New York Jets safety Marcus Maye enters 2020 with a completely different mindset, one that his versatility can handle.
Get ready, Marcus Maye; you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Wait, that’s Bradley McDougald. He’s the New York Jets safety who decided to take his talents to Kansas University in 2009. So in a way, it’s not Kansas anymore for both Maye and McDougald.
Jamal Adams’ exit meant another challenge for Gregg Williams. And considering McDougald locked down the strong safety for the Seattle Seahawks over the last three seasons, the fit seemed easy to predict: Maye at his usual free safety spot and McDougald sliding in for Adams at strong.
As I said, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Marcus Maye.”
Thus far in camp, it’s easy to spot what Williams has in mind for his defensive backfield. McDougald will play high while Maye roams low. McDougald will take the free safety spot while Maye takes on the strong.
Remember, Maye played strong safety for the Jets last year. In consecutive weeks, at home against the Miami Dolphins and then on the road at Baltimore, Maye played strong safety while Darryl Roberts played free. Both Adams and Brian Poole missed those two contests, and that’s significant considering the latter has some NFL strong safety experience.
Overall, it was a mixed bag for the Florida product. He showcased some positive low-safety traits while also struggling at times (see the Ravens game). Excitingly, the kid is absolutely capable of manning down and excelling in this spot. He just needs the reps and experience.
“It’s two different worlds,” Maye said when Tuesday when asked how different strong safety is from his usual free safety spot. “Being back deep, you’ve got to see things from different angles. You’ve got to be the last line of defense, so you have to approach different situations differently. Just being in the box you have to worry about the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, tight ends … there’s a lot going on down there in regards to the big guys. So like I said, it’s two different worlds but I feel like once I get going, I’ll be fine.
“You’re still going to get the same hustle plays, the same effort to the ball. I’m still the same guy, I’m not going to put anything bigger on it than what it is. I’ve just got to go out and play ball … but still just the same old me.”
Marcus Maye’s versatility is about to be unleashed.
Everybody’s familiar with Maye’s deep run-support play. It’s some of the best skills in the business. Take, for example, the following play against the Dallas Cowboys last year.
It’s not enough to simply play everything aggressively. As a single-high safety, knowing when to shoot down or slow-play things is crucial, and Maye has that skill down to a science.
The importance of Maye biding his time with a blocker out in front of Ezekiel Elliott here cannot be stressed enough. And although Maye will be taking on much more of a strong safety spot in 2020, he will find himself in deep (two-deep) looks as well.
It’s true: Maye needs reps at his new position. He needs experience. Still, it’s not as if he’s never manned down the spot prior.
When both Adams and Poole were injured last year, Maye took on the new role for two games (vs. Miami Dolphins and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens). On the following play, Maye showcases just a bit of what he can do when fitting in the run support from an outside-in perspective as the strong-side safety.
One of the areas Maye drastically falls short of the guy he’s replacing is his physicality. The Florida guy will rarely punch and move blockers the way the LSU guy does. Too often, he’ll look to move around blockers instead of punching.
This play showcases the very notion that Maye’s physicality falls well short of Adams’. On the plus side, he uses his hands in a terrific way to shed the block and plays edge run-support brilliantly after the running back goes for a second-effort.
Here, on a third-and-2 situation, Maye’s D-gap responsibility inside of Jordan Jenkins (outside-in) has the strong safety needing to punch and move the tight end. He does a halfway decent job of getting that done.
Only experience and reps will help Maye feel more comfortable in these sorts of spots that need his fun-fit physicality as an extra man in the box.
Not being in Kansas anymore means a lot of man coverage—something free safeties are hardly tasked with on a down-by-down basis. The good news is this: Maye can get it done against tight ends.
Local boy Mike Gesicki looked to snag a touchdown at MetLife Stadium last year with former Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick delivering the ball. Maye plays it perfectly.