Marcus Maye has been playing in Jamal Adams’ shadow since the two were taken in the 2017 draft. But Maye charged out of it on Sunday with an Adams-type performance.
In his new role playing all over the field, Maye did just that, making plays against the Bills. He finished with 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. But Maye’s job only gets tougher this week. One of his assignments will be to defend 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
"You’re talking about a guy who did probably everything imaginable at the safety position," Jets coach Adam Gase said during a Zoom call Thursday. "From blitzing, coverage from the box, safety play, almost picking a ball in the red zone, doing a great job of identifying what they were doing and anticipating it - he did everything this last game.
"I don’t think there’s many guys that can do what he did this last week as far as the variety. This week, Kittle is an extremely tough matchup."
Kittle could be a game-time decision after he suffered a knee injury during the 49ers’ Week 1 loss at Arizona. But the Jets are preparing as if Kittle is playing.
He didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday and may not practice Friday. But 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t closing the door on Kittle.
"He’s a hundred % sure the way he talks to me that he is playing on Sunday. He always feels that way," Shanahan said. "Kittle is one guy that we’ll see how he feels on Sunday before we decide anything. He’s a guy that usually finds a way and he’s able to pull it off without practice."
Both teams could be coming in with chips on their shoulders after unimpressive performances in Week 1. That’s how Maye seemed to be playing in Sunday’s loss at Buffalo. It was as if he wanted to prove that the Jets won’t miss Adams.
Maye is good friends with Adams, and didn’t want him to leave. But Adams forced a trade to Seattle over the summer, opening the door for Maye to move to strong safety and play a bigger role in Gregg Williams’ defense.
Instead of playing in coverage as he did for most of his career, Maye lined up in the box more, the way Adams did last year. Before Sunday, Maye was credited with half a sack in 38 NFL games. Maye had his first full sacks on back-to-back series in the third quarter.
"I was out there playing ball," Maye said. "Coach did a great job of calling the game. I was out there playing. I got into a little groove and everything like that. Things were coming my way. We didn’t get the win. We got to find another way to come out this week and try to get the win."
Everyone on the defensive side of the ball has said Maye has been more vocal this year and has led by example. He was voted a captain for the first time. Adams was a captain the last two years.
Maye is in the final year of his contract, but he’s not going to make the waves Adams did before getting traded. The Jets would be wise to extend Maye or give him a new deal after the season. He will be less costly than Adams would have been, and based on his debut in his new role, Maye may be just as effective.
"From the moment I stepped over here, he’s been a baller, he’s been a playmaker," said safety Bradley McDougald, who came to the Jets from Seattle in the Adams trade. "He’s getting really comfortable with his role here. He’s showing everybody that he’s not just a post safety. He can play in the box as well. He just hasn’t had an opportunity. He’s taking advantage of it now."