The New York Jets were extremely active in the week following the 2013 NFL draft, loading up their roster with undrafted rookie free agents. Many of these guys fell under the radar during pre-draft scouting, and the information on some of them is quite limited.
Brian Bassett of TheJetsBlog.com came out with intel on some of these players that devout Jets fans will be interested it. There is solid information on the Jets' new defensive backfield players who could potentially turn out to be valuable pickups. One player who is especially intriguing is cornerback Mike Edwards, out of Hawaii. Bassett writes:
Edwards is a bit undersized at 5’9″ and 189 pounds, but is a very tough, defender who won’t let larger receivers push him around. Edwards is extremely confident and plays aggressive and has the body control and timing to knock down passes. Edwards is quick enough (4.47 40-yard dash) to pursue the play and is willing to throw his body in the way of the run. Edwards saw some time as a running back and wide receiver at Hawaii and so could add value to the offense, or more likely the kick and punt return units.
Jets' head coach Rex Ryan is known to enjoy having a multitude of cornerbacks. It is a position where depth can almost always be used, especially in nickel packages. Edwards may need some time to develop; however, being valuable on special teams is often the hook that keeps players on NFL rosters.
The competition at cornerback will be significant, though perhaps less so with the trading of Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie seems like the obvious choice for one starting spot. The other starting spot should go to either Kyle Wilson (a former first-round pick) or Dee Milliner, a Jets' recent first-round pick and rookie. Wilson played mainly in a third cornerback role against slot receivers for much of his career. If he is moved to a starting job, that role could open up. Additionally, Ryan often uses five defensive backs, especially on passing downs, which can include three or four cornerbacks.
This signing of Mike Edwards was confirmed by Edwards himself via Twitter. Expect to hear more about him as the offseason progresses.
Another defensive back the Jets snagged is free safety Rontez Miles out of California University of Pennsylvania. Miles is in my opinion the undrafted rookie who is going to be talked about the most later in the summer. He had some off-the-field issues in college and never attended a particularly mainstream football college. However, none of that matters very much now. Bassett writes:
Considered by many a priority free agent, Miles played at a small school but based on his Pro Day was discussed as a potential third day pick... Miles has the right size and strength to play in the NFL and he is regarded as a fluid athlete who [possesses] solid range and the ability to make plays at all levels of the field. Known to play with a linebacker mentality, he’s an aggressive downhill attacker, with plus closing speed and the eagerness to thump a ball-carrier at every opportunity. He’s not a great man-coverage player but played the one-high spot in college regularly and so could fit in a Ryan scheme.
The ability to play with a high motor and land powerful hits is important in a safety. LaRon Landry, who played free safety for the Jets last season, was known for this, though he had issues with penalties and missed tackles. While it is a key skill for a safety, it is one that needs to be combined with discipline and control.
Both safety positions are open for competition for the New York Jets presently. While veteran Dawan Landry (who happens to be LaRon's brother) has a strong chance to earn a starting position, it is not guaranteed. Beyond Landry, it is unclear who will earn starting minutes at safety. Antonio Allen could be viewed as a favorite, but he remains largely unproven. If Allen does well in the offseason, the starting pairing could be him at strong safety and Landry at free safety.
It is probably too much to ask to expect Miles to win a starting job as a rookie. However, if he can master Rex Ryan's defense quickly enough, he could see some playing time this year. Some of the defensive sets involve five defensive backs, which can include three safeties. There is also natural rotation based on situation and scheme. Depth players like Allen saw playing time in 2012 despite not being starters. That type of rotational role would be a reasonable place for Miles to begin. In addition to that, special teams is an area of need. The Jets' normally strong special teams units were uncharacteristically weak in 2012.
The signing of Miles was first reported by Jake Steinberg of SNY via Twitter.
Keep an eye on both of these defensive backs as the competitions in camp get under way. Competition is a trend this offseason, and that includes the defensive secondary.