Jets May Have Found ‘Surprising Future Starter’, Says Insider

Elijah Riley

Getty New York Jets safety Elijah Riley thinking about how he can stay on the roster for the foreseeable future.

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas has been much maligned for his obvious mistakes during his tenure.

When things go wrong he gets all the blame, when things go right he gets all the credit, that is just how the job operates.

Unfortunately for him the green and white have done far more losing than winning, so he has received a lot more heat than praise.

Although after this weekend’s game versus the Houston Texans, it may be time to give him some overdue credit.

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A Diamond in the Rough Has Emerged

A couple of weeks ago the Jets signed defensive back Elijah Riley off of the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.

It was a desperation move by Gang Green after a rash of injuries to their secondary.

Douglas went back to his old Philly roots to try and pull a rabbit out of a hat and it looks like he just might have.

Connor Hughes of The Athletic said there is legit hype around the former Army product inside the Jets building. Initially, he entered the league as an undrafted free agent and has always had to work for what he has received in life.

Ever since he was announced as the starter ahead of the Miami Dolphins game, he has yet to relinquish that role. Hughes noted that Riley earned the starting gig by continuing to make plays in practice and he has kept it with his impressive play in games.

He has played two games with the Jets and in those contests, Riley has 11 tackles and owns a 73.9 cumulative Pro Football Focus grade.

While he hasn’t registered an interception yet during his short Jets tenure, Hughes says “Riley is a ballhawk.”

If you watched his college tape, Riley’s unique knack for snagging picks was obvious:

  • Two seasons with multiple interceptions
  • Finished with seven picks in four years

The Doors of Opportunity Are Wide Open

Hughes says if he continues to play the way he has been, “the Jets might have a surprising potential future starter.”

There are six games left on the 2021 docket for the green and white. That presents a ton of opportunity to send a message to the coaching staff that he isn’t just a flash in the pan.

The games on the slate aren’t the only opportunity available, with so many injuries at safety Riley is going to get playing time:

He is signed through the rest of 2021 for $389,997 and then will be an ERFA this offseason. An ERFA stands for an exclusive rights-free agent. Any player that has less than three accrued seasons falls into this category.

The Jets can offer him the league minimum for 2022 and that player can’t negotiate with any other team. So long story short, if he proves himself down the stretch, the Jets can lock him in for next season and get a potential long-term starter at an insane discount next season.

With all of the uncertainty at the safety position moving forward, this could be quite a coup for the Jets and another feather in the Douglas cap.

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