It wasn't exactly a coming-out party, but second-year corner Bryce Hall and rookie CB Brandin Echols showed at Miami that they may well have what it takes to succeed in the Jets' secondary. Robert Saleh has always thought so, ever since declaring early in his head-coaching tenure that "Young players are hell on wheels and they're fun to watch."
"It is really cool to see them getting their PBUs and playing sticky coverage in man," Saleh said about Echols (3 PDs, INT-return TD) and Hall (3 PDs). "If we get more rush from the outside and the rush and coverage start tying in together, it can become a bit special. They've developed really nicely, and they've proven that they're NFL players and now the next step for them is to prove that they're NFL difference-makers. And you do that by taking the ball."
In the meantime, those two have taken their places in Jets DBs history, achieving some interesting distinctions vs. the Dolphins that we haven't explored until now.
In Echols' case, his 20-yard score with the theft of Tua Tagovailoa's errant fourth-quarter sideline throw was something no Jets CB had done in more than 35 years. The last Jets corner with an interception-return touchdown, and a rookie at that, was Kerry Glenn, a 10th-round pick who took Vince Ferragamo to the house in the '85 home opener against the Bills.
Here are the five Jets rookie DBs (plus one Titan in Fontes) who had pick-sixes before Echols. Note that S Erik McMillan had two, in back-to-back games, against a couple of veteran QBs named Kelly and Marino:
|DB Wayne Fontes
|1961 Gm 11
|CB Earlie Thomas
|1970 Gm 2
|S Darrol Ray
|1980 Gm 16
|CB Kerry Glenn
|1985 Gm 2
|S Erik McMillan
|1988 Gm 7
|S Erik McMillan
|1988 Gm 8
Then there's Hall, who's been trying to snare his second pro pick ever since grabbing his first as a rookie last season at the L.A. Rams. But in the meantime, he's been breaking up passes. With three more, he now has 13 for the season, the most by a Jets defensive back not only this season but since CB Mo Claiborne had 14 in 2018 and the most by a Jets rookie since Dee Milliner, in his one bright, shining moment in Green & White in 2013, had 18 PDs.
Rookie vs. Rookie
Hall and Echols and all the Jets defenders will be trying to get after Trevor Lawrence at MetLife on Sunday. He's one-half of the long-awaited, much-discussed matchup against Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson.
Right after the first two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29, we knew that if Wilson and Lawrence were starting against each other on Dec. 26, they would become only the fourth set of top-two QB picks to do battle against each other in their rookie seasons. The others: In 1993, Seattle's Rick Mirer (2) edged New England's Drew Bledsoe (1). In '98, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (1) prevailed over San Diego's Ryan Leaf (2). And in '15, Tennessee's Marcus Mariota (2) toppled Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston (1).
As far as Jets franchise history, there have only been a handful of games where a Jets rookie starter faced a rookie QB for the opponent. And it never happened for Joe Namath, Richard Todd or Ken O'Brien (who didn't play as a rookie). Mark Sanchez missed his only chance to go rook vs. rook when he was out with an injury and Kellen Clemens started vs. rookie Josh Freeman at Tampa Bay in 2009.
The first first-round matchup took place in the 1987 replacement game against Dallas, David Norrie for the Jets, Kevin Sweeney for the Cowboys. The Pokes won. Geno Smith had three such games in 2013 (two against the Bills' EJ Manuel), and Sam Darnold had one in 2018, the comeback win over Josh Allen at Buffalo.
Zach has already started two games — and absorbed two losses — against fellow first-rounder Mac Jones and the Patriots. Now it's time to take on Trevor and get the Green & White into the rookie vs. rookie win column.