New York Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich gets a familiar face in the form of safety Sharrod Neasman. What does he bring to the table?
After five years with the Atlanta Falcons, Sharrod Neasman is reuniting in New York with his former defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich. He joins a talented safety group that already has Marcus Maye, Lamarcus Joyner, and Ashtyn Davis.
Veteran safety Sharrod Neasman is signing with the #Jets, per @AgentChristinaP.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 10, 2021
Where does Neasman fit in? What are his greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Time to dive into the numbers.
Neasman was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic in 2016. He played 57 regular season games and five playoff games for Atlanta, mainly playing on special teams but getting a decent number of snaps on defense in the 2018 and 2020 seasons.
Neasman is 29 years old and will turn 30 in October.
Special teams versatility
Neasman is a highly experienced and well-rounded special teams player. He logged 1,070 special teams snaps over his five years as a Falcon, regularly contributing to five of the six special teams phases (every unit besides field goal/extra point protection).
Here is a breakdown of Neasman’s career snap counts by special teams phase:
- Kickoff coverage: 326 snaps
- Kickoff return (as blocker): 247 snaps
- Punt return (as rusher/blocker): 177 snaps
- Field goal/extra point block: 176 snaps
- Punt coverage: 144 snaps
Neasman has 20 tackles and seven missed tackles on special teams in his career, a ratio of 2.9-to-1 that is identical to the 2020 NFL average for special teamers.
While Neasman has only gotten a limited amount of defensive action in his five-year career (774 snaps), he has shown to be capable of handling a variety of responsibilities in the secondary, offering versatility that should intrigue Jets fans. Unlike many other core special teams players in the NFL, Neasman is not completely useless as a defensive player.
Here is a breakdown of where Neasman has lined up throughout his career:
- Free safety: 43.6%
- Off-ball linebacker: 26.7%
- Slot cornerback: 13.3%
- Strong safety: 9.5%
- Outside linebacker: 4.4%
- Outside cornerback: 2.5%
Big-play prevention in coverage
Neasman has refrained from allowing massive chunks of yardage in coverage. He has given up only 7.1 yards per target in his career, which is below the 2020 safety average of 8.0. The longest catch he has given up in his career was a 30-yarder in 2018, which is also the only reception of over 25 yards that he has coughed up.
Neasman is decently active against the run. Over his career, he has 10 run stops over 276 snaps as a run defender, a 3.6% rate that beats the 2020 average for safeties (3.0%). He had an excellent season as a run stopper in 2018 as he had seven run stops over 154 snaps (4.5%) but wasn’t active in that phase in 2020 with two stops over 104 snaps (1.9%).
On defense, Neasman has 11 missed tackles in his career. His career 5.9-to-1 ratio of tackles to missed tackles on defense is below-average for a safety (2020 S average: 7.5-to-1).
Neasman actually improved greatly in this area in 2020. He had 18 defensive tackles compared to just one missed tackle.
Neasman has rarely ever been used as a blitzer in his career, being sent after the quarterback on just eight snaps. Only one of those resulted in pressure, but it was a sack on Tom Brady this past season.
Neasman has given up four touchdown passes in his career and has yet to snag an interception. All four of those touchdowns came in 2018, but Neasman has only been targeted eight times since then (he was targeted 29 times in 2018), so he hasn’t quelled the concerns about his touchdown susceptibility just yet.
All in all, Neasman has proven to be a quality backup defensive back. In 2018, his 67.8 overall grade at Pro Football Focus ranked at the 49th percentile among qualified safeties (200+ snaps), and in 2020, his 63.4 grade ranked at the 47th percentile. He’s been a passable, essentially league-average player, which is all you could hope for in a backup.