Most NFL pundits believe New York Jets rookie Jamal Adams will turn out a terrific pro, but most still underestimate his immediate impact.

Over the course of 16 regular season National Football League games in 1979, the San Francisco 49ers finished 2-14. A year later, they climbed to 6-10. In 1981, those pathetic Niners won 13 games including the organization’s first Super Bowl triumph.

Why? Most will immediately come up with the names of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Bill Walsh.

Don’t do that. Montana and Walsh arrived in ’79. The greatest wide receiver of all-time didn’t play his first season until 1985.

The man who completed the dynasty puzzle was Ronnie Lott.

Drafted eighth overall in 1981, Lott was so immediately impactful that he not only won the Super Bowl as a rookie, he finished as a First Team All-Pro player.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-CIRCA 1989: Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers takes a break on the sidelines at Candlestick Park circa 1989 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images)

Thirty-six years later, there’s another rookie defensive back who has the realistic possibility of forcing his will upon a very unsuspecting league.

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams may impact the NFL as immediate and great as a Lott did in ’81. The LSU product is that phenomenal and although everybody believes the kid is destined for greatness, most still underestimate what he can do for his organization right off the bat — starting in Week 1 in Orchard Park, New York.

This underestimation comes from those who believe this Jets roster the worst in the league and/or rival the worst of the last decade. Those who believe zero or one win(s) are on the docket for 2017 disgustingly underestimate just how impactful this Adams kid will be during his rookie campaign.

The reason Lott turned out a hall of famer had everything to do with his versatility. In fact, the man played cornerback for San Fran over the course of his first four seasons in the Bay Area. It wasn’t until 1985 that we saw him make the switch to safety.

He could cover. He could hit (as we all know). He could intimidate. He could lead. He could also do all of these things while remaining the smartest football player on a field that included the quarterback. During an era that saw the safety position as a specialty item — as the strong and free were completely different players — Lott could play anywhere on the field.

Adams is similar in nature.

We broke this kid down upon his drafting in the No. 6 hole a few months back. Coming into the league labeled as a strong safety will have little difference in how you, the fan, views him.

This isn’t Calvin Pryor, a guy who gets lost while playing center field. Adams isn’t a man who Todd Bowles will need to protect from middle-third or deep-half positioning.

Wherever he lines up will automatically become the strength of this Jets defense and in today’s NFL, the safety position plays out as the most important on the field. (The nature of vertical tight ends and matchup problems are conveniently solved through dynamic safety play.) And in terms of he and Maye playing either position, this past Saturday proved the Jets will roll with that direction.

The Jets first-team defense played just two series, but on both series, Adams and Maye each played deep center field and up in the box as the eighth man. It was also evident that this duo will immediately compete as the best duo in the league in year one.

Adams, specifically, showed exactly why his impact will be incredibly special.

Watch Adams (No. 33) on the following play. Tennessee came out in a two tight end set featuring two wideouts to the right side. Adams lined up in the slot which automatically signals some type of zone (leaving the corner on the opposite wide side of the field over one of the tight ends).

Watch how quickly Adams recognizes the play:

He doesn’t make the tackle, but did you see how quickly he recognized the run and quickly gained inside position on his blocker?


To make it even more impressive is the fact that it was a trap play. The left guard pulled and the running back immediately hit the hole. There couldn’t be a quicker run play and Adams still gained inside leverage in knowing it wasn’t going to be bounced out to the edge (which, in that case, he’d have to make sure he turns it inside).

On the next play, a 2nd-and-17, watch No. 33 (who’s lined up as the eighth man in the box on the wide side) recognize the screen and get to the play despite being chipped by Eric Decker on the crack:

Again, Adams didn’t make the play. Demario Davis did, but his quickness and nose the ball is apparent here.


The last clip we have showcases exactly why this kid is special.

On a tough 3rd-and-3 (tough for the defense), Tennessee rolls with an 11-personnel grouping (3 WR). This prompted Bowles to go with his 2-4-5 Nickel. The Titans complete the pass but have it called back on a pass interference pick play. Adams makes the tackle:

Take a good hard look at the replay. Did you see how much ground Adams made up once the wideout caught the ball? A guy like Calvin Pryor isn’t getting over to make that tackle before the pass-catcher turns it up the field.


Against the 11 look, the Jets went with a Cover 1. Maye was the deep man while Adams blended in with the front seven as the eighth man. It’s tough to know who had man-to-man responsibility on No. 82 and who was the underneath robber, but that’s hardly the point. It turned out that Darron Lee was forced to pick the pass-catcher up on the drag while Adams fought through traffic.

The point is that Adams still got there prior to the ball-carrier turning it up the field. It’s that incredible athleticism and instinctive skills that cannot be matched or taught.

This is what makes him so similar to a Ronnie Lott, for example.

We know the kid is going to be good. As a sixth pick in the draft and arguably the best talent in the pool, this much is certain.

But what many of us are doing is pretending that his rookie year will bring along a ton of bumpy moments.

Not a chance.

Every defensive back in the NFL faces tough moments. Everybody gets beat. This is a league that treats its defensive players like dogs while the QBs and WRs skip around the field without a care in the world. Adams’s rough moments will look similar to the average veteran.

Jamal Adams is so good right now that he can literally pull his defense to top five in the league during a rookie season.

Don’t underestimate this kid. He’s that damn good — perhaps the best rookie defensive back we’ve seen since No. 42 in 1981.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]