Expect these New York Jets players to take on a few different roles this season
Versatility is a valuable trait in the sport of football. When a player is able to handle multiple roles properly, it creates new options for their team, allowing them to mix and match different lineup combinations so they can find the best solutions for each situation.
Here are five New York Jets players who will likely take on all-around roles for the team in 2022.
CB Gardner Sauce
Sauce Gardner has the ability to do it all. He can play on either side of the field and in man or zone coverage.
In 2021, Gardner had a 50.6%/49.4% split between the left side of the field and the right side. In man and area coverage, he allowed a passer rating below 35.0 in both concepts last season.
Gardner’s versatility allows the Jets to move every other secondary player to their position of strength. He can be placed anywhere to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates.
As it stands, it looks like Gardner will start at left cornerback, allowing DJ Reed to start at right cornerback. Reed is significantly better on the right side than on the left side. With Gardner’s double-sided versatility, Reed can comfortably settle on the side of the court where he performs best.
When injured, Gardner can move around to make life easier for everyone else.
Let’s say Reed is forced to run out of time. Bryce Hall would probably be the man to take his place. Hall is more experienced at left cornerback than right cornerback. So in this scenario, Gardner could move to the right side for Hall to take his comfortable position on the left side.
The Jets’ defensive scheme calls for cornerbacks to stay to one side of the field most of the time, but sometimes Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich will ask their best cornerback to trail the opposition’s best receiver for a few plays per game. We saw Hall start doing that in the second half of the 2021 season.
Gardner’s prowess in covering men allows him to take on these difficult tasks. Because of his special man-covering ability, I don’t think the Jets will keep him strictly tied to the left side of the field for the duration of every game. There will be games where Gardner wanders frequently, following the opponent’s best wide to prevent the other team from creating ideal games for their star.
DL John Franklin-Myers
John Franklin-Myers’ versatility is a big reason he got his four-year, $55 million extension. Franklin-Myers is capable of playing at a high level as a defensive tackle or point defender. This makes him an ideal player to build a roster with, as he possesses the ability to evolve into the role that suits his teammates best.
The Jets have largely overlooked the defensive tackle position this offseason. Instead, they focused on a host of additions to the peak position. First-round pick Jermaine Johnson, fourth-round pick Micheal Clemons and free agent Jacob Martin were all added to bolster unity. Vinny Curry was also re-signed. At defensive tackle, Solomon Thomas is the only notable addition so far.
That means Franklin-Myers will likely be the biggest addition to the Jets’ defensive tackle unit.
After breaking out as a defensive tackle in 2020, Franklin-Myers played on the edge in 2021 to help the Jets stay afloat after a string of injuries. He’s had a great year, showing he can use his big frame (6-foot-4, 288 pounds) to provide top-notch running defense for the position. Franklin-Myers’ passing rush wasn’t as effective on the edge as it was on the inside in 2020, but he was still solid in that area.
Now that the Jets have plenty of talent on the edge and are somewhat lacking on the inside, Franklin-Myers can return inside, where he showed elite rushing ability in 2020. Franklin-Myers Myers created pressure on 14.4% of his pass-rush snaps that year, ranking third among interior defensive linemen behind only Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Donald.
However, there is a trade-off when Franklin-Myers plays indoors. His run defense isn’t as effective when he’s on the inside.
Franklin-Myers is big for a point defender, but he’s small for a defensive tackle, and it shows on film. Opposing inside linemen will sometimes move him in the running game, while on the outside, Franklin-Myers is a brick wall of a setter.
I think the Jets will try to play Franklin-Myers to his strengths by using him both inside and out; leaning heavily inward but giving it cameos on the edge. It seems likely he’ll line up primarily on defensive tackle due to the team’s large number of capable rushers on the roster, but the Jets should still try to occasionally take advantage of what Franklin-Myers can do on the edge. .
In passing situations, Franklin-Myers can line up inside, where his quickness and explosiveness would be maximized against slower guards. In obvious rush situations, Franklin-Myers can be kicked to the edge, where he provides proven size and running defense the Jets don’t have in any other edge defenseman on the roster.
Trading Greg Van Roten for Nate Herbig was a major blow to the Jets’ offensive line depth.
Herbig can replace any of the three inside offensive line points for New York. He played 942 career snaps at right guard, 377 snaps at left guard and 49 snaps at center (47 of those coming in 2021). Herbig even played nine snaps as a tight end/sixth offensive lineman (six of those coming in 2021).
While Dan Feeney also offers three-position versatility on the inside, Herbig is just a better player.
Herbig has given up three sacks in 848 career pass-blocking snaps (one for every 283 snaps). Feeney has given up 18 sacks in 2,467 career pass-blocking snaps (one for every 137 snaps). Herbig is also a better run blocker, possessing a composite PFF run blocking rating of 68.5 in his career compared to 54.0 for Feeney.
TE Tyler Conklin
Tyler Conklin will do a lot of different things for the Jets offense. It offers a unique blend of receiving and blocking.
Conklin was used as a blocker on 45.2% of his offensive snaps in 2021. Although he ranked 59th out of 85 qualified tight ends, that’s actually an unusually high rating for a tight end that’s featured in the passing game as often as Conklin was.
Conklin ranked 14th among tight ends with 593 receiving yards. Among the top 20 tight ends in receiving yards, Conklin’s block rate of 45.2% was fourth highest, behind only Noah Fant (45.4%), George Kittle (51.1%) and Dallas Goedert (51.5%).
Most of the best players in the league rank at the very bottom in terms of block rate, usually ranging from 25-40%. It’s impressive to finish in the top 15 in close receptions despite having played as a blocker on almost half of your snaps.
As we discussed in a breakdown of the movie last week, Conklin’s pass blocking will have a big impact on the Jets. Conklin led all tight ends with 98 pass blocking snaps last season and was often called upon to face star passers.
Conklin also offers versatility as a passer. In addition to his reliability as a short-range road runner, Conklin can be featured in screenplay. Conklin ranked 10th among tight ends with seven on-screen receptions last season, and he was effective with those, ranking eighth with 60 receiving yards off screens.
WR Braxton Berrios
The Jets have been rumored to be chasing 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the weeks leading up to the draft. This, of course, did not materialize.
While obviously not close to the caliber of player that Samuel is, Braxton Berrios is a similar player in terms of usage. In small doses, Berrios can provide the creativity, trickery, and versatility that Mike LaFleur likes to use in his offense.
Like Samuel, Berrios can line up in the backfield, make noise on screenplays, and use his speed on horizontal transfers out of pre-snapshot motion (endline throw sweeps/flaps).
Berrios ranked 10th among wide receivers with 15 screen receptions last season, turning them into 80 yards and five first downs. He ranked 19th out of 54 qualified wide receivers with an average of 8.8 yards after the screen-receiving catch.
As a rusher, Berrios carried the ball seven times for 40 yards (5.7 yards per carry) while ranking second among wide receivers with two rushing touchdowns. Berrios also had three carries for 29 yards in 2020.
Sitting 4th on the Jets’ wide receiver depth chart, Berrios won’t get much playing time as a pure wide receiver when everyone is healthy, but he’s a versatile gizmo that’s sure to get planned games. from time to time.
Add in Berrios’ All-Pro comeback abilities and you have a versatile weapon that will deal damage in a variety of ways.