Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What Should Have the Jets Fired Up About the Reese's Senior Bowl?
EA: Not even two years ago, the 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was photographed in San Francisco's locker room following the Niners' 37-20 destruction of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. He held up a T-shirt that read Mobile to Miami as the 49ers staff coached at the Senior Bowl in January 2019 following a 4-12 campaign, jumped to 13-3 in the regular season and nearly pulled off an upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. As Ethan Greenberg pointed out, maybe the mantra for the Jets could turn into Alabama to Arizona because the league's title game will be in Glendale, AZ, in February 2023. After coaching in the Senior Bowl, the 49ers hit it out of their park with their first two picks in DE Nick Bosa and WR Deebo Samuel. The latter, one of the NFL's top all-purpose performers, played for the 49ers' coaching staff at the Senior Bowl and a connection was made. Mantras aside, this is an exceptional opportunity for the Jets' coaching and scouting staffs. They will be able to put some of the nation's top prospects through the paces at practice and then continue the learning sessions in the classroom. And while Saleh's staff will lead the National Team, they'll also be able to spend time with players on the American Team's roster. Last year, the Reese's Senior Bowl had a record-breaking 106 players selected in the 2021 NFL draft, which represented 41% of the entire class. While the Jets' personnel staff will have both rosters covered throughout, the coaching staff's hands-on involvement with the National squad will provide the club a leg up once it reaches time for final grades. Opportunity is at hand as the Jets look for the next Michael Carter and Deebo Samuel.
EG: Access. The Jets and Lions will have unique access compared to the other 30 teams in the NFL, being able to coach the players at the Reese's Senior Bowl. The Jets will be able to see how the players are in meetings, on the practice field, interacting with other players behind closed doors and how they learn. Other teams will be able to sit down with the players for interviews, which has been referred to in the past as speed dating, and teams get an idea of the type of person the player is while the teams coaching get a much better understanding. One of the more popular recent examples is when the 49ers coached Deebo Samuel in the Senior Bowl. They got a peek behind the curtain about the type of person and player Samuel was and drafted him in the second round. He was just named a first-team All-Pro. In a league of parity, it is a clear advantage for the teams who coach in the Senior Bowl after a challenging season. The Jets have a lot of talent, too. Dane Brugler of The Athletic said that Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning could be the best player in Mobile next week and he's on their roster. The Green & White coaches have a good tight end group, headlined by Colorado State's Trey McBride and could have a leg-up on other teams if they want to address that position in the draft. There is a lot of talent on defense, too. For example, Miami of Ohio's DE Dominique Rodgers, Houston DL Logan Hall, Cincinnati CB Coby Bryant. With all the draft capital the Jets have, not only in Rounds 1 and 2 but two picks in Rounds 4 and 5, this experience will help them make the right decisions for the team come draft time.
RL: One thing that has their pigskin juices flowing is the opportunity for a deep dive on the 130 college seniors who'll be participating in the week of practices followed by gameday. The Jets at the moment have four of the top 38 picks and nine picks total in the April draft. GM Joe Douglas, HC Robert Saleh & Co. will no doubt spend some of those picks on eligible underclassmen, but some will also go toward upperclassmen the Jets' Mobile team will be dealing with closely. And what might that mean? I'll go back to 1979, the last time Jets coaches worked the Senior Bowl and Walt Michaels and his staff got to see a couple of D-linemen under the microscope. Three months later they plucked Marty Lyons in Round 1 and Mark Gastineau in Round 2. With Joe Klecko and Abdul Salaam already on the roster, the New York Sack Exchange had just been born. As Michaels said at the time: "Marty was a logical first-round choice. We liked what we saw of him at the Senior Bowl. And we saw enough of Mark there to know he's a good football player on the rise." Is there a Lyons/Gastineau combo at this year's game, and if so, can the Jets reel them onto their 2022 roster? That remains to be seen, but just the possibility of finding, examining, polishing and then clothing two or more Senior Bowl stars in green and white is enough to make our tailgate grill flame up in anticipation.