In this New York Jets 2020 film review, we take a look at the best of Marcus Maye. From deep safety to setting the edge, he did it all.
The score is three to two, I am beating you. It’s seven to one, are you having fun? The corny-dad jokes that happened in Gold Key Lake when my father was still spry enough to play basketball were too much to take. Forget jokes … the man rhymed the damn score when things were going his way.
Labeling it as an annoyance doesn’t serve my 12-year-old former self any justice.
Also annoying is what happened to Mike Maccagnan‘s first two draft picks back in the 2017 NFL draft. Safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye represented valuable real estate in the draft, the lifeblood of every NFL team. Anything short of employing two stud safeties for the better part of the next decade should have been viewed as a disappointment.
What do New York Jets fans get? Disappointment.
Adams is in the Great Northwest while Maye’s future remains uncertain. While the former’s disappointment level is as harsh as anything Jets fans have seen over the last decade, the latter still requires a conclusion.
Maye, 27, finds himself in a precarious position. The soon-to-be 28-year-old safety (March 9) entered the NFL age the ripe age of 24, a couple of years older than the usual draftee. This means he’s looking for his first big contract a little later than the average NFL player.
Four years and anywhere between $40 million and $55 million has been Maye’s ballpark multi-year figure, but it appears likely that Joe Douglas slaps the franchise tag on the Florida product, dishing the veteran safety $10-$11 million for the 2021 season.
Today, we’ll break down the best of Marcus Maye‘s 2021 season. After all, a guy like Marcus Maye deserves that franchise-tag pay … all day.
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Maye’s strength is realized when he’s asked to showcase versatility. With Adams in Seattle, Maye converted to strong safety to start the season. Although he eventually moved back to free safety, Maye bounced back and forth a couple of times in 2020.
This versatility is usually what Robert Saleh looks for in a safety. Saleh loves to run Cover 4, which means he wants both of his safeties to excel deep. But he also expects his safeties to rotate when necessary (against pre-snap motion). There’s little doubt Saleh wants Maye to return to the team—whether it’s a long-term deal or via the franchise tag.
We witnessed Maye’s versatility right off the bat this past season when he sacked Josh Allen twice and forced a fumble. First, we take a look at both of his sacks.
Although Maye didn’t have to do much, what’s important is that he understood the situation. Not overrunning the mobile Allen was a critical part of the Jets’ defensive game plan in Week 1. Here, especially on the second sack when he came screaming off the edge untouched, Maye broke down and handled the big Allen flawlessly.
One of Maye’s special traits when tackling is the idea that he can get it done from a variety of places on the field. We know he can get it done at strong safety, while starting from inside the box, but when he comes flying down from a single-high or 2-deep look, the man is dangerous.
What’s special about this one is how Maye saved the unit. Ideally, the hard cornerback playing in front of a 2-deep look will want to maintain an outside-in path to the ballcarrier. He should set the edge as much as possible.
Meanwhile, the 2-deep safeties should think with an inside-out trek, yet Maye has to compensate for Pierre Desir‘s actions here. Desir beats the wideout to the punch but drifts too far inside. Maye, outside-in, lays a nick stick on the back with his inside shoulder.
Now we get to Maye’s bread and butter—his coverage game.
The Florida product has made a habit of coming up with game-defining pass breakups for the Jets. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, Maye was huge in a one-on-one situation down the field with the game of the line. He did it yet again for New York in 2020.
With the game on the line, Maye washes out tight end Gerald Everett on a wheel route designed to rub the man-to-man safety and outside cornerback (courtesy of Cooper Kupp‘s under).
Maye plays it perfectly. He loses a bit of separation early but eventually recovers while maintaining the correct amount of contact with his outside arm. He was forced to use the same outside arm to knock the ball away at the last moment—something that helped preserve the team’s first victory of the campaign.
Other than his versatility, Maye’s habit of coming through in clutch situations and in spectacular fashion is another reason Douglas should ensure he returns in 2021.
Maye also forced a big-time turnover in the first quarter when the Jets’ defense was against the ropes against the Buffalo Bills (as seen on the next play for subscribers):