The New York Jets’ best replacement for Jamal Adams may not be a safety at all. It may be slot corner Brian Poole.
Go right ahead and curse out the day the New York Jets drafted Jamal Adams. Go right ahead and personally buy Adams’ plane ticket out of town. Call up WFAN and scream a storm about your selfish, over-the-top diva for a strong safety who’s doing everything he can to get the hell out of here.
You’re not helping matters. Have you ever thought about life in the secondary after the kid?
Probably not. There aren’t many options to replace the best safety in the league. In fact, the options are so slim that an unconventional option just may be the best.
Interestingly, Jets slot cornerback Brian Poole does most of the things strong safeties are asked to do. He covers in man from the slot or on the Y (if the defensive personnel is lighter), blitzes on occasion and tackles extremely well.
The trio of Poole, Maye and Adams allowed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to mold the team’s defensive identity around the middle of the defensive backfield. Quite often, Adams and Poole would blitz together off each edge. In the following example, both players come from the same edge:
Poole is the team’s best solution to replace Adams.
Williams knows Poole can cover. He can blitz. He can tackle. The question is, “Can he stick his nose in the box on every down and take that physical punishment?” He’s definitely big enough as a strong safety in today’s game. At 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, Poole fits the smaller strong safety of today. But you better believe he has what it takes to fit right into the run support scheme:
So why didn’t Poole replace Adams in the lineup last year? Well, because the two games Adams missed were the very same two games Poole missed (Week 14 vs. Miami Dolphins and Week 15 @ Baltimore Ravens).
In 2018, Poole played a little strong safety for the Atlanta Falcons. Most notably, he filled the spot in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals after injuries took both starting safeties.
The idea isn’t foreign to Poole, a man who possesses the skill set needed to adequately replace Adams.
Florida product Marcus Maye has to be a consideration.
Maye, 27, has been the perfect complement to Adams over the last three seasons. What Adams does well down low is what Maye matches up high. His deep-cover skils combined with open-field tackling allows Maye to represent one of the better centerfielders in football.
Can he make the transition to strong safety?
The results were mixed. Against the Maimi Dolphins, Maye wasn’t asked to do a whole lot—at least nothing compared to what Adams usually does.
After his solid outing against Miami, Gregg Williams asked him to do the same thing against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. This one didn’t work out as well. Maye’s man coverage was rough in spots and he just couldn’t diagnose plays like his safety brother.
Here, he can’t keep up after the play breaks down:
Admittedly, it’s a tough ask. Maye looked to be fine on the initial drag and after Andrews got away with the extension of the left arm. He also avoided trouble against the mesh concept. But once Andrews turns it up as Lamar Jackson extends the play, Maye just can’t keep his footing.
But it wasn’t all bad. Maye was put in a tough spot and showed the ability to at least man the position down in a capable manner. Here, he sets up in off-coverage in the slot against tight end Mark Andrews. His inside technique puts him really inside of Andrews, which makes the recovery on the pivot route extremely impressive:
Of the in-house options, Maye is the most realistic (with Ashtyn Davis logically sliding in at free safety), but it should give nobody a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The third and final option on the list deals with conventional wisdom. The third option is a man who actually already plays strong safety.
Most Jets depth charts list Adams as the starter and Matthias Farley as the lone backup at strong safety. Farley is a guy who showcases intriguing talent, but there just isn’t much to evaluate at this point.
Other options include rookie Shyheim Carter, veteran cornerback Quincy Wilson, Anthony Cioffi and Bennet Jackson. Versatility is a common trend in this defensive backfield. There are a lot of guys who can plan in multiple spots.
A duo of Poole-Maye at safety is an interesting thought. Of course, Poole would have to be replaced in the slot, and if anybody thinks a Poole-Maye combo can think about touching the production of an Adams-Maye combo, they need to head to the nearest M.D.
Based on Poole’s skill set, the Poole-Adams-Maye trio in the middle of the defensive backfield against 11 personnel is a tremendous group Gregg Williams decided to mold his unit’s identity around.
There are options, in the event Jamal Adams is moved, but none can truly replace the man. The defense’s identity would immediately change and the four-man conventional pass rush would need to step it up.
Of all the options, however, Brian Poole should be the surprising odds-on favorite.