The Jets' coaching staff finished its trip to Mobile, AL, over the weekend as Ron Middleton, elevated to head coach for Saturday's Senior Bowl, and company guided the National squad to a 20-10 victory over the American team. While Middleton received a Reese's pieces bath on the sideline postgame, the Jets were able to soak up a lot of knowledge during the coaching staff's memorable five-day run.
Here are five players who improved their draft stock in Alabama:
DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma (6-3, 303)
Jesse Luketa (Penn State), Boye Mafe (Minnesota) and Winfrey each recorded 2 sacks in the game. After being named MVP, Winfrey told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero about his goals at the Senior Bowl .
"I just wanted to show I was one of the most dominant defensive players in the country," Winfrey said.
Winfrey did exactly that. He's wired differently 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. After starring at Iowa Western CC, Winfrey was the nation's No. 1 JUCO recruit before finishing his collegiate career at Oklahoma. After registering 6 TFL and 19 tackles in 2020, Winfrey upped his production last season with 11 TFL and 5.5 sacks. His love of the game was on display and his motor was unique.
"More preparation, preparation removes all doubt," he said about what's ahead. "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."
While the Jets don't figure to be hunting for a three-technique early in the NFL Draft, they got long looks at Luketa and the explosive Mafe, who got plenty of work at DE after racking up 19.5 TFL and 15 sacks for the Golden Gophers.
"I feel like it's finding ways to use your attributes to your best abilities," Mafe told Vikings.comabout the Jets staff. "I think they're finding a way to just let us loose and show what we have. I'm enjoying that process. Playing with my hand down is a little bit different — definitely a new experience for me."
QB Malik Willis, Liberty (6-0, 220)
Since we were encamped with the Jets in Mobile, we didn't see Willis take practice reps with the American squad. He did most of his damage on the ground during the game, rushing for 54 yards including a dazzling scamper at the end of the first quarter. Willis has a big arm and he can do damage with his feet, displaying speed and power. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder had a solid week, ending it with a 2-TD effort with both coming off bootlegs. Ridder also had a great throw to Nevada WR Romeo Doubs in traffic after a boot and that kind of touch combined with zip is going to catch scouts' eyes. Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) was a perfect 6 of 6 in one quarter of action, including a 20-yard dump pass to Baylor RB Abram Smith that resulted in a TD. Pickett, who had a few turnovers throughout the week, led Pitt to an 11-2 mark last year and the Panthers' fist ACC championship while completing 67% of his passes for 4,319 yards with 42 TDs and 7 INTs.
The Jets have their young QB in Zach Wilson, but the more interest in this class the better for the Green & White. They have four picks in the top 38 including Nos. 4 and 10 overall, and this is a fascinating QB group that also includes Mississippi's Matt Corral. Don't be surprised if three of these QBs end up being taken in the first round. Will there be a signal-caller taken in the top 10?
See the Jets coaching staff on the field during the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
DE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State (6-5, 259)
Johnson needed only two days of practice to make a statement, sitting out the rest of the week with a minor ankle ailment. Last season at Florida State, Johnson collected 18 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks after transferring from Georgia.
"I like to prove myself, right," he told DetroitLions.com. "I'm not really too concerned about what others think about me. I'm out there. I'm the one with the helmet on. I'm the one that has to do the work. So as far as I'm concerned I'm going to make sure I'm living up to my standard and hopefully that's OK with everyone else."
In a draft that will also include pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), David Ojabo (Michigan) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), Johnson also could find himself in the top half of the first round or even the top 10.
C/G Zion Johnson (6-2, 314), Boston College
Johnson was impressive wire-to-wire in Mobile. He was consistent in practice and in the game while showing versatility by playing center for the first time in his career during Senior Bowl week. Many draft analysts had him as the top guard prospect in the draft entering last week and his performance didn't change the way evaluators view him. Johnson began his career at Davidson before transferring to Boston College, making 19 starts.
Johnson was one of many impressive linemen, a group that includes Northern Iowa T Trevor Penning, who has a nasty demeanor and often pummeled his defenders even after the whistle. Penning told reporters he took the Jets' "All Gas No Brake" mantra to heart especially as a small-school guy. He said, "I have to go out there and play against some top-tier guys." He also showed versatility, playing different spots along the line after starting at tackle for the Panthers.
Chattanooga's Cole Strange is another player who had an impressive week. Before the week, Dane Brugler of The Athletic said that Strange could be this year's Quinn Meinerz -- a D3 player who uses the Senior Bowl against top prospects to improve his draft stock.
TE Trey McBride (6-3, 249), Colorado State
McBride, who only scored 1 touchdown in 2021, capped off his impressive Senior Bowl week with a touchdown in the game. Jets TEs coach Ron Middleton, who served as the National team head coach in Mobile, said of The John Mackey Award winner: "It's not going to be anything pretty, it's just doggone meat and potatoes baby. He loves the grind, he loves to strain. I think his technique from a blocking standpoint has the furthest to go, but he will stick his face in there." McBride a had good practices, too, showing why he had 90 receptions this season for more than 1,000 yards.
Middleton complimented his group, which included Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert (6-5, 250), who missed Thursday's practice and the game because of an injury. Ruckert was Brugler's winner of the week at the position, saying he was "smooth in his routes to uncover downfield, and his ball skills were on display, consistently snaring throws away from his frame." He didn't have a lot of production with the Buckeyes (career-high 26 receptions in 2021), but didn't have a lot of opportunity either, so showing his ability as a pass catcher was good for his draft stock.
While McBride and Ruckert are tight ends, a lot of WRs impressed throughout the week, including North Dakota State's Christian Watson and Boise State's Khalil Shakir, but South Alabama's Jalen Tolbert was one of the most consistent players in Mobile. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and 8 touchdowns in each, he solidified his stock as a potential top-50 player following his performance throughout the Senior Bowl week.