New York Jets: Marcus Maye the underrated element of rookie safety duo

May 5, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Marcus Maye (26) during New York Jets mini rookie camp at Jets Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
May 5, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Marcus Maye (26) during New York Jets mini rookie camp at Jets Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Jets drafted Marcus Maye in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Here we take a close look at the talented safety from the University of Florida.

The New York Jets raised a few eyebrows when they selected safety Marcus Maye of the University of Florida in the second round (39th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. Gang Green had already picked another safety, Jamal Adams of LSU, in the first round so why the emphasis on one position? New York had a plethora of other needs in the draft, so why did they select the former Gator?

When you think about it a little, it actually makes a great deal of sense. The Jets owned one of the worst secondaries in the league last season and head coach Todd Bowles, a former safety himself, knows how important it is to have a strong last line of defense in the secondary. Adams and Maye have the potential to become one of the finest young safety tandems in the NFL.

So what do we know about the 6-0, 207-pounder? Maye was a four-year starter at Florida and was named to the USA Today All-American squad in 2015. He followed that up with another solid campaign last year by registering 50 tackles, one interception, one sack and six pass breakups in nine games. Unfortunately, Maye broke his left arm against South Carolina and missed the final four games of the 2016 season, but was still selected to the second-team All-SEC contingent.

Let’s take a look at some of Maye’s career highlights with the Gators:

There are so many things that stand out about Maye when watching his highlight tape, but what really catches your eye initially is his outstanding ability to stop the run and his excellent pursuit to the football.

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He is superb at coming up into the box to halt the rush and is a strong, physical player with top-notch tackling ability. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the Melbourne, FL native ranked first among all FBS safeties with at least 300 snaps in tackling efficiency. He made a number of touchdown-saving tackles where he was the last defender before the end zone.

Maye also possess a non-stop motor and has the burst to track down opponents from sideline to sideline. He welcomes physical play and is strong at breaking up passes at the point of contact. Maye is known for above-average field vision and very good pattern recognition in both man and zone coverage. He can shed blockers rather quickly and has the versatility to play both strong and free safety. He is the ultimate ball hawk.

Don’t be surprised to see Maye perform on New York’s special teams unit as well, especially early on as he becomes acclimated to the NFL game. He’ll be a real asset in that capacity because he just seems to fly to the football.

Like every player, Maye needs to improve some aspects of his game. He allowed 10 touchdowns in his coverage area during his career with the Gators and needs to improve his ability to track the deep ball effectively. He can be duped by head fakes of opposing receivers which causes him to bite on certain routes, especially combo routes.

There were times when Maye would have a breakdown in coverage that led to big plays for the opposition. That area of his game needs to be worked on with the Jets coaching staff in earnest but Maye is smart and athletic enough to be able to improve quickly in that regard.

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Despite being rookies, Maye and Adams have a very good chance to start at safety for New York when the Jets open their 2017 campaign at Buffalo on Sept. 10. Calvin Pryor has been a huge disappointment in his three seasons in New York and Maye and Adams both have the potential to be Pro Bowl players sooner rather than later. They should complement each other quite well and give the Jets a pair of safeties many teams in the league will envy.