There’s a chance that New York Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams struggles in 2017 and the reason would be through no fault of his own.When discussing football, only certain people stand out. When a football person, a fan who used to play the game discusses football, it’s easy to identify.
Instead of trendy news items or bold predictions, the football person understands the game to its core.
He, or she, as we should never forget about the greater half, understands that in the game of football, nothing is absolute.
Pro Football Focus very smartly places grades on individuals and they do it in a way that’s accurate and innovative. Fans then run with these grades and show their friends. But what PFF understands that the casual fan does not, is that these grades aren’t absolute. These grades could never truly represent an actual depiction of a player’s season.
Football is the ultimate team game. Eleven-on-eleven, down after down, lends itself to the notion that it is the ultimate team game. Every ounce of action and movement affects everything else that happens on the field. So if a quarterback receives a certain grade with a terrible offensive line in front of him, just imagine what his grade could have been if he was afforded more time in the pocket.
Nothing is absolute in the game of football.
This is why, as painful as it may be for fans of the New York Jets, it’s extremely likely that rookie safety Jamal Adams could struggle over the course of his first season in the NFL.
Make no mistake about it: if he’s the real deal, we’ll know early on. He’ll be flying around the field showcasing that uncanny “nose for the ball” he showcased at LSU. He’ll be making and creating jaw-dropping plays.
At the same time, how is this kid supposed to flourish if his defense has very little at the corner and EDGE spots?
A unit in football, whether it comes via the offense, defense or special teams, is as only strong as its weakest unit. Plays, game plans, the entirety of how coaches choose personnel is based on the weakest link at times.
A season ago, head coach Todd Bowles put Jets fans through maddening times with some of his looks. Far too often, he’d deploy a nickel look (4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB) against a three-receiver set during critical passing downs. This means he’d line up a linebacker or safety against a speedy tight end such as Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham.
Obviously, we know what happened. New York’s pass defense would continually get burned and played through the season as a horrible unit.
Unlike most coaches who would toss out a dime look in pass situations (4 DL, 1 LB, 6 DB), Bowles rarely would.
In this example, in a 3rd-and-7 with KC showcasing three wideouts and Kelce, Bowles played nickel, meaning he left two linebackers out there to go along with five DBs:
On what planet does a smart defensive mind look to cover Kelce with a LB or safety in a passing situation?
Later in the same drive, Andy Reid came at the Jets with a 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB look on 1st-and-10. Bowles matched up in Nickel with Harris and Lee as the backers.
Why, though? Is he that stubborn and old-fashioned? Or, could it be that he just didn’t have confidence in Darron Lee as the only LB?
His sub-package look in a “must pass” situation against four weapons should have looked something like this:
See, that’s the thing. Perhaps he didn’t want to leave Lee out there as the only LB, fearing he couldn’t handle the entirety of the defense as the leader. Taking Lee out and leaving David Harris in would also be an issue considering Harris is one of the worst cover linebackers in the game.
Honestly, Bowles still would’ve been better off going dime on the occasions he should have, but there are always reasons for why a coach decides not to.
When it comes to the rook, Bowles may not be afforded the opportunity to allow him to fly around the box like he should.
We went over it a few weeks ago. Adams can literally do anything, but his top skill is that safety who sniffs around the box and plays the edge, acting as a heat-seeking missile against the ballcarrier.
How can Adams play out this spot so freely if the Jets corners aren’t doing the job on the outside?
As it stands right now, Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine are the two starting corners. If one or two struggle in one-on-one situations mightily, that often-used Cover 3, single-high look with fellow rookie Marcus Maye deep and Adams in the box won’t be able to be used frequently. Instead, Bowles will be forced to play both Adams and Maye deep, making sure Claiborne and Skrine have help over the top.
How Adams plays out his rookie season isn’t completely up to him. He’ll be a part of an 11-man unit that’ll rely on each other for 60-plus plays every Sunday.
Nothing is absolute in football and especially on defense, as the unit is only as great as its weakest link.
If the Jets want Jamal Adams to bust out early and capture that NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, they better hope one, two or three of their corners take a major step up and surprise.