Even though the Jets still have their battles to face in a tough losing season, it’s hard not to think about the future of this team. With the vision of next year comes two players who have recently been depended on as starting defensive players: safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and rookie corner Marcus Williams.
Despite Jarrett (25) only being a year and a half older than Williams (23), the players have totally different backgrounds. Jarrett was cut after only one year removed from being the Eagles’ second round selection in 2011. He’s been a quality backup at safety for the Jets even since the end of the 2012 season. Williams was a corner from North Dakota State University who went undrafted this year, and eventually found his way onto the Jets after getting cut from Houston since Rex Ryan was desperate for cornerback help. Despite a gap of four years of NFL experience between them, the pair find themselves with a massive opportunity to prove themselves as integral pieces for next year and beyond. As starters, they aren’t shying away from their chance.
After a disappointing week versus Kansas City from the entire defense, the pair ironically got a better chance to showcase their talents versus the Steelers last week with superb play from their teammates surrounding them. Jarrett would end up earning the AFC Defensive Player of the week with a sack, fumble recovery, and two impressive interceptions. o, what kind of specific talents do each of them bring to the team?
The Temple product was a very flawed player entering the league, but has learned patience and control through his turmoil. Once a reckless, unaware player in coverage, Jarrett has become a very safe safety who’s now capable in deeper coverage shells with more controlled usage of his range. n bringing up his impressive range,I think it’s an appropriate time to showcase how well he read Ben Roethlisberger’s eyes to fly over and hawk this interception.
The old version of Jarrett would not have had the body control to get up and cleanly pick this pass off, let alone read the quarterback to get there from all the way outside in his deep Cover 2 zone responsibility. This isn’t a reckless play, this was smart and instinctive. The Jets need this kind of playmaking from the secondary.
Jarrett’s zone coverage has been very stable thus far when he’s gotten time this season. He’s always prepared to accelerate and pounce on routes, and he doesn’t have to overpursue or lose his positioning since he can close so quickly.
Coming into the league, Jarrett really should have been utilized as an in the box safety in Philidelphia because of his ability to sniff out run plays early in their development. He’s only gotten better in that area with his better control. His overall tackling is still a bit inconsistent with how he tend to break down his body kind of awkwardly, but his power usually gets the job done anyway. Watch as he runs this one down nicely.
Jarrett was keen on recognizing this stretch play from the start, but it’s the patient yet smart pursuit of Charles that stands out here. Despite Charles bouncing around trying to shoot a gap, Jarrett moves well enough laterally while bearing down on him to trace him all the way across the frame. He puts quite a bit of pop into that tackle, too. Calvin Pryor has been honing in on his tendencies to overrun plays and has been steadily improving in that area, but Jarrett seems to have it down already, as well.
So what are Jarrett’s weaknesses? It’s the type of player he is. He can play in the box and in deep zone, but that’s sort of all you get. Don’t get me wrong, that skillset is very utilizable for a defensive coach, especially with his blitzing abilities, but there’s a lot more a better safety could do. Not only would Jarrett be a high liability in man coverage (that’s why you really won’t see him in it), but his ball skills and play at the point of the catch are still as unproven as the ones he entered the league with. Sure, he can hunt down interceptions in zone. But when he’s directly targeted and has to gain leverage on his opposing receiver is completely different, and it tells an opposite story for Jarrett. When he’s playing primarily as the single-high safety in Cover 1 or in deep zone in Cover 2, he can likely avoid these confrontations. He’s still bound to be tested in these one on one situations at some point, and it’s a little disappointing he can’t be utilized in man off the snap in certain sub packages.
Essentially, Jarrett is the same type of player he was entering the league, but with far more refined skills in the areas he was supposedly already good in. He’s a much more consistent player getting to the ball in the box with his angles, he moves better laterally in coverage, and he’s smart enough to know when to take chance. I won’t give him to cardinal sin in evaluating of saying he can’t widen his skillset to include any more skills, but he might suffer some serious struggles if Rex Ryan tries to make him a more flexible type of safety.
When I briefly scouted Williams for this year’s draft, I compared him to Kyle Wilson. Yikes, yeah. I wasn’t much of a fan of him. His skillset resembled Wilson’s to me a bit because of his inconsistencies playing the boundary with his situational awareness. He was a quick twitch kind of guy with instincts, but never seemed to have the technique to truly hold down a spot outside at the next level. Thus, I regarded him as more of a slot corner.
Well the former Bison now has two starts under his belt on the outside, and he hasn’t disappointed. Rex Ryan has been playing him in almost strictly off-man coverage, leaving him with a lot of routes that directly test his reaction time and technique to be able to explode out of his backpedal. Like I saw in college, it wasn’t a very clean transition for the young corner.
In the above GIF, notice how Williams’ footwork is very sloppy at the top of Antonio Brown’s route. Facing a dynamic receiver like Brown takes accurate placement with every step, and backpedaling with that high a stance and leaning backwards doesn’t help that case. He also struggles to fully burst out of his backpedal, as you can see him do somewhat of a double take and stutter his feet before lurching out towards Brown. Instincts and quickness can get you far, but it does need to be followed up with at least acceptable technique. t’s easy to blame Williams’ completions allowed on Rex having him play with a large cushion, but the young corner will be a little out of place on the outside in man coverage until he cleans up his footwork.
Williams makes more of an impact when he can ready the quarterback’s eyes and make plays. His backpedal hurts his chances or making a fluid transition to the ball, but his ability to react quickly on instincts that don’t just rely on the receiver’s route are good enough to make up for it. That’s the exact situation on his excellent flow to the ball after reading Roethlisberger all the way on this slant to Martavis Bryant.
Now don’t get me wrong, Williams’ ball skills are ferocious on this particular play and gives me great hope for them overall (since we’ve seen so little of him). He attacks at just the right time but trusts his length to make the reach all the way across Bryant’s body. It’s a violent but purposeful swipe at the football, and it’s no surprise that it led to Jarrett’s first interception of the game off the tip. When you play to your instincts and stay aggressive with them, you will naturally beat the quarterback and make plays to make up for the receptions you’ve allowed.
The pure playmaking aspect to Williams’ game was evident on this play I’ll share below as well. So many players play to their assignments to not take the chance of being at fault, but the smart ones will go out of their safety blanket to effect plays.
It really isn’t that impressive of a play from the rookie; he simply sprung out of man coverage on the outskirts defending Brown to cut off Roethlisberger’s angle a little more. I like how he was sticking to Brown until Ben rolled out and he realized Jarrett had also shadowed over to double Brown. In reality, this is smart football from both of them because they roll with the outcome of the play to play to its priorities. However, Williams showing the twtich to go attack the passing lane at short distance is pretty fearless for a rookie. Definitely an encouraging sign to say the least.
If Williams wants to prove himself as a contender for a starting job next year or playing time in nickel packages, he’s going to have to make his skills expendable into zone coverage shells, and so far in his recent debut, he hasn’t done so. Of course, Rex only has his corners play zone a handful of times a game, but Williams will have to show some flexibility in terms of scheme to prove he’s more than just an instinctive corner who’s really destined for the slot.
Jarrett and Williams both have a lot to prove if they expect solid playing time in green and white comes next year. The Jets will get both Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle back healthy to stave off Williams and Jarrett will have to play lights out if he wants to keep Pryor on the bench. I would say they are certainly on the right path. Jarrett is looking pretty efficient with his improved skills and rising consistency, and Williams has the skillset that could be extremely useful in the slot if (when) Kyle Wilson leaves via free agency.