The New York Jets were victorious in Week 16 and for one forgotten rookie, everything seemed to click for the first time all season.
That player was defensive back Jason Pinnock, who had looked like a total bust up until the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Blessed. Jets Win,” he tweeted after the game.
Remember the Pittsburgh product and fifth-round draft pick? The defensive prospect seemed like a perfect fit for Robert Saleh’s scheme at cornerback after the draft but that hope never came to fruition at the NFL level.
In Week 16, Pinnock said not so fast as a position change may have provided the rookie with new life going into his sophomore season.
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Pinnock Finds Role at Free Safety
Maybe Pinnock was never meant to make it as a cornerback but he looked pretty solid as a safety. The 6-foot DB was always known for his athleticism and physicality in college and the Jets coaching staff put two and two together when they switched his position late in the year.
This change wasn’t totally due to his skill set, to be fair. Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich were hurting at safety with starters Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner out for the season and backups Ashtyn Davis and Sharrod Neasman sidelined with COVID-19 — Elijah Riley also missing with a concussion.
That forced Ulbrich to thrust Pinnock into the starting free safety role alongside free-agent pickup Will Parks. In the end, the duo impressed as if they’d played together for weeks.
Parks has plenty of experience at the position but the real shocker was the rookie. He only finished with four total tackles, one pass defense and a forced fumble but the eye test told a different story.
His best play of the contest actually went under-the-radar, as the safety stripped quarterback Trevor Lawrence on a lunge for the end zone. If the Jets recover this ball, Pinnock is praised. Unfortunately, the Jaguars recovered the fumble for a touchdown.
Later in the fourth quarter, the rookie forced a big stop that made plenty of noise.
Lawrence took a chance on a first-and-10 play-action pass, throwing deep toward Marvin Jones Jr. The Jaguars top wide receiver looked to have the ball secured inside the 10-yard line before taking a shot from Pinnock.
The monster hit jarred the ball free, resulting in an incomplete pass. It may have gone down as one pass breakup in the stat sheet, but the play gained a ton of recognition on Twitter.
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Media, Fans React to Pinnock’s Big Day
Throughout the game, many reacted to Pinnock’s noticeable improvements. Podcaster Will Parkinson wrote: “Jason Pinnock has looked 500 [times] better at safety today than any rep he took at corner this year. That was a really nice hit.”
Take Flight Media founder Harrison Glaser seconded that thought, noting: “Jason Pinnock as safety has looked like a great idea.”
Others were more tongue-in-cheek like superfan Drew from Jersey. He suggested: “Pinnock is [Safety] #1.”
Jets fan Justin Gray even kidded: “Jason Pinnock is [a] better safety [than] Jamal Adams.”
Now, of course, we know that’s not true — yet! I even got in on the fun myself, posing the question of whether or not Pinnock could have a future as the starting safety.
We may have all been mostly having some fun during a Christmas weekend victory but there was nothing humorous about the rookie’s game. It was more of a thundering performance and with a clear need at safety in 2022, a couple of late-season emergences give Joe Douglas options.
Maye and Joyner are free agents and neither one is expected to return, although it’s possible they still do. Some fans thought this could be an opportunity to revamp the room, signing an established veteran like Jessie Bates, Marcus Williams or Jaquiski Tartt while also drafting a first-round playmaker like Kyle Hamilton.
Those moves would cost a pretty penny though, and safety is not somewhere you need to spend big — historically speaking. If Douglas disagreed, he would not have traded Adams to Seattle.
It’s more likely that Saleh and the Jets GM would prefer to develop a safety who knows this system. Davis was the top contender after the starters went down but Riley and Pinnock have looked like the more reliable gems in limited action.
If one or two of those three can become consistent NFL starters, that would be a huge win for this franchise.
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