General manager Joe Douglas loves to build through the draft, but he doesn’t mind utilizing his post-draft money either.
In 2020, we not only saw some of these undrafted free agents play but take on key roles for a struggling Jets team at the time. Javelin Guidry (nickel), Lamar Jackson (CB), Bryce Huff (edge) and Lawrence Cager (WR) all had significant snap counts a year ago, and could still factor into 2021 playing time.
This year, cornerback Isaiah Dunn is a UDFA name to watch in camp.
The Oregon State Beaver was one of two priority UDFAs this offseason, meaning Douglas paid extra money to get him in green. Dunn was offered a $185,000 contract, which is a record for UDFA corners. The other was tight end, Kenny Yeboah.
Dunn’s Background & Skillset
The bay area native was born in Oakland, California. In an interview with Oregon State’s Athletic Communications department, he voiced how proud he was to receive a college education, saying: “It means everything to me because I’m the first in my family to get into a university.”
He also noted that football taught him “to work hard and always do more than anyone else” in the same interview.
The 6-foot, 189 pound corner embodies a hard-worker’s mentality, something Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh surely noticed when scouting him. Dunn played in all four seasons with the Beavers, including his rookie campaign.
During his first three seasons at Oregon State, he got better and better every year, culminating in a 42-tackle, eight passes defended junior output. His senior campaign was impacted by the shortened 2020 schedule, and Dunn was only able to play five of seven possible games.
Dunn is known for his speed, but not necessarily his athleticism. The corner was a high-school sprinter, so his straightaway ability as a runner is more notable than his quickness. He officially ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash on his pro day.
Experience, competitive toughness and physicality are some of the other desirable traits that Dunn possesses. He has proven he can play zone or man, but is probably more comfortable in the zone-look. Also seems more suited to play the outside rather than the slot due to his length and lack of lateral movement, but Dunn is versatile enough to play anywhere, including safety.
He is a quality run defender because of his effort-level, but he struggled at forcing turnovers in college. Other than a lone fumble forced in 2019, Dunn had no interceptions during his 29 games at Oregon State.
Vacancy in the Jets’ Secondary
The Jets had one of the worst secondaries in 2020, ranking 29th in pass yards allowed per game. Second-year corner Bryce Hall and third-year Blessuan Austin are the main holdovers on the outside heading into 2021, but the CB2 job across from Hall seems to be an open competition.
Outside of Austin, 2020 UDFA Jackson and fellow-rookies Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols should be Dunn’s main competition for the job. Another option would be a veteran signing, but as of now Saleh made it clear that the Jets would like to see what they have on the roster first.
As the only rookie UDFA in this group, the odds are certainly stacked against Dunn, but he’s not unaccustomed to that underdog mindset. In OTAs, the Oregon State product has already fought for a portion of the first-team reps.
Dunn was also mentioned by Jets Daily News beat reporter DJ Bien-Aime on June 2, when he broke up an end zone fade route to wide receiver D.J. Montgomery.
Coach Saleh has a history of using feisty press-coverage specialists, and pretty much all of his rookie corners emulate that style of play. A Saleh defense likes to rush the passer hard, meaning the defensive backs generally don’t have to stick their man for too long. Physical corners fit this system best for that reason.
Although Jeff Ulbrich will be calling the plays, the defensive coordinator echoed that he and Saleh share the same belief system. Expect a hard-nosed bunch to headline this secondary in 2021.