Optimism is high heading into the New York Jets’ second season under head coach Robert Saleh and with that comes the potential for breakout campaigns from different NYJ players.
Many have pegged quarterback Zach Wilson as a candidate to do this, or returnee Carl Lawson. It could also be a young playmaker like Elijah Moore or a former first-round selection like Quinnen Williams.
If the Jets do turn things around, it will likely be because of several “breakout” contributors and team reporter Ethan Greenberg named two intriguing contenders that don’t get as much publicity.
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‘Keep an Eye on’ 2 Sophomores
“Keep an eye on a pair of second-year defenders in [safety] Jason Pinnock and [cornerback] Michael Carter II,” Greenberg voiced while tasked with predicting the Jets player “poised for a breakout season.” He explained:
Pinnock, who took first team reps in the spring, could see a significant bump in playing time as he enters his first full season as a safety (he was drafted at CB). With a stronger CBs room on the outside, Carter II could see more passes thrown his way in the slot. He was impressive as a rookie and should continue to develop in 2022.
“MC2” gained attention early during his rookie campaign, making him less of a typical “breakout” contender — unless he starts intercepting the ball on a weekly basis. ESPN reporter Rich Cimini noted that he’s “firmly entrenched” as the starting nickelback earlier this summer and that leaves less room for the unexpected.
Pinnock, on the other hand, is a very interesting second-year prospect whose path is uncertain at this time.
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Pinnock Is a Roster Enigma Heading Into Camp
Depending on who you ask, the Pittsburgh product could be cut, a roster lock, or even starting at safety by the time Week 1 rolls around. The most likely scenario is that he begins the season as Lamarcus Joyner’s backup, but could he unseat the veteran as time goes on? Ashtyn Davis is the other challenger that could be primed to start alongside Jordan Whitehead in 2022.
The analytics back up the hype. According to Pro Football Focus, Pinnock was Gang Green’s best run defender (89.5 grade) during his two starts and 12 appearances in 2021. Of course, the sample size was limited in terms of snaps but the fifth-round pick didn’t miss a single tackle and forced two fumbles.
He finished with 16 total tackles, earning tremendous tackling marks as well (87.8).
The area Pinnock must improve is in coverage, which is ironic considering he began his NFL career as a shutdown cornerback out of Pitt. His size and athleticism do profile well on the back-end of a pro-level defense, however, and that’s clearly been the sophomore’s niche since entering the league.
If he or Davis can seriously push Joyner for a starting role in August, don’t be surprised if the soon-to-be 32-year-old is cut after re-signing on a one-year flier. The Jets would have to forfeit $2.1 million to do so but with roster space at a premium, a condensed safety room of Whitehead, Pinnock and Davis — plus one or two practice squad members like Elijah Riley, UDFA Tony Adams or special teamer Kai Nacua — could be enough to get the job done.