Jets Work out Hard-Hitting Ex-Patriot With Ties to Robert Saleh

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Getty Former 49ers safety Adrian Colbert makes a tackle on Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Just the other day on September 2, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh commented on the idea of the Carolina Panthers signing James Morgan as a Week 1 ‘playbook spy.’

“Teams do it all the time,” the Jets HC replied, “I don’t know if it’s something we’d ever do but at the same time, I know the people at Carolina and I’m sure they’re genuine and sincere in giving him an opportunity to show that he’s a good quarterback and that he belongs in this league.”

For a second there, it seemed like Saleh was throwing some shade at the Panthers before he backtracked and turned it into a supportive statement. If he hadn’t, the Jets might have given off some hypocritical vibes when they brought in Adrian Colbert for a workout on the very nice day.

The journeyman safety was learning the New England Patriots’ playbook in training camp before the AFC East foe decided to release him. Bill Belichick and the Pats are also the Jets’ Week 2 opponents.

Bubble candidates tend to bounce from one division rival to the next quite often in the NFL, as Saleh acknowledged. Of course, Colbert has another connection to Gang Green, the head coach himself.

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Colbert’s Connection to Saleh

The hard-hitting safety had his best seasons under Saleh’s tutelage. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL draft and put up solid numbers during his rookie campaign with 37 total tackles and two fumbles forced.

Colbert started six games that season and six games the next, with 72.9 coverage grades from Pro Football Focus in year one. Things went downhill in 2018 though, leading to a long stint on the injured reserve and a 2019 release.

Niners’ team reporter Keiana Martin wrote a piece about the safety’s rookie year in January of 2018, quoting Saleh within. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator called Colbert “relentless in his work ethic and preparation.”

Saleh continued: “I love the way he hits, he’s a very physical football player. I don’t know if it’s a chip as much as it is important, where every play, every rep, every meeting is very, very important. He’s very into it. He has something to prove for sure.”

We’ve heard the players’ coach talk about athletes like this in the past, but it’s still high praise from a guy that knows this game inside and out, including what it takes to win.

If Saleh has that type of respect for Colbert, it’s no surprise that he would convince Joe Douglas to bring him in for a workout. The Jets are thin at safety with Ashtyn Davis out, and although they just added Sheldrick Redwine and re-signed Sharrod Neasman, there’s always room for one more on the practice squad.

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Saleh Continues to Compile ‘Emergency Lists’

When Coach Saleh was asked about the Reuben Foster workout, he referred to it as “crossing T’s and dotting I’s with regards to the emergency lists.” Most NFL coaches keep a shortlist of players that they can call upon when injuries hit.

The practice squad is the first line of defense, but the “emergency lists” are the next ones after that. Colbert would probably fall into this category unless he upended a player like Neasman.

The ex-Niners safety has at least practiced for six different franchises, playing in games for three of them. The most recent was the New York Giants in 2020. Like Neasman, Colbert has notable experience on special teams with 328 career snaps in that department.

He was having an impressive preseason according to PFF, with a 76.6 run defense score and a 72.4 in coverage (plus the interception above), but it wasn’t enough to earn him a roster spot. Perhaps Colbert can rekindle some magic paired with his ex-defensive coordinator.

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