Jets Fans Clamoring for Return of Priority Free Agent

Brian Poole

Getty The New York Jets defense makes a stand against the New England Patriots on October 21, 2019.

At this point in the offseason, New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas has laid out most of his cards on the table.

One high-intrigue area is still up in the air though, the cornerback position.

Head coach Robert Saleh has made it clear that the Jets would love to develop their younger defensive backs rather than sign a couple of veterans and call it a day.

“The difference between player A and player Z [in the NFL] is minimal,” Saleh told reporters, “the only thing that keeps player Z from becoming player A is opportunity and reps.”

It’s important to note that Coach Saleh did exclude the Jalen Ramsey level superstars from this analogy, but his point was that the rest of the league is not too different in terms of talent.

This fanbase isn’t used to a coach that puts so much responsibility on himself and his staff to get the most out of his players, especially the youth.

The Jets HC also mentioned that Pete Carroll once told him that “you can’t be afraid to play young guys,” and Saleh definitely doesn’t seem to be during his “baptism by fire” campaign.

That’s an admirable approach by the rookie head coach, although many fans may still agree to disagree on this one.

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Brian Poole Workout Video Entices Jets Fans

Former Jets nickelback Brian Poole released an offseason workout video yesterday on June 29, 2021, and it got the people going.

Quite a few Gang Green supporters took to Twitter to urge the defensive back on with likes and comments. The general message was clear, “Jets fans want you back.”

Poole left the 2020 campaign unfinished after a shoulder injury in Week 9 eventually forced him onto the injured reserve. If there were any concerns about his health during this free agency process, this post definitely helped to delegitimize them.

Even so, a fanbase is always easier to convince than a general manager.

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Should the Jets Re-Sign Poole?

As we’ve mentioned in the past, Poole is certainly a logical choice to return if slot DBs like Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry falter during the preseason.

The five-year pro played his past two seasons with the Jets, performing adequately when healthy. Poole had a 64.1 completion percentage against in 2020, up a couple of points from 62.5% in 2019.

For reference, most of the top cornerbacks in the league were around 50-51% in this department last season.

Some of the other analytics on Poole were much more impressive, including his 13th ranked passer rating allowed on targets (61.6) and his yards allowed after the catch which decreased down to 14.44 yards per game.

The Jets slot also totaled two interceptions, one sack and four quarterback pressures in just nine games played. Aside from completion percentage against, these were all major improvements for Poole on his career numbers.

Another element is that the nickelback shouldn’t cost much this late in the offseason. When you factor in that he’s coming off an injury and he only cost Douglas $5 million the year before, that projects as a one-year, $1-3 million deal in 2021 max.

Lastly, a Poole resigning could do wonders for the locker room. The veteran was well-liked and is good friends with fellow Florida alumnus Marcus Maye.

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Jets May Put Their Faith in the Youth

The three players standing in Poole’s way seem to be Guidry and rookies Carter II and Brandin Echols.

The three have all alternated in the slot throughout the offseason, with varied results.

Guidry took over for Poole after his injury in 2020 and was graded out well by Pro Football Focus at a 73.1.

In a recent interview with Jets team reporter Eric Allen, Guidry called the defense “hungry,” adding that they “understand that every day is an interview.”

Echols has taken that mindset to heart this spring, a sixth-rounder out of Kentucky. During a rare minicamp start, the rookie was able to intercept Zach Wilson for a touchdown.

Still, the favorite for the job has to be the rookie fifth-rounder out of Duke. Carter II actually bears some similarities to Poole in terms of height (5-foot-10) and play style, except with less tread on the tires.

On draft night, Saleh told the former Duke Blue Devil that the Jets “have a plan for [him] in this defense,” highlighting his speed, athleticism, man-coverage ability and instincts. He even added a promise to Carter II that he is “going to contribute this year.”

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