Jets’ New Superstar Neutralizer Is Expected to ‘Thrive’ in Key Role

D.J. Reed Jr., Richard Sherman

Getty After learning from Richard Sherman (#25) in San Francisco, New York Jets cornerback D.J. Reed Jr. (#32) ended up following in the veteran's footsteps with Seattle.

The New York Jets cornerbacks were actually a pleasant surprise in 2021 but they still lacked a true lockdown coverage expert to lead the group.

This offseason, Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh set out to find one, and many fans were surprised by the selection of the under-the-radar D.J. Reed Jr. in free agency. Then upon watching his tape and hearing him speak, it was clear why the Jets chose the ex-Seahawks and 49ers defender — mentality.

“I feel like I’m a CB1,” Reed told reporters toward the start of his introductory press conference. “I think it’s obvious, but people look at my height and say, ‘Oh, he’s a good CB2.’ Well, no. If you watch the tape from last year and the year before that, it’s CB1. My stats compared to the All-Pros last year — from Jalen Ramsey to A.J. Terrell to, who else was it? J.C. Jackson? — my stats are with those guys. And I’m going to take another step this year.”

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Bleacher Report: Reed ‘Destined to Thrive’ With Jets

No, Reed certainly doesn’t lack confidence. It’s a trait that has practically become a prerequisite of an NFL cornerback in the modern age and the new Jets starter didn’t shy away from admitting that he’s brimming with it.

“If you’re a good corner and you’re not confident, you’re going to get beat,” he explained, before adding later that he “felt disrespected” by Seattle’s offer to re-sign him.

The Jets on the other hand paid Reed handsomely, with an $11 million average per year over the next three seasons. According to Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, it’s a contract that Douglas won’t come to regret. The NFL analyst voiced:

The 5’9″, 193-pound D.J. Reed quietly established himself as a premier outside cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks. The three-year, $33 million deal reflected the respect he has earned, but his advanced numbers from the right cornerback position in 2021 suggest he was as effective as any star cornerback. The New York Jets wisely gambled on the 14-game sample size. Per Next Gen Stats, Reed ranked fourth in the league in completion percentage allowed over expected (minus-11.9), including behind more recognized stars A.J. Terrell and Tre’Davious White. That’s not bad for a player who’s a full-time starter for the first time in his four-year career.

Wharton concluded that in Saleh’s defensive scheme, “Reed is on track to help complete the up-and-coming unit,” naming him as the number one free agent signing that will “thrive” at his new destination.

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More on Reed’s NFL Journey

During an exclusive interview with Corbin Smith of Sports Illustrated’s “All Seahawks S.I.,” Heavy’s very own Paul Esden Jr. asked the Seattle beat reporter for a little more background on Reed.

The cornerback began his career with Saleh and the San Francisco 49ers defense as a fifth-round draft pick in 2018. Unfortunately, he tore his pectoral during the lead-up to his third NFL campaign. That’s where the Seahawks came in and helped finish what Smith labeled as “one of the craziest stories” he got to cover since joining the beat.

“Typically when a guy suffers that type of injury at that time of the year on the calendar, good luck seeing him on the field the upcoming season,” Smith explained. “So the 49ers believed — we can cut this guy because of his injury, nobody’s going to claim him off waivers because he’s not going to play this year… Well, [Seahawks GM] John Schneider had other plans.”

After Reed was poached by the division rival, Smith noted that he only missed seven games from the pectoral injury that San Fran thought might be season-ending. He then put together one and a half elite campaigns in Seattle.

The Sports Illustrated reporter voiced that he thinks Reed can be that “alpha-dog” corner for Gang Green, so long as he stays on the field. The defensive back missed three games in 2021 after the pectoral issue in 2020, but his age (25) makes him an ascending talent with plenty of room to grow.

Pro Football Focus graded Reed at a 78.6 overall last year and a 75.2 before that. His run defense was even more impressive, at 85.8 and 89.7 the past two seasons. In coverage, the new Jets CB1 ranked tied for sixth in the NFL in reception rate allowed at 51.5% (minimum 50% of snaps).

His NFL passer rating against was also sixth in the NFL in 2021.

When news came out that the Jets were a finalist for Tyreek Hill, Reed pitched the ‘Cheetah’ on Twitter. Now, the cornerback will likely be lined up against the superstar WR — as well as Buffalo Bills WR1 Stefon Diggs — two times a year for the next few seasons.

Reed believes that he’s earned the respect of being called a premier cornerback in this league. Based on the Jets schedule, he should get his chance to prove that in 2022.

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