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Can NY Jets DB Jason Pinnock be Robert Saleh’s Jimmie Ward?

Jason Pinnock, Jimmie Ward, NY Jets, 49ers, Robert Saleh
Jason Pinnock, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Jason Pinnock could be Robert Saleh’s version of Jimmie Ward with the New York Jets

When the New York Jets drafted Jason Pinnock with the 175th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft, he was an outside cornerback.

Throughout Pinnock’s rookie season, there were three outside cornerbacks ahead of him on the depth chart: starters Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols as well as Javelin Guidry. As the 2021 season went on, the Jets continued to sustain injuries at the safety position, and it eventually led to Pinnock playing at safety for the final three games of last season.

Considering the position change and his lack of experience as a rookie, what Pinnock accomplished in his short time at safety offered plenty of hope for his future at the position. Over 201 defensive snaps (mostly played over his last three games), he finished with two forced fumbles, one pass defended, 16 tackles, and only six receptions allowed per Pro Football Focus.

One player who bears similarities to Pinnock is San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward. Jets head coach Robert Saleh coached Ward for four years with the San Francisco 49ers (2017-20). Ward was a first-round draft pick for the 49ers in 2014 and is now heading into his ninth year with the team.

Late last season, when Pinnock was starting at safety, Saleh spoke on his ability and how he offers a similar skillset to Ward.

“We just look at Pinnock – his size, length, speed, his athleticism – we’re like, man, he’d be a really cool free safety, Jimmie Ward-type in our system,” Saleh said.

As Pinnock has worked at safety this offseason, he drew another Ward comparison, this time, from defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

At his press conference on Tuesday, Ulbrich said on Pinnock, “Here’s this long, big, physical safety that just [has] range. He checks all the physical boxes. Now, for him it’s really learning the position, he’s a long-time corner. He’s a guy that’s getting better and he’s getting more comfortable at the position.”

When asked if this was the vision in mind for Pinnock, Ulbrich stated, “I think, you know, going back to Coach Saleh’s time with San Francisco when they had Jimmie Ward and in this defense, especially when you get into certain formations, we have safeties that have to cover in a man-to-man against a wide receiver. Jimmie Ward was that guy in San Francisco, a converted corner that went to safety and was able to assume that role at a high level. So we’re searching for that same guy.”

Ulbrich concluded his comments on Pinnock with, “Pinnock is getting better. We’re very excited about what he will be.”

Size and athletic ability

As Ulbrich said, Pinnock offers some great size. He stands at six feet and 205 pounds with 32 3/8″ arm length. Pinnock recorded a blazing 10-yard split time of 1.46 while going through the draft process a year ago, which put him in the 98th percentile. His Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.78 was fantastic.

Pinnock tested at an elite level in the explosion drills, similarly to Ward. Pinnock had a 39.5″ vertical and 128″ broad jump. At 5-foot-10, Ward recorded a 38″ vertical and a 125″ broad jump.

Their three-cone and 40-yard dash times were nearly identical. Pinnock’s three-cone was 6.9 and Ward’s was 6.89, both scores above average. Pinnock ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and Ward ran a 4.47.

Final outlook

Ward had his first great year in 2019, which was his sixth NFL season. His breakout helped the 49ers make the Super Bowl that year. Since then, he has been one of the best safeties in football.

As stated, Pinnock has all of the physical and athletic gifts. Now, it will be about repetition and experience. It would be great for the Jets if he could develop. Like Ward, though, it may take time.

Pinnock is going into his second year in the NFL. He is 22 years old and will turn 23 at the end of this month. With more time playing at safety, Pinnock could become a reliable asset for the Jets who provides the unique ability to play in man-to-man coverage at safety.

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2 years ago

Last year, Pinnock almost immediately started taking snaps away from Ashtyn Davis, who was a year ahead of Pinnock (although injury-plagued), and a highly touted prospect drafted in the third round who played safety in college. Yet, the Jets seemed to favor Pinnock over Davis. Should be interesting to see the competition between those two players.

2 years ago

Good article, Ryan! Thanks!

2 years ago

From your lips to God’s ears. I turly hope we are blessed to get a steal like that in the late rounds.