In 2021, the Jets took a wait-and-see technique to their cornerback position, deciding to evaluate the young skill on their lineup instead of investing significant possessions into the position. One year later on, they’ve lastly delighted in a costly cornerback, signing previous Seattle Seahawk DJ Reed to a three-year offer.
The 25-year old previous fifth-round choice has severe self-confidence in his own capabilities and will instantly enter a beginning function in the Jets redesigned secondary.
There shouldn’t be any concerns about Reed’s potential scheme fit because he played his first two seasons in head coach Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco. However, he started just two games in those two seasons and then was waived after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during training camp in 2020.
It’s possible Saleh lost faith in Reed at the time but has since been convinced he’s developed into a solid player. Alternatively, perhaps he always had faith in the player and wasn’t surprised when he enjoyed success after being claimed off waivers by Seattle. Either way, he has Reed back in his defense now and will expect him to provide the Jets with an upgrade.
However, Reed’s role in San Francisco was different than the one he’ll be expected to play with the Jets. He was a rotational reserve, seeing reps in a variety of roles. In his rookie year, he saw action at free safety and in the slot, whereas in 2019, he mostly played in the slot but did see some brief action on the outside.
At only 5’9” and 188 pounds, Reed was expected to project to a slot role at the pro level and that’s the role he started off in with the Seahawks in 2020. However, he was forced to move to the boundary due to injuries and ended up thriving in that role over the second half of the season and then playing there full-time last season.
Saleh should not consider Reed too small to play on the outside, as he’s basically the same size as Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry, who split reps at right cornerback in 2021. That’s the position Reed played most of the time in Seattle so he figures to fill that spot with the Jets.
In 2021, the Jets started Bryce Hall on the left side, although he did track the number one receiver in certain situations over the second half of the season. Media speculation suggests Echols could compete with Hall for the starting job, but the fact Hall has superior size should give him the edge because Saleh may feel starting undersized corners on both sides could make them too vulnerable against teams with bigger receivers.
With the Jets having filled several of their holes in free agency and still holding four top-40 picks in the upcoming draft, we shouldn’t rule out them trying to find another starter via this route in April.
Recent speculation seems to be linking the Jets to former Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, whose pro day was last week with the Jets in attendance. They also hired a defensive coach from the Bearcats, Greg Scruggs, last month. Gardner certainly brings the size and length that will complement Reed and is an excellent athlete with the prospective to be elite. The question is, would he be available with the 10th pick or will the Jets have to take him with the fourth pick to secure his services?
Whether he’s paired with Hall, Gardner or someone else, Saleh considers Reed to be a “great fit” in the defense they are currently building. He has four interceptions over the past 2 seasons – three more than Hall – and is an excellent contributor in run support, which is a particular weakness of Echols.
The Jets won’t write Hall and Echols off altogether even if they have to go back to the bench, so the hope will be that adding a good gamer like Reed to the group will rub off on them and aid them as they continue to develop.
Reed’s versatility could also be useful in an emergency, especially if the Jets add another viable starter. He could move into the slot or even back to safety if the Jets suffer personnel losses at those positions. He’s even returned kicks in the past, so that could be an option as well, should the need arise.
His primary function, however, will be to lock down one side of the field and the Jets will be relying on him to bring resilience, consistency and awareness to the position.