The initial moments were pretty normal for Jamal Adams. Well, normal for someone just selected in the NFL Draft.
He hugged his parents — George and Michelle — right after the Jets made him the No. 6 pick. He took a moment to collect himself, knowing a “dream” had “come true;” 22 years of hard work finally paid off.
But then something changed. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski — all 6-6, 265 pounds of him– crossed his mind.
“He was one of the first people I thought about,” Adams said Friday. “Hopefully I’m ready to compete against him. All I can do is give it my all.”
The Jets defense was dreadful a year ago. The stats paint a pretty clear picture of that (see here). They hope Adams, a safety, can help. And there’s a good chance he’s tasked with covering tight ends, like Gronkowski, on Sundays.
And if that’s the case, it won’t be anything new for Adams. It’s practically all he did at LSU. Well aware of his athleticism and physical ability, defensive coordinator David Aranda manned Adams up in the slot, as Adams described it, “95 percent of the time.” There, he would cover either a receiver or tight end.
In 2016, college quarterbacks threw at Adams 39 times. He allowed a completion percentage of just 51.3 and an NFL quarterback rating of 68.6. Adams let up just two touchdowns, per PFF, throughout his three-year college career.
“We feel he’s a really good athlete for the position,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said Thursday. “We think he has good speed and range. He’s an exceptionally instinctive player. We really like his physical aggressiveness. He’s a very, very good tackler.
“Really when we analyzed him, we thought he was a very good well-rounded player at the position and we felt very comfortable with his ability to play close to the line of scrimmage or backed off in space.”
Not all people agreed with Maccagnan’s assessment. A big knock on Adams heading into the draft — despite his impressive coverage numbers – was his ability to cover. Some scouts saw him as nothing more than a box safety, an overly-athletic linebacker.
Adams saw those critiques. They didn’t sit well with him.
“Those things bother me,” Adams said, “But at the same time, everyone has their opinion… I really can’t speak for them. It was just an opinion they had on me. All I can do is get better at it.”
With the Jets, Adams may be asked to play a bit more of a free-safety role, as opposed to strong safety. Calvin Pryor is under contract for this year, and if the Jets pick up his fifth-year option, 2018, too.
Coach Todd Bowles said Thursday his safeties are “interchangeable,” but the Jets have learned during Pryor’s first three seasons coverage isn’t his strongest ability. He’s best when in the box, which means Adams will likely be put back.
“I did that my freshman and sophomore year a lot,” Adams said. “I also did it my junior year. It’s not like I can’t do it. The coaching staff in LSU just always had me around the ball making more plays. I was more active closer, just getting around the ball.”
Adams says he can play in the box. He can play back deep. If he’s asked, he’ll go and cover guys like Gronkowski, too.
He’s a do-it-all player. And he’ll do whatever the Jets ask.
“The game has changed,” Adams said. “So you need a safety who can cover and take guys away and out of the game.