Dan Leberfeld's Blog

Former scouts take on some of the top edge-rushers 04.06.22

Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, Purdue’s George Karlatis and Michigan’s David Ojabo.
The Jets need an edge-rusher and these are some of the top ones in the draft. Here are the thoughts of NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, on these five players:
“I think that Aidan is showing a little bit more explosiveness with his hands-on contact. You see it in flashes with Thibodeaux, but I think overall kind of the theme is that Hutchinson, especially this year when you compare those two guys, just down in, down out, game in, game out, was just more consistent throughout the season. Hutchinson has more ways to get to the quarterback.
“[Johnson’s] taken off from having a really good season and having a great week of practice down there in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Karlaftis is polarizing. Just about everybody I talk to in the NFL feels like this is a real high-floor player. They had to kick him out of the (Purdue) facility, so he bought an apartment right next to the facility so he could get there all the time and literally he’s just a football junkie. He’s a big-time power rusher who plays extremely hard.
“Then Ojabo (before the injury) is a fascinating one at Michigan who’s just really started to come on on the other side of Hutchinson. He’s got a big-time get-off. He can bend better than Karlaftis. He just needs to be a little stronger, more consistent, and kind of earn more reps to play the run, which he didn’t get a ton of there at Michigan.”
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New York Jets organization donates $1 million to help Ukraine 04.05.22

*The New York Jets today announced a $1 million donation to help aid the people of Ukraine. The donation will be split between various organizations, each receiving $100,000, over the course of a year. The first organization to receive a donation is Plast Scouting – USA.
“These donations will positively impact Ukrainian refugees and their families with essential supplies,” said New York Jets Chairman Robert Wood Johnson. “The need for resources is continuously growing. Our thoughts continue to be with the innocent lives who have been affected and all those who are suffering.”
The events in Ukraine are personal to the Johnson family and the New York Jets. Suzanne Johnson, wife of Mr. Johnson, grew up in a Ukrainian neighborhood in New York and is from a family of immigrants. Her mother, Marie, was born to Ukrainian immigrant parents while her father, Stefan Ircha, is from Ternopil, a town outside of Kyiv, and immigrated to the United States after WWII at age 21 by himself.
“Today in Ukraine, many people are suffering. Because of this, it is important to us to provide assistance to organizations making a true difference on the ground,” said Mrs. Johnson. “My family and I are heartbroken by the devastation and loss and are praying for the individuals who have become refugees and those still living and working in Ukraine.”
Plast Scouting was founded in 1911 in Ukraine and now has 2000 scout volunteers working on the critical last mile to reach those in need. Plast Scouting – USA is focused on addressing many of Ukraine’s urgent needs, through fundraising, assembling pocket first aid kits, sourcing medical equipment and supplies, and optimizing logistics so that aid can reach Ukraine quickly and effectively.
“Plast Scouting – USA is very grateful to the Jets organization for their generous donation,” said Andrew Kozak, Chairman Plast Scouting – USA. “The funds will be put to immediate use in the purchase of critical medical supplies to treat the many heavily wounded Ukrainians, along with cutting edge medical technology such as portable, wireless ultrasound equipment.”
In addition to a monetary donation, the Jets organized an opportunity for staff to donate medical supplies to help aid relief efforts. The organization will match all donated supplies in an extended effort to assist victims and their families.
*Press Release

Underrated important signing for the Jets 04.05.22

This signing is underrated and very important for the New York Jets . . .

The Jets signing of defensive tackle Solomon Thomas is a key move for them.

Yes, barring injury, he could be a reserve defensive tackle, behind Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins.

But here is the deal: The Jets rotate their defensive linemen a ton, perhaps more than many other teams, because their system calls for guys to pursue the ball sideline-to-sideline. Some systems call for their defensive linemen to stay at home more.

So the big guys in this scheme need more breathers, and sometimes last year, when the starters came out, there was a precipitous dropoff to the second team. The Jets can’t allow that to be the case this year, so getting Thomas in the fold will help.

We are talking about the third pick overall of the 2017 draft, so clearly there is quite a bit of talent here.

While he is only 6-2, 280, that really isn’t much smaller than Williams and Rankins. This defense calls for smaller, quicker defensive tackles to shoot gaps and get up the field quickly.

“I like a lot of things about this defense,’ Thomas said. “First of all, it’s an attack front, getting off the ball. I’m an undersized inside player but this is where I can thrive, I can use my athleticism, I can be quick, I can be explosive. Those are my strengths.”

So this is an important signing for Gang Green, because you can’t think of the backup defensive tackles as true backups, because they play so darn much.

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Receivers don’t help QB with everything 04.04.22

Robert Saleh was asked if adding a wide receiver was a priority and responded:

“I don’t know if it’s a priority,” Saleh said. “We want to add as many really good players as we can. We’ve got a lot of draft capital to do some of that. We have a lot of needs on our football team in terms of just trying to fill some roster voids. I thought we did a great job in free agency with the things that we did. To call it a priority, one over the other, I don’t know if I see it that way. I think every position, we’re in a good position to take the best players available at every single spot and that’s something we’ll do.”

Some people tend to obsess about the receiver position, but this team has needs across the board, some of which they have addressed so far in free agency.

But let’s keep in mind that this team has the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense last year. They need to fix that side of the ball in a major way, and began that process in free agency and will continue it in the draft.

Should they add some receivers, no doubt, but will adding receivers magically fix a young QB’s ability to go through progressions, read defenses and manipulate safeties with his eyes? Maybe not. Apples and oranges.

Zach Wilson will work on those things this off-season. It’s a big off-season for the kid.

And that answer from Saleh nails it and shows the Jets know they need to focus on improving the whole team.

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Best draft approach for the Jets 04.01.22

It might sound cliche, but it’s the way to go . . .

The Jets’ approach in the draft needs to be simple.

They need to stick to their value board, that they spent months to set up, and pick the highest-rated player when they are on the clock.

And it sounds like that is what they are going to do.

“I think part of the goal of any free agency is going into a draft without any huge perceived holes to give teams a target of, “Ok, they’re definitely going for this position. They definitely need this position; they don’t have a starter here.” So, I think what we did, we were able to get Laken (Tomlinson), be able to get D.J. Reed, (Jordan) Whitehead, the two tight ends, Solly (Solomon Thomas), bring Nate Shepherd back, I feel like we were able to add quality players that are going to help us so we can go into draft and maintain our flexibility,” said Jets GM Joe Douglas.

But clearly the Jets need an edge-rusher and a cornerback, so if two player grades are even when they are on the clock, clearly you go with the position of need.

However, you don’t reach for it, because that often doesn’t work out.

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What Arians just did for Bowles was pretty amazing 03.31.22

What Bruce Arians just did for Todd Bowles was pretty awesome.

Arians stepped down as Tampa Bay head coach on Wednesday, and Bowles was named his successor.

The timing of this is flat-out amazing for Bowles.

He is guaranteed to have the best quarterback of all time under center for him in 2022 – Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.

If Arians retired after this season, and Brady retired as well, how good would the Tampa Bay job really be?

When Bowles coached the Jets from 2015-18, he had a 24-40, and one reason for that poor record was not having an answer at QB.

The NFL is a QB-driven league, and if you don’t have an elite player at that position, where are you going?

So for Arians to step down now, and give his long-time friend, and former safety at Temple University, the chance to start his second NFL coaching stint with Brady at QB, is a special gesture.

Look, there are probably a number of reasons Arians is retiring, some related to health.

But the timing of this, and handing Brady to Bowles, is quite a gift from one friend to another.

Because Bowles, like a lot of NFL coaches, knows how hard it is to succeed in QB no man’s land.

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Jets do need to “force the issue” – they have been looking forever 03.30.22

No, they shouldn’t reach in the draft, but yes they need to force the issue.

Robert Saleh was asked on Monday about the possibility of the Jets picking an edge-rusher in the draft.

“You guys know me, I’ve said it before, if we had the Fearsome Foursome, we’d still be wanting to add a pass rusher,” Saleh said. “It’s always going to help. If the opportunity presents itself, we’ll get it, but we’re not going to force the position either. John Franklin-Myers is in good shape, obviously with Carl, we added Jacob Martin, Bryce Huff is still in the fold, so we still feel good about our defensive line as it stands. Quinnen (Williams) is getting ready to have a really good year and Sheldon Rankins, so it’s still a really good group. It allows us the ability not to have to force the issue at any of our draft picks.”

Yes, they need to force the issue. That doesn’t mean recklessly reaching and drafting somebody too early. That almost never works. But let’s put it this way – if two grades are close on the board – the tie goes to the dynamic edge-rusher, high in the draft.

It’s okay to show loyalty and mention names of incumbents while addressing the press, and they do have some good players in the defensive line room, but they need a game-wrecking edge-rusher.

It’s not even a debatable issue.

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Jets biggest need 03.29.22

You could make a strong argument that this is currently the Jets’ biggest need.

They need a game-wrecking pass-rusher in the worst way to help take their defensive front to the next level.

During the playoffs, Robert Saleh’s former boss and close friend, San Francisco 49er coach Kyle Shanahan, made a great point about the importance of having a great pass rush.

”Usually, the teams at this point in the year all have good pass rushes,” Shanahan before a 49ers playoff game. “I think it’s pretty hard to get to this point when you don’t have one.”

So true.

As Saleh said recently said about defensive line play – “It’s the one group that makes everyone better on defense and it’s the one group that can take away everybody on offense.”

So while some people are obsessed with the Jets adding receivers, and they certainly will moving forward, getting an elite pass rusher, who keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night, is perhaps this team’s biggest need right now.

And this likely will be addressed early in the draft.

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Important part of Jets free agency that can’t be forgotten 03.22.22

In a sport like football, this important aspect of free agency can’t be ignored.

Aside from plugging a few starting spots in free agency, another important job is signing players for depth, because we all know the NFL is an injury-laden league, with a 100 percent injury rate.

So while it’s not as sexy to sign depth players compared to big-name stars, it’s something smart teams do a lot during free agency.

Think about when Joe Douglas signed offensive linemen Dan Feeney and Morgan Moses last spring, and then how important those moves were when injuries struck on the line. Or at receiver, how Keelan Cole came in handy when myriad receivers went down.

Feeney has been re-signed to provide offensive line depth once again, as has Conor McDermott.

So with all that cap space, don’t forget the importance of the Jets using some of that money to make sure they have quality depth.

Because the injury bug is going to hit.

It happens every year.

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Saleh – ‘Money makes you more of what you already are’ 03.21.22

Jets coach Robert Saleh has some interesting theories on money and players.

With the draft right around the corner, Joe Douglas, Saleh and company are doing a deep dive into hundreds of college prospects.

And one big question they are trying to answer is how these young men will respond to getting paid good money to play football.

“I’ve always believed, money only makes you more of what you already are,” Saleh said recently in a conference call with Jets season ticket holders. “These young men are coming into this profession and they’re going to be getting money thrown at them. It’s very very important to dig deep and get to the root of who these men are as individuals. You have to understand when this person comes in the building, whatever you think the issues were are only going to exacerbate with money.”

So that is why Douglas, Saleh and many others on the Jets’ football side are trying to figure out which prospects will be negatively impacted by big money, and which ones will be just fine and continue to be driven.

“We’re just trying to figure out what makes these young men tick, why they play the game, do they play the game because they like it or because they love it,” Saleh said. “There’s a distinct difference between the two as well because when you look at guys who play the game because they like what it does to their brand.”

Saleh says Jets are looking for guys who play football “because they absolutely love everything about it.”

“They love the football part of it, they love the studying, they love rehab, they love training, the locker room, they love everything,” Saleh said. “Those are the ones that usually work out in this league. So, you study, you dig deep, and you try to figure it all out, and between now and the draft that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

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OT Rule Change Proposal 03.16.22

PLAYING RULE PROPOSAL NO. 1

Amend Rule 16 (Overtime Procedures, pg. 69) (new language underlined, deleted language struck through):

SECTION 1 OVERTIME PROCEDURES

ARTICLE 1. SCORE TIED. If the score is tied at the end of the regulation playing time of all regular season and postseason NFL games, a system of modified sudden-death overtime shall be in effect, pursuant to the following.

ARTICLE 2. END OF REGULATION. At the end of regulation playing time, the Referee shall immediately toss a coin at the center of the field, in accordance with rules pertaining to a usual pregame toss (4-2-2). The visiting team captain is to again call the toss.

ARTICLE 3. EXTRA PERIOD. Following an intermission of no more than three minutes after the end of the regular game, the extra period shall commence.

(a) Subject to Article 4(a), both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner, or if the team kicking off to start the overtime period scores a safety on the receiving team’s initial possession, in which case the team that kicked off is the winner. If a touchdown is scored, the game is over, and the Try is not attempted.

(b) After each team has had an opportunity to possess the ball, if one team has more points than its opponent, then it is the winner. If the team that possesses the ball first does not score on its initial possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.

(c) If the team that possesses the ball first does not score scores a field goal on its initial possession, or if the score is tied after each team has had its opportunity to possess the ball, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner the other team (the second team) shall have the opportunity to possess the ball.

(1) If the second team scores a touchdown on its possession, it is the winner.

(2) If the second team scores a field goal on its possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.

(3) If the second team does not score on its possession, the game is over, and the first team is the winner, subject to (4) below.

(4) (1) If the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, and all rules of the game will be enforced as customary, including awarding points scored by either team during the down. If the second team, after regaining possession, scores a touchdown on has more points than the first team after the down and subsequent try after regaining possession, it is the winner. Only fouls that require the down to be replayed, fouls that negate a score, or palpably unfair acts will be enforced.

Notes:

(1) In such situations, if the player who intercepts the pass or recovers the fumble goes to the ground and makes no effort to advance, the covering official will blow his whistle to end the game.

(2) If the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, but the first team committed a foul prior to the change of possession, the second team’s possession has not legally ended, and the game cannot end on the down. However, in certain situations, the second team cannot decline the penalty and accept the result of the play, no matter how beneficial, because it would create a second possession for itself. It must accept the penalty enforcement, which will extend
its initial possession.

(3) The situation in (2) may also affect the team that receives the opening kickoff during its first possession. If there is a foul by the second team followed by a double change of possession, and the first team declines the penalty and accepts the result of the play, the second team has had its required possession, and the first team has possession of the ball for the second time and needs only a field goal to win. However, if it accepts the penalty, it will extend its initial possession.

(d) A player is in possession when he is in firm grip and control of the ball inbounds (3-2-7). The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.

(e) The opportunity to possess applies only during kicking plays. A kickoff is the opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or field goal attempt that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.

(f) All replay reviews will be initiated by the Replay Official. Coaches’ challenges will not be allowed.


Will Jags spending spree work? Like any team with young QB (like Jets), it depends 03.15.22

The Jacksonville Jaguars spent big money right out of the gate in free agency on guard Brandon Scherff, wide receiver Christian Kirk, linebacker Foye Oluokun, tight end Evan Engram, defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi and wide receiver Zay Jones.

But, you know what, this approach will likely only make them an excellent team if the QB works out.

Last year, the Jaguars picked Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the first pick of the draft. As a rookie, he was inconsistent.

Some would argue it was due to his supporting cast.

Other people would argue that his 12 TD, 17 interception rookie season, some of that was on him as far as accuracy and reading defenses.

We will find out a lot this season if it was the chicken or the egg.

However, if he struggles as a full field reader, and with manipulating defensive backs his eyes, there is only so much you can help him with a free agent spending spree.

So the key to Jaguars benefitting from this expensive free-agent class is Lawrence taking the next step as a pro QB.

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Berrios sets a tone 03.14.22

It wasn’t just important to re-sign him because he’s a really good player.

But it was also important for the Jets’ cultural reboot.

The Jets re-signed returner, wide receiver and Jets Sweep king Braxton Berrios to a two-year deal for $12 million.

Not only is he an All-Pro returner and underrated receiver, but plays with his “hair on fire” to borrow an old scouting term, and sets a great tone for his teammates on how the game should be played. The 5 ft 58, 184 pounder is absolutely fearless and Jets special teams coach Brant Boyer loves his returning style.

“There are a lot of guys that don’t want the smoke – if you know what I mean,” said Boyer in an exclusive interview with the Jets’ website. “They don’t want to run up in there full speed and that’s what I’m asking them to do. There are guys that go outside when it’s an inside return just to avoid the hits. He doesn’t do that. He hits it 100 miles per hour. Those are the kind of returners I like.”

And the kind Jets fans like, as Berrios has quickly become a fan favorite.

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You have to give Douglas credit for this 03.14.22

While Joe Douglas still has a lot to prove as Jets GM, you have to respect his approach . . .

. . . to contracts.

He doesn’t spend like a drunken sailor. He spends money, but doesn’t give out reckless long-term contracts that paint the team in a corner for many years if the player doesn’t work out.

Adam Schefter announced today that there Jets are signing former San Francisco 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson to a three-year deal for $40 million with $27 million guaranteed. So in some ways, you can view it as a two-year deal for $27 million, because the only thing that matters in NFL contracts is the guaranteed money.

Schefter also announced the Jets signed former Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah to a three-year, $24 million deal.

Jets returner Braxton Berrios was brought back on a two-year deal for $12 million.

Douglas is very big on these shorter, team-friendly contracts, and not giving out contracts, like previous regimes, for insane money, that you are paying off for years to come, even if the player doesn’t work out, like the Trumaine Johnson deal.

Once again Douglas has a lot of work to do, especially fixing the Jets’ 32nd ranked defense, but you have to give him credit for signing tight contracts that don’t wreck the salary cap.

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Could this incredible opportunity impact Jets free agent approach? 03.13.22

Yes, the Jets have a lot of cap space entering free agency.

And coming off a 4-13 season, they clearly need to add some free agents to buttress their roster. There is no doubt about it.

However, you have to wonder, if they might not go hog wild signing free agents, considering they have four premium 2022 draft picks in the top 38 – two each in the first and second rounds.

Their goal is to land four potential starters with these picks.

“You always want to get starters out of your first and second-round picks,” said Jets assistant GM Rex Hogan in an exclusive interview with the team’s website. “With these four picks, and how high they are, we feel really good about it.”

So with the Jets’ goal of landing four eventual starters in the first two rounds, perhaps they take a measured approach in free agency.

Yes, they will sign some players, no question, but will also be cognizant of what they could potentially add in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft. And they also need cap space to pay those four players.

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Saleh asked about his goal for 2022 Jets 03.11.22

During a recent conference call with season ticket holders, Jets coach Robert Saleh was asked by one – “It’s only February, but it’s about next season and a measuring stick. What do you view as a successful season?”

“So that’s where we get cliche-ish – obviously the goal of every team is to win the Super Bowl,” Saleh said. “Really only one team that’s happy at the end of the season. There are teams that are satisfied and there are always teams that are wanting more and other teams that are really angry with what happened. But there’s really only one happy team.”

There’s nothing cliche about that.

That should be every team’s goal, every year.

The NFL isn’t a developmental league. The tickets are too expensive for that.

So in 2022, especially after 11 years out of the playoffs, while it might be a stretch to say the Jets can go to the Super Bowl, at the very least, they need to break their playoff dry spell.

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