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Can Jarrod Wilson erase the NY Jets’ backup safety woes?

Jarrod Wilson, NY Jets, Stats, PFF Grade
Jarrod Wilson, NY Jets, Getty Images

New York Jets add another safety to the mix in Jarrod Wilson

Following the loss of starting free safety Lamarcus Joyner for the entire season, the New York Jets promoted Jarrod Wilson to the active roster, who they had signed to the practice squad on Sept. 6.

The Jets are looking for better play from their backup safeties than what they got in their season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Joyner’s replacements – Sheldrick Redwine and Adrian Colbert – combined to allow all three passes in their direction to be completed for 93 yards, two first downs, and a touchdown.

Can Jarrod Wilson keep the Jets’ secondary afloat?

Career background

Wilson went undrafted out of Michigan in 2016 before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He made the team’s 53-man roster and played in all 16 games on special teams but had a minimal role on defense.

Wilson played nearly exclusively on special teams over the first 44 games of his career before finally getting a shot to play extended time on defense over the final three weeks of 2018, his third season. He played well and ended up elevating to Jacksonville’s starting free safety role by the start of 2019.

From 2019-20, Wilson started at safety for Jacksonville in all 28 of his appearances, playing 100% of the defensive snaps in the majority of those games.

Solid coverage

Wilson has a respectable track record in coverage. Throughout his career, he has allowed 46 of the 70 passes thrown his way to be completed for 446 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Check out how his career coverage numbers compare to the 2020 league averages for safeties:

  • Yards per target: 6.4 vs. 2020 league average of 8.0
  • Touchdown/interception ratio: 1.0 vs. 1.6
  • Pro Football Focus coverage grade: 72.7 vs. 62.6

Wilson has seven passes defended in 28 games over the past two seasons, including three interceptions.

In his first season as a starter in 2019, Wilson was excellent in the passing game. His PFF coverage grade of 79.6 ranked 17th-best out of 99 qualified safeties. He allowed 276 yards over 40 targets (6.9 per target) and committed no penalties.

Wilson took a step back in 2020, posting a 64.7 coverage grade. That was still solid, though, ranking 35th out of 99 qualifiers. He gave up 167 yards on 21 targets, an average of 8.0 yards per target, and also committed three penalties (he had never committed one in his career prior to 2020).

Zone vs. man coverage

Wilson has been much better in zone coverage than man coverage.

In 2020, Wilson allowed a 64.9 passer rating in zone (15th of 101 safeties) and a 97.4 passer rating in man (63rd). The story was the same in 2019 as he gave up a 67.6 passer rating in zone (23rd of 98 safeties) and a 94.7 passer rating in man (57th).

Shaky run defense

Wilson is better known for his coverage abilities than his run-stopping. In 2020, his run defense was fairly average as he ranked 51st out of 99 safeties with a 64.9 run defense grade at PFF. That was an improvement over the 2019 season when he ranked 69th with a mark of 57.7.


Staying in line with his overall production in each phase, Wilson is a good tackler against the pass but below-average against the run.

Over the past two seasons, Wilson missed on 13.5% of his tackle opportunities against the run, a bit worse than the 2020 average for safeties (13.0%). He missed only 6.8% of the time against the pass, much better than the 2020 average for safeties (10.7%).


Wilson can blitz occasionally. He averaged 1.4 pass-rush snaps per game over the past two seasons with 39 pass-rush snaps in 28 games.

With eight pressures on 50 career pass-rush snaps, Wilson owns a career pressure rate of 16.0%. The 2020 league average for safeties was 18.8%. Of those eight pressures, six were hurries, two were quarterback hits, and none were sacks.


Wilson missed four games with a hamstring issue early in the 2020 season. Prior to 2020, he had only missed one game in four seasons.


Wilson is primarily a deep safety but is not tethered to the role and can do different things near the line of scrimmage. Here is a look at his snap distribution in 2020:

  • Free safety: 58% of snaps
  • Box: 24%
  • Slot: 16%
  • Outside cornerback: 2%

When Wilson enjoyed his best season in 2019, he played in the box much more frequently:

  • Free safety: 45%
  • Box: 34%
  • Slot: 18%
  • Outside cornerback: 3%

Wilson will likely be asked to play a much greater portion of his snaps at free safety than he played with Jacksonville over the past two seasons. Here is how the Jets deployed their free safety (the combination of Lamarcus Joyner, Sheldrick Redwine, and Adrian Colbert’s snaps) against Carolina:

  • Free safety: 78%
  • Box: 16%
  • Slot: 6%
  • Outside cornerback: 0%

The Jets initially signed Sharrod Neasman to be their versatile backup safety. He had experience playing under Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta and had proven over multiple seasons that he could provide a decent level of play when called upon to replace an injured starter.

With Neasman on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury, the Jets have had to dig through the scrapheap to find able bodies at safety.

Redwine and Colbert were not passable in Week 1. Perhaps Wilson can play a bit more competently while the Jets wait for Neasman and Ashtyn Davis to return.

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