The new edge rusher in town
In turn, the Jets have filled Curry’s spot with the signing of defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga.
The Jets signed free agent DE Jeremiah Valoaga, who last played with the 49ers (and for Robert Saleh) in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season.
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) July 27, 2021
Let’s dig into the numbers behind the Jets’ new edge defender.
A product of UNLV who went undrafted in 2017, Valoaga is an absolute mammoth for an edge player, standing at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds.
In exchange for his huge frame, Valoaga sacrifices athleticism. Based on his pro day performance, he posted a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 3.69 out of 10. That ranked 743rd out of 1,170 players measured in the 2017 draft class (37th percentile).
Valoaga performed decently in drills such as the vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle, and three-cone, but he posted abysmal times in the forty-yard dash (5.21s), 20-yard split (2.96s), and 10-yard split (1.81s).
Playing time and role
We have not seen a whole lot of Valoaga on an NFL field. In the regular season, he has logged only 197 defensive snaps across 13 games. Valoaga played in nine games (153 snaps) for the Lions in 2017 and four for Robert Saleh‘s 49ers (44 snaps) in 2019. In the preseason, he has played 294 defensive snaps over 10 games. Valoaga spent the 2018 season on Miami’s practice squad and opted out of the 2020 season.
Valoaga is usually deployed as an outside defensive end, lining up over the outside shoulder of the outermost player on the offensive line. He played this role on 83.4% of his snaps under Saleh in 2019 and on 92.2% of his snaps with the Lions in 2017.
Detroit leaned heavily towards using Valoaga in rushing situations. In 2017, only 50.3% of Valoaga’s snaps came on passing plays, which is well below the 2020 league average for edge defenders (63.3%). Under Saleh, Valoaga faced a passing play on 63.6% of his snaps, but that sample is far too small to glean much from.
In the regular season, Valoaga has a composite career Pro Football Focus run defense grade of 46.4, which is awful. The 2020 NFL average for edge defenders was 61.4.
Valoaga’s career run defense grade in the preseason is 58.7.
Over 92 career regular-season snaps against the run, Valoaga has collected only three run stops, a rate of 3.3% that is significantly below the 2020 EDGE average of 5.8%.
Valoaga did have a strong preseason against the run with San Francisco in 2019. He picked up five run stops over just 47 run-defense snaps for a run stop rate of 10.6%, earning a PFF run defense grade of 76.3.
Despite being used as a run-game-centric player, Valoaga’s numbers as a pass rusher are actually closer to league-average than his numbers as a run defender.
Valoaga owns a career PFF pass rush grade of 60.3 in the regular season and 58.8 in the preseason. The 2020 positional average was 66.9.
With eight pressures over 104 pass-rush snaps in the regular season, Valoaga has a pressure rate of 7.7% in the regular season, which is below the 2020 league average at his position (9.7%). He has one sack and five quarterback hits.
Adding to his solid preseason with the 49ers in 2019, Valoaga was solid against the pass just as he was against the run. He posted a 9.5% pressure rate with nine pressures over 95 pass-rush snaps. He collected 4.5 sacks, tied for second in the NFL in that year’s preseason.
Valoaga does not offer much special teams value. He has played only 17 special teams snaps in the regular season, all of which came as a rusher for the punt return and field goal block units.
There isn’t much to like on Valoaga’s resume – hence why he is a fringe player – but he did have a strong preseason with Saleh’s Niners in 2019 over a fairly large sample size (145 snaps in 4 games). Valoaga’s total of 11 stops (tackles that constitute a failed play for the offense) led all edge defenders in the 2019 preseason.
Perhaps a reunion with Saleh is exactly what Valoaga needed.