If there ever was a “player’s general manager” in the NFL, it might be Joe Douglas.
“When I took this job, one thing was like I’m gonna be me, and I’m still going to try and build a relationship with the players,” Douglas told Long on his player-GM philosophy, but he did note that Ozzie Newsome taught him not to mess with the locker room. Douglas referred to that as a “player’s sanctuary.”
It was an informative chat between the two-time Super Bowl champion, Long, and Douglas who he knew from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. As the two old friends talked football, scouting, and reminisced on everything from Douglas’ cameo in The Replacements to his illegal golf driver, you really got to hear the human side of the Jets GM.
More importantly, Long got the inside scoop on Douglas’ first two draft classes, from the lips of the man who actually made the picks.
The two also talked about scouting preferences and challenges, cutting players, when to add a veteran or stick with youth, and so much more including how the GM goes about shaving his bald head (he likes using Gillette gel).
Douglas the Scout
As Long puts it, Douglas used to “rough it” as a scout. That’s how he got his start on the management side of the game of football, he started from the bottom and worked his way up.
Douglas told Long that one year he was the guy that “crisscrossed the country” in a car from the combine to the draft, looking for sleeper prospects and undrafted talent.
That translates to Douglas the general manager, a man who’s made it a point to bring in numerous undrafted free agents during both of his first two training camps on the job. In 2021, cornerback Isaiah Dunn, tight end Kenny Yeboah and kicker Chris Naggar headline the class of UDFAs, but last season the biggest success stories were Bryce Huff and Javelin Guidry.
Another thing we know about Douglas is that he’s a fan of building the trenches on offense and defense. This rang true when Long asked which positions were easiest for the GM to scout.
Douglas answered: “Personally, it was always easier for me to evaluate O and D-linemen because that’s the position I played my entire life right, so I knew the ins and outs; the footwork, the hand technique, the leverage of trying to gain.”
On the flip side, Douglas admitted that his most challenging positions to evaluate are often defensive back and wide receiver. That might explain why he only drafted one wide-out, Denzel Mims, in a WR-heavy draft class in 2020.
This also may come off as concerning in the secondary, being that the entire Jets cornerback room outside of Blessuan Austin was brought in by Douglas over the past two seasons. Most were either draft picks or undrafted free agents.
Take a deep breath. If you don’t trust Douglas at defensive back trust Robert Saleh, who collaborated with the GM on many of the Jets’ picks in 2021.
One last intriguing scouting tidbit was at edge rusher. Douglas told Long that rather than sacks, he likes to judge pass-rushers by analytics like disruption rate, pressure rate and their ability to consistently win one-on-one matchups.
In other words, what’s causing the sack is much more important than who records it.
Douglas’ First Two Draft Classes
One common denominator in this conversation was that Douglas is trying to draft and build ahead of the NFL curve.
Outside of the ones above, another example of this was on the offensive line, where the GM described the type of player he looks for: “You look at feet, balance, lower-flex… They got to be able to play on their feet. Guys that are top-heavy on the ground, they’re gonna struggle.”
He added that length and athleticism are key when matching up with the “freaks of nature” that rush the passer in the modern NFL. Douglas believes Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker both embody these physical traits.
Douglas also complimented Becton’s mental capability and work ethic, saying the coolest thing he ever saw him do was memorize the playbook as a rookie without the help of OTAs.
Long also asked about the 2021 rookie class. He wondered which college prospects stood out in person compared to their tape, and the GM went straight to hybrid-linebackers Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood.
Physically speaking, Douglas was “amazed by their wing-span, their legs [and] just how quickly they played to the ball.”
This marked another curve that the general manager knew he needed to get out in front of with defensive speed like Sherwood, Nasirildeen and 2020 pick Ashtyn Davis. Douglas told Long that he believes the NFL is “transitioning into a space game.”
He explained that the linebacker position used to be a “downhill hammer,” but that it has evolved into a position that requires athleticism because of things like the spread offense and player quickness. Douglas cited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker core as a model of success.
The GM also described Michael Carter and Michael Carter II as “dynamic dudes,” touting both for their broad skill set. “Same name, same versatility,” Douglas joked.
Douglas on Bringing in Veterans & Cutting Players
First off, Douglas stressed that Saleh and he have a tremendous relationship that relies on “straight talk” and discussion when it comes to player moves.
In terms of placing veterans in certain areas, the Jets GM agreed that “ideally you have that [type of] dude in every room,” but added that he felt leadership and experience like that is most important up front.
We’ve already seen Douglas sign Sheldon Rankins, Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair on the defensive line this offseason, as well as team leader George Fant, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten on the offensive line last year. This fits.
At the end of the day, Douglas’ valuation of a veteran free agent seemed to come down to a balance between leadership and their ability to contribute on the field.
Douglas called cuts the “worst thing,” recalling that he felt that hardship as a player first-hand after college. He told Long that it’s emotional because of the hard work and sacrifice that you see players put in, but it’s usually best to keep it “short and sweet.”
The Jets general manager is a three-time Super Bowl champion as an executive, and Saleh has echoed that the plan is to win championships in New York. Douglas even joked with Long that he might let his hair grow out if they bring home a title.