The New York Jets 2020 rookie class struggled to make an impact after a challenging training camp, but one undrafted prospect rose to the occasion and earned a role on the defensive side — edge rusher Bryce Huff.
The former Memphis Tiger made the most of his opportunity, tallying eight quarterback pressures (two sacks) and 16 total tackles (four for a loss) on 295 defensive snaps plus 88 more on special teams. On defense, that only amounted to 26% of snaps for the 14 game appearances that he managed.
Huff was much more effective as a pass-rusher with a 61.9 grade rushing the quarterback compared to a disappointing 46.6 grade against the run according to Pro Football Focus.
Now heading into year two, Huff is starting to get recognized as a potential dark horse pass-rusher for the Jets. On March 24, 2021, Bleacher Report even named the Memphis product as Gang Green’s breakout candidate for the upcoming season.
“Bryce Huff didn’t hear his name called during the 2020 draft even though his tape showed one of the most fluid and smoothest edge-rushers in the class,” wrote Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report, “[Robert Saleh] needs explosive upfield disruptors to properly employ his scheme [and] Huff best fits the description to play opposite [Carl] Lawson.”
A feature in a piece like this is a major step up from going undrafted the offseason before.
Coach Saleh has a history of getting production out of defensive ends like Huff, but the second-year pro still feels like he has a lot to prove to himself before becoming a premier NFL pass-rusher.
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Huff Determined Never to Be Overlooked Again
During an exclusive interview with Harrison Glaser of Take Flight Media on his official Take Flight Spittin’ Fire Podcast, Huff told the audience that he puts it on himself never to be overlooked again.
After admitting that he first took being undrafted personally, the edge rusher showed his maturity when he explained to Glaser that his mindset has changed since then: “Everybody said ‘oh you should have been drafted’… and I look back on my senior year like yeah I did okay but if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think I put up what I expected myself [to].”
“If I should have been drafted then I would have been drafted,” Huff added, “so I was just like let me go and be 100% on myself, like what can I do to make sure I don’t get overlooked when it comes time for me to sign my next contract or… make an impact on the team.”
In the end, the former Tigers star said it just comes down to him “wanting to prove to myself who I am as a player.”
Click here for Glaser’s entire Q-and-A with Huff, which goes into detail on everything from how the Jets disruptor first got into football to his favorite memory, how he’s adapting to Saleh’s 4-3 scheme, and his hobbies outside the NFL (more analysis below).
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Saleh’s 4-3 Scheme Is ‘Second Nature’ for Huff
Last year Huff had success coming off the edge as an outside linebacker, which brought up some slight concerns as to whether the 4-3 switch would be good for his game.
Glaser was on top of it, asking the pass-rusher which positioning he preferred. The answer could not have been more reassuring for Jets fans.
Huff reiterated later, “having my hand in the dirt, that’s like what I’ve grown up playing, that’s like second nature to me.”
He actually described the difference between the two styles to Glaser, voicing that the main learning curve is with the “get-off.” Huff prefers the two-point stance get-off, meaning the initial burst when the ball is snapped.
The Jets pass-rusher even went as far to say that the standing OLB approach hindered him in 2020, explaining that “if you don’t time it properly, you’re going to fall step most of the time.”
Speaking of “get-off,” Huff told Glaser that’s the number one thing he’s been working on this offseason.
He continued: “That’s the most important part of pass-rush, that’s the most important part of stopping the run. Playing football in general [is about] getting off the ball and really being a presence on the edge.”
Coaching & Message to Jets Fans
There were so many great moments within this interview and I encourage everyone to listen to the entire spot, but one last part that I found particularly interesting was Huff’s explanation for his outstanding junior campaign of college ball.
The edge rusher attributed his success to a new positions coach that he had at Memphis that season: “It wasn’t really the things he was telling us technique-wise, it was just the positivity, and he would just speak things into existence for me and I feel like the fact that he believed in me as much as he did made me believe in myself.”
Hold up, did Saleh double as an outside linebackers coach at Memphis?
When I heard that, I really felt like Huff was describing Saleh’s twin, so I looked up the 2018 outside linebackers coach and found Joe Lorig. If the former Tiger gained confidence while playing for Lorig, he may run through a brick wall playing for the energetically positive Jets’ HC.
That had me excited, as did Huff’s final message to Jets nation.