Senior Bowl Preview: Defense

Clayton Smarslok with his Senior Bowl preview for defensive players…

With the Senior Bowl coming up in just a few days, this is the first time in the draft process where you get a group of players like this together until the combine in just over a month. The teams get to meet with some of the players and see them compete against some of the best in their class.

On Monday, we previewed three offensive players that would be potential targets for the Jets. Below, we go over three players on the defensive side that will be looked at to be fits in the new system they bring in with Gregg Williams becoming the new defensive coordinator.

 

EDGE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

At the moment, the Jets still have a huge need off the edge. It’s been well documented that they haven’t had one after they traded John Abraham prior to the 2006 draft. This allows me to believe they will be spending a good amount of their cap space on players to fill that void. If they refuse to do so for some reason, Montez Sweat will be one name to watch in the first round. But rather than being in the running for the third pick, he could be someone they look at if they trade down. After the transferring to Mississippi State for his last two seasons, the fifth year senior played in all 26 games recording 22.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss in the process, making him one of the top edge rushers in the 2019 class.

Montez Sweat would be a much better fit as a defensive end in this new 4-3 defense the Jets will run rather than be an outside linebacker in a 3-4. On film, Sweat shows an explosive first step and a variety of rush moves, best of which is the long arm. However, one area it would be nice to see improvement this week is his flexibility and bend. Very rarely will you see him win by dipping the shoulder to beat a tackle, which is part of the reason why he won’t be near the top of the first round.

By switching to a 4-3 base defense, the Jets are lacking edge rushers like never before. Their defensive ends before will now move to defensive tackle and the outside linebackers are either free agents or not the prototypical end in this defense (i.e. Jordan Jenkins). This pairing is likely a long shot but if Sweat blows up the Senior Bowl next week and the Jets actually trade down to the mid to late teens, this match becomes slightly more realistic.

 

CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple

There may be no more important position for this new defense than cornerback. Gregg Williams absolutely needs players to fit his scheme if he wants to be aggressive the way he always has. The big reason they took Denzel Ward instead of Bradley Chubb last year was because of how important the cornerback position is for him to be successful. Rock Ya-Sin could possibly be one of those guys for the Jets.

When watching Ya-Sin, his size stands out at 6’1 and around 190 pounds. The length is coveted in today’s game and he uses his to his advantage being physical at the line of scrimmage, something Gregg Williams will want. Ya-Sin has good athleticism and shows good ball skills, just not the greatest of hands. He’ll need some work technically starting with the feet, but nothing that can’t be fixed. One interesting tidbit about Ya-Sin is that he was given a single digit number in his first season with Temple. That means his teammates thought enough of him to consider him one of the leaders before taking a snap.

The Jets not only need cornerbacks for Williams, but they need cornerbacks on the roster in general. This off-season the Jets are possibly losing Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine and Daryl Roberts to free agency; making this a big position of need heading into the off-season. Ya-Sin would be a developmental selection that could possibly fall to them in day three, but should qualify as some depth with some future upside.

 

S/NB Mike Edwards, Kentucky

Edwards was originally supposed to be the second Kentucky Wildcat on the list but with Josh Allen dropping out, Edwards is the now only Wildcat but the second defensive back. While he isn’t as big of a name as Allen, he did play just as big of a role for the Wildcat defense over the last four seasons. But before we go any further what should be mentioned is that Edwards may be listed as a safety, but he is being looked at here purely as a nickel back more than anything else. That was the main slot he filled at Kentucky showing good production over his 45+ game career, recording 10 interceptions and 23 pass deflections during his time there.

As was mentioned, Edwards spent a lot of his time in the slot. He does a great job here in man coverage regardless of the matchup and does a solid job in zone following the eyes of the quarterback and knowing his surroundings. He has quick feet to mirror receivers but also good patience to not bite on a route too early. It’s hard to not love how he plays, he has a non-stop motor and is not afraid to get physical, even as a smaller guy. He was utilized well as a blitzer from the slot, shows tremendous ball skills and should be able to make an impact early on.

The Jets will need secondary help with all of the guys above leaving in free agency. Even though Edwards will fill a need at the nickel spot, it doesn’t hurt that he can provide help as a third safety as well. Marcus Maye has proven he can’t be relied on to play all 16 games, so getting a player who has the versatility to play in a couple different areas like Edwards later o in day two or early day three of the draft would be a great get for the defense.