Growing up, New York Jets rookie cornerback Jason Pinnock was a self-proclaimed Darrelle Revis “fanatic.” Pinnock told The Spun’s Chris Rosvoglou this during a Q&A in March, before the 2021 NFL draft.
After following in his idol’s footsteps at the University of Pittsburgh by choice, Pinnock got some help from Jets general manager Joe Douglas in the NFL draft. At pick No. 175, the Panthers graduate became a Jet, following in Revis’ footsteps once again.
Pinnock Is the Perfect Robert Saleh Scheme Fit
Heading into the draft, cornerback was a major area of need for the Jets, so it was a surprise when Douglas didn’t select one until the fifth round. Especially when you consider that Gang Green chose not to target a veteran corner in free agency.
That leaves the door wide open for rookies like Michael Carter II and Pinnock, the two corners that were selected in that 2021 fifth round. While Carter is more likely to compete for a role in the slot, Pinnock has all the traits of an outside CB in a Robert Saleh defense.
The 6-foot corner is known for his length and athleticism. At his pro day, Pinnock totaled a 9.78 out of 10 on his Relative Athletic Score, ranking fourth in the draft class at his position.
He’s also known for his press coverage, utilizing this technique a nation-leading 74.9% of his 2020 cover snaps, according to Michael Nania of Jets X-Factor. This type of physique and style of play have been common in Saleh’s corners over the years.
To quote Kyle Breitkreutz of 49ers Hub: “[Saleh’s] defensive backs typically run press-man or cover three, or three-deep zone… The cornerbacks are the boundary cornerbacks, and as stated before are longer and more physical than the average cornerback. They need to be quick, but mostly need to be able to come up in run support.”
Sound familiar? Pinnock was drafted by the Jets for a reason, and it wasn’t because Douglas is a Pittsburgh fan. He’s a perfect fit to start in a defensive scheme that might try and emulate the Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom.”
My first thought when I saw Pinnock’s tape was that he reminded me of Richard Sherman, who was a featured CB1 in both Seattle and San Francisco, and a favorite of Saleh’s. It’s no surprise that Pinnock told The Spun that he watched a lot of Sherman tape in high school and college.
Rookie Poised to Make Immediate Impact
This Jets cornerback room is one of the youngest cores in football. The entire group was drafted in 2019 or later, outside of free agent pick-up Justin Hardee, who is more of a special teams extraordinaire.
In terms of outside corners, Bless Austin and Pierre Desir led the roster in starts in 2020, but rookie Bryce Hall (7 games started) was a consistent starter once healthy. Undrafted rookie Lamar Jackson also filled in when needed with six starts.
Outside of Desir, all three of those defensive backs are with the Jets in 2021, but the starting roles are nowhere close to set in stone. This may be the most highly contested camp battle for the Jets this summer, and rookies like Pinnock and Carter will immediately enter the conversation.
New York ranked 29th in passing yards against per game in 2020, and Hall led the outside corners in performance according to Pro Football Focus, with a sub-par 59.9 grade. That leaves plenty of room for improvement.
Pinnock had the lowest college completion rate allowed in 2020 (30%) and was tied for the second-lowest in 2019 (37%). He also forced the second most incompletions in the red zone since 2019 with six, one behind leader Derek Stingley Jr.
The former Panther finished his collegiate career with 54 total tackles, six interceptions, 19 passes defended and one sack in 30 games played.
On draft night, the childhood Jets and Revis fan had this to say: “It’s almost like life comes full circle… it’s surreal.”