Second-year cornerback Javelin Guidry has gone from the practice squad to the favorite to win the New York Jets’ starting slot cornerback job.
A 100-meters champion in two states (Texas and California) and the owner of the fastest 100-meter time in California state history (10.13s in 2017), Javelin Guidry is one of the speediest men in the NFL. He ran the forty-yard dash in 4.29 seconds at the 2020 NFL Draft Combine, tied for the fourth-fastest time by a cornerback in the history of the event. He also showcased tremendous strength for the position with 21 bench press reps, ranking at the 93rd percentile all-time among cornerbacks.
Despite his world-class physical tools, Guidry went undrafted in 2020. The 5-foot-9, 191-pound speedster was a quality starting slot corner throughout all three of his seasons with the Utah Utes, thriving as a true freshman and maintaining that success through his junior season, but scouts questioned his size, recognition, awareness, and overall technique. Those issues left him as an intriguing piece of moldable clay that was there for the taking on the undrafted free agent market.
The Jets scooped up Guidry, and he landed on the team’s practice squad entering the regular season. Injuries tossed Guidry into action for his first NFL game in Week 4. He would become a regular on special teams through Week 11, but it wasn’t until Week 12 that Guidry got his first defensive action.
Arthur Maulet initially replaced Brian Poole as the slot cornerback in Week 9 following Poole’s season-ending injury. Following Ashtyn Davis‘ season-ending injury midway through the Jets’ Week 13 clash with the Raiders, Maulet replaced Davis at safety and Guidry took Maulet’s place in the slot.
Guidry would play 158 defensive snaps from Weeks 13-15, starting at slot cornerback in Weeks 14 and 15 against the Seahawks and Rams. Over that limited period of time, he showed a lot of promise.
Across his three games with extended action from Weeks 13-15, Guidry was targeted 13 times and allowed 10 catches for 87 yards (6.7 per target) and only one first down (7.7% of targets). He posted a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 76.3, 11th-best out of 86 qualified cornerbacks over that span.
Guidry was particularly impressive in zone coverage. On the season, he earned a PFF coverage grade of 77.8 when playing in zone coverage, which ranked second-best among qualified rookie cornerbacks (behind Kansas City’s L’Jarius Sneed) and 21st out of 150 qualified cornerbacks (87th percentile). That’s huge for Guidry going forward, as the Jets are likely going to play a lot of zone this year based on the backgrounds of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich.
Guidry’s other positive traits included his great tackling (one missed tackle on the season) and a knack for punching the ball out (four forced fumbles).
As things stand in mid-May of 2021, Guidry has a strong chance to go into Carolina in Week 1 as the Jets’ starting slot cornerback. Poole remains a free agent, leaving Guidry poised for a competition with 2021 draft picks Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols.
Can Guidry build upon the flashes that he showed in 2020 and establish himself as a good slot cornerback?
Let’s dig into some of what he put on tape in his rookie season.
One of the most important skills for a zone-heavy slot corner is the ability to finish tackles when breaking downhill. You want guys who can click-and-close in a hurry and then bring down the receiver without giving him anything extra after the catch. Guidry did this well in 2020.
Guidry drops into the hook/curl zone. He respects the possibility of the tight end sitting down and then lets him go when he turns upfield, passing him off to the next zone while focusing on his own responsibility. Guidry then turns his attention to the only threat in his area, Robert Woods underneath, and he breaks on Woods with great timing to prevent any yardage after the catch.
Here’s another good break from Guidry.
Guidry reacts to the motion and wheel route by Woods and prepares to get depth to stay underneath him. As he notices Jared Goff taking pressure and dumping the ball off, Guidry breaks downhill. Knowing he has help to the inside, Guidry takes an outside angle, and that smart decision allows him to team up with Neville Hewitt and hold Cooper Kupp to a two-yard gain.
Guidry does a good job of playing hard to the slot receiver’s out-breaking route since he has help to the inside. When the ball is dumped off, Guidry sprints hard to the sideline (nearly taking a flat angle) to take away the outside lane, knowing he has no help to the outside. He forces the running back into traffic and gets in on the tackle for a minimal gain.
Another good tackle by Guidry that gives the receiver no bonus yardage post-catch.
These plays are nothing special individually, but their impact stacks up over time. Over the course of a long season, bad cornerbacks botch easy tackles and allow them to turn into big plays far more often than the good ones do. Let’s say that Guidry misses three tackles over the course of the season while the league average starting cornerback misses eight. That would be five big plays saved versus average – and that’s where the value comes in. It’s like free throw shooting. Nobody jumps out of their seat when they watch one made free throw, but over time, the points will add up in bunches for a player who hits 90% of his free throws instead of 70%.
Guidry had one missed tackle against 21 defensive tackles in 2020, giving him a 21-to-1 ratio that ranked 11th-best out of 166 qualified cornerbacks (94th percentile). His ability to routinely clean up simple plays like the ones above gives him the potential to create a substantial positive impact as a downhill-tackling slot corner in a zone-heavy scheme.
One of the most interesting aspects of Guidry’s short run in 2020 was the incredible frequency at which he forced fumbles. Guidry ranked 629th among all defensive players with 172 total defensive snaps, and yet he tied for third with four forced fumbles. The man punched the ball out once every 43.0 plays, which is simply astronomical.
Guidry was on the field for only five snaps against New England in Week 17 and still managed to knock a football loose.
Knowing that the threat of a pass exists, Guidry waits to attempt to shed the block and leave his man, patiently analyzing the action in the backfield to see where he needs to be. Once he confirms that Damiere Byrd is going to run the ball himself, Guidry yanks his man forward to shed the block. Guidry puts his helmet on the ball and pops it out.
Guidry shoots into the backfield, fends off the crack-blocking wide receiver with his outside shoulder, and wraps up, punching the ball out from behind with his right hand.
The main area of concern for Guidry over his small-sample 2020 season was his man coverage. Over 33 snaps in man coverage, Guidry allowed five catches on six targets for 62 yards, averages of 10.3 yards per target and 1.88 yards per cover snap. Comparatively, he allowed 5.3 yards per target and 0.80 yards per cover snap in zone coverage.
Guidry versus DeVante Parker on a wheel/fade.
Guidry actually shows a lot of promise on this rep considering that it’s one of the first three man-to-man coverage reps of his career and it comes against a star in DeVante Parker. Guidry doesn’t make much contact and allows Parker to body him for position on a well-placed back-shoulder throw, but Guidry remains on top of Parker and is able to contest the throw. He pulls Parker’s arms away to force the ball loose for what is ruled a fumble.
Henry Ruggs beats Guidry man-to-man on this dig route, but Guidry swats the ball loose after the catch.
It’s an understandable issue considering he was an undrafted rookie thrown into the fray late in the season (within a secondary already riddled with injuries and peppered with young players), but another problem with Guidry was his susceptibility to the occasional coverage bust.
Whenever you are trying to assign blame on a play like this, it’s always a guessing game unless you are someone who is a part of the team and knows the actual assignments. Perhaps Guidry is not at fault here, but he seems to be the most likely culprit. Guidry motions with Ruggs across the formation, suggesting he has Ruggs man-to-man. Ruggs goes back across the formation, but Guidry doesn’t follow him, instead opting to stay where he is and man up against the tight end. Harvey Langi takes the same assignment and nobody covers Ruggs.
There’s a lot to like about Guidry heading into what should be a heated battle for playing time in the slot. He maximizes his track-runner speed by closing ground in a hurry to make YAC-limiting stops out of zone coverage – a skill that makes him a great fit for this scheme. His tackle-finishing consistency was great and he showed the potential to be a big-time playmaker with his propensity for forcing fumbles.
Look out for the second-year man out of Utah to head into Week 1 as the Jets’ starting nickel cornerback.