, again, we have a job to do and that's to be the best football team, field the best football team, of who we have in the locker room right now."
Tags: Eric Decker , Ryan Fitzpatrick
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now into the undrafted free agent signings. On Sunday, I looked at Jason Vander Laan, the quarterback-turned-tight end from Ferris State, but now I move on to look at Temple offensive lineman Kyle Friend. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 22-year old Friend is listed 6'2" and 305 pounds and started 43 games for the Temple Owls over the past four years, spending the last three as a team captain and the starting center. He was a projected late round pick after having been named on the All-AAC first team last season. Friend turned heads at his pro day with 41 bench press reps.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Kyle Friend?
Friend had an impressive high school career, where he excelled at guard and defensive tackle. He also had a background in wrestling.
As a freshman, Friend started five games at guard before becoming the starter at center due to injury. The following year, he was named as the full time starter at center and his season got off to an impressive start against projected first round pick Louis Nix of Notre Dame. Friend held his own against Nix, an eventual third round pick, who registered just one tackle, although he did get plenty of help.
Friend started every game in 2013 and 2014, making his way onto the Rimington watch list. In 2015, he started the season well, but missed four games after suffering a torn MCL eight games into the season. He returned for the conference championship game and the team's bowl game before participating in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game.
After being a combine snub, Friend put on an impressive performance at Temple's pro day and was a projected late-round pick but went unselected and was signed as an undrafted free agent.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Friend brings to the table, based on my research and film study.
The headline number at Temple's pro day for Friend was his 41 bench press reps - seven more than anyone at the NFL combine managed. However, his numbers were actually really good across the board. He had a particularly good time in the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill and his only below average number was his short shuttle.
One potential issue is that Friend has short arms. That would be less of an issue for a center than the other positions on the offensive line, but could limit him to that position. He's not tall either, but does have big hands, which can be an asset in terms of an ability to control blocks.
Let's compare two sets of numbers:
Height: 6'1" v 6'4"
Weight: 295 v 300
Arm length: 30 7/8" v 31 7/8"
Hand size: 10 5/8" v 10 3/8"
40-yard dash: 5.09 v 5.05
10-yard split: 1.71 v 1.74
3-cone drill: 7.48 v 7.47
Vertical jump: 28.5" v 27.5"
Broad jump: 102" v 104"
As you can see, these two players project pretty similarly in terms of their measurables. The first set of numbers are Friend's pro day results. The second set? Nick Mangold's combine results.
Conspicuously absent is the short shuttle time for which Mangold was much faster at 4.36 compared to 4.69 for Friend. However, Mangold's bench press (24 reps) was nowhere close to Friend's eye-popping number. In any case, there are enough similarities that perhaps Mangold could be an ideal mentor for the rookie.
That inferior short shuttle time should not be overlooked though, as it can be an indication of how easily a player can transition from one assignment to another as an interior lineman. Still, having superior strength might be one way to overcome that.
Friend played guard at high school and started five games at right guard in his freshman year but has been a center since then and, for the reasons noted above, likely would fit best there as a pro.
Friend perhaps wasn't as dominant as a run blocker as you'd have liked, but he was on a team with a poor offensive line overall, especially in 2015, and he certainly put some good moments on field. He displays capabilities at the point of attack and in space, but perhaps needs to improve his consistency.
Friend shows off his athleticism and technique here with the reach block on the move. He manages to get to the outside shoulder of his man, anchors to prevent him from penetrating too far upfield and then seals him back to the inside with a well-controlled block.
As you'd expect from someone with such good functional strength, he can dominate at the point of attack. Here, he basically throws his man aside to create a lane for a touchdown ran.
Not being tall, Friend shouldn't have the problems some larger offensive lineman have with consistency of pad level and associated leverage issues. However, on this short yardage play, his man does a good job of getting up under him and standing him up to bottle up the run to force a fumble.
There's a lot to like from what I saw of Friend in pass protection. His strength enables him to hold up well against a bull rush and to transition from one assignment to another smoothly. He shows good discipline, awareness and consistency.
Friend didn't give up a sack over the past two seasons and only allowed one quarterback hit. He was in PFF's top ten for draft efficiency among draft eligible centers in 2015, but in 2014 he gave up even less pressure and was in third place. He actually gave up over half of his pressure in 2015 in the game where he suffered his injury and the two games after his return.
With these pass protection numbers, there aren't many examples of him being beaten on film, but here is one example where he struggles to pick up a double-A gap blitz and whiffs on the block then loses his balance, leading to pressure.
One area where Friend puts some impressive moments on film is getting out in front of screen passes, building on some of the second level blocking he showed in the running game.
On this play he locates his target and takes him out, creating a huge lane down the middle. Importantly, he ensures he doesn't go too far upfield to draw an ineligible receiver penalty.
Just to prove that wasn't a fluke, this one was even better as he took out two by shoving the first man by into the second man and even stayed on his feet so he might have still been able to block downfield had the runner cut back to the left instead of right.
One thing that stood out to me while watching Friend is that he is extremely active, both in terms of moving his feet and moving his hands to hand-fight or re-position his grip on his man. Maybe he could be more efficient with that and, with coaching, could eliminate some wasted motion, but I think that's more encouraging to see than someone who can't respond to an initial loss of leverage or that gets flat-footed and doesn't have a plan when upright in their stance.
As noted, he has a background in wrestling, which always creates a useful foundation for offensive linemen in terms of giving them an understanding of leverage and how to use an opponent's momentum against them.
Friend has been penalized just five times over the past two seasons. Of his three penalties in 2015, two were false starts. The other came as he dragged a pass rusher to the ground on a screen pass, although this was nowhere near the ball and looked a bit harsh.
Other than the false starts, Friend doesn't have too many issues with snaps, although he had two fumbled during the 2015, one of which led to a turnover. Having snapped the ball, he is quick to get up into his stance.
Friend shouldn't be expect to contribute much on special teams, although with his athletic ability, it's not out of the question that he could be a blocker on the kick-off return unit. He played on the field goal unit in college.
Friend shows a good ability to deal with stunts and to pass off one assignment and move onto another. His strength obviously helps him here. Other than the two false starts, I didn't see any obvious blown assignments from Friend.
Friend was obviously a respected leader, as he was the one of the first three-time captains in school history, along with a defensive player who achieved the same thing at the same time.
Coaches praised his toughness and were going to give him a single-digit number - something Temple does to its toughest players each season - but NCAA rules for offensive linemen prevented them from doing so.
As noted, Friend missed four games with his knee injury (MCL tear) last season, but was completely recovered from that by the time he attended his pro day. I assume he played through some other injuries during his 41-game streak of starts though.
His blocking was better in the first half of the season over each of the past two seasons than it was over the second half. Part of that might have been down to strength of schedule, but it could also be a sign that he was banged up and this affected his performance.
Based on the film I watched, Temple ran a combination of man/power, gap and inside/outside zone plays in the running game, so he should have a wealth of experience that will help him fit into the versatile system the Jets currently run. In pass protection, their linemen often worked in tandem with each other and he had a variety of different assignments based on the defensive set, which again should prepare him well for the responsibilities he'd be required to take on with the Jets.
Something else notable about Temple which you might recall from the Christian Hackenberg BGA is that they have a complicated pro-style defense. No doubt having to deal with this in practice would be something that gives Friend a head-start on some other rookies in terms of transitioning to the pros.
In terms of measurables, intangibles and some of the things he put on film, there's a lot to like about the Friend pick-up and it's perhaps surprising he didn't get drafted. I don't think it helped that he had the knee injury and struggled somewhat once he returned, but perhaps the Jets have recognized that this was a temporary issue and found a player whose potential value has been under-estimated by other teams.
As noted, he profiles similarly to Mangold, so if the Jets are really high on him, they'll get Friend to shadow him and there couldn't be a better mentor for him to help him reach his full potential. However, while Mangold was able to overcome his short arms with excellent smarts, technique, athleticism, agility and strength, Friend has to overcome even shorter arms and doesn't quite have the same agility numbers. While his strength numbers are outstanding, that's obviously somewhere Mangold has developed since entering the league, so I don't know if Friend can over-rely on that to compensate for any other deficiencies in his game.
Nevertheless, he's an interesting pick-up, who brings some things to the table that not all of the Jets' linemen can do. If he can impress the coaches, he could challenge the likes of Wesley Johnson and Dakota Dozier for the back-up center role. If he can't win that role, he still has a chance to stick on the practice squad. How much long-term potential he has remains to be seen, though.
Up next: We'll take a look at USC defensive lineman Claude Pelon. How much potential does he have? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now into the undrafted free agent signings. Saturday, I looked at Western Carolina defensive tackle Helva Matungulu. Now, I move on to look at former Ferris State quarterback Jason Vander Laan, who is joining the Jets as a tight end. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Vander Laan, 23, is listed at 6-foot-4, 244 pound,s and is a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill trophy, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman. He starred at quarterback for Ferris State the past four seasons as it went 37-9 team went 37-9, including 22-2 over the last two years. Vander Laan holds the all-time record for rushing yards by a college quarterback, but also passed for over 8,000 yards and 85 touchdowns in his four seasons.
However, he's joining the Jets as a tight end, having worked on developing his skills at the position over the offseason.
Note: Some stats from this article exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Jason Vander Laan?
In high school, Vander Laan was a three-year starter at quarterback, although he only completed 41 percent of his passes. However, he showcased his versatility by also playing defensive back and punting. He was also a good basketball player.
Vander Laan wasn't heavily recruited by colleges and opted to accept a scholarship from Division II Ferris State over the chance to walk-on at Illinois State, who wanted him to play linebacker.
Vander Laan developed over the course of the next four seasons in coach Tony Annese's read-option system and the team grew with him. After going 15-7 over their first two seasons with Vander Laan, Ferris State had two consecutive unbeaten regular seasons, falling short in the postseason each time. That included a 38-34 upset loss to Grand Valley State in the NCAA Divison II semifinals as the No. 2 seed last year.
The four-season partnership between Vander Laan and Annese brought Ferris State into contention for a national title, while enhancing Annese's reputation as a potential candidate for an FBS job in the near future. As for Vander Laan, he broke a 24-year old record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback by over 700 yards, finishing up just short of 6,000 yards and adding 81 touchdowns.
Vander Laan wasn't just a running quarterback though, as he completed 63 percent of his passes for over 8,000 yards with 85 touchdowns with just 29 interceptions.
During the offseason, Vander Laan worked out as a quarterback and also at tight end and worked out for pro scouts at Northwestern and Central Michigan's pro days.
As you'll see if you review any highlights from Vander Laan's performances over the past few years, when he isn't running the ball, Vander Laan has a pretty strong arm and can throw a tight spiral. Every now and then, you'll see a pro-level throw from him.
The two major things working against Vander Laan's chances of getting looked at as a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect are the system he played within and his age. While he passed more the past two years, he still carried the ball a lot, mostly on read option-type plays. When he was required to pass, Vander Laan threw a lot of wide receiver screens, designed to stretch the field horizontally and open up the run, which then in turn led to opportunities to throw downfield as defenses loaded the box.
While players in those systems can become NFL prospects, that's usually because their skill set is viewed as displaying elements that suggest they can handle the transition to a more complex NFL-style system. In Vander Laan's case, he was perfect for that system because of his running ability. With Vander Laan already 23, the chances of an NFL team investing the time into developing his skills and teaching him pro-style concepts were always remote.
However, Vander Laan was prepared to embrace a new challenge and take on whatever role a team wanted him for.
That being the case, it seems pretty pointless to dwell too much on things like how well he reads the field or his decision making ability. Let's instead move onto some more in-depth analysis of how he could fit at tight end, based on my research and film study.
Vander Laan put up some outstanding numbers at his two pro day workouts, including a 4.75 40-yard dash. Perhaps most impressive of all was his three-cone drill (6.73) which would have been in the top 10 at the combine for any position, not just tight ends.
In addition, his broad jump (119 inches), short shuttle (4.16) and bench press (27 reps of 225 pounds) were all in the elite range for right ends. The only number that was below average for Vander Laan was his vertical jump.
Athletically, he profiles similar to former Jets tight end Kellen Winslow when he first entered the league, according to MockDraftable.com.
It's interesting to compare his workout numbers to those of Tim Tebow. Vander Laan has been compared to Tebow on numerous occasions, with the main difference between then being that Vander Laan embraced the challenge of learning a new position while Tebow ran himself out of the league with his stubborn refusal to see himself as anything other than a quarterback.
The numbers are close in almost every category, with Vander Laan slightly better in about half of them. Once again his vertical lets him down, but otherwise he profiles very similarly despite being slightly bigger than Tebow was at the combine. Tebow's closest comparable if he is compared to other tight ends is also Kellen Winslow.
You can see from his game footage that Vander Laan has a burst of speed, runs with power and displays good open field agility and balance.
It's difficult, but not impossible, to glean information about Vander Laan's pass catching ability, despite the fact he played as a quarterback in college.
He did catch one pass in college, on a gadget play, and here it is!
Vander Laan obviously didn't do any route running in college, but his knowledge from playing quarterback should at least give him a good idea of what's required. For what it's worth, a scout at his pro day said he looked more natural running routes than you might expect, albeit a little stiff at times.
[link - http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/ct-northwestern-dan-vitale-shines-pro-day-20160308-story.html ] Presumably, that's a product of the hard work at the position he'd been carrying out since the season ended and, based on his pro day numbers, could be something he could continue to work on improving.
Other than constantly operating out of the shotgun and the easy catch in the gif above, there's not much we know about Vander Laan's hands based on his college career. However, he does have a background in basketball, which has served many a project tight end well, many who lacked Vander Laan's football experience. Vander Laan's ball-carrying duties will at least have provided him with an ability to hang onto the ball.
With that in mind, something encouraging is that Vander Laan reduced the number of fumbles he had in each of his four seasons to just four in 2015, impressive given that he carried the ball or dropped back to throw about 600 times.
The same scout mentioned above said that Vander Laan had a "few drops" at his pro day workout, but also remarked that this was to be expected because he wouldn't yet be accustomed to tracking the ball.
Yards after the catch
Here's where Vander Laan has a chance to excel. With the ball in his hands, we know Vander Laan can create yardage and has a nose for the end zone. He runs over defenders in the open field, but also has surprising elusiveness. Most importantly of all, he will be comfortable with the ball in his hands, which again elevates him above the kind of project tight end you might find from another sport.
Until we know how effective Vander Laan can be at running routes, getting separation and completing catches, it's difficult to know how effective he might be in the red zone. He could be a good weapon if he is able to bring the same kind of physicality he brings as a runner to the process of getting open.
Vander Laan himself admits he has zero experience in this area. He'll bring strength, effort and physicality to the role, but can't even test himself properly until the pads go on in camp. Realistically, this means he's probably at least a year away from having any chance to contribute in a conventional tight end role, but that doesn't mean he can't be used in other ways.
Even Tebow, during the best-forgotten attempts to bleed some usefulness out of him as an H-Back with the 2012 Jets, lined up on the edge and successfully helped out in pass protection three times by cut-blocking an edge rusher.
Vander Laan should have good instincts as a runner, but perhaps will need to develop his instincts when running routes or as a blocker. On the catch he made in the play shown above, he did well not to catch the ball with his knee down, which - under college football rules - would have made the play a five-yard loss rather than a 16-yard gain.
He's definitely considered to be intelligent, having been nominated for several scholar-athlete awards at Ferris State.
Like most quarterbacks, Vander Laan didn't contribute much on special teams in college, although there are a few ways he could potentially help the Jets.
Two words that still elicit a shudder from most Jets fans: Punt Protector. Still, this could be a role which Vander Laan could handle, with the added danger to punt rush units brought about by his running (and throwing) abilities. Maybe this would force teams to spy him which might give a certain punter a bit more time to unleash a certain type of punt.
Investing draft assets into acquiring a player on a first-round rookie deal whose primary role is punt protector is one thing, but if you have a minimum salaried undrafted free agent carrying out that role (among others) while he develops into a more regular contributor, that's something I can get behind.
That might not be the only way Vander Laan could contribute to that unit. In high school, Vander Laan was the team's punter and he also punted a total of eight times in college, including six times in 2013. His numbers weren't very good, but it's always useful to have someone who can fill in in an emergency capacity. With that in mind, he's also been working on his long snapping. In a similar vein, his running and passing ability could be an asset if he were to get work as a holder.
With his athleticism, Vander Laan might be able to contribute in coverage as well. They said the same thing about Tebow though and he never got close to making a tackle on 59 special teams plays as a Jet. Vander Laan did record 10 tackles in college, presumably on plays where there was a turnover.
The coaches at Ferris State, notably Annese, were effusive in their praise of Vander Laan's attitude and intangibles. He was a leader with a team-oriented focus and always respectful. He also seems to have had a tireless work ethic and was driven to constantly improve. Those kinds of intangibles mean that we can't rule out his ability to develop faster that might be expected.
It also seems that he's regarded by those who know him well as a special teammate and person. In recent years, he's taken a few trips out of state on charitable work, helping tornado and hurricane victims.
Vander Laan did not miss a game throughout his college caree, despite the fact he handled the ball a lot and took a lot of punishment, including being sacked 11 times last year. He missed just 33 snaps in 2015.
After the draft, coach Todd Bowles was asked about Vander Laan and said that the Jets signed him because of his toughness and athleticism, and that he would be someone they'd look to develop. They were not the only NFL team interested in signing him.
While Vander Laan could be considered an extreme longshot to beat out the experienced tight ends ahead of him on the roster, he belongs athletically and has a chance to impress coaches with his work ethic and versatility. It's certainly interesting to compare him with other project tight ends, including some success stories. Some of those weren't even completely sure how to put their pads on, which makes Vander Laan's lack of experience in terms of blocking and running routes less alarming.
Ultimately, Vander Laan has the potential to be a multi-faceted weapon in the long run and could be a good bet to make the practice squad this year if he shows promise and continues to showcase his athletic ability in camp and preseason.
Up next: We'll take a look at Kyle Friend from Temple. Does the only undrafted offensive lineman brought in by the Jets have a chance to make the team? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and will now be moving on to look at the undrafted free agent signings. On Tuesday, I looked at the rookie kickers and punters but now we move on to look at Western Carolina defensive tackle Helva Matungulu. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 24-year old Matungulu is 6-foot-5 and 296 pounds, and was only introduced to football five years ago, having grown up in Nairobi, Kenya. In three years as a defensive tackle for the Western Carolina Catamounts, he played in 31 games with 17 starts and recorded 53 tackles and three sacks.
Note: Pro Football Focus exclusively provides some stats from this article.
Who is Helva Matungulu?
Having grown up in Kenya, Matungulu arrived at Western Carolina in 2011, where he studied molecular biology. Apparently, he got lost, finding his way onto the football field, where the coaches liked his size and asked him to join the team. It's a great story, which you can read in more detail here.
While he had played soccer, basketball and rugby, the game of football was completely new to Matungulu, so the coaching staff had to go back to basics to teach him the game. After two years on the scout team, he finally saw his first game in action in 2013 and would go on to start three games that year. In his senior year, he set career highs in starts (eight), tackles (23) and sacks (1.5).
By the end of his career, Matungulu drew interest from NFL scouts. He played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl All-Star game and participated at Appalachian State's pro day in front of NFL scouts.
Let's move on to look at some more in-depth analysis based on my research and film study.
Most of Matungulu's workout numbers are average or thereabouts for his size, but he shows flashes of explosiveness, power and agility on film.
Matungulu ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash in 2014, which would have been elite for his position, but he only ran a 5.11 at his pro day workout. It's possible he's bulked up significantly since then because he was only listed at 280 pounds a year or two ago, but now weighs 296.
I couldn't find an official measurement for his wingspan, but he does appear to display good length.
The Catamounts operated a basic 4-3 system with Matungulu almost always operating as a defensive tackle on the left side of the formation and lining up across from a guard, occasionally shading the center. In two games charted, he played 103 snaps, and only eight were on the right side of the formation. In those 103 snaps, he was standing up at the line on two and lined up outside the tackle just once. He would usually only match up with a tackle when the defensive end stunted to the inside.
As noted, Matungulu played 103 snaps in the two games I charted, so he's obviously capable of taking on a big workload. I didn't see any obvious signs of fatigue from him and he seemed to play consistently hard.
Apparently, one of Matungulu's biggest issues when he started was that he played with his stance high all the time and got pushed around. The coaching staff gave him a better understanding of leverage and techniques, but this will be something he'll have to try and remain as consistent as possible with as he enters the NFL. It's expected he will be extremely raw, given his total lack of experience along with the jump in quality of opponent.
Despite these concerns, Matungulu does show an ability to make plays against the run, largely through his impressive athleticism. I watched him against Southeastern Conference opposition in Tennessee and Texas A&M, and he put some good moments on film against that level of competition.
Here, Matugulu makes an extremely athletic play, essentially leap-frogging over a cut block attempt, maintaining his balance to break down in front of the ball carrier and then closing to secure the stuff in the hole.
He makes this play in a different fashion, using his strength to penetrate into the backfield and then shedding the block to wrap up the runner. It's good to see him displaying good leverage and hand placement to get the job done here:
Finally, here's yet more evidence of his athletic ability, as he's able to burst into the backfield and then change course and use his length to pull the runner down for no gain.
Matungulu seems to be a solid tackler, using his long arms to secure the ball carrier, though he had one missed tackle in a game against Tennessee. He forced one fumble in his career.
Matungulu didn't put up big pass rush numbers in college, as he was considered more of a run stuffer. He recorded three sacks in total, although he only had a full sack once (with four half-sacks).
He showed some ability to generate pressure in the Tennessee game, displaying an ability to get some traction on a bull rush. On this play, he drove the guard back and then got off the block to hit the quarterback:
Here, the end stunts inside so he ends up against the right tackle. Again, he drives him back, flushing the quarterback from the pocket.
Matungulu will make the effort to get his hands up when rushing the passer at times, but not always. He had one pass defensed back in 2013.
I don't believe Matungulu made any special teams contributions at Western Carolina. A player his size might be expected to rush kicks, block on the placekicking unit or operate as a wedge blocker on the kickoff return unit at the pro level.
Matungulu is obviously an intelligent person, as evidenced by his love of science and the fact he speaks three languages. His unfamiliarity with the sport is obviously a downside, but his experience in other sports could be useful in terms of honing his instincts in football, like playing in space.
Before settling at defensive tackle, Matungulu was also tried at offensive tackle, tight end and defensive end, so Western Carolina obviously settled on a position in which he was most comfortable.
Matungulu missed at least one game in each of his three seasons and four overall. At least one of these was due to a back injury.
Matungulu has been described as extremely coachable because he catches on quickly and is fun to work with. He seems to have a business-like approach on the field from what I saw.
In 2015, he had one personal foul after a big play by Furman.
Matungulu could fit well in the Jets' system, which gives linemen the flexibility to play on the inside or outside. As he has more experience on the inside, I'd assume that would be where the Jets would use him first.
If Matungulu can make it through camp healthy, there's a significant role waiting for him based on how the Jets used their defensive linemen last year. The Jets gave plenty of opportunities to Davon Walls, Jordan Williams and Deon Simon while spelling their more experienced veterans in preseason. The trio combined for 237 snaps in preseason, primarily playing together and earning valuable game reps.
Of the three, only Walls is currently not with a team. Williams eventually saw regular season action with Miami, and while Simon -- who had 1.5 preseason sacks -- did not see any playing time, he spent time on the Jets' 53-man roster and practice squad, and is now expected to work his way into the rotation.
If the Jets do something similar this year, Matungulu might get a chance for some significant opportunities to make an impression in direct comparison to the other young linemen the team has brought in. With his untapped potential, he's got to be a good bet to be promising enough as a long-term project to be retained as a practice squad candidate.
Up next: We'll take a look at quarterback-turned-tight end Jason Vander Laan from Ferris State. What do we know about the small-school prospect? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.
The Jets have signed OLB Jordan Jenkins, the team announced.
Jenkins, who was selected in the third round (83rd overall) in the draft, had 59 tackles and five sacks last season for Georgia, where he served as the defensive co-captain.
He had 205 tackles and 19 sacks during his career at Georgia.
The Jets have signed two more of their draft picks, second-round QB Christian Hackenberg and seventh-round WR Charone Peake, the team announced today.
Hackenberg's deal is for four years, $4.7 million, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. His cap number for 2016 is $847,000.
Hackenberg started 38 games at Penn State, and became the only QB to ever pass for 8,000 yards. The QB also set school records for touchdowns (48), completions (693), and total offense (8,215). In 2015, Hackenberg passed for 2,525 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Peake had his best season for Clemson last year as a redshirt senior. The wide receiver had 50 receptions for 716 yards and five touchdowns. For his Clemson career, Peake made 99 catches for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Jets now have four of their seven draft picks signed. The team announced the signings of fourth-round CB Juston Burris and seventh-round P Lachlan Edwards last week.
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This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' draft picks in detail and will now be moving on to look at the undrafted free agent signings. Over the weekend, I took a look at one of the Jets' seventh round picks, Clemson wideout Charone Peake, but now I move on to discuss the other seventh rounder. Since he's a punter -- Lachlan Edwards from Sam Houston State -- I'll be reviewing him along with a couple of undrafted free agents who are also looking to make contributions in the kicking game: Utah punter Tom Hackett and Duke placekicker Ross Martin. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what each of them brings to the table.
The 24-year-old Edwards is 6'4" and 209 pounds and spent the past two seasons punting for Sam Houston State of the Southland conference. By contrast, Hackett -- who is also 24 -- is just 5'11" and 198 pounds. He is a two-time Ray Guy award winner; the award given annually to college football's top punter. They're both Australian and have a background in Australian Rules Football. Martin, 22, stands just 5'9" and 183 pounds but has been one of college football's most consistent placekickers over the past two seasons.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who are Lachlan Edwards, Tom Hackett and Ross Martin?
Edwards joined the Sam Houston State team in 2013 after having been discovered kicking a football around in a local park and being directed towards an Australian punting academy. He actually split duties with another punter, although he did get more of the workload after the first year.
Edwards was able to increase his gross average from 42.3 yards per punt in his first season to 44.1 in year two and only one out of every 16 punts was a touchback, as opposed to one in 10 in his first season. By contrast, his final season was statistically disappointing as his gross average dropped to a career-low 41.5 and one out of every nine punts was a touchback. However, he landed the ball inside the 20 at a greater rate, so it's possible the reduction in yardage was because he attempted more punts from closer to the end zone.
Hackett was on Utah's team for four years, having also joined a punting academy while in Australia. His gross punting numbers were more impressive than Edwards, especially over the past two seasons, where he had 46.7 yards per punt in 2014 and 48.0 in 2015. Hackett's overall numbers were good, too, as he landed the ball inside the 20 at a higher rate, although he did also have more touchbacks over the past two years (18 in 141 punts, as opposed to 13 in 154 by Edwards).
Martin, who PFF called the most accurate kicker in this year's class, actually missed four field goals from inside 40 yards in 2015. However, he was perfect from inside 40 in 2014. Over the course of the past two years, he's made eight of 10 from 50 yards or longer, although the longest was only 53 yards. He's been less impressive on kickoffs, with poor numbers and two that were returned for touchdowns last season.
Let's move on to look at some more in-depth analysis based on my research and film study.
Measurables and Intangibles
There's an obvious difference in size (five inches and 11 pounds) between Edwards and Hackett, with Edwards being closer to the prototypical punter size NFL teams tend to favor. Hackett once described himself as "fat" and said that he "runs like a penguin" but has actually displayed some impressive athleticism. I already shared one incredible fake punt run when I wrote the special teams BGA before the draft, but here's another:
All-in-all, Hackett has an impressive 106 rushing yards on just four carries. He also displayed superior physicality by recording 13 career special teams tackles -- 10 more than Edwards. As the above comments show, he's quite a character, although he made more controversial comments before Utah's bowl game against BYU.
Martin is smaller than current Jets kicker Nick Folk, but he pitched in with nine special teams tackles in college.
I don't believe any of the three had any significant injuries while playing college football. Edwards did have a shoulder problem back in 2011 from playing Aussie Rules, though, which caused him to miss an entire season.
A difference in style
The Edwards-Hackett battle promises to be fascinating, with the potential to revolutionize the NFL kicking game.
Let's consider Edwards as the baseline. The Jets drafted what they considered to be the best conventional punter on the board before landing Hackett, a more boom-or-bust type of player, as an undrafted free agent.
Edwards' biggest strength is the hang time he gets on his kicks. Despite his Australian background, he uses a conventional punting style and is technically proficient, even in the face of a rush. He didn't have a punt blocked in his college career.
PFF charted just six punts from Edwards in 2015 because he played just one game against division one opposition. However, his best hang time was 4.85 seconds, over two-tenths better than Hackett's best of the year. When interviewed, Edwards mentioned how crucial this is and that he wants to avoid out-kicking his coverage. He also noted that he would need to work on placement because NFL teams typically kick to one sideline or the other to limit the return man's options.
Hackett, on the other hand, often uses a rugby-style technique. This style has been used in the NFL but very sparingly and only by punters who primarily use a conventional technique. For various reasons, NFL teams don't like this style, but Hackett's numbers were so good in college that perhaps he has a chance to break the mold.
Let's first explain what a rugby-style punt is before we discuss what is good and bad about it. Instead of standing directly behind the long-snapper and kicking the ball straight down the field with a high leg-kick follow-through off a two-step walk-up, a rugby-style punter will run laterally and kick the ball from a lower drop point.
Here's an example of Hackett using a rugby-style punt, but because he kicks such a low line-drive, this gives the return man a chance to get some yardage on the return.
In Hackett's defense, he actually did a good job of limiting return yardage last year. Other than a 48-yard return against Arizona State, there was just 17 yards of return yardage all year, most of which was on the above play. In watching footage of Edwards, there were more successful returns, albeit primarily due to poor tackling by the coverage units and not kick placement.
That lack of hang-time is the obvious main disadvantage of a rugby-style punt. You also would need to overhaul your protection schemes and there are rule differences that could make this problematic in the NFL. Teams might also be concerned that there's more chance of something bad happening when their punter is required to run with the ball. Remember the end of Michigan v Michigan State?
There are some potential advantages too, though. By running laterally before the kick, the punter can mitigate the effect of lower hang-time by giving his coverage unit a couple of extra seconds to get down the field. Also, Hackett uses the lack of hang time to his advantage because he kicks the ball so far and so accurately that the return man often can't get to it before it bounces, which dissuades them from attempting a return.
Also worth mentioning is that the ability for a conventional punter to use a rugby-style punt from time-to-time could be an effective weapon. If the return man isn't expecting it, he might be more likely to misjudge the ball, let it bounce or even muff it. In addition, the ability to use that style gives a punter an effective emergency option to get his kick off in the event of a protection bust, because rugby players are adept at kicking "around" on-rushing defenders and still getting an effective kick off.
However, wouldn't it be easier to teach Edwards -- a good conventional punter -- how to use a rugby-style technique occasionally if you felt it could be a good weapon, rather than count on Hackett's ability to improve enough in terms of his conventional punting style to punt in the NFL?
Here's Hackett doing an effective job with a conventional punt, but he obviously lacks Edwards' textbook technique and impressive hang-time:
According to PFF, Hackett only used the conventional technique 20 times in 2015. And while I don't have a breakdown, I found he wasn't always as effective with it. Here's a bad shank:
What about Martin?
Martin's field goal kicking numbers are pretty solid, especially over the past two years. However, he had one major nemesis: Virginia Tech.
In 2013, Martin actually had one of his better games against Virginia Tech, nailing two early kicks from over 50 yards, including a career-best 53-yarder, as the Blue Devils clung on for a 13-10 upset win. However, they were his worst nightmare in 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, Martin was a perfect 12-for-12 heading into a matchup against the Hokies in the penultimate game of the regular season. He missed two field goals, and while one was from over 50 yards, the other was a 40-yarder that could have given the Blue Devils the lead with just over two minutes left in an eventual 17-16 loss. These would be his two only misses of the entire season.
Fast forward to 2015 and as Duke headed into another matchup with the Hokies, Martin was again 12-for-12: the only kicker in America with an active streak of 12 or more makes at that time. With the previous year's miss surely on his mind, he shanked an early chip shot, as the ball took an inexplicable Cary Blanchard-style right turn at the last moment.
A chance for redemption came with one minute left and a chance to kick the go-ahead field goal. However, Martin pushed his kick to the right and off the upright:
Ultimately, Martin would come up with the goods in overtime, making two field goals, although Duke eventually, won 45-43, on a two-point conversion in the third overtime period. One of his makes was this impressive 38-yarder, which had more than enough distance:
Martin did have a few more misses before the end of the season, including one the following week against Miami. It's interesting to note that, as with his missed kick at the end of the Hokies game, the kick was at an angle he'd never encounter at the NFL level due to the wider hashmarks in the college game. You can also see why he might not push the ball far enough inside the near upright, having pushed one too far and hit the far upright in the previous game:
What about his poor kickoff numbers, though? The average start-line for the opposition was a disappointing 28.3. How much do these numbers hurt his chances?
The first thing to note is that while 24 touchbacks on 84 kickoffs is not great, the numbers were skewed by a number of things. That included the two touchdown returns, and you can't really blame him on of those. It was the final play against Miami that saw him squib the ball down to the Miami 40 and then watch as Miami threw eight laterals and got away with multiple rules violations to run it back for the win. Also, he had this failed onside kick attempt to further skew the numbers.
Maybe one of the punters can be turned into a kickoff specialist, but the only experience either of them has is that Hackett has kicked off four times in the past two years and the only one from last year was a botched onside kick. In a similar vein, Martin could punt in an emergency because he did it in high school.
Now that the ball comes out to the 25-yard line on touchbacks anyway, there's some sense that this means teams are better off laying the ball up short of the goal line and trying to make the stop before the runner reaches the 25. So maybe you don't want a touchback specialist -- something Folk has never been anyway.
It's obvious why Hackett earned cult status among the draft community and the temptation to base your kicking game around him would be so high. You need only watch the Oregon game last year to be sold on him as the best punter of all time -- after he boomed a 76-yarder over the return man's head, ran 33 yards on a fake punt and landed two punts inside the five.
Alternatively, you could just watch the second quarter of the bowl game win over BYU and you'd see him nailing a 55-yarder and a 56-yarder before landing his next two punts inside the five like a golfer landing a seven-iron on the green:
Jets fans have wanted a flip-the-field type of punter for years and years and Hackett actually admitted that's not what he is in a recent interview. Could he be something more than that, though? If not, could Edwards be that guy?.
It's going to be extremely interesting to compare and contrast their work in camp, especially with the difference in style. Ultimately, if both perform well, the final decision might come down to how much of a chance new special teams coach Brant Boyer and the coaching staff in general are prepared to take on Hackett.
Let's not underestimate or forget about Edwards, though. He seems to have a lot of talent. In a best-case scenario, they will both shine in camp and the Jets will be able to recoup a future pick for one of them from a punter-needy team.
As for Martin, does he have a realistic shot to beat out Folk? While Rex Ryan may have trusted Folk because he never cost them a game until Ryan's final season, Folk didn't attempt any vital kicks under Bowles and then got hurt and missed the end of the season. And that actually resulted in his cheaper replacement, Randy Bullock, making crucial kicks in three games. Bowles, therefore, has no emotional ties to Folk and might prefer to bring in someone younger and save some cap room (about $2 million this year and $4 million over the next two).
If they both perform well, maybe the fact he's cheaper and younger will give him the edge over the incumbent Folk.
Up next: We're going to be moving on to look at each of the undrafted free agents in turn, starting with defensive lineman Helva Matungulu from Western Carolina.
Jets WR Brandon Marshall has confidence in QB Geno Smith if he's the starter this season, writes Darryl Slater of NJ.com
"A hundred percent confident in Geno," Marshall said, according to Slater. "I think he's grown so much from the first conversation I had with him, before I got traded [from Chicago last offseason], and also since [early] last year when we were roommates."
"He's an ultimate pro right now," Marshall continued. "I don't know if that's always been the answer [about him]. But I'm just so proud of the kid, because the areas where he's been challenged, he's grown and gotten better."
In addition to Smith, the Jets have Bryce Petty and the recently drafted Christian Hackenberg on the roster.
The team also remains interested in re-signing free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Marshall did the right thing by sticking by the team and his (current) starting QB. There is absolutely nothing to gain by Marshall saying something inflammatory. He's stumped for his guy (Fitzpatick) and his guy hasn't come to terms with the Jets -- at least not yet.
Marshall showed the same support last year when Geno was the presumptive starter. Sure, Fitzpatrick's surprise 2015 season changed the perception of the situation, but it hasn't changed how Marshall will carry it in front of the New York media.
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This could be seen a bad sign, since Marshall saying this now could mean he sees Fitzpatrick's return as less likely than he did a few weeks or months ago. When Marshall made similar comments last year, I was suspicious as to how genuine that sentiment was because it almost seemed like he was trying to dupe Smith into believing he was good enough.
Clearly, by the end of the season, Marshall had come to the conclusion that Fitzpatrick was the right man for the job, so perhaps the timing of these comments should be seen as troubling. Of course, that's assuming he wasn't simply blindsided by a "how confident would you be in Geno if he ended up as the starter?" question. If that was the case, what else was he going to say?
Tags: Brandon Marshall , Bryce Petty , Geno Smith , Brian Bassett
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath chats with SNY's Michelle Yu about the Jets' QB situation.
Tags: Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Jets have added TE Jerome Cunningham and have waived RB-KR Dri Archer, the team announced on Monday.
Cunningham signed with the Giants as a rookie free agent in 2014. He spent time on their practice squad in 2014 before being active for the final two regular season games. The tight end appeared in nine games for the Giants in 2015 and finished the year with eight receptions for 59 yards.
Archer signed a reserve/future contract with the Jets in February. A third-round pick of the Steelers in 2014, Archer played in 20 games for the Steelers and had 23 kickoff returns for a 22.4-yard average. Archer also had 17 offensive touches for 63 total yards in 2014.
The Jets have signed CB Bryson Keeton and waived TE Adrien Robinson, the team announced.
Keeton, 23, played for Montana state the last two seasons and had participated in the Jets' recent rookie minicamp.
Robinson, 27, had signed a reserve/futures contract with the Jets in January.
He played with the Giants from 2012 until he was waived this past September.
Lachlan Edwards and Tom Hackett are two laid-back guys from Down Under trying to get a leg up in the New York Jets' punting competition.
The Australian-born players are squaring off this offseason for a job in the NFL after successful college careers in the United States.
"It's the Aussie showdown in New York City, I guess," Hackett said with a smile during Jets rookie minicamp.
Across town, the Giants have their own Australian punter in Brad Wing, who is from Melbourne, like Hackett. Australian punters are becoming increasingly more common in the NFL. The Jets had Ben Graham a few years ago, and Wing, Darren Bennett, Sav Rocca, Mat McBriar and Chris Bryan have all kicked in the league.
"The Jets got jealous," Hackett joked. "So, I guess they'll end up with one, too. Me or Lach will win the job and hopefully have a good year."
Edwards was a seventh-round pick of the Jets last weekend after playing three years at Sam Houston State, where he never had a kick blocked while establishing himself as one of college football's most powerful punters. Before New York drafted him, it had no punters on its roster after letting incumbent Ryan Quigley sign with Philadelphia as a free agent after three mostly inconsistent seasons.
"I just want to be the new guy," said Edwards, who's from Hastings, Australia. "I know the Jets have struggled recently with their punting, so I'd like to be that new guy coming in to fix that problem."
Jets coach Todd Bowles said the competition will "definitely" go into training camp.
"Obviously, you have two young guys that haven't done it in the league before," he said. "We will see what they do when they get under pressure and we get to rush a little bit and see if they can boom them out of there." >> Read more
Tags: Brad Wing , Ryan Quigley
What coach Todd Bowles said Sunday as the Jets wrapped up their third and final day of rookie minicamp. The focus was on the competition at punter and linebacker:
- On the punting competition that includes seventh-round pick Lachlan Edwards and undrafted Tom Hackett: "Yeah, it's definitely going to go on into training camp. Obviously you have two young guys that haven't done it in the league before. One has a very strong leg, the other is a very good directional punter. We will see what they do when they get under pressure and we get to rush a little bit and see if they can boom them out of there."
- On putting 2015 draft pick Lorenzo Mauldin at Will (weakside) linebacker and '16 pick Jordan Jenkins at Sam (strongside): "(We did it to give them a chance to be) on the field at once, plus (Jenkins) played (the strong side more) in college. He was (more) use to playing over the tight end a little more. They (move) the tight end so much they are both going to be interchangeable. You say Sam and Will by alignment, but what they do on offense dictates who is the Sam and who is the Will."
- On why Jenkins did not get more sacks at Georgia: "I can't really explain that. I was looking more at the player. Sometime schemes differ in college than they are in the pros. When you play over the tight end side, generally, they slide the protection that way quite a bit. I'm not saying he should have had more or shouldn't have had more. We just know he is a good football player. But I can't speak for them schematically."
- On Erin Henderson: "Erin was a tough player before he got put out of the league. He missed a year and when he came back he did everything the right way. He was a good team p layer for us, he knows how to play the position inside and he was just one of those players, not so much a knock on Demario (Davis') play, but Erin was getting better and we wanted to put him on the field."
- On comparing the number of sacks undrafted Freddie Bishop had under CFL rules to the NFL:" I don't know that you compare the number, but 11 sacks is 11 sacks. I was in Miami when Cameron Wake got there and we took him from Canada. Sometimes it takes guys time to develop and you can develop over there and come back over here and be good players or can develop over there and have a career over there. We saw some things in Freddie, not just the sacks, but as far as him playing the position and knowing how to play the position that made him appealing to us and made us want to sign him."
- On when he expects wide receiver Devin Smith to return from an ACL injury for practice and if he'll be ready for camp: "I'm not sure. Coming off an injury like that we will just have to wait and see. I just have to listen to what the trainers and doctors tell me and see how he progresses."
This year I am again breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. On Thursday, we took a look at the Jets' fifth-round pick, South Carolina offensive tackle Brandon Shell, but now we move on to discuss one of their seventh rounders, wide receiver Charone Peake from Clemson.
I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table. Peake, 23, is listed as 6-foot-2, 209 pounds and caught 99 passes in five seasons at Clemson, 50 in his redshirt senior year, along with five of his 10 career touchdowns.
Peake sustained an ACL tear early on in the 2013 season, having been behind Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins earlier on in his Clemson career.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Charone Peake?
Peake was a heavily-recruited high school player who headed to Clemson in 2012. Over his first two seasons, he played 27 games but didn't see a lot of action with the likes of Watkins, Hopkins and Martavis Bryant all ahead of him.
After catching just four passes as a true freshman, Peake had a better sophomore campaign that saw him catch 25 passes and score the first two touchdowns of his career. Although he averaged less than seven yards a catch - much lower than his career averages - Peake looked set to break out in his junior campaign.
Unfortunately, after a good start to the season, Peake tore his ACL after just two games of the 2013 season and was given a medical redshirt. His return in 2014 was also limited due to knee issues and he caught just 12 passes in eight games. Finally healthy in 2015, Peake was in danger of getting lost in the shuffle but saw an opportunity for more playing time when Mike Williams was injured in the first game.
Peake's production his senior year surpassed that of the first four combined. Peake had the only 100-yard game of his career when he caught seven passes for 120 yards against Syracuse and ended on a high when he caught six passes for 99 yards against Alabama in the national title game, including two against Patriots draftee Cyrus Jones late.
Heading into the offseason, Peake fared well at the Senior Bowl, but didn't stand out from the pack. He ran a fast 40-yard dash at the combine, although his other numbers were underwhelming. However, when he reduced his 40 time again to 4.38 at his pro day, this drew more interest. While some felt he was worthy of being drafted much earlie
Peake lasted until the Jets' second pick in round seven, perhaps because of concerns over his knees. Let's move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Peake's video. Here are my observations, divided into categories.
Peake has a size-to-speed ratio which excites draft experts and, like nearly all of the Jets' picks, has outstanding length. Rotoviz refers to Peake at "the complete package" based on his athletic numbers.
At the combine, Peake displayed poor agility numbers and only average explosiveness. However, at his pro day, he not only improved his 40 time, but his 10-yard split from a poor 1.63 to 1.50, which would have been the best mark for a wide receiver at the combine. Peake also claims to have been timed at 4.19 for a 40 in 2014.
One concern is his hands which are below-average size. However, this may be somewhat overplayed because they're a full inch bigger than those of first-round draftee Will Fuller. Eric Decker actually has slightly smaller hands than Peake.
Peake also has a slight build and had just 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine.
Peake played primarily on the outside in 2015, and when he played in the slot that was often for blocking purposes on wide receiver screens.
In three games I charted, he played 17 snaps out of 122 in the slot. However, in one of those games he played just one snap in the slot, while in another he was in there almost 25 percent of the time. He caught five passes from the slot in 2015, but no big plays. In 2014, he actually did most of his damage from the slot, catching nine of his 12 passes and both his touchdowns, so he is capable of producing there.
Peake has had some success as a deep threat since returning from his ACL tear. Four of his five touchdowns last season came on downfield throws, as did one of his two in 2014. In all, he caught nine downfield throws in 2015.
Peake seems to track the deep ball pretty well and managed to buy some extra separation with a sneaky push-off at times.
Some have suggested that while Peake is a viable threat, he was miscast in a role that saw him required to run deep clear-out routes which limited his ability to produce at a higher level on shorter passes.
In particular, Matt Harmon from footballguys suggested Peake's scores on posts and out routes, in addition to some good work on slants, could mean that an NFL team could get even more production out of him if they used him differently.
However, there were times where he was able to catch a short pass and take it upfield for easy yardage because the defender was playing so far off, perhaps as a result of how often he ran a go route. Rob Rang described Peake as a "relatively raw route runner" but Peake did impress some experts with his crisp route running at the Senior bowl.
Here is an example of a sharp break back to the inside to snag a first down catch against top-five pick Jalen Ramsey, who he then drags for extra yardage.
On the negative side, below is an incompletion on a fade route where the pass was put exactly in the right spot but Peake was unable to get himself into position to make a play on the ball. He did catch a couple of touchdowns on fade routes in the past two years though.
Peake's hand size is below average, but not such a major concern that it would throw teams off. He only had five drops (on 55 catchable passes) in 2015 and none in 2014, so that almost suggests that this is a weakness that only gets mentioned so often because he is a player who doesn't have too many other obvious weaknesses.
Having said that, Peake did have some issues with drops in practice at the Senior Bowl, which may have given analysts more cause to play that up. Here's a particularly bad one from last season, where the ball was almost tipped by a defender which perhaps caused him to lose concentration.
This one didn't go down as a drop, but Peake did get his hands to the low pass and perhaps could have scooped it if he anticipated better and went to ground.
In terms of the catches he does make, Peake tends to catch the ball cleanly and impresses with his ability to make receptions when tightly covered and hang on to the ball when taking a hit. He showed his ability to make highlight reel type catches with this sparkling one-hander in 2014.
Yards after the catch
Peake has good speed but is not particularly elusive. In the open field, he'll often run over a defender rather than trying to elude him. Here's a nice play that shows off his burst and acceleration in the open field, though.
Blocking Peake is an extremely capable blocker with the ability to dominate defensive backs on the outside. Check out what he does to poor DJ White in the open field on this long touchdown run.
Unfortunately, Peake can be somewhat inconsistent as a blocker, occasionally whiffing on blocks in space and allowing his man to get off his block to make a play. Clemson's scheme often required their receivers to line up out wide to spread out the defense, so he did most of his blocking work when matched up with defenders in space. It wasn't often that they would bunch up and require him to make blocks closer to the tackle box, but here was one where he missed his target:
Physicality Josh Norris of Rotoworld made an interesting comment on Twitter stating Peake "is 6'2" but plays more small than big". In looking at some of the dominant plays he makes, you'd be forgiven for questioning the validity of this statement.
However, from watching a lot of video, you can perhaps see where those comments come from. It seems to be because he's so obviously capable of displaying dominant physicality that those moments where he is passive or displays less than full effort stand out on film. He needs to foucs on displaying more consistency there.
Here are a couple of back-to-back plays where you'd like to see more physical play from him against a small school opponent. On the first one, the ball is up for grabs and Peake does draw the pass interference call, but you'd like to see him outmuscling his man to secure the catch rather than reaching around him to fish for the ball. On the second one, he seems to make a half-hearted effort to sustain his block.
This is a much better two-play sequence from a physicality standpoint though as he powers ahead to get to the marker after a short grab and then makes an effective block on the outside.
That's not the best two-play show of physicality on Peake's highlight reel though.
What he did against Miami was the stuff of legend in the gif-scouting community. He lifted Artie Burns off the ground on one play and then absolutely destroyed him with a pancake block on the next one.
Peake did not commit any penalties over the past two seasons and posted an 18 on the Wonderlic test at the combine, which is apparently average for his position.
He was on the academic honor roll and graduated in 2014, before his redshirt senior year. On one play in the national championship game, Peake did a good job of improvising a route out to the sideline when the play was extended and made a tough grab with his feet just inbounds.
However, there was another play in that game where he must have got the call mixed up because he didn't look back for the ball and it was almost intercepted.
While Peake tries to work his way into the rotation with the Jets, he could be useful as a role player, perhaps as a deep threat - especially while Devin Smith is still recovering from his own ACL tear. In the long run, the best-case scenario would be for him to develop into a starter that could play a similar role to Decker.
While Peake played mostly on the outside last year and his effort was, at times, inconsistent, could he also contribute in a similar manner to Quincy Enunwa? He'd need to bulk up a bit, but he showed that he is capable of similarly physical play when he sets his mind to it. He had had some production from the slot, showing that he could be capable of doing that at the NFL level as well.
Peake didn't contribute much on special teams at Clemson, but with his speed and ability to be physical, he could make an impression here. His speed could also make him an option in the return game, but he doesn't really have any experience there having fielded just two kickoffs for 22 yards in college.
As you'd expect for anyone that has come back from a serious injury, Peake earned the respect of his coaches by coming back to become a key contributor for the Tigers. His work ethic and toughness have been praised. On the field, he can be a demonstrative player. Here he whiffs badly on a block in the open field and displays visible (and, for what it's worth, audible) frustration what it's worth, audible) frustration.
He made a controversial comment after the national title game loss when he said he felt Clemson had "dominated" Alabama, although in context he was talking about the few big momentum-changing plays that led to the Alabama win rather than being completely delusional.
Peake's slide into the seventh round was attributed to his knee issues, but apparently he wasn't flagged for any medical concerns at the combine and told reporters when he was drafted that he is now 100 percent.
Neither of Peake's knee injuries happened in games. He tore his ACL during a midweek practice and then suffered a meniscus tear during an offseason workout. When he returned to action in 2014, he was initially wearing a big brace but still caught touchdown passes in each of the first two games. However, he had just seven catches over the rest of the season as he dealt with swelling and inflammation.
Peake is an extremely popular pick in terms of being selected as a possible sleeper or bargain from this year's draft. That makes sense given he has shown flashes of ability and has an impressive athletic profile, but if he doesn't make it, anyone that predicted great things for him could attribute that to the knee problems that probably contributed to his slide anyway.
Those who praised Peake, besides those I've already mentioned, include NFL.com's Lance Zierling - who had him rated as the fifth-best receiver in the draft - and Bucky Brooks - who called him a Martavis Bryant clone. Peake's college coach, Dabo Swinney, said he was "as talented as any player we've had" and faster than any receiver he's ever coached. That's high praise coming from someone who has coached Bryant, Watkins and Hopkins.
Can Peake live up to this potential with the Jets, though? Some of the things that are holding him back like concentration and consistency of effort are within his control. Unfortunately, injury issues and the size of his hands are not. Nevertheless, Peake has a tantalizing athletic profile and shows the kind of pass-catching abilities and difference making potential as a blocker that give him a chance to be a better player in the pros than he was in college.
In the meantime, expect Peake to try and carve out a role for himself as he seeks to lock down a roster spot and prove himself worthy of being part of the team's longer-term future.
Up next: The last of the Jets' picks was punter Lachlan Edwards. In the next BGA we'll be looking at him, along with the other UDFA punters and kickers.
Corey Griffin and Brian Bassett put their wrap and reaction on the NFL Draft.
Eric Galko from Optimum Scouting joins the show for a full breakdown of Christian Hackenberg, Darron Lee, and where the Jets stand heading into rookie minicamp.
This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. On Thursday, we took a look at the Jets' fourth-round pick, cornerback Juston Burris from North Carolina State, but now we move on to discuss their fifth-round pick, South Carolina offensive tackle Brandon Shell. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Shell is listed at 6-foot-5, 324 pounds and started 48 of 52 games over four seasons with the Gamecocks. He started at left tackle in 2015, having been the starting right tackle over the previous two seasons and for most of his freshman year. NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Art Shell is his great uncle.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Brandon Shell?
Shell was a high school All-American before being recruited to South Carolina in 2011. He eventually redshirted his freshman year due to shoulder issues after playing just four offensive snaps.
Shell started his first game at left tackle as a red-shirt freshman in 2012, but struggled and was benched. Three games later, he moved back into the starting line-up at right tackle and would remain as a starter for 47 straight games over the rest of his career.
After two excellent seasons at right tackle in 2013 and 2014, Shell was moved to left tackle in 2015 to replacing the departed Corey Robinson.
Let's move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Shell's film. Here are my observations, divided into categories.
The imposing Shell has good size and excellent length with a powerful build. His workout numbers were good in terms of speed, agility and explosiveness. While he posted a disappointing 22 bench press reps, he does display good functional strength on film.
As a sign of how athletic he is, the Gamecocks ran a throw-back screen to him on a crucial two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter of their 23-22 upset loss to The Citadel in November. Shell caught the pass (which was a lateral so he didn't get flagged for being an ineligible receiver) but was cut down in the backfield. However, he must have displayed the ability to make that play in practice otherwise they'd never have tried it at such a crucial moment.
As noted, Shell started at right tackle for most of his career but was at left tackle in 2015 and for the first game of his career. When drafted, he told the media he was always more comfortable at right tackle, which is also where he played in high school. In the run-up to the draft, Shell had told reporters he would play left or right or even at guard if a team wanted him to.
Even though he was the left tackle in 2015, Shell did get to line up on the right sometimes, as the Gamecocks ran a lot of unbalanced line sets. That could make him a good option for jumbo packages, enabling the Jets to get some early production out of him assuming he doesn't win a starting role.
Here's an example of him in that role on the right side, controlling second-round draft pick Kevin Dodd at the point of attack.
Shell had a dominant season as a run blocker in 2014, but actually graded out negatively as a run blocker in 2015, according to PFF. Even so, he still showed flashes of dominance. Part of the reason for this was perhaps that he is more comfortable on the right side. Another factor was that the line as a whole was weakened, following the departure of NFL draftees A.J. Cann and Robinson.
One situation where Shell seemed to have a lot of negative plays was when throwing an immediate cut block at the snap. Whether this was something he could improve on technically, or simply something the scheme required him to do so often that his opponents were able to anticipate it, this led to a lot of players evading his block to make a play.
Shell is an effective double-team blocker and is so powerful that he regularly gets an initial surge at the line of scrimmage. He does sometimes lose leverage and allow his man to re-anchor and push back or get off the block though.
When he is at his best, Shell impresses with his athleticism and power in the running game. Let's look at some examples.
Here he sets an edge with a down block on a defensive tackle, getting excellent traction to drive him laterally and create a huge lane.
On this block, he breaks out to the second level and seals off the linebacker perfectly, again driving him laterally to create a lane.
On this second level block, he finds his target, turns him to the outside and drives him out of the play with a kick-out block.
This one is perhaps most impressive of all. On this play, Shell pulls to the outside, finds the inside linebacker in space and drives him completely out of the picture.
Clearly Shell has some tools to potentially be a very good run blocker. He just needs to improve upon his consistency and refine his technique.
Although Shell's run blocking grades weren't as good at left tackle as they had been when he was playing right tackle, his pass protection numbers were much better. According to PFF, Shell surrendered no sacks and just one quarterback hit in 2015, with only Spencer Drango and Joe Thuney (both of whom are expected to move to guard) having a better pass blocking efficiency score from this year's tackle class.
However, it's unrealistic to portray Shell as having made significant progress in this area. Perhaps because of their overall struggles in the line, South Carolina took extra measures to mitigate pressure and rarely left Shell on an island against a pass rusher unless there was a quick pass. South Carolina used moving pockets, left backs and tight ends in to block and threw a lot of quick passes to ensure their line wasn't overwhelmed. Their time to throw was less than 2.5 seconds almost 2/3 of the time, as opposed to just over half in the previous season.
It's especially interesting to review his performance against Clemson's Shaq Lawson in their final game of the year. Lawson plays almost exclusively on the right so Shell was matched up with him most of the time. Lawson had one sack, where he beat tight end Jerrell Adams, and, other than that, was credited with zero pressures. That should reflect well on Shell, but for most of the game he only matched up with Lawson a handful of times on plays that lasted more than a few seconds. He was required to block him a few times one-on-one down the stretch as South Carolina tried to mount a late comeback and actually held up quite well, though.
Here's one of the plays where he was matched up with him and, as you can see, he was too hesitant, as if anticipating a bull rush. Lawson blew past him for what should probably have been recorded as a pressure.
He did much better on this one though, anticipating and repelling the spin move from Lawson, even making the quarterback's job easier by taking him out of the passing lane.
Shell did block one-on-one a lot more as a right tackle in his junior season and fared reasonably well, giving up just three sacks and eight hits. These were mostly bunched together against some of the best pass rushers he faced, as he allowed one pressure or less in eight games. Shell had issues against the likes of Shane Ray and Dante Fowler in 2014. He was susceptible to outside pressure at times, but uses his long arms well and didn't get beaten inside very often.
Shell also uses cut blocks in pass protection and again doesn't always manage to do this effectively, as pass rushers either skip over him or get back up to generate pressure.
At times, Shell displays better technique than many of the project tackles that went earlier than him in this year's draft. He isn't always consistent with it, but he was a player who obviously made an effort to play with sound technique.
As already noted, he didn't have much success with cut blocks. Another issue was that - whether run blocking in space or pass protecting against an edge rusher - he sometimes bends at the waist and loses leverage, relying too much on his long arms instead of moving his feet.
However, when Shell does move his feet properly in pass protection, he tends to do well. He makes an effort to maintain a wide base, which when combined with the punches he fires off with his long arms, makes him effective against power moves and bull rushers. Despite scouting reports to the contrary, he does display the agility to counter inside moves so he could develop into an effective pass protector at the NFL level if he can establish and maintain sound technique.
Here's a play where pad level is a big issue and he gets stood up and driven into the backfield. That wasn't something that happened to him very often, but obviously this is another area where he will have to remain as consistent as possible at the NFL level.
Shell committed 13 penalties over the past two seasons, seven of which were in 2015. He was actually penalty-free in eight of 12 games, but had more than one penalty three times, including in back-to-back games in the middle of the season.
Shell can be prone to false starts and had some holding penalties either in space or when beaten in pass protection.
One thing that was impressive about Shell was that he seemed to be good at picking up stunts, making use of his long arms to pass off his man effectively.
Other than his false starts, one issue was that unblocked rushers came off his edge regularly, especially when he was on the left side. However, on none of these occasions did it seem like he blocked down when he shouldn't have, so that would appear to be a failing of the quarterback in terms of setting the protection.
Here's a good play where he perhaps didn't want to let Lawson get up field as quickly as he did, but recovered to instead kick him out and enable the option play over on that side to work.
His great uncle Art Shell, an NFL Hall of Famer, provides Brandon with not just pedigree and bloodlines, but also detailed feedback and pointers from watching his games. Presumably that's been a key factor in his development, so the Jets should make an effort to invite Art into camp, especially since Brandon might not play that much as a rookie.
With such a high-profile mentor, it's perhaps not surprising that Shell has been praised for his attitude, effort and work ethic. He's also been described as humble, modest and willing and he plays hard to the whistle. He also won academic honors and weight room honors while at South Carolina and improved his diet and worked hard to develop his technique in college.
In addition to the toughness he displayed by playing through some shoulder issues during his career, Shell also flashes some nastiness to his game. Here he pancakes a defensive lineman with the help of an initial double team.
Shell redshirted his freshman season because of shoulder issues and that continued to bother him. He eventually had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2015. Despite these issues, he hasn't missed a game due to injury, although he did get knocked out of one game as a freshman when he sprained his ankle.
Shell also saw his combine workout cut short due to a quadriceps injury. That was after Mel Kiper said he could solidify himself as a Day 2 pick with a strong performance.
Over the course of his career at South Carolina, Shell played on both sides and in zone, man and gap-based blocking concepts. The offense used zone-read, wildcat and spread packages in addition to more conventional plays. These should give him a good basic foundation to develop into a contributor on a pro-scheme.
Those techniques used by South Carolina to mitigate pressure in 2015 have all been used by current Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in the past, so while Shell might not project to be your classic blind-side protector, he hopefully shows solid enough fundamentals that you should be able to scheme around any tough match-ups he might find himself in if he proved to be a difference maker in the running game.
I thought there was a lot to like about this pick when the Jets made it and, having watched his film in detail, I'm still encouraged by this pickup - more than I had been with some of the other mid-round linemen the Jets have drafted in recent years.
He's obviously going to be a work-in-progress to some extent, otherwise he wouldn't still have been available on Day 3. However, the fact the Jets had been considering him with their fourth-round pick, and then felt strongly enough about him to give up a future fourth-round pick to secure him, suggests that they feel they've got good value here.
With D'Brickashaw Ferguson's retirement, Ryan Clady's durability concerns and Breno Giacomini's shaky-at-best short-term roster prospects, the Jets need some younger players to step into a role and establish themselves as a long-term contributor. Shell is going to be part of that mix and it will be interesting to see how he fares compared with the likes of Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana in camp. Even if he can't crack the rotation in his rookie season, I like Shell's chances of developing into a good right tackle as long as he can stay healthy.
Up next: A look at one of the Jets' seventh-round picks, wide receiver Charone Peake from Clemson. How can he give himself a chance of winning a roster spot?
Christian Hackenberg is used to all the scrutiny, the varying opinions about his skills and what he can and can't do on a football field.
Forget all that.
The New York Jets' second-round draft pick is in the NFL now, and he just might be a future franchise quarterback. For now, though, Hackenberg is simply ready to move on from an up-and-down career at Penn State that made him one of the most polarizing players in the draft.
"I think you're defined by how you react to adversity and how you're able to get back up," Hackenberg said before his first rookie minicamp practice Friday. "So, I think ultimately having to go through that at a young age and doing it through college is only going to help me in the long run. That's how I compartmentalize that. It's really been a stepping stone for me moving forward. I think it's only going to help."
His path was a bit uncertain for a while, especially depending on who you asked.
As a standout in high school at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, ESPN ranked him as the best pro-style quarterback recruit. He turned down several schools, such as Alabama, Florida and Tennessee, to go to Penn State - and maintained his commitment despite the NCAA sanctions against the Nittany Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Hackenberg had a terrific freshman season, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 2,955 yards under then-coach Bill O'Brien. But he seemed to regress after O'Brien left to become coach of the Houston Texans. He threw 28 TD passes, but also had 21 interceptions over the next two years, and was sacked a whopping 104 times in three seasons. >> Read more
Terron Beckham has bright blue hair, huge muscles and an even bigger NFL dream.
The colorful and confident cousin of Odell Beckham Jr. is getting an opportunity from the New York Jets to show he belongs here - even though he hasn't played in an organized football game since high school in 2010.
"I hope to show them that I'm a reliable back," said Beckham, a running back in rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. "I can do it all as far as catching, running, be powerful, be explosive, use my strength. Everybody knows that I'm a strong guy."
No doubt about it.
The 23-year-old Beckham is listed at 6-foot and a powerfully built 225 pounds. He became a bit of an internet sensation in recent months with his eye-popping workouts. Beckham has been a personal trainer and fitness model for the last few years, but had always had the desire to play in the NFL.
In April, he had an NFL combine-like pro day at TEST Sports Club in New Jersey. According to published reports, Beckham ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds, had a 44 1/2-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times in front of scouts from a handful of teams, including the Jets and Giants.
After the draft last weekend, the Jets called and offered him a chance to try out.
That would be a physical, aggressive running back who routinely pounds defenders. At the very least, Beckham looks the part. >> Read more...
Tags: Odell Beckham Jr.
The Jets have waived offensive tackle Sean Hickey, the team announced Friday.
Hickey, 6-foot-6, had signed a future/reserve contract with the team in late January.
The 24-year-old Hickey went undrafted in 2015, but spent time as a practice squad member with both the Patriots and Saints last season.
Hickey started 38 consecutive games to end his career at Syracuse, and was named third team All-ACC in his final year with the Orange.
The New York Jets made an offer to the New York Giants on the first night of the NFL Draft so they could trade up for Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, according to the New York Daily News' Gary Myers.
The Jets offered the Giants their first- and second-round picks, Nos. 20 and 51 overall, to the Giants for the 10th pick, according to Myers, for a chance to draft Tunsil, regarded as a top-three player in the draft before he fell on draft night in part due to a video of him smoking from a bong attached to a gas mask that surfaced immediately before the draft began.
Tunsil said his social media accounts, including his Instagram account that posted alleged messages between him and members of the Ole Miss athletics department that showed him asking for money, an NCAA violation, were hacked. He did not deny that the video of him smoking from the gas mask was him, though said it was old and added that he did not fail any recent drug tests.
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan had "strongly considered" trading with the Dallas Cowboys for the No. 4 pick and had previously expressed interest in trading up for Tunsil, a player he called a "good kid" when asked about him after the draft.
The Giants coveted cornerback Eli Apple and felt they didn't want to risk another team between No. 11 and 19 picking him, so they declined the trade. The Jets ended up drafting linebacker Darron Lee with the 20th pick and quarterback Christian Hackenberg with the 51st pick.
Tunsil ended up falling to No. 13, where the Miami Dolphins drafted him.
Updated Thursday, 10:48 p.m.: The Jets confirmed Thursday they have signed 13 undrafted free agents and have invited more 22 players to try out for the rookie minicamp that runs Friday through Sunday (comments by Bent of TheJetsBlog.com):
Robby Anderson, WR, Temple: Regarded as a possible mid-round pick after posting superb pro day numbers coming off a near-1,000 yard season.
Tarow Barney, DT, Penn State: Another athletic 300-pounder who did 31 bench press reps at his pro day.
Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State: Regarded as a potential draft pick a year ago but had just 41 catches in ISU's run-first offense coming off a 2014 knee injury.
Kyle Friend, C/G, Temple: Starting center the last few years but also saw some time at guard and did 41 bench press reps at his pro day.
Tom Hackett, P, Utah: Two-time Ray Guy award winner who can compete with 7th round pick Lac Edwards.
Ross Martin, K, Duke: Pro Football Focus called Martin the most accurate kicker available in the draft and both could provide competition for Nick Folk.
Jalin Marshall, WR/KR, Ohio State: Electric receiver and punt returner who slid after his workout numbers weren't as good as expected.
Helva Matungulu, DL, Western Carolina: Matungulu grew up in Kenya and was another small-school prospect whose stock was said to be rising prior to the draft.
Doug Middleton, S, Appalachian State: Heavy hitter who has played both safety positions and also some cornerback.
Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
Claude Pelon, DT, Southern Cal: 310-pound tackle who came on strong at the end of last year and did 33 bench press reps at his pro day.
Lawrence Thomas, DL, Michigan State: could play inside and out and shows promise against the run.
Jason VanderLaan, QB/TE, Ferris State: Athletic small school QB who the Jets are apparently going to convert to tight end.
Terron Beckham, RB: Cousin of Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. did not play in college, but has become an internet phenom with his workouts. At a pro day workout he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, did a 44-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot broad jump and 36 reps on the bench.
Romar Morris, RB, North Carolina: Didn't play much last year, but ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Dahon Taylor, OL, Virgina Union: Taylor is an athletic small-school prospect with good size from nearby Florence, NJ.
Other tryout invitees:
LS Winston Chapman, Mississippi State
LB Trent Corney, Virginia
RB Roderick Davenport, St. Augustine
OT Mathu Gibson, Wingate
LB Ben Goodman, Kansas
K Ryan Hawkins, Northern Arizona
WR Montario Hunter, Elizabeth City
CB Bryson Keeton, Montana State
LB Hunter Kissinger, Louisiana Monroe
OL Damian Love, Alabama State
LB Taylor McDonnell, Newberry
QB Liam Nadler, Gannon
LB Jake Payne, Shenandoah
TE John Quazza, Colgate
K Daniel Sobolewski, Albright
S Peni Vea, UNLV
S Alex Wells, Temple
OL Hayden Wilks, Newberry
DT Darren Wilson, Elizabeth City
The Jets announced Thursday night that they have signed three of the players taken in last week's draft: cornerback Juston Burris, tackle Brandon Shell and punter Lachlan Edwards. Their four other picks remain unsigned.
Burris was taken in the fourth round. He was a three-year starter at North Carolina State, with six career interceptions and 31 pass breakups. Last season, he was targeted 44 times and only allowed 15 completions and one TD. >>More on Burris here.
Shell, the great nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, was picked in the fifth round out of South Carolina. He played on the right side for three years before moving to the left last season. He played 52 games, started 48, and started the last 47 the second-longest consecutive-starts streak in school history. >>More on Shell here. .
Edwards, from Sam Houston State, went in the seventh round. He posted averages 42.3, 44.1 and 41.5 yards in his three seasons. Last year, 31 of his 74 punts landed inside the opponents 20-yard line. >>More on Edwards here. . .
The Jets have waived WR Joe Anderson, the team announced.
Anderson, 27, had been signed to the practice squad in December.
He originally signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
His story went national last year when he stood outside the Houston Texans facility with a sign that read: "Not homeless...but STARVING for success!!! Will Run Routes 4 food."
With a number of newly drafted players about to get signed, there is only so much room on the Jets roster namely a spot for seventh rounder Charone Peake. I'm sorry to see that Anderson won't get a chance to compete with the team in training camp this summer, but if the team really likes Anderson's potential as a special teamer or practice squadder they might yet bring him back should something else not work out for Anderson between now and training camp. Credit to Anderson for doing everything he could to latch on with a team ... I hope he gets another shot soon.
This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. On Tuesday, we took a look at the Jets' third round pick, linebacker Jordan Jenkins from Georgia, and now we move on to the discuss their fourth round pick, North Carolina State cornerback Juston Burris. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Burris is listed at 6-feet and 212 pounds, and was a three-year starter at cornerback for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. He started 43 games over the course of his career, including the last 41 in a row, and recorded six interceptions, 31 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Burris was a projected late-rounder in this year's draft before being selected by the Jets in the fourth round.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Juston Burris?
Burris began his collegiate career as a nickel back, racking up a team-leading 13 passes defensed and three interceptions in his freshman season as he started five games.
Over the next three seasons, Burris started every game, developing into a leader by his senior season. He only had one interception each season, but racked up a total of 121 tackles and 18 passes defensed over those three years. NC State had a 25-26 record while Burris was on the team, but they ended up with a winning record in three of the four seasons.
Burris struggled at the East-West Shrine Game and his performances at the scouting combine and his pro day were good but not great.
Let's move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Burris' film. Here are my observations, divided into categories.
Burris has good size for the position, although - unlike most of the Jets' picks this year - only has average arm length. He's big enough for a potential role at safety and has good strength, as displayed by his 19 bench press reps at the combine. Miles Killebrew (a 217-pound strong safety) and Sean Davis (who many are also projecting to safety) were the only defensive backs to beat that number.
Burris' straight line speed (4.53 40-yard dash) along with his vertical and broad jumps were adequate, but his agility numbers were poor. Based on this, he'd ideally be a good matchup for a bigger receiver or tight end, but might struggle with smaller and shiftier receivers.
Burris was employed almost exclusively as a boundary corner on the right side in 2015. He played just three snaps in the slot in 2014 and none last season. The only times where he wasn't used as the right cornerback were when there was no receiver on that side so he dropped off into a safety role. Even when he was a nickel back during his freshman year, he was still primarily used on the outside.
Burris put up pretty solid coverage numbers over the past couple of years, only giving up a completion on just over 50 percent of his targets.
One particular area where Burris really improved in his senior year was in terms of not getting beaten deep. In 2014, he gave up six catches of over 30 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown as he got torched down the sideline by a freshman against USF and a 31-yard touchdown on a diving catch by Mike Williams of Clemson. However, he had given up no 30-yard plays or touchdowns heading into the last game of the regular season in 2015. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to sustain that.
He let himself down in the last game against North Carolina, giving up this 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter. As you can see, he reacted badly to the burst of acceleration from his man and his safety wasn't able to get over and bail him out
Burris would give up another deep catch in the Belk Bowl, when he failed to get a clean jam on Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson at the line and got beaten down the sideline for 39 yards, although it looked like Burris would have recovered if not for a blatant push-off right before the ball arrived.
In those last two games, Burris was targeted 18 times and gave up his first two touchdowns of the season, after having been targeted less than three times per game over the first 11 game. The North Carolina game was by far his worst of the year, but he fared slightly better in the bowl game, with two pass breakups. Even with these two games, the average yardage given up on catches surrendered by Burris dropped from almost 18 in 2014 to just over 10 in 2015.
One area where Burris will sometimes struggle is in off coverage. He seems to lack elite closing speed and acceleration and this can lead to easy completions underneath. There's an example of this below, followed by a play where he anticipates the route of the receiver incorrectly and ends up losing his balance and giving up an easy touchdown (which the receiver drops).
Burris is a very physical player and was employed a lot in press coverage. He makes optimum use of the five-yard rule for contact beyond the line of scrimmage, but does play on the edge sometimes with this and his downfield hand-fighting. That could lead him to get flagged more than he did in college (six times last year, with four pass interference calls).
Burris plays up on the receiver on these two plays, giving up a quick slant for a first down while in pretty good position and then seeing the deep pass overthrown and incomplete. On that second play, he slows down the receiver within the first five yards and appears to be right with him until he sees the ball is overthrown. Would a perfect pass have been a touchdown, though?
While Burris would seem to match up well with bigger receivers, in his matchup with 6'5" Darren Waller of Georgia Tech in 2014, he gave up a 16-yard first down on a play where he was in good position but Waller was able to go up over him for the catch.
Other than slowing the receiver up with the jam at the line of scrimmage, one of the best skills Burris has is to cut off the receiver's route, using the sideline to his advantage, anticipating to get in front and using his size to maintain his position.
He did that to earn his only interception of last season, just about managing to avoid getting flagged as there was a lot of contact before the receiver slipped over:
When running downfield with receivers, Burris usually does a good job of getting his head turned around and locating the ball. However, he never managed to come close to matching the pass break-up numbers he put up in his first season. I'm sure that was at least partly due to the fact he was targeted more often as teams went after the freshman back-up corner.
As you can see from the above gif, he made a nice juggling catch and kept his feet inbounds. However, he has dropped a few interceptions over the course of his college career, which is disappointing because he played some receiver in high school. His other interceptions included one he snagged off a deflection, one as he jumped a route to pick off EJ Manuel, and one where he ran stride-for-stride with the receiver on a deep ball, got his head turned early and went up to get it in front of the receiver. All three of those were caught cleanly.
Here he closes well on a short catch and makes a good hit just short of the marker but doesn't manage to make a play on the ball:
Burris is regarded as a good run defender, but since he plays on the outside, he isn't involved in run support that much.
In an interesting example of some of the conflicting scouting reports you can get once you get past the well-known prospects, Nolan Nawrocki states that Burris could serve to be more aggressive in backside run support while PFF says he has a tendency to be over-aggressive and can lose backside contain.
On this play, he comes up in run support displaying willingness to make the stop, although he does get trucked backwards a couple of yards.
Burris is regarded as a good tackler that can lay some big hits in the secondary. He also became more of a secure tackler in 2015, more than halving his missed tackle total to just three.
He still had this bad missed tackle in the game against North Carolina, as well as another bad one against Devon Cajuste in the Shrine Game that led to a 22-yard play:
Burris also had a bad missed tackle in the flat that led to a 40-yard play in the game against FSU in 2014 and then, perhaps still down on himself for that, was slow to react to the receiver breaking to the outside, giving up a 15-yard touchdown two plays later.
He did close well to make a solid open field tackle on this play, forcing a field goal attempt that came up short.
Burris did not do much pass rushing in college, blitzing just 10 times over the past two years and recording one pressure. He had zero sacks in his college career.
While he would sometimes drop deep at the snap, Burris was primarily employed in man coverage, so he was able to concentrate on his role and not worry too much about breakdowns between man and zone defense. With that said, sometimes he would be too preoccupied with his man coverage assignment. That's on display below, where he realized too late that the run was coming his way and found himself blocked out of the play down the field.
Burris does have a tendency to gamble at times, including in the Shrine Game, where he bit on a pump fake into the flat in zone coverage, letting a tight end in behind him for a touchdown.
Burris has been praised for his work ethic and aggressive attitude. He matured over the course of his career and was considered a leader in his senior year. Apparently, he impressed the Jets with his knowledge about their scheme and depth chart when they interviewed him.
On the field, he's constantly battling with his man and often gets involved in chippiness after the whistle. In one game, he was punched in the face, drawing an ejection.
There were also some plays where it seemed like he went through the motions when a play went away from him and then wasn't in position when it ended up breaking back to his side of the field.
Burris didn't contribute much on special teams in college. He did have one special teams penalty last season and saw some action in a vice role. He also saw some duties as a return man in high school.
Burris played in every game over the course of his career and managed to remain injury free.
Burris is an interesting prospect who showed some nice things on film and played with a level of consistency that no doubt enhanced his reputation throughout most of 2015.
It's disconcerting that Burris had some struggles over his last two games of the year. Heading into the last game of the regular season against North Carolina he had posted coverage numbers that were elite compared to the rest of this year's class. He was in first place in terms of yards per coverage snap, the top five for coverage snaps per reception, and QB rating when targeted and the top 10 for overall grade per PFF. Also, as noted earlier, he hadn't given up a 30-yard pass play or a touchdown.
Unfortunately, he had a really poor game against North Carolina, as his team fell behind 35-7 in the first quarter and eventually lost, 45-34. While he had a better game in the Belk Bowl, he still gave up a big pass play and a touchdown, which he'd managed to avoid for so long earlier in the year.
I assume the Jets were encouraged by the consistency of his performances and film from the rest of the season and happy to write the Tar Heels game off as a bad day at the office with any of the mistakes he made being considered either uncharacteristic or fixable. Alternatively, perhaps they learned he was playing hurt or something of that nature.
The Jets obviously really liked Burris to take him a couple of rounds earlier than most expected, but I do wonder whether his skill set would be better suited for him to become more of a role player than a full-time starter. That doesn't mean it is destined to be a bad pick, though. After all, if Burris matches up well with a type of player others on the team are not physical enough to handle, that could make him a valuable piece going forward.
Up next: A look at the Jets' fifth round pick, offensive tackle Brandon Shell from South Carolina. Is he a potential future starter?
... And NEEEWWWWW TJB Annual Draft Picks Projection Contest Champion:
Congratulations to Carl, who was one of three contestants to correctly identify two selections. He won the tiebreaker because he was just one off on his guess for where Cardale Jones would be drafted.
Commiserations go to our runners-up, Pablo Bruno and Dimps5790. who also each named two correct selections. Pablo even correctly stated that Jones would go to the Bills, only to miss the correct pick number by 119 slots.
For the record, a lot of you called the Christian Hackenberg pick, but only five people predicted the Jets would draft Darron Lee, and the same number correctly called the Jordan Jenkins pick. Michael Hunter was the only person to correctly name a Day 3 pick when he included Brandon Shell in his list.
As for the rest of the Day 3 picks ... nobody saw those coming. There were a ton of you that thought the Jets would draft Tom Hackett, but unfortunately undrafted free agents don't count.
Give carlhungus your congratulations in the comments!
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan won't rule out the possibility of the team carrying four quarterbacks this season.
The Jets currently have Geno Smith and Bryce Petty under contract and recently drafted Christian Hackenberg.
Meanwhile, the team remains open to re-signing free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"In a perfect world, I think if it's in the best interest of the team at the end of training camp that we carry four quarterbacks, then we carry four quarterbacks," Maccagnan said on WFAN radio, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. "It's not unprecedented in the NFL. It's been done before. To me, it's a position where you have to take some time to really invest, grow, and develop players."
The Jets could conceivably keep four QBs on their roster for the 2016 season but it would be a waste of roster space. The Jets are playing coy with their quarterbacks because maybe they think they can get a little something for one of them in a trade should they bring Ryan Fitzpatrick back via free agency.
The truth is someone is going to give; Geno Smith could be their starter or he could be on the street. The Jets could also be willing to part ways with Bryce Petty now that they've drafted a quote-unquote more expense and more recent version of Petty in Hackenberg.
Tags: Bryce Petty , Geno Smith , Ryan Fitzpatrick
This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. Yesterday, we took a two-part look at quarterback Christian Hackenberg, but now we move on to look at the Jets' third round pick, linebacker Jordan Jenkins from Georgia. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 21-year old Jenkins is listed at 6'3" and 259 pounds and was a regular starter at outside linebacker for four years at Georgia. He recorded 204 tackles, 19 sacks, five passes defensed, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries over the course of his career. During those four seasons, Georgia went 40-13, as Jenkins played in 52 games. After almost entering the NFL draft in 2015, he returned for his senior season and was drafted by the Jets in the third round.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Jordan Jenkins?
Jenkins made an immediate impact as a freshman, starting six games at outside linebacker and recording 31 tackles and five sacks. Over the next two seasons, he would start every game, recording 45 tackles (including 12 for loss, which was 5th-best in the SEC) and five sacks in 2013 and a career-high 70 tackles and five sacks in 2014. He had lost weight entering the 2014 season and took on a slightly different role.
In his senior year, Jenkins' production was down slightly (58 tackles and four sacks), but that's because he was hampered by a groin/hip injury that caused him to miss one game and be limited in several others. He had played over 200 more snaps in 2014.
Jenkins attended the senior bowl but pulled his hamstring at the scouting combine and couldn't complete a full workout. He did complete the disciplines he missed at his pro day though. Most sources have had him listed as a third-rounder or thereabouts throughout most of the draft process so he was selected about where expected by the Jets.
Let's move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Jenkins' film. Here are my observations, divided into categories.
Like most of the Jets' picks this year, Jenkins has good length (34¼" arms) and he has solid size for a 3-4 outside linebacker role at the NFL level. He was apparently playing at about 270 in 2013, before losing weight and being closer to 250 over the past two years.
He's not an elite level athlete, as he ran a 4.80 40-yard dash at the combine and then couldn't improve upon that at his pro day. His agility numbers were also poor. He did post good explosiveness numbers at the combine, though. He then improved upon those numbers at his pro day, which saw him post a 38" vertical.
Jenkins is regarded as a player with good functional strength but his 16 bench press reps at the combine was a disappointing number. He improved upon that slightly with 19 at his pro day, but that's still unexpectedly low and perhaps something he will need to continue to work at.
Jenkins was mostly employed as a stand-up outside linebacker over his first two seasons before moving into the "Jack linebacker" role in 2014. Confusingly, in the Bulldogs' defense, that's a hybrid DE/OLB role rather than the ILB role Bart Scott had with the Jets when he played a position with the same name under Rex Ryan.
Jenkins' role actually varied from week-to-week. Against Georgia Tech, a triple-option offense, he played outside linebacker on 41 of his 43 snaps and only had his hand in the dirt twice. Against Florida, he played just 16 snaps because he was limited by injury, but 10 of these saw him with his hand in the dirt. Against Alabama, they made an adjustment in the second half and employed him regularly as an off-line linebacker playing about four yards deep. He also saw a lot of pass rush reps where he would line up in the B gap (between guard and tackle) and rush the interior.
There were rare occasions where he would match up with a receiver in the slot, but he usually only dropped into coverage a few times per game.
Jenkins did a solid job in the running game at Georgia with his run stop productivity matched only by Joey Bosa from the top prospects in this year's edge defender class.
The book on Jenkins is that he's a good edge setter in the running game. That's interesting because that strong-side edge setter role is something the Jets seemed to have ear-marked for Lorenzo Mauldin in the long run. I wonder if last season, where Mauldin showed better than expected speed-rushing ability off the edge but perhaps underwhelmed in other areas, changed their thinking here. If they were to end up as the two starters at outside linebacker, there's a good chance that they would complement each other well and be somewhat interchangeable to boot.
When setting the edge, Jenkins uses his length well and extends his arms in textbook fashion. He does that well here, penetrating into the backfield so there's no chance for the runner to bounce the run outside and shedding the block to bottle up the runner in the hole.
Some of that explosiveness Jenkins displayed during his pre-draft workouts is also evident as Jenkins has the ability to shoot a gap and make plays in the backfield.
He explodes into the backfield to blow up this play, after initially overpowering the left tackle at the point of attack:
As you can see, he is capable of displaying good strength and has an ability to get penetration and shed blocks. He doesn't always hold up at the point of attack though, with leverage issues leading to him being driven off the line at times, especially when double-teamed. As a general rule, Jenkins was dominant when matched up against a tight end (including some NFL-level prospects) but less so against bigger linemen.
Here are two plays that provide an example of that contrast. On the first play, he easily sheds the block from Georgia Tech's A-Back on the left side and blows the run up in the backfield. However, on the second play, he ends up being driven off the line and sealed to the inside by a bigger lineman.
Jenkins displays a good ability to get downhill, bottling up runs and pursuing in space over short distances. His balance seems to be good when moving laterally, but he does end up on the ground sometimes when fighting at the point of attack.
This play is a good example of him moving well laterally, avoiding traffic and pursuing a pitch play to make a stop on the outside:
Jenkins displays a good ability to wrap up ball carriers and take them to the ground, although I'd be wary of the fact he could have been flagged a few times for driving a player into the turf if he did the same at the NFL level, especially if it was a quarterback. He can hit hard too, which has contributed to his six forced fumbles over the course of his career.
In terms of missed tackles, Jenkins' numbers are good as he only had 11 missed tackles over the past two seasons. From what I saw, nearly all of those were in the backfield as he tried to make a big play and a few of them led to the play being blown up by someone else anyway.
I didn't see a lot from Jenkins in open space, because he did most of his work in the trenches, although he made one or two plays.
Jenkins is used to handling a big workload and remaining productive. He regularly seemed to make big plays late in close games.
Jenkins played over 80% of the snaps five times last season and nine times in 2014. He even played 100% of the snaps in two games, including the Alabama game last year. That was the game mentioned above where he was employed as an off-line linebacker in the second half. I don't know if that was partly due to fatigue or because he'd been having a rough time of it at the point of attack against Alabama's big offensive line, but he still made a couple of big plays and graded out positively. It was immediately after that game that he started having the groin/hip issues though.
Jenkins was never among the SEC sack leaders, but showed good consistency as a pass rusher with five sacks in each of his first three seasons and four in his injury-limited senior campaign. He doesn't strike me as a player who will put up big pass rush numbers in the NFL, but can certainly contribute in that area. If he's going to take on a Calvin Pace style role with this team then he would have other responsibilities in terms of coverage and pocket integrity, but as the same time should get opportunities to amass production cleaning up.
In 2015, Jenkins only had three games where he rushed the passer more than 20 times and his production in these games was excellent (three sacks, three hits, 12 pressures). However, in the other nine games, he only had one sack, two hits and nine pressures. Maybe this is a sign that he needs a bigger workload to get himself going.
Another issue is that he didn't face many NFL-level prospects and didn't produce much on those few occasions where he did. Those three games mentioned above were all against teams with bad offensive lines and while he played more on the right side, he had significantly higher production going against right tackles than left tackles.
Jenkins also had better production when coming out of a three point stance and his best productivity came while bull rushing rather than coming off the edge. As already noted, he rushed on the interior quite a lot, which means he was double teamed a lot when compared to other edge rushing prospects, which obviously factors into his productivity.
Here's a play where he shows a quick get-off and drives the right tackle back into the quarterback to flush him from the pocket:
That doesn't mean he was incapable of rushing on the outside, although he did tend to take advantage of some bad tackles (and some tight ends). When he gets a rush off the edge he does it more with dip and leverage techniques than a natural lean. He excels at using a rip move, which is relevant because defensive line coach Pepper Johnson favors that technique over the swim move.
This is an excellent job by Jenkins who swats the left tackle to the floor, gets upfield leverage to overpower the back around the outside and then displays burst to bear down on the quarterback and set up a game clinching interception (which his teammate promptly drops).
Much like Mauldin before him, Jenkins did not drop into coverage much at all in college. He typically did this just a few times per game. Even when he did drop, most of his assignments would be a soft jam at the line and then dropping into a shallow zone. I did see him take a few deeper drops but that was rare.
He did make a few plays in coverage, typically rushing initially and then breaking off to make a tackle after a short pass into the flat. While he had five passes defensed in his career, only one of these was over the past two seasons and some of them were probably batted passes at the line.
Jenkins was targeted just once in coverage over the past two years and that saw him back-pedalling a few steps into a short zone against a tight end. The fact that the quarterback threw a quick pass to his man as he dropped in behind him seemed to take him by surprise as his hips were turned out towards the sideline so he struggled to recover and chase him down. The dump-off pass went for 23 yards. While this is the smallest of samples, it's obvious Jenkins will need some technical refinement before he can be relied upon to handle the coverage responsibilities of the strong-side position he's expected to occupy.
Jenkins is regarded as having good instincts and I didn't see much evidence of misreads, overpursuit or mental errors from him.
One of the most important jobs for an edge setter is not to give up outside contain and Jenkins does well to limit that most of the time, but there were a few instances where the runner got to the outside. One of those saw him failing to anticipate a bounce outside and getting sealed to the inside to set up a 65-yard run. Another example is in that double-gif above where he didn't anticipate the pulling lineman making a reach block to again seal him to the inside on a counter.
On the play below, Jenkins initially misreads the play-fake and takes out the wrong player, but he displays the kind of ability to recover you perhaps wouldn't expect from his underwhelming pro day agility numbers and still makes the play when the quarterback is forced back inside.
His instincts in coverage perhaps need work, but that's hopefully something that will come naturally with experience.
Jenkins didn't contribute much on special teams in college because he was a defensive starter, but I would expect him to be expected to contribute there as a young player with the Jets. His lack of straight line speed and open field agility might limit him there but he could do well in blocking or rushing roles with his physicality.
Since he played such a versatile role in college, I wouldn't expect it to be a major transition for Jenkins to feel comfortable in most of Todd Bowles' packages. I could see him being a "starter" in the base defense but perhaps not getting all the reps in sub-packages and pass rushing situations initially.
Jenkins is a fiery player who seems to give good effort and gets fired up when the defense makes a big play. After the 2013 season, Jenkins admitted that he didn't work hard enough and vowed to be more aggressive. Over the past two seasons, he has impressed with his "professional attitude".
Jenkins committed just one penalty over the past two seasons and that was when he jumped offside (although it did negate an interception).
Jenkins missed just the one game in his entire college career with that groin/hip injury last season. This did limit him though, as he played just 50 total defensive snaps in the four games between week five and week 11.
With Calvin Pace departing, the Jets need someone who sets the edge well and Jenkins did an excellent job of this in college. While I think that's initially the role they hoped Mauldin would step into, I think it makes sense for them to target another edge setter type to pair him with rather than targeting a pure pass rusher. Who knows, though? Maybe Jenkins will follow in Mauldin's footsteps and show the most initial promise as a pass rusher after all.
I don't anticipate Jenkins being the kind of player who threatens to be a double-digit sack monster every year, but hopefully he's good enough in that area that his contributions will still be valuable. While it's evident most of his production as a pass rusher came against sub-NFL talent, his abilities in that area display plenty of promise.
This is a pick which fills an obvious need and, while Jenkins is not a flashy player that will jump out at you on film, he's potentially someone with a low floor that can hopefully contribute right off the bat and has the potential to develop into a key contributor.
Up next: A look at the Jets' fourth round pick, defensive back Juston Burris from North Carolina State. Can he challenge for a spot in the defensive backfield rotation?
The New York Jets 'strongly considered' trading their first round pick to the Dallas Cowboys, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan admitted to Mike Francesa on Tuesday on WFAN radio.
The Cowboys reached out to a number of teams drafting in the teens and 20s, including the Jets, in hopes of moving back into the first round to select QB Paxton Lynch. The offer was Dallas' second and third round picks (Nos. 34 and 67), according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, but the Cowboys found no takers.
"The deal was a deal we strongly considered," Maccagnan said on Tuesday. "And probably came fairly close to it. But at the end of the day, we liked the player at [No.] 20, and felt good about taking him and going forward."
The Jets used the pick to select linebacker Darron Lee from Ohio State.
"It was a situation where, maybe if there's different players available and Lee wasn't available, maybe it would have been a trade we would have considered [even] more strongly," said Maccagnan. "Everybody uses trade charts, so you try to figure out what's fair. At the end of the day, we felt it would be better in our interests to hold onto the pick and take the player."
New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan appeared on ESPN Radio on Monday and gave his thoughts about Christian Hackenberg, Laremy Tunsil and Dee Milliner. Here's what he said:
- Maccagnan did not rule out the possibility of Hackenberg, New York's second-round pick, playing in 2016, though added that he hopes the team can re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- Hackenberg's maturity will be a factor in determining his playing time early on.
- Maccagnan said he is "excited" to see what Geno Smith can do and is looking forward to seeing Bryce Petty's progression.
- Maccagnan said Tunsil, a top-ranked offensive lineman who fell to the No. 13 spot after a video surfaced of him smoking a bong out of a gas mask prior to the draft, was a good kid. The Jets considered trading up for Tunsil on Thursday.
- Though the Jets will not pick up Milliner's fifth-year option, Maccagnan said Milliner is a "wild card" in a good way. Should Milliner play well in 2016, the Jets could look to negotiate a contract after the season.
Tags: Bryce Petty , Dee Milliner , Geno Smith , Ryan Fitzpatrick
The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone, so how did the Jets fare? In truth we won't know for at least two to three years, and assigning grades just hours after a player has been selected and has yet to even take a single practice snap is folly, but folly we all love to read anyway.
We thought we would take a little different approach and list the players the Jets got through the 2016 NFL Draft process and how soon they might contribute to the team on the field come the regular season...
DAY ONE STARTERS
WILB Darron Lee (Ohio State), Pick No. 20
Lee is the second step in Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan's multiyear overhaul of the team's aging linebacking corps. In general, Todd Bowles has deferred to veterans on the roster with a few exceptions and Bowles said during the draft press conference that Lee will be behind Erin Henderson but start in third down packages immediately.
I expect the Jets' first-round pick will catch and surpass Henderson at some point in training camp. Lee more naturally slots into the weak inside linebacker role than Henderson does and brings more playmaking ability to it. Unless Lee can't absorb the playbook, the rookie should quickly start and will bring sideline to sideline range in backside pursuit, blazing fast interior blitz speed and technically sound coverage skills from his days as a safety in college and high school. Lee is a perfect embodiment of Bowles' de-emphasized pass rush from the edge in favor of his heavily interior blitz scheme -- a fact driven home further by this next player.
SOLB Jordan Jenkins (Georgia), Pick No. 83
Take a bow, Calvin Pace. It has been an incredible run for a player who started with the team in 2008 as a free agent from Arizona and has been an integral part of this defense for every year since then. While Pace was never a sack machine, his textbook sealing the edge to take away the fulcrum point of any opponents' running game was vital to the long-term success of this defense.
Jenkins will be expected to take the torch from Pace and should be a player in the Courtney Upshaw style. Jenkins was the less heralded Georgia linebacker in this draft to Leonard Floyd, but was the more productive college player. With a wide open spot at the position, I fully expect Jenkins to assume the starter's role in camp. Expect Jenkins to be utilized attacking upfield against the edge of the offense and have limited success against the pass, but to be a stout player against the run.
P Lachlan Edwards (Sam Houston), Pick No. 235
I know Edwards won't be a "starting 22" player, but I think we can all agree that Ryan "Shankapotomus" Quigley did enough damage to both sides of the ball with his errant punts that I am treating the Jets drafting a punter as a deadly serious matter. It is no coincidence that Edwards was drafted in a year where the NFL moved their touchback to the 25 yard line. While Edwards' 42.5 YPP average in college is fine, it is his hangtime which supposedly sets him apart. With a new rule, smart teams will be looking to hang punts (and kickoffs) in the air just shy of the goal line to get their coverage under it. In case Edwards doesn't work out, they've also brought in Tom Hackett (Utah), the punter with the best average punt distance in 2015 as a free agent.
OT Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos), Pre Draft Trade
Since he was acquired along with the selection that became Charone Peak for a fifth rounder I think it is fair to include Clady in the group. Clady will take over the left tackle position given up by the retiring D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He has struggled to stay healthy but should be an arbitrage version of Ferguson assuming he can hold up for a full season.
CB/S Juston Burris (NC State), Pick No. 118
If you like hard-nosed cornerbacks who are solid in man coverage, relish run support and have some ball skills then Burris is just that sort of prospect. While he needs to work on his technique to see time on the field in the NFL, Burris held opponents to a 34 percent completion rate as a senior and allowed just one touchdown in 44 targets.
I expect Burris will see work as a core special-teamer initially. Depending on how training camp and the preseason games go, he might work into the cornerback rotation early. Longer term, I could easily see Burris becoming a much bigger part of the defense as a safety/corner hybrid in Bowles' multiple scheme. Coverage safeties in the NFL become harder and harder to acquire through the draft, so to me Burris is just the sort of prospect who loves physical play and has enough functional strength and coverage skills to be a fantastic free safety in the NFL if given time to adjust.
DOWN THE ROAD … MAYBE
QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Pick No. 51
I am not going to get into Hackenberg here. Just expect there's more to come from me and you should really be reading Bent's BGA on this anyway.
OL Brandon Shell (South Carolina), Pick No. 158
While he has the size, frame, length and history as a starter in college in the SEC, Shell doesn't have the quick gliding feet to play at the left tackle position. He also hasn't demonstrated the ability to generate enough power and leverage through his dipping and bending to best play at guard. In the end, Shell might be best suited as a right tackle only, which is never good for a player, especially if that player might only be a backup. To me, Shell looks like a hold-the-fort type who will have a hard time getting a starting spot as a right tackle and might be upgraded on even if/when he does.
WR Charone Peake (Clemson), Pick No. 241
You might have noticed that Chan Gailey has a thing for wide receivers who are over six feet tall, are physical downfield run blockers and can streak downfield just as easily as run technical routes in the short game. Could Charone Peake be the developmental receiver the Jets have needed for years?
While some analysts think Peake generally plays smaller than big, he has put some crushing blocks, nastiness and impressive paws on film. He also impressed scouts with his technically sound route-running at the Senior Bowl.
Our old friend Matt Miller even found himself warring with his biases of recent Clemson receivers yet still walking away impressed with what he saw from Peake.
Peake struggled to stay healthy, was almost never used as a special-teamer in college and was miscast in a deep speed role at Clemson. If the Jets were to allow Peake to utilize his strengths, he might wind up being quite the steal.
Peake might never become a workhorse NFL receiver, but I give big credit to the Jets for looking in the right places. There is no Combine test which can indicate success but if there were, Peake would be the singular best prospect in 2016 on that logic. Throw in some of the impressive things he's done on tape and if he can stay healthy and be used in the right role, there's real potential that outweighs where the Jets drafted him.
Tags: Brian Bassett
In part one of our look at the Jets' second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I set the scene by reviewing his career so far and critiquing a must-watch analytics video from YouTube. In this part, I move on to look at some of my own analysis from watching Hackenberg's film.
While the analysis is based on multiple games, all gifs are from the Michigan State game which - perhaps more than any other - had a healthy mix of good and bad moments despite being a 55-16 blowout loss (and Hackenberg's worst-graded game of the year) in the end.
The game was initially tight with Penn State about to make it a one-possession game late in the second quarter, but then the Spartans returned a fumble by one of the receivers for a long touchdown. Hackenberg led a touchdown drive to cut the lead to 10 just before halftime, but the third quarter saw two time-consuming touchdown drives on either side of a three-and-out to make it 34-10 and effectively put the game out of reach.
Here are my observations, divided into categories...
Hackenberg has pretty good athletic numbers and good size, but one concern would be his small hand size. He has the same size hands as Jared Goff, who -- even though he would ultimately get selected first -- reportedly had some teams losing interest in him due to that fact.
As everyone now knows due to the ongoing deflategate discussions, an ability to grip the ball more easily helps you in two main areas. One is ball security in terms of fumbles and the other is in terms of how tightly you can throw a spiral, especially when pressured.
To address those specific issues, it's interesting to note that despite getting sacked over 100 times in three years Hackenberg's fumble stats are not that bad. He fumbled 17 times, losing 10 of those. Even more encouraging, that got better last season as he had a career-low three fumbles.
Less encouraging, though, would be this play:
With regard to the other issue, it's worth noting that Hackenberg can throw a tight spiral, especially on deep balls and when his feet are set. However, in the Kollman video discussed in Part 1, there's one play where he praises Hackenberg for making an accurate back shoulder throw under pressure. But it's a fluttering duck that could hang up enough on a cold December game in New Jersey for most NFL defensive backs to be able to make a play on it.
Displaying arm strength on deep balls is another area where Hackenberg has done well at times but hasn't seen much success overall. A high proportion of his completions last season were close to the line of scrimmage when compared with other prospects. In addition, a lot of the downfield completions he made were of the jump-ball variety rather than throwing deep to a receiver who gets behind the defense.
There are some nice examples on film of him setting his feet and throwing a pinpoint deep ball, but he also had a lot of underthrows due to pressure. Penn State's documented issues on the offensive line were perhaps a factor in his lack of downfield passing success, though.
Naturally, arm strength isn't just about the deep ball. In fact, even guys like Chad Pennington could loft a 50-yard bomb over the top. Can he fit a pass into a tight window or complete a long out, though? As you'd expect, this again tends to come down to footwork from Hackenberg. When he gets it right, he's capable of throwing a rope, but when pressured, his technique can get sloppy and his passes can flutter.
Here's the best example of that you could hope to see. Just to emphasize how off-balance he was when he threw that wobbler, Hackenberg stumbled over and fell on his backside after releasing the throw, although you can't see it from this angle.
Here's a successful throw zipped into a tight window, but it does beg the question whether Hackenberg saw the defensive back lurking and about to jump the route. One man's "accurately zipped tight window throw" is another man's "interceptable pass." So was this a reckless throw or an example of how Hackenberg has the arm talent to exploit even the smallest amount of separation? Did that throw have enough zip on in to prevent an elite NFL-level defensive back from making a play on the ball, I wonder?
As noted above, Hackenberg's accuracy numbers are poor and cannot be explained away by attributing them to drops and the like.
Once again, there are plenty of examples on film of Hackenberg throwing a perfectly timed pass right on the money, but there's more where his throw is off-line and once again this usually worsens when he's under pressure.
In the MSU game, Hackenberg's red zone accuracy was very disappointing as the team really struggled to finish off drives. Penn State ran 15 plays inside Michigan State's 10 yard line but they only got in the end zone twice as Hackenberg was 3-for-9 and one of the touchdowns came when a defensive back slipped over and left a receiver open in the end zone. However, the other touchdown did display accuracy as his throw was in the perfect position where only the receiver could get it.
Seeing his completion percentage drop in each season (from 59 percent as a freshman to 53 percent last year) is a concern, as is the fact that he completed less than half of his passes in about 30 percent of his games at Penn State. Not being able to reach the 60 percent completion threshold in any of his three seasons is disappointing, but even worse is the fact that he only completed more than 60 percent of his passes in one game last season.
Here's the most difficult variable to assess in terms of Hackenberg's pro potential: A Hackenberg apologist would say that he didn't stand a chance because of Penn State's notoriously terrible offensive line, which meant he was constantly under pressure. However, his doubters might point to the fact that he was part of the problem because he was responsible -- perhaps moreso than other collegiate quarterbacks -- for setting the protection. Also, he habitually made poor decisions, rushed his throw or exhibited sloppy footwork when the pressure came.
How bad was the offensive line, anyway? They've had a couple of NFL-level prospects in front of him. John Urschel, a fifth-round pick, left after Hackenberg's freshman year and Donovan Smith, a second-round pick, was there throughout his first two seasons.
They also had Garry Gilliam, who has since started 17 games in the NFL, on the team in Hackenberg's freshman year, but he only played one game on the offensive line as he was converting from tight end.
The 2015 group was assuredly bad, though, with several less experienced players forced to step up. Angelo Mangiro was their only 2015 draft prospect and he was rated outside the top 600 by CBS and still hasn't been picked up. Also, as Jets fans know all too well, even if you have a couple of great linemen, the old adage that you're only as strong as your weakest link is often true. And it's obvious that Penn State's line had some individuals who were overmatched throughout Hackenberg's career.
With the offensive line regressing over the course of his career, it's worth noting that Hackenberg was only sacked 21 times in his freshman season and he admitted on Gruden's QB camp that 10 or 11 of these were because he held the ball for too long. He will smartly throw the ball away at times, though.
Here's a play where Hackenberg displays the kind of indecisiveness that made Mark Sanchez so frustrating to watch. Obviously the blocking on this play is really poor but Hackenberg has to eat the ball because he waits a beat too long. If you watch the play, you can see he had a good chance to throw the quick slant for a first down to the receiver looking for the ball in the right slot. He also could've thrown to the receiver running a drag route from the left side who also might have had a chance to get to the marker.
Here's a play where Hackenberg makes a mistake more reminiscent of Geno Smith than Sanchez. Again, the blocking up front is awful, but if he takes the sack immediately that would set up a third-and-10. If he anticipated slightly better he might have been able to step up and get closer to the line of scrimmage before going down or maybe even throw the ball away. However, through trying to extend the play by going backwards, he leaves the team in a drive-killing third-and-18 situation.
As a bonus, No. 8 on Michigan State who drives back the right tackle and completes the sack is one of Saturday's undrafted free agent pickups, Lawrence Thomas.
If the Jets can protect Hackenberg well, perhaps with an added expectation that pro level players will do a more reliable job of responding to him setting the protection, this could mean he's in a better position to succeed than he ever was in college. However, until he gets that chance, you can never be too sure if the damage done at Penn State will prove permanent, meaning he'll always be a player who lacks poise because he's so used to being rattled by pressure and not able to trust his protection.
As noted above, Hackenberg is unique in terms of modern quarterback draftees in that his footwork when under center is well developed. However, he sometimes displays lazy and sloppy footwork out of the shotgun and there are good examples of this in the video discussed earlier. He also displays poor footwork when under pressure at times, as most quarterbacks do.
However, here's a good example of him going through his progressions to throw a strike for a fourth down conversion, as he slides across laterally to avoid pressure and open up a passing lane, then plants and delivers with good technique.
In addition to footwork issues, Hackenberg has a bit of a wind-up in his delivery, which I'm sure the Jets would like to see him sharpen up.
Are these issues fixable, though? That's the $64 million dollar question, but the Jets wouldn't have picked him where they did if they didn't think the answer was yes.
This is a major area of concern for Hackenberg. Again, you can potentially make excuses for him by questioning the system or the play-calling, but it's difficult to excuse him forcing a throw, failing to see an open receiver or not anticipating a defender jumping a route. And he did all three of these things too often at Penn State.
Still, there's some scope for encouragement that he made progress in that area. Hackenberg only threw five interceptions in his final season - a career low - including just two in the first 11 games. That included an impressive streak of 203 passes without an interception.
The Michigan State game was actually the only game all season where he had more than one interception. The first, as you can see, was simply a case of "taking a shot" after getting in range on an early drive. The announcers even said that head coach James Franklin had told them this was something he intended to do in that game.
So, what's on the face of it a poor decision and a poorly-placed throw is perhaps also an example of the maddening coaching some people have used to excuse some of Hackenberg's issues -- especially in light of the fact that so much of the downfield success they did have was on successful jump-ball plays similar to this one.
This should have been a second one, as he bails out of a throw under pressure and lofts an ill-advised pass into double-coverage. That's an awful decision, especially since he had a receiver wide open in the flat. Could this be a further reaction to the fact his coach was encouraging him to "take a shot?"
His second interception of the game was a pick-six. There was a touch of misfortune about how the ball deflected off a lineman's helmet for his linemate to run it in but it was a poor job of lofting the ball to the back over the top. This was clearly the right play call, though, and Hackenberg obviously tried to force this to the back because he saw the potential for a big play.
Hackenberg's career rushing stats (208 carries for minus-242 yards) of course don't tell the full story because college rushing numbers include sacks, so just under half of those "carries" were actually sacks. And accounting for the yardage on those would obviously mean he did make some positive yardage over the course of his career.
He has good athleticism and can make some first downs with his legs, but isn't someone you'd look to run the read-option or many other designed quarterback runs with.
Hackenberg had six rushing touchdowns and one touchdown reception on a gadget play in his college career, though, and here's a nice example of what he can do.
Mobility isn't just about scrambling for yardage, and Hackenberg does display some ability to move around in the pocket. Still, he was sacked over 100 times and took far too many hits, so he needs to do a better job of protecting himself in spite of his willingness to stand in there and make a throw under duress.
Another interesting variable is that Hackenberg was viewed as so promising in O'Brien's complicated pro-style offense, but then his progress stalled once O'Brien left and the system changed. It's evident the Jets specifically targeted Hackenberg to play in their system. So there's reason to believe it will be closer to the kind of system in which he can thrive than the one he's been stuck in for the last two years.
Hackenberg had the most success with short, quick passing and operated in a system which relied on him to make pre-snap reads. These attributes could serve him well in Chan Gailey's system. Those short passes are also a factor in his poor grades because PFF tends not to give quarterbacks much credit for completing easy passes or big plays where the receiver does most of the work.
Hackenberg played in every game in his three years at Penn State. The only time he was knocked out of a game was in his very last appearance, where he suffered a shoulder injury in the bowl game loss to Georgia. It speaks to his durability and toughness that he was able to stay out there despite the punishment he was exposed to, but he needs to learn to protect himself better because that's not something you can expect to last forever.
It's evident Hackenberg is intelligent, although as I've alluded to above, there's still some seasoning required before his ability to read a defense and make adjustments at the line will be at an NFL level.
He was initially praised for his calm demeanor in college, especially considering how that contrasted with O'Brien's fiery personality. However, over the past few years, his mounting frustration was evident in his body language. He was also criticized over his handling of pre-draft interviews, where the suggestion was that he made too many excuses and threw other people under the bus rather than taking responsibility for his own struggles.
While I've heard mixed testimonies on his character, it's definitely going to be a challenge for him to deal with any criticism from the media and the fanbase, as well as trying to gain confidence and respect from his teammates as he seeks to develop into a leader.
Hackenberg's disappointing college career cannot be understated, but there are some areas where he shows valid promise.
It's very interesting to contrast him with Bryce Petty, whose college performance was much more efficient and successful than Hackenberg, but showed less evidence of certain pro attributes that Hackenberg already shows signs of. Despite all the areas where he needs to improve, could Hackenberg be closer to his ceiling and to being NFL-ready than Petty, even though Petty has had a 12-month head-start?
The sloppy footwork, mis-reads and inaccurate passing can be maddening to watch at times, but again call into question the coaching of Franklin and his staff following O'Brien's departure from Penn State. Were corrections not being made that should have been? How well Hackenberg respond to pro-level coaches who place more of an insistence on him cleaning up these issues remains to be seen.
On the whole, while Hackenberg needs to improve in a lot of areas, there are some reasons to hold out hope that he could be refined into a good player at the NFL level. I was encouraged to hear that the team intends for him to sit for at least a year, so he can focus on mitigating his weaknesses behind the scenes without enduring on-field struggles that would damage his confidence and that of the fanbase and his teammates in him.
In the short term, Jets fans should hope that the team can get some good play from the quarterback position over the next year or so, in order for Hackenberg to closely study a level of play that it will be worthwhile to aspire to.
This could be a crucial pick that determines the legacy and long-term future of the current regime, for better or for worse. Hopefully, their faith in Hackenberg in the face of widespread criticism is well-placed.
Up next: A look at the Jets' third round pick, edge defender Jarvis Jenkins from Georgia. What kind of potential does he have and how does he fit into the Jets' defense?
This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and most of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. We began Sunday with first round pick Darron Lee. Now we move on to look at the Jets' second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Penn State. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 21-year old Hackenberg is listed at 6'4" and 226 pounds and was one of the top high school recruits in the nation before enrolling at Penn State. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2013 and a three-year starter. During his time at Penn State, Hackenberg won 20 of 38 starts and completed 56 percent of his passes for over 8,000 yards with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Following an uneven college career, he's a polarizing player in the scouting community with opinions ranging from thos who rate him as a first round talent to those giving him an undraftable grade.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Christian Hackenberg?
When recruited to Penn State, Hackenberg was widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best quarterback prospects in the nation. He got off to a good start as a freshman under Bill O'Brien and completed 59 percent of his passes for almost 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Penn State went 7-5 but didn't lose two in a row all year and ended the season with a win over Wisconsin as he threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Despite O'Brien bolting for the NFL, 2014 began with promise as Penn State started off 4-0. However, after losing badly to Northwestern, the team suffered three tough losses in a row -- one in double overtime and the other two by a combined six points. Ending up 7-6, they once again ended the season on a high. Hackenberg threw a touchdown pass in overtime to cap a bowl game win over Boston College where he threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions again, this time racking up a career-best 371 yards. His overall performance in 2014 had regressed, though, with 15 interceptions and only 12 touchdown passes along with a drop in completion percentage.
2015 began with a rough performance against Temple, where Hackenberg was sacked 10 times and completed just 11 passes for 103 yards on 36 dropbacks. However, the Nittany Lions bounced back to win five straight games and seven of their next eight. That included a run of six games where Hackenberg threw 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions. But the season ended in frustrating fashion as Penn State lost their last four and this time Hackenberg had a disappointing bowl game, completing just eight passes against Georgia before going down with a shoulder injury with his team down 3-0 in the second quarter.
Having decided to enter the NFL early, Hackenberg did well enough at the scouting combine and his pro day to entice the Jets into selecting him with the 51st pick of the draft. As recently as a year ago, he had been considered a possible number one pick, but his stock dropped to the point where many sources had him as a mid-to-late round pick and others saw him as undraftable.
Critiquing an optimistic scout's take
While his statistics and testimonials about his performance don't necessarily paint a rosy picture about Hackenberg's abilities, there are some sources with a more optimistic outlook. Plenty of Jets fans have picked up on this video from Brett Kollman, which - despite its length (25 minutes) - is a must-watch for any die-hard Jets fan.
Before I nitpick the content of this video, I want to be clear that it's terrific, containing excellent analysis. And I commend Kollman for going out on a limb in his projection for Hackenberg, which is something I rarely do. However Hackenberg's career pans out, Kollman is already correct in his conclusion that Hackenberg had shown enough in college to get selected higher than expected (although he was incorrect about there being no chance that O'Brien would pass on him).
But there are a few areas where Kollman expresses optimism that still give me some cause for concern. Let's run through those...
One of the first things the video gets into detail on is a fascinating cat-and-mouse battle at the line of scrimmage, where he demonstrates how Hackenberg reads the defense and changes the play accordingly. The analysis quite rightly shows how Hackenberg uses a hard count to identify the defensive set and then audibles to a more suitable play, which is something most quarterbacks at the college level wouldn't be expected to do. In fact, many NFL quarterbacks wouldn't even be expected to do this.
On the first example, when Hackenberg changes the play, the defense adjusts and the play ends in a sack as the protection fails to hold up. Kollman suggests the play might still have worked if Hackenberg had zipped the ball into the flat, but that would have been a risky throw that could have been a pick-six if not perfectly placed under pressure. So Hackenberg probably made the right decision.
My issue here with Hackenberg's play modification is that while he makes the correct initial change, he then fails to react to Temple's response. While it's true that it was the protection that let him down, the analysis fails to note that the tight end was left completely uncovered down the seam and looking for the ball the whole time as a hot read.
Hackenberg changing the play ultimately didn't work because the Temple defense adjusted, but that caused enough confusion that it opened up an opportunity for a big play anyway. Unfortunately, Hackenberg didn't anticipate this possibility because he was too focused on the primary option in the flat -- one that Temple has already adjusted to, with Hackenberg not being alert enough to make a counter adjustment. Still, if the protection holds up, maybe he has a chance to exploit the confusion in the defense.
Ultimately, what Hackenberg is doing here is extremely advanced for the collegiate level, but the option he ended up with was the wrong one. This perhaps suggests that the coaching staff was putting too much on his plate by having the expectation that he could make a counter adjustment if the defense adjusted after he has identified the initial defensive set. Alternatively, his training was incomplete and they never coached him up to the point where he could be expected to do more than identify a primary set and adjust the playcall accordingly.
Kollman praises the opponent - Temple - for their "pro-style defense" and notes that because they adjust to Hackenberg changing the play, that factors into the play ultimately failing. He later goes on to show an example of where Hackenberg makes an effective adjustment with a less-advanced defense remaining in their initial set and the offensive play working like a charm as a result.
That's great, and excellent evidence of Hackenberg's ability to make a pre-snap read and an appropriate adjustment to the playcall. But the flipside is that in the NFL, all defenses are "pro-style defenses" so here he is merely exploiting a college level defense that isn't advanced enough to adjust to him changing the play. He won't get a chance to do that at the pro level, so as advanced as his ability to exploit college defenses is, that won't help him at the next level.
Still, while I'm underplaying this, the analysis is correct in stating that Hackenberg is further along in his abilities to make pre-snap reads than most collegiate prospects. The Temple example shows how he still has a long way to go in that area to be able to have success at the NFL level, but he's certainly much further along on that scale than the likes of Geno Smith and Bryce Petty would have been when drafted. That's important for the Jets because they currently run an Erhardt-Perkins system whereby the primary routes are usually determined by pre-snap reads.
Moving on to some of the other points made in this video, it's certainly interesting and unique to see that Hackenberg's footwork operating from under center is good, while his footwork out of the shotgun or pistol is habitually lazy and sloppy. It's usually the other way around for draft prospects, although the fact that the game in general is moving towards more and more shotgun-based sets perhaps means that this anomaly is a cause for concern.
However, one could expect that coaching the correct footwork from the shotgun would be easier to teach for someone who had mastered the mechanics of dropping back from under center as opposed to the other way around.
Finally, Kollman makes the viable point that the box score doesn't tell the whole story, noting the numerous drops, passes where Hackenberg was hit as he threw and smart decisions to deliberately get rid of the ball -- all of which perhaps make his statistics look worse than they are without context.
However, it's worth noting that even when you take all of these things into account, Hackenberg's numbers are still comparatively bad. PFF's accuracy percentage stat, which filters out all of the above, still has Hackenberg dead last in this category out of this year's class.
While statistics might not tell the full story, PFF's grades take an objective view of every single snap and they don't support the case that Hackenberg played better than his base statistics would indicate. If anything, they would suggest his box score numbers make his performance look even better than it was. In fact, in 2014, he was even worse - the worst quarterback in the nation -- according to their grades. And his much-praised promising second year was not all it was cracked up to be, either.
While some people write off PFF's analysis as coming from three British guys in a London basement, they've actually developed into a multi-million dollar enterprise with approximately 100 staff members, at least one stateside location, and members of their analyst team who have coached in the NFL and worked in the NFL scouting community. So their analysis should not be taken too lightly.
However, what I would say is that a player like Hackenberg grading out so badly in a college system doesn't necessarily mean he can't succeed at the pro level in a system that suits him -- especially when he's shown base ability in some of the areas where he needs to improve.
The Kollman video is extremely enlightening and instructive in this regard, but at the same time only serves to highlight some of the areas where Hackenberg still has a lot of improvements to make.
In part two, I'll be carrying out my own analysis based on Hackenberg's game footage and delving deeper into his footwork, technique, decision making and skill-set.
The Jets will not be picking up CB Dee Milliner's fifth-year option, reports Dom Cosentino of NJAM.
Milliner will cost $4.02 million against the cap in 2016 and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
He has dealt with injuries to his achilles tendon and wrist during his first three seasons with the Jets, and played in just five games this past season after being limited to three games in 2014.
Milliner's fifth-year option was guaranteed for injury only. If he would've suffered an injury heading in to year five of a potential contract, the Jets would not have had the option of cutting him.
Milliner was selected ninth overall by the Jets in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The confounding part of this is that a player who has shown such promise has been so disregarded by this coaching staff. I get that fifth-year options come at a serious cost to salary cap space and Milliner was a first round pick of a former regime. But the willful, almost brazen disinterest to involve him in the defense has been painful to watch. In that time, Marcus Williams looks to have permanently passed Milliner on the depth chart. I expect Williams will move into some sort of platoon role with Buster Skrine for the slot/boundary positions alongside Darrelle Revis with Antonio Cromartie no longer with the team.
Another confusing part for me is the great tape Milliner put together at the end of his rookie season. In fact, that run was some of the best cornerback play I've ever seen from a Jets defender beyond a fellow named Revis. For Milliner, his inability to stay healthy has made it hard for him to push his case. It could be that Milliner had not sufficiently recovered in 2015 from his Achilles injury or it could be some other reason that Todd Bowles -- a head coach who loves cornerbacks -- can't truck with Milliner.
What isn't confusing about this whole affair is that fifth-year options are guaranteed for injury only. This explains why the Jets loosed Quinton Coples mid-season; it was an effort to avoid having to pay him his option money should something happen. The same situation also just played out with the Redskins, where they effectively shelved Robert Griffin III so that they could control the situation with him after the season ended and avoid massive cap debt due to injury.
Either way, the Jets will let Milliner play out his string and make a decision on his future after that. Maybe Milliner will be injury-free and be allowed the chance he needs in 2016, but I don't expect to see much of him since the team seems this disinterested in his future.
Tags: Dee Milliner
The New York Jets have picked up the 2017 option for defensive end Sheldon Richardson, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta.
Richardson will earn $8.06 million in 2017.
Richardson will earn $1.78 million in 2016, according to Spotrac. He signed a four-year, $10.05 million deal with the Jets after he was drafted.
The 25-year-old Richardson recorded five sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 games for the Jets last year. Paired with rookie Leonard Williams and veteran Muhammad Wilkerson, whom the Jets franchise tagged this offseason, the three linemen combined for 20 sacks last year.
Richardson served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and could face more discipline by the league stemming from a road race last July.
He has 16 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles through 43 career games with New York.
Based on how disruptive a force Richardson has been while on the field, this makes total sense. Now the Jets have contract control of him through 2017 with the option to franchise him through 2018 if they so choose.
Pairing Richardson with Leonard Williams and a revamped linebackers corps could make a very interesting front seven for the Jets in 2016. Even better, the group will get the chance to mesh together over the next three (or more) seasons.
In light of questions surrounding Muhammad Wilkerson's long-term status with the team, the Jets would like to make Richardson an integral part of their defense moving forward. Of course as Richardson has proven, his ability to steer clear of the law and substance-related suspensions could submarine his future with this team and the league. I look forward to watching Sheldon Richardson be the bowling ball of butcher knives for this Jets defense for seasons to come.
This year I will once again be breaking down each of the Jets draft picks (and some of the undrafted free agent signings) in detail. Today, we begin with first-round pick Darron Lee, a linebacker from Ohio State. I've been watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
Lee, 21, is listed at 6-foot-1, 232 pounds and the Jets selected him with the 20th overall pick. He was a two-year starter at weakside linebacker for the Buckeyes. In 28 starts, he recorded 146 tackles, 11 sacks, five passes defensed, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three touchdowns.
Lee entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore season and solidified his status as a first round pick with a solid performance at the combine, including a 4.47 time in the 40-yard dash.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Darron Lee?
Lee was a high school quarterback who also played running back, wide receiver and safety and returned kicks. He also competed in track and field in high school.
A lifelong Ohio State fan, Lee was initially recruited as a safety but was injured just two games into his freshman year, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2013 season. He bulked up and studied film while he was out and became the starter at weakside linebacker over the next two years.
He made an instant impact in his first game as a starter in 2014 with a huge hit on Navy's Keenan Reynolds and a 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He added another touchdown on a fumble return against Michigan. Lee finished that season with 80 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and two interceptions. He was the defensive MVP in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Alabama and the Buckeyes went on to win the national title over Oregon the following week
In 2015, Ohio State had another good year, going 12-1, but missed out on the playoffs when they lost 17-14 to Michigan State. They beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl as Lee finished with 66 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed and an interception, which he returned for a crucial touchdown against Northern Illinois.
After an outstanding display at the combine, Lee had been widely regarded as a mid-to-late first round prospect before being selected by the Jets with the 20th pick, although some experts had dropped him into day two.
Here are my observations from watching footage from Lee's OSU career, divided into categories:
While listed as an outside linebacker, Lee had a versatile role that sometimes required him to line up between the tackles and, at other times, to drop to the outside so he was opposite a receiver in the slot. Per PFF, he played almost 200 snaps in the slot in 2015.
As an example, I charted one game in which Lee played 31 snaps in the slot, 11 inside the tackle box and 31 outside the tackle box (he was at line of scrimmage five times when outside the box).
The Jets have already said that Lee will be an inside linebacker, ultimately replacing Demario Davis as the "Mo" linebacker. As with Davis, this will require Lee to drop to the outside and match up with a back or receiver if they go into the slot, which he has experience doing. Initially, I would expect Erin Henderson to play on running downs and in base packages while Lee competes for time as a nickel linebacker with Bruce Carter.
Whereas in the past it was customary to pair a 250-pound "thumper" with the mike linebacker in a 3-4 system, there's a growing trend for putting a more athletic player there so that they can match up more readily in coverage. Safeties such as Deone Bucannon have been employed in this role over the past few seasons. Obviously this requires defenses to do what they can to keep that player from having to take on blocks or negotiate traffic.
Lee's combine numbers were excellent. As you can see, he did well in speed, explosiveness and agility drills with elite numbers for broad jump, 40-yard dash and 10-yard split. Also, despite being undersized, he has good length.
The 10-yard split in particular is outstanding. Over the past two seasons only one running back has been quicker over the first 10 yards (Keith Marshall). A specific example of that on film was when Will Fuller (who runs a 4.32 40-yard dash) broke away for a long touchdown following a missed assignment by Lee's teammate. Lee diagnosed it and initially closed the gap on Fuller before he accelerated up to full speed and pulled away again. You can see that play here.
Lee's bench press is less impressive, but that's a side effect of his lack of size. He will need to continue to work on his functional strength to have success at the NFL level.
Lee was actually under 200 pounds when he arrived at OSU and reportedly bulked up from 218 in 2014 to 232 in 2015. You can tell the difference in terms of him getting swallowed up by blockers more often in 2014, especially early in the season.
On video, you can see his range in pursuit and his explosiveness as he closes or recovers to the ball carrier. His lack of functional strength is also apparent when a blocker gets into him, but he can display an almost running back-like combination of balance, agility and elusiveness to avoid blockers in space.
Here is where a player can maximize their abilities. No matter how athletic you are, if you misdiagnose a play or are slow to make a read, then you'll arrive later to the ball than a slower player who made a more decisive read. This was arguably what prevented Davis from fulfilling his early promise as a Jet.
So, how does Lee fare in this crucial area? Well, it's a mixed bag. There will be times where he sees the play immediately and exploits his quickness to make a play, but there are other plays where he will hesitate or take false steps. He's so athletic that he can usually recover almost immediately, but at the NFL level where the top quarterbacks will exploit a half-yard of separation, that might not fly. Here's a play where he diagnoses quickly and explodes to the ball:
I will say Lee seems to be very disciplined and when he displays apparent hesitation, it's often because he's ensuring he doesn't vacate a gap prematurely. On some snaps, you'll see him almost tap-dancing on the spot with no apparent objective, but that's perhaps borne out of a desire not to be caught completely out of position, so he'll stay on his toes and be more reactive than proactive.
That might make him a good fit for the Jets system where the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson are adjusting from the reactive nature of the two-gapping assignments in Rex Ryan's system to more attacking one-gap assignments up front.
That would then presumably mean that the linebackers behind them are required to be more reactive rather than attacking downhill as much as they would have under Ryan.
Lee seems to have good vision when keeping plays in front of him although, at times, he will be blindsided by a block he doesn't anticipate as his head is up looking for the ball carrier. Here's an example of that:
As noted, Lee has excellent range and closing speed and also possesses an ability to avoid blockers in space. He also generally takes good angles in pursuit when the play is flowing away from him.
Where he sometimes gets caught out is if a play breaks down and a runner reverses their field. He overran some plays in the open field in situations like that. Here's a rare example of him over-pursuing into the backfield and leaving a gap behind him, although the safety (Vonn Bell) was also at fault at the second level.
Lee's production in the running game was not as high as most of the top linebackers in this year's class, but much of that is a symptom of playing outside the box so often.
Myles Jack, who played a similar role at UCLA, has a similarly low level of run defense production over the past two seasons.
Missed tackles have been an issue for Lee, but not a major one. While he missed 25 tackles over the last two seasons, the footage seems to show that many didn't lead to much in the way of additional yardage as it was often merely a matter of the ball carrier slipping away from Lee's tackle in traffic but still going down almost immediately.
He usually did a solid job of wrapping up and bringing down a ball carrier in space and showed an ability to hit hard in the hole and force some fumbles. He does well here to prevent the back from slipping out of his tackle:
Lee has been pretty productive as a pass rusher and wasn't just employed as a blitzer or amassing pressures by keying the quarterback and reacting underneath to clean up. He also lined up and rushed off the edge, at times. Much of his production comes from being untouched or just too fast for those in pass protections, but he does swim under or spin off a block from time-to-time which you perhaps don't see that often from a non-edge defender.
With his lack of size and strength, Lee can be neutralized pretty easily if the blocker manages to stay in front of him, but his short-area quickness is so good that he has a knack for diverting his path and taking a different route to find a clean path to the quarterback. Here's an example of him finding his way through two blockers for a pressure:
With his comparative lack of size and strength, Lee wasn't much of a factor in these situations, although his quickness was useful in terms of shooting gaps to plug a lane. A few times he was in position to make the stop but the running back's momentum got him to the first down marker anyway.
In some circles, the book on Lee is he is "allergic to contact". That calls to mind a vision of Kerry Rhodes ducking out of a tackle or taking an overly conservative route to the football. However, this might be overblown. Yes, Lee is most effective when he's unblocked and can make a beeline for the ball (example below).
And, yes, his natural instinct in space is often to avoid a blocker by going around him rather than taking on the block and shedding it in time to make the stop. Part of that is perhaps a lack of faith in his own abilities to stack and shed, but also it's a sign that he's doing what works for him. If you have the athleticism to elude a blocker and still get back to the ball carrier before he breaks through to the second level, then you're going to do that most of the time.
However, that's something that won't work as often in the NFL, as he faces stronger and more athletic blockers as well as elite backs that can plant their foot and take a defender out of the play if they modify their pursuit angles.
That's not to say that Lee never takes on a block, but this is certainly something he needs to get better at. You'd like to see him maintain a solid base, extend the arms and come off a block to make a play but he doesn't always do this and perhaps over-relies on
This athletic ability to enable him to try and maintain his balance when getting off a block with improper technique. This hurts him at times, even at the college level, because if he is off-balance when he comes off a block, then this can be where he might miss a tackle or get his pursuit angle wrong to give up contain.
As perhaps to be expected, Lee will do a much better job of this when matched up with a wide receiver instead of a lineman. Hopefully that shows he has some of the basic techniques down and will continue to make improvements as he builds up his functional strength.
For those that doubt his physicality, here's a nice highlight from the 2014 national title game.
There's also a school of thought that Lee is overrated in coverage, perhaps partly due to PFF having him just 74th in their coverage rankings for linebackers.
However, while PFF has a tendency to throw out headline-making numbers like that, they don't necessarily tell the full story, because even they would admit that doesn't mean that the 73 players ahead of him are better in coverage, just that they did their job (which may have been much easier) more efficiently.
Lee's coverage numbers are a product of him being used in coverage a lot more often than most linebackers as he was targeted more than anyone at his position in 2014 and only seven players in this class were targeted more often in 2015. PFF acknowledges he was asked to do a lot in their defense and that he "flashed coverage ability" when lined up as a slot linebacker/safety hybrid.
While he would take some deeper drops, the majority of Lee's coverage assignments at OSU tended to see him picking up a receiver on an initial route and then passing him off to zone coverage behind him and reverting to a backfield key.
What this means is that there were sometimes completions made in that no-man's-land where you can't always tell if he was at fault for vacating his coverage too soon or the key safety behind him was at fault for not coming up to take over soon enough.
Lee also was targeted on a lot of wide-receiver screens, which again is more of a test of his instincts in space and tackling ability than actual coverage skills. Here he makes a decisive read to deal with one well and blow it up.
Naturally, his closing speed and quick first step are assets in coverage. Footwork and technique-wise he could probably do with a bit of seasoning, but coming under Todd Bowles' tutelage is probably a good place for him in that regard.
In terms of ball skills, Lee doesn't get too many chances to make a play on the ball because he's usually playing off. He had just one interception in 2015 and one pass defensed. The interception was a spectacular play against Northern Illinois where he jumped the route on a wide receiver screen. You can see that play here. The pass defensed actually came as he closed quickly on a short pass for an immediate hit to jar the ball loose. Here's a rare play from last year where he did make a play on the ball, although it was a completion:
Lee's overall coverage numbers were good considering he was targeted - or the nearest defender in zone coverage - so often.
Let's look at a couple of big plays that he did give up. On this first one, it's more a failure in terms of his open-field tackling than his coverage skills. This is a situation he usually handles well, but on this occasion Lee hesitates and leaves room for the receiver to tightrope the sideline and turn what should have been a 10-yard gain into a 20-yarder.
Finally, here's a 37-yard gain over the top. Lee gets beaten here but it had to be a perfect pass and was still a tough catch. Also, it's worth noting that not only was this the only completion over 30 yards that Lee gave up in his career and that he expressed visible displeasure at the safety after the play, perhaps suggesting the safety was late getting over.
Lee didn't contribute much on special teams in college, presumably because he was such an integral player on defense. The only thing of note he did on special teams last season was to almost block a punt, but he missed the ball and ended up roughing the kicker. I'd imagine Lee would be expected to do more with the Jets and his skill-set should lend itself well to such a role.
As alluded to above, one concern for Lee would be that he'd be converting from a 4-3 weakside outside linebacker role into a 3-4 weakside inside linebacker role. Playing inside more will put the onus on him to remain disciplined in terms of gap integrity. The fact he played in such a versatile role at Ohio State should serve him well and I think the bigger adjustment for him would be facing NFL competition rather than anything specific he'll be asked to do.
Lee missed most of his freshman season with an injury and was eventually red-shirted. I can't seem to find details of the injury anywhere.
The past two seasons, Lee has played in every game. However, he was carted off with a knee injury after being leg-whipped in the Western Michigan game last year and was playing with a brace on his leg over the next month or so which may have limited him. He was also knocked out of another game by a blind-side block on a return, although he only missed a few plays.
Lee is regarded as a hard-working player who gives good effort and is viewed as a leader. However, he's also pretty cocky and extremely demonstrative on the field, displaying frustration at both himself and his teammates when things go wrong on defense.
There were times when Lee seemed to be jogging at the end of a play when it went away from him, so he didn't always go 100 percent until the whistle. Maybe that's a conditioning issue or maybe it's an effort thing, but I would not expect that to last very long at the pro level. He also seemed to show some signs of fatigue late in games.
If you were familiar with Ohio State's defense, Lee probably isn't the first player who would jump off the screen at you. However, he's also not a player who will jump out at you for the wrong reasons. If Lee can be a solid player that doesn't make major mistakes, he'll be a solid addition to the team.
Maybe Lee has the potential to be more than that, though. His athletic upside is evident and I will happily defer to Bowles and his staff when it comes to whether or not he will fit into the Jets' system.
Perhaps more than any prospect in recent memory, I'm eager to see Lee in the Jets' system, as it's not easy to project how his performance with the Buckeyes defense will translate to a slightly different role within the Jets' more versatile system. It will be exciting to see how the team makes use of his athletic gifts and how well he is able to handle whatever responsibilities they throw at him.
Up next: A look at the Jets' polarizing second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg. While he may have a long way to go, are there signs that he could get there quicker than some are fearing?