FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — If you want to know more about the Jets’ two rookie safeties, look no further than the locker room.
Jamal Adams, the strong safety from LSU, ricochets from locker to locker on any given day. He’s playfully talking trash to his teammates, sometimes with a towel wrapped around him.
Marcus Maye, the free safety from Florida, sits at his locker, watching Adams make all this noise. Maye is smiling just observing his teammate, his friend, pick up the energy around the Jets. Maye speaks softly and laughs when Adams spends time in front of his locker talking about anything and everything.
The personalities of the two safeties couldn’t be more different, Adams boisterous, Maye reserved. Together, the impact they have on the field is loud. It’s something this young Jets team needs moving forward as part of the rebuild.
“It’s like night and day,” Maye said. “I guess it’s like peanut butter and jelly, that’s just him and me being me. That’s why it makes it so special and we find a way to make it work. At the end of the day, we both love ball and being around our teammates and being on the field and making an impact any kind of way. It goes hand and hand with each other.”
As the Jets face the Falcons Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the odd couple-like safeties are needed to stop this two-game losing streak and continue establishing their impact on the field.
“I thought Adams and Maye are coming through like you’d hope they would,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I know Maye from his time as a Gator, and Adams I know just from scouting and evaluating, so I thought on both sides I saw a tough, physical team.”
This season Maye is third on the team in total tackles (36) and has displayed the range the Jets liked when they drafted him in the second round, 39th overall. Maye has two interceptions, the first when he jumped the route near the goal line Week 5 in Cleveland for one of his signature plays. Maye also has one quarterback hit and two pass breakups.
“When I first seen Marcus, I told him he reminds me of [retired Ravens safety] Ed Reed,” Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon said. “Same body type, act the same, all the same characteristics. He’s talented enough to get it done and we talked about film study and we spent a lot of time doing that and I knew he could take it to the next level because of what he put into it.”
Adams was the Jets’ first-round pick, sixth overall. He entered the pros with a NFL pedigree. His father, George, was a former Giants and Patriots running back. Adams is fourth on the team with 34 total tackles with three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and four pass breakups.
Adams’ highlight play occurred Week 2 in Oakland. He charged from the other side of the field to tackle Marshawn Lynch, who broke three tackles before getting stopped by Adams.
“He’s always been aphysical,” said Adams’ Dallas-based personal trainer, Clay Mack, who has known him since the sixth grade. “George Adams was his dad and raised him hard-nosed and tough. I had to teach him the finesse side of everything because he was already a physical player.”
The Jets are benefiting from the players’ versatility on and off the field. Coach Todd Bowles utilizes Adams near the line of scrimmage in the run game and isn’t afraid to employ him in pass coverage against tight ends. There was a two-week stretch where Adams allowed three touchdowns to tight ends, including a pair of scores to the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. Adams said he’ll learn from his failures because it will make him a better player. The Jets will also use Adams on the blitz because Bowles like the physical-nature of which he plays.
Maye is a true free safety, someone who can read quarterbacks in the back end of zone coverage and isn’t afraid to mix it up with hard hits. Maye will blitz and sometimes creep up to the line of scrimmage to provide help in the run game.
It’s a lot to ask of rookie safeties in a division where Tom Brady is on the schedule twice a year. On Sunday, the Jets face Matt Ryan, with matchups against Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Alex Smith and Drew Brees on the slate as well.
“I don’t try to make it bigger than what it is, we’re in the league, we’re rookies,” Adams said. “There’s going to be big games and that comes with it. We’re on the highest stage, the highest level and were in New York — it makes it times two. We take on challenges like that and we embrace those things and we’re all competitors in this locker room and we look forward to every matchup.”
The competitiveness between the rookies is not only on the field but off of it, too. They hang out and watch game film together. Mack said when he called Adams one day to ask him what he was doing, “he told me he was with Marcus.”
The opposite personalities are a benefit.
“Yeah, I guess it’s just how I am, chill, relaxed, laid back,” Maye said. “I like to have fun. I’m outgoing as well, it’s always a time to be loud and outgoing and a time to be serious and be focused on working and stuff like that.”
And what about that energy?
“I think it just comes from me playing the game of football,” Adams said. “Just try to feed energy on who is not hyped enough, or vice versa. They feed off me, just as much as I feed off them. I just try to be myself and bring a lot of energy to the team and make as many plays as possible.”
The Jets don’t mind the rookies pushing and pulling for so much because that’s what fuels this team right now, given the low expectations. Players such as Adams and Maye have the potential to be cornerstone players based on their high-draft projections and how the season has progressed so far.
As opposite as they are, personality wise, together they’re a team the Jets hope will stay on the field for a long time.
“One thing those guys both do is they work their [expletive] off,” defensive tackle Mike Pennel said. “They work hard and they play hard and real serious about work and details at work. They are who they are in the locker room but on the field, there’s no better teammates.”