What appeared to be an area of need this spring has quickly turned into one of the more competitive roster battles at Florham Park. Three or four safeties typically make an NFL squad and the Jets now have at least five or six talented contenders in 2022.
Second-year convert Jason Pinnock was the initial riser that caught the attention of fans and reporters but of late, it’s been journeyman Will Parks that has been making a compelling case for a Week 1 role. Both have been pushing veteran Lamarcus Joyner and 2020 draft disappointment Ashtyn Davis for snaps.
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Parks Continues to Make Highlight-Reel Interceptions
Earlier this week on August 5, Parks made an insane takeaway grab along the sidelines against backup quarterback Joe Flacco. The toe-drag interception was so smooth that defensive teammates “went crazy” as they congratulated the well-liked veteran.
Then one day later at the Green & White Scrimmage, Parks struck again, picking off third-stringer Mike White. Team reporter Ethan Greenberg detailed the play: “Will Parks with his second interception in as many practices. Read the play very well and picked off Mike White to end the drive.”
All of a sudden, the six-year NFL pro that was thought to be a camp body has proven to be much more. In fact, long-time NYJ reporter and Jets X-Factor co-founder Robby Sabo believes the ball-hawking safety could make a roster push in August.
“Watch out for Will Parks making this Jets team,” he tweeted on Saturday night. “He’s been a fast riser in camp, just picks off Mike White. (Ashtyn Davis: looking over his shoulder). I love Elijah Riley, but his range is limited, and Parks has him beaten right now [in my opinion].”
Sabo elaborated on this point as fans questioned who Parks might replace on the 53-man roster.
“Joyner is the clear-cut starter [next to Jordan Whitehead] at this moment,” he told one commenter, adding; “I don’t think [Joe Douglas] wants to [cut Davis], but unlike this time last year, I do think it’s an actual possibility now (if no injuries occur). Nearly impossible to carry 5 [safeties] (Joyner, Whitehead, Pinnock, Parks).”
The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt agreed that “Parks is pushing for a job as a backup safety” during his Green & White round-up article.
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Odd Men Out
Sabo — among others — has previously relayed that Pinnock should definitely make the team as a player that could develop into Joyner’s eventual replacement, but Davis feels like less of a lock with Parks nipping at his heels.
The pair actually created a substitute dream team for the Jets down the stretch in 2021, and their numbers together were stronger than all that came before them — including Marcus Maye.
Pro Football Focus graded the two athletic defensive backs as the second and third-highest rated defensemen on the season behind leader John Franklin-Myers. They started their first game together against Jacksonville in Week 16, with dominant marks of 80.1 (Pinnock) and 82.3 (Parks).
While the youngster excelled as a tackler and run defender, the veteran scored very well in coverage. The next game, Riley stole snaps from Parks and the backend appeared to crumble against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things rebounded a bit defensively in Week 18 against Buffalo, however, with Pinnock and Parks grading well again. When called upon, both provided solid special teams contributions as well — especially Parks who received a 75.3 in that regard.
If the journeyman nicknamed “Philly Will” can indeed make the roster, the odd men out would likely be Davis — a trade candidate — and two practice squad candidates in Riley and undrafted rookie Tony Adams. Team reporter Eric Allen praised the latter at the Green & White Scrimmage.
“Speaking of safeties,” he voiced, “Tony Adams was really active tonight.” Did I say five or six talented safeties? I meant seven.