Free safety has been an ongoing issue for the New York Jets throughout the preseason, with Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush battling for the position. Allen and Jarrett had separated themselves with strong performances in practice, but both had failed to distinguish themselves in game action in the preseason.
Thursday night, however, marked a turning point in the free safety battle. Both Allen and Jarrett had very strong games, and the coaches will have a very difficult decision to make. Allen had the slight edge heading into the game, but the two players played next to each other for the majority of the game and impressed.
Jarrett recorded six tackles, second on the team, and he was very strong in run support. That is Jarrett’s bread and butter, and the Jets expect that level of performance from the former 2nd round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. What was pleasant surprise, however, was Jarrett’s performance against the pass. Jarrett was excellent as a blitzer, and he created the initial pressure that led to Ricky Sapp‘s strip sack of Nick Foles. Jarrett also looked good in coverage, letting his man get behind him and immediately making the tackle the rare times he gave up a catch.
Jarrett looked to have done enough to win the job until late in the game. Allen was solid but not spectacular, as he has been for most of preseason, until he stepped in front of a Matt Barkley throw and took it 20 yards for a touchdown. As a free safety, pass coverage and ball skills are paramount, and Allen displayed his on that particular play.
Overall, Jarrett had a better game, but Allen made the big play, which was the one that sealed the win for the Jets. This is an incredibly close battle, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they chose either player for the starting job.
In my opinion, Jarrett should win the job, because he has been more consistent and shown more potential. He is not the prototypical coverage free safety, but as the most talented option, it would be in the Jets’ best interest to give him the first crack at the starting job.