One of the more impressive New York Jets players in 2020 was undrafted free agent Bryce Huff, out of Memphis.
The rookie registered his first two NFL sacks of his career off eight pressures and just 295 defensive snaps. Huff also combined for 16 tackles.
According to Pro Football Focus, 173 of those snaps were pass-rushing opportunities, to which he received a pass-rush grade of 61.9. His grade against the run was much worse, at 46.6.
Huff started OTAs on the Jets’ bubble, labeled a dark horse to make this roster and contribute. At this point, making the top 53 seems almost a certainty, and head coach Robert Saleh admitted recently that the second-year player may even push for a starting role.
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Jets’ Coaching Staff Continues to Rave About Huff
After the edge rusher’s big performance versus the New York Giants, Coach Saleh was asked about Huff’s development throughout training camp.
The Jets HC replied: “You know he transformed his body through OTAs and all the way up [until] training camp. He’s done a really good job getting himself ready to have a really great training camp and he’s been having it, and it’s a credit to him. The more we watch him — I mean he’s just winning — and he was one of those guys at first that we were like, ‘man how are we going to hide this guy in the preseason he’s going to end up with like 10 sacks?’ And it got to the point where [it was] like, ‘how are we going to keep him off the first unit?’ So it’s a credit to him and the opportunity that he created for himself through his work and in practice.”
Huff finished with three combined tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and two quarterback hits against mainly the Giants’ first-team offensive line. That was the key part about the edge rusher’s output, it came predominantly against starters, not backups or third-stringers.
The one major mistake I noticed from him was on a contain responsibility during the Giants’ second drive. Big Blue ran a reverse hand-off in the backfield with wide receiver C.J. Board and Huff was caught overcommitting. The play ended up going for 12 yards and a first down after the defensive end was unable to hold the edge.
His outside-run containment is definitely an area he’ll need to clean up if he wants to start over a player like John Franklin-Myers or Vinny Curry (once healthy).
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich also spoke on Huff’s rise during a press conference on August 4. He said: “I can’t say enough about him. He is the absolute same human being every time he steps on the field — practice, pads, walk-through, whatever it is — he’s ready to work. He’s one of those rare guys that you look at him, a little undersized, maybe not fast enough or whatever the case may be, doesn’t mark all the boxes but just consistently comes out here and has production.”
Just hearing that quote again reminds me of what Saleh had to say about Carl Lawson, and how he didn’t check any boxes physically either. That’s some phenomenal company for Huff to be in.
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Scheme Switch Could Benefit Huff
In an exclusive interview with Harrison Glaser on his official Take Flight Spittin’ Fire Podcast, Huff mentioned that he actually prefers starting with his “hand in the dirt.”
“That’s what I’ve grown up playing, that’s like second nature to me,” the pass-rusher told Glaser. This is tremendous news for Jets fans, being that Huff had been a standup edge his most successful season at Memphis.
According to the former Tiger himself, Huff explained that he enjoyed playing 4-3 defensive end his senior campaign after the team brought in a new coaching staff.
Based on his performance on August 14, I see no reason to doubt his truthfulness. Huff looked very smooth and explosive coming out of the 4-3 stance, blowing straight by right tackle Matt Peart like an NYC turnstile during rush hour.
On sack number two, offensive lineman Chad Slade attempted to push Huff down into the ground and almost succeeded, but the tenacious pass-rusher kept his footing and turned the corner to collapse the Giants’ pocket.
Overall, it was an excellent first audition for Huff in the preseason. Remember, the 2020 UDFA didn’t have the luxury of playing in a preseason game during his rookie year because of the pandemic. Just imagine how improved he might have been if he did.
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