‘Gap Penetrator’ Visits With Jets After Dominant 2-Sack Senior Bowl

Perrion Winfrey

Getty Oklahoma Sooners defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey lays out an Iowa State quarterback on November 20, 2021.

The New York Jets’ list of needs is improving. Before free agency, there were holes all over this roster but now, general manager Joe Douglas could eliminate most of the remaining deficiencies with another strong draft class in 2022.

That was always the plan from the get-go anyhow — build through the draft — and now Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh have another opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. Here are the greatest areas of weakness heading into late April, in no particular order.

  • Premium edge rusher.
  • Premium outside wide receiver.
  • Premium interior defensive lineman.
  • Coverage linebacker.
  • Offensive line depth.
  • Secondary depth at CB or safety.

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Latest Prospect Visits Target Need Area

Earlier today on April 5, uSTADIUM reported that the Jets are hosting two of the top interior D-linemen in the draft. They tweeted: “Oklahoma IDL Perrion Winfrey is in Florham Park today. A day 2 prospect who dominated the Senior Bowl. Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt is also in town.”

Winfrey supposedly impressed Gang Green during Senior Bowl week. Team reporters Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg highlighted the Sooners defensive tackle as a February “standout.”

“Jesse Luketa (Penn State), Boye Mafe (Minnesota) and Winfrey each recorded 2 sacks in the game,” Allen and Greenberg explained, adding that the Oklahoma product was named MVP.

“I just wanted to show I was one of the most dominant defensive players in the country,” Winfrey told NFL insider Tom Pelissero after the outing. “More preparation, preparation removes all doubt… I’m just going to get back to work and just work and work and work because I have the Combine to get ready for now.”

The Draft Network’s Keith Sanchez called the 6-foot-4 D-tackle a “gap penetrator” who “uses his first step to disrupt plays.” The Jets recently signed Solomon Thomas to bolster the interior defensive line but they still need some help in this area after 2021 captain and run-stuffer, Foley Fatukasi, skipped town.

They’ll likely draft another DT at some point in the first three rounds and Winfrey looks like the perfect match for this Saleh rotation. Sanchez described his scheme fit, which was basically the Jets’ current system: “4-3 scheme, 3-tech or 5-tech against heavy run teams. Heavy slant team, attacking defense.”

“He’s wired differently,” Allen and Greenberg wrote, “and you could see that on the practice field and on the sideline. Some guys have shut-off switches, but Winfrey, who referred to Aaron Donald’s dominance at the Senior Bowl, is always bouncing around and ready to be unleashed like a lion out of a cage.”

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Too Much of a Fit?

According to NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein, Winfrey’s weakness lies in his “lateral agility,” profiling as more of a backfield disruptor. The respected scout called the Sooner a “liability against move-blocking schemes,” meaning top rushing attacks could present a challenge.

That’s already a common theme amongst this current NYJ group.

Players have raved about Saleh’s attacking-style front but it burned the run defense often in 2021. The Jets have plenty of pass-rushers up the gut — Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd, Jonathan Marshall and potentially John Franklin-Myers — but they don’t have a true nose tackle that clogs the middle.

Thomas or ‘JFM’ is probably the closest thing to providing solid run support, and both are too undersized to play that role at a level comparable to DeForest Buckner — the San Francisco 49ers All-Pro DT in Saleh’s Super Bowl defense.

Buckner was a first-round pick in 2016, while Winfrey is more of a day two prospect with pass-rushing ability. Could Saleh target another first-round DL anchor like Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt instead?

The two Georgia DTs were a near-unstoppable pairing at the collegiate level. Wyatt — who is “in town” and set to visit Florham Park — has the more explosive traits. Like Buckner, he’s a defensive tackle that should be able to do it all in the NFL.

Pro Football Focus labeled Davis as a “one-trick pony,” admitting that it’s an “impressive trick.” The 6-foot-6, 360-pound tackle is probably the best run-stuffer in the draft but he lacks that attack skillset that Saleh generally searches for.

Both are expected to go in round one and I’ll add a third name to the mix — “monstrous space-eating” UCONN nose tackle Travis Jones. Wouldn’t it be ironic if another Connecticut product replaced Fatukasi? — who was another former UCONN alum.

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