2021 NFL Draft: Day Three Press Conference
JOE DOUGLAS: Hey guys, thanks for being here. Obviously, a lot goes into this weekend, these last few days, and we’re not done yet. We’re going to get through the final pick and then start on undrafted free agency, which is a key part of finishing up this draft the right way. But before I go onto that I just want to thank a lot of people. I want to thank our coaching staff, Coach (Robert) Saleh and his staff. It’s like I said before, it’s been unbelievable getting on the same page with him and his staff. The time and effort that they’ve put into this draft is amazing. I really want to thank the scouts. Our college scouts, our pro scouts, analytics and support staff, trainers, doctors, everybody. Obviously, so much work that they put in for three days and then when you look at a card, you see a name. I see hours worth of work. I see a drive from Tuscaloosa to Oxford, MS. I see countless conversations. And so, these guys, through everything, they’ve been able to adjust and adapt through different grading scales when I came in, different scheme, these guys have adjusted and they’ve adapted very well. So, I really want to thank them for their hard work over these last few days and the months and weeks leading up to this weekend. With that being said, we feel good about these last three days. We feel like we’ve improved this team, feel good about this offseason with the 11 UFAs that we brought in and the 10 draft picks that we’ve brought in over the last three days, we feel like we’ve improved this team.
D.J. Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, how do you feel about Michael Carter’s ability to translate into your run scheme that you’re going to feature with a wide-zone running scheme?
ROBERT SALEH: Yeah, Michael’s got tremendous vision. He’s got tremendous speed, burst. He’s got the ability to make people miss. He’s good on third down, coming out of the backfield in the pass game, and he’s pretty stout in protection, so for him to be where he was at 107 was a major surprise to all of us, including Joe and his staff. We felt like it was a no-brainer at that point. We went to bed last night knowing that was going to be the guy. He’s an incredible talent so we’re excited to have him.
Brian Costello, New York Post: You went all offense in the beginning. Were you happy with what you were able to add on the defensive side of the ball late in the draft?
JD: Absolutely. I feel like the board fell our way and fell the defensive’s way the second half of this draft. Just to piggyback on what Coach was talking about about Michael Carter, he’s just a guy we were really excited about, just his elusiveness, his explosive playmaking ability, and then to follow it up to bring in some young defensive players that can come in and compete and hopefully be impact players moving forward.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, could you talk about the importance of drafting the four offensive players to start out with, that’s actually almost the first time in almost 40 years that the Jets drafted four offensive players to start a draft. How important was that to get guys around your new quarterback so they can grow together?
RS: It goes back to the team aspect that we’ve talked about. On the first day, the board fell that way. We take the quarterback, (Alijah) Vera-Tucker’s sitting there and Joe was aggressive going and getting him, which was awesome. We had no idea, no expectation to see Elijah Moore sitting there and there he is sitting there in the second round, so that was a no-brainer. We go through and just watch the third round unfold and we’re just looking at Michael Carter falling and we’re like, ‘Holy cow, he might get to us.’ So, we go to bed last night excited as heck because Michael Carter is sitting there. So, it kind of fell that way, but the objective of this entire weekend has been to get better as a team, find a way to fill this roster up, because teams win championships, not individual players, and I feel like we’ve done a really good job of taking not only advantage of value but positions of need.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, what do you think about some of the defensive players you’ve added and how they fit into your system?
RS: You know, we’re really excited about the opportunity these young men have to come in and compete and see if they can make an impact on this team. At the linebacker level with (Jamien) Sherwood and Hamsah (Nasirildeen), those are two very long, fast, versatile athletes that kind of fit the mold of what we ask out of our linebackers—the run and the hit and the speed and coverage ability. Then you look at the corners, whether it’s Michael Carter II being able to play that free safety/nickel role, to (Brandin) Echols playing corner and (Jason Pinnock), all three of them in the back end, just fantastic additions to be able to come in and compete and that’s all we’re asking of them because out of it all when you have so much competition and the things that Joe and his staff have been able to bring in, competition breeds improvement and so there’s just going to be a great level of competition in that room and we’re excited to see it unfold.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, with Sherwood and Hamsah, those are guys that played mainly safety in college, now you guys just called them linebackers and called them linebackers on social media, is that sort of the new NFL, just kind of finding those guys to play in the box that may have been safeties in college?
RS: I don’t know if it’s a new NFL. We just look at it differently in our scheme. Our guys, with the chaos that we create up front, our guys are more run-and-hit, they’re more lateral players. These young men, when you look at Sherwood and you look at Hamsah, they’re down safeties which is basically a linebacker and you just look at guys like Fred Warner who played nickel, basically, in college and he transfers over and he’s turned out alright. There are examples all over the league where guys didn’t play behind the ball. It’s just very hard to evaluate linebackers nowadays with regards to how the college game has evolved, RPO’s and keeping guys lateral and all the tricks in the quarterback run game, it’s not traditional but what you can see out of those guys is the ability to read, diagnose, run, hit, play coverage, understand route concepts that are in front of them. So, we feel like they’ll be able to translate to linebacker pretty easily.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, did you say Michael Carter II from Duke, he is a free safety? Is that what you said?
RS: Free safety/nickel. He’s one of those guys that’s got great versatility, tremendous speed, he’s very sticky in coverage, and he’s tremendous mentally with regards to being able to absorb information and play multiple spots. So, getting him and his versatility is great, especially when you start getting into the game day where you’re trying to figure out who’s going to be active and inactive.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, how are you feeling overall about the cornerback room when you add In Jason (Pinnock), you added Michael Carter II in the (fifth), you still have Bryce Hall, got Lamar Jackson, and you have Bless Austin. How are you feeling overall about the cornerback room?
RS: I just love the competition that we’ve brought in. Jason, obviously, from Pittsburgh, that’s the one I was forgetting to get out of my mouth, forgive me. He’s had, from an analytics standpoint, if you just look at his career analytically, his production is off the charts, so they all bring a different style to them and they’re going to get every single opportunity to compete and make an impact on this football team. So, any time you bring in competition, I’m going to feel good about it—we’re going to feel good about it, and that’s the biggest thing we’ve done.
J.P. Pelzman, Forbes: This is for both Joe and for Robert, either one of you can take this. There was talk that with no Combine this year, with that sort of medical Combine, how satisfied, you guys have talked about the great job Dr. (Ken) Montgomery and the training people do, how satisfied are you with the medicals on the guys in the later rounds, because there wasn’t as much of a chance this year to check up on those guys. How satisfied are you with any medical questions on the later round guys?
JD: Yeah, J.P., those guys had to adjust just like our scouts did. There was a smaller number of guys that went to the Combine, 150 I believe the number was instead of the normal 300. So, they had to adjust, and we tried to get as much information from these satellite physicals that we could, a lot of images that the doctors pouring through. They really grinded to get the best information that they could. Some of this information was changing leading up into the weekend. So, this was probably unlike any other draft in that regard in terms of medical information coming in later and changing, because usually the hay is in the barn on that a couple of weeks before the Draft starts. So, yeah, they did a great job working through this.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Along those lines, Joe, with Hamsah, some scouting people, services projected him as a third rounder. Do you think it was his knee that caused him to drop, because he had the knee surgery?
JD: Yeah, you know, I can’t really speak for everybody else. I know we’re excited to get him and I know that we had good talks about him with our docs and we’re excited to add him to the team. He’s a guy that, like Coach said, he loves ball, man. And it comes out. Even coming back off the injury, and he didn’t have to come back and play the last few games this year, he could have just waited and gone in the Draft like so many others did. But that guy loves ball, he loves being around his teammates, he loves competing, and that’s what we want to be about. We want guys like that on our team.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Joe, throughout your career at various spots that have drafted a quarterback in the first round, whether it’s Baltimore, whether it’s Philly, Chicago, you’ve been in some situations where you’ve drafted a first-round quarterback, so how much did that experience play into the way you went about building around Zack Wilson in this draft?
JD: Yeah, DJ, I think every situation’s unique, and I think having been around that process, it certainly benefitted. I think having been around programs that have had success bringing in rookie players, having success with rookie quarterbacks. But look, like I said, every situation’s different. At the end of the day, our coaching staff, our scouts, all of us, we loved everything we saw from Zach (Wilson) and we were excited to bring him into the team.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: How important is it to get a veteran in that quarterback room just to be kind of a stabilizing influence for all those young quarterbacks in there.
JD: Yeah, I think, like I said, I really am excited about the guys that we have. I think that’s a conversation that Coach and I will get together on, not only the quarterback room but a lot of rooms once the dust settles on this draft. Early next week, we’ll get in, we’ll talk about every room, and if there’s a situation where we feel we need to address a room, we’re going to do it. But, we’re going to let this undrafted free agent process play out and then get back together and huddle up next week.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: How do much better are you guys today compared to before this draft kicked off on Thursday? How much better are you guys today?
JD: I think I said in the opening statement, I think we’ve had the chance to add 10 players via the draft, 11 players in unrestricted free agency, and we’re excited about these guys. We’re excited about the competition we’re going to create. We’re excited about the depth that we added. So, I do feel like we improved ourselves throughout this offseason and the offseason is not over until training camp starts. So, there’s more opportunities to improve this team, improve this roster. We’re going to take it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I don’t think we’ve asked you about Marcus Maye since early March. I’m just curious, has there been any progress on a long-term contract there, and is that a priority now that the Draft is over?
JD: Yeah, still a priority to keep Marcus here long term and we have had productive texts back and forth with his agent, so we’re hoping to really dive into this now that the Draft is over.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, is there any concern that you have too many Michael Carters now?
RS: Yeah, MC and MC II. No, it’s awesome. They’re both really talented football players so we’re excited to have them both.
(follow-up) What was that like then Michael Carter II, you guys were going to take him? Was there any joking around in the room like, ‘We’re taking another guy? Another Michael Carter?’ What was it like in there?
RS: I think the humor in it all, when we took Michael Carter the running back, ESPN threw up Michael Carter II on the screen and we were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute,’ and checked the notes and made sure we made the right pick. But, lucky for us, Michael II ended up falling to us and we were able to scoop him up. So, like I said, we’re excited to have him both.
JD: Yeah, that was the hope to get the MC squared. Going into the day we were trying to corner the market on Alijah/Elijahs and Michael Carters.
J.P. Pelzman, Forbes: Robert, you were a linebackers coach. What is the transition like for guys like Hamsah and Sherwood to have to go from, I know they’re similar things, but from boxed safety to linebacker. How difficult a transition is that?
RS: There’s a learning curve. You tell them to do whatever they can. If they felt comfortable walking in the box, then, shoot, break the huddle with a little bit of depth and walk into that spot. It’s all the same thing, because some guys just need to adjust their eyes and their vision. That trick was given to me by John Lynch in San Francisco when he was asked to play linebacker at the tail end of his career. He broke the huddle and walked into his spot and it just felt better for him. If you have to do that for a while, do it, but eventually they get used to it. When you’re a box safety, the reads are pretty much the same, you just have to get used to understanding you’re a linebacker now. The way they’ll learn the way we play at linebacker, it’s not a 3-4 Mike linebacker that goes and pumps the guard to get him off the tackle. That’s not the way we play. We play with a little more speed, fast flow. We try to put them in space and allow them to close that space as fast as possible, so those guys usually fit pretty good in our scheme.