An extremely raw athlete with impeccable potential, can Jabari Zuniga be more than just a rotational piece for the New York Jets? Sam Crnic breaks down Zuniga’s NCAA All-22 Film at Florida.
The New York Jets have seemingly done enough to address the defensive run game. Gregg Williams does a phenomenal job of using defensive ends such as Henry Anderson, Nathan Shepherd and Kyle Phillips to clog up the run lanes. The Jets are more than fine in that phase.
The pass rush is a different story. While Gregg Williams can scheme up answers to stop the run, it’s nearly impossible to do the same in the passing game without a talented edge rusher. Without that No. 1 pass rusher, you simply cannot get sacks or create pressure on a consistent basis.
For a team that ranked 23rd in total sacks in 2019 (35), it was imperative for the Jets to find a potential answer at edge for the first time in 15 years. Given the idea that offense was a deeper need in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL draft, Joe Douglas looked for that answer at defensive end early on Day 3.
Without much hesitation, Jabari Zuniga was taken in the middle of the third round.
- Hometown: Marietta, Georgia
- High School: Sprayberry High School (GA)
- Position: DE
- School: Florida
- Height: 6-foot-3
- Weight: 246 pounds
Not playing football until his junior year in high school, Jabari Zuniga entered the NCAA atmosphere as a 4-star prospect. Standing at 6-foot-3 with a large frame, Zuniga excelled in basketball at Sprayberry. Originally committed to play football at NC State, Florida caught the eye of Zuniga too much for him to say no. Once un-committed to NC State, Jabari chose Florida over the likes of Arkansas.
Redshirting his true freshmen season, Zuniga did not see any game action. Jabari got off to a hot start his redshirt freshmen year, recording a team-best 5 sacks with 11 quarterback hurries; playing all 13 games. He consistently improved each year, accounting for 11 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks his redshirt junior year. While he could have opted for the 2019 NFL draft, Zuniga chose to stay at Florida, forgoing his redshirt senior year.
An injury-riddled 2019 season plagued his chances at impressing scouts, causing him to fall out of the first and second round. Appearing in six games, Zuniga managed to have seven tackles-for-loss and three sacks.
With a chance to prosper on this struggling Jets pass rush unit, Jabari Zuniga could make an immediate impact with his athletic potential and alignment versatility.
Asked about what he can offer in terms of versatility despite a less-than-ideal 2019 season, Zuniga replied:
“I feel like I’m a versatile player, I want to show that I can rush from the 3-technique, I can rush and play the run from a 4i, a 5, a 9, you know, wherever… I think it’s very important [to be versatile] because in the NFL you have teams that are 4-3, 3-4, you have teams that are bringing different packages, so just to have that on film I do feel is super important.”
Before the snap, Zuniga (7-tech, left side of the screen) is placed in a 4-point stance with his tail in the air and inside foot back. Off the ball, Jabari attempts to beat the LT with a speed rip move, taking advantage of an inside set. Zuniga comes off the corner with ideal body lean, in which he exhibits a rip move by “ripping” the left tackle’s outside arm upwards to create separation. The QB does a nice job of stepping up in the pocket to avoid a sack and dishing it out to the drag man for a small gain.
Coming off the right 5-tech unblocked, Zuniga makes the correct decision in attacking the QB instead of the RB on the read option. Even though Zuniga looks to make an easy play at the ball carrier, this is designed, as a trap blocker soon catches him off guard to create a lane between the right B-gap. Once past the line of scrimmage, Zuniga doesn’t have much of a chance to chase down the ball carrier, resulting in a nice gain.
Thinking there was a stunt of some sort, the right side of the offensive line is caught completely off guard which results in a rather quick sack for Florida. The RG lets Zuniga (right 4-tech) pass by him through the right A-gap without even being touched; something that makes you think twice about what the offensive line was expecting. Regardless, Zuniga and former Jet Jachai Polite team up to get the sack.
Operating in a 4-point stance off the right 4i-tech, Zuniga looks to attack the right B-gap to pressure the QB. Zuniga explodes off the ball which prompts a jab step to catch his opposition (RG) off-guard. Once the RG is off-balance following the inside jab step, Zuniga pins the RG’s play-side arm to further gain leverage. From there, he puts his inside arm in a ‘swim’ motion to work his chest through the offensive linemen. Once again, he teams up with former Jet Jachai Polite in getting the sack.
Miss. St. runs a zone-blocking read option from the shotgun to attack the edge crash. The RB runs an inside zone as the QB reads the path of Zuniga (right 7-tech) through the mesh point to see whether he drifts towards the back or the QB. Jabari crashes on the inside zone, which prompts the QB to pull outside. In addition, the right nickel LB also flows towards the RB, giving the QB ample positioning and room to the outside. Given the commitment to the inside from the rest of the defense, Zuniga should have ideally stayed up the field or “slow-played” the read to force the hand-off.
Jabari (right 7-tech) comes out of his stance a little too upright which prompts an awkward-looking attempt at a rip move. The right tackle initially is able to anchor his feet into the ground to create knockback, but Zuniga soon adjusts his hand placement to force his way by. He disengages his outside arm of the RT’s shoulder to use it as leverage in a rip move. From there, he runs freely towards the QB but misses the sack, only for it to be finished off by No. 11.
Zuniga works inside as the right 3-tech man who stunts to the right A-gap. The center is late to adjust to this stunt, which allows Zuniga to get his hips through the offensive linemen with ease. In addition, Zuniga pushes off with his backhand to square back up the target once getting through. To prevent a sack, both the center and pass-blocking RB grab Jabari’s torso to slow him down. That allowed the QB to dish out a quick pass to the weakside WR.
A penalty was not actually called on that play, but Zuniga would probably get the holding call in that situation more often than not. It’s a good rush by Jabari that should have netted a penalty in the defense’s favor.
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