He may be the leader of the secondary and perhaps the biggest star on the New York Jets defense. But for safety Marcus Maye, nothing has changed.
In fact, he readily admits to being “Still the same guy…just the same old me.”
With the Jets having traded away All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks last month, Maye is now not only the voice of the secondary but is also in line for an emerging and an expanding role in the defense. Last week, head coach Adam Gase rattled off praise for Maye’s versatility including his safety’s instincts and ability to cover the field. His description was reminiscent of Adams, who developed into one of the league’s best defensive players last year due to his versatility and athleticism.
“I just love being on the grass, you can put me anywhere on the field, you’re going to get what you get,” Maye said on Tuesday in a virtual press conference.
“But just being out there, knowing I have to be vocal. Obviously there’s a lot more talking going on. Everyone is rallying around me since I’ve been here the longest so I got to get guys going and stuff like that. Just how the standard is being set for the younger guys.”
Calling it “two different worlds,” Maye admits that the new role will be an adjustment. A season ago, Maye was the free safety, playing up high. Now as strong safety, he will be in the box more and be more involved in the communication and calling sets. He will be expected to guide fellow safeties Bradley McDougald, acquired as part of the Adams trade, and rookie safety Ashtyn Davis in their assimilation to the secondary.
If the Jets are to build on last year’s 7-9 record including six wins in their final eight games, they will have to do so with a defense that is currently lacking star power. Adams, gone in the trade to Seattle, isn’t the only big name off the Jets defense as C.J. Mosley, an All-Pro linebacker, has opted out of the season.
Entering his fourth year in the league, Maye has established himself as one of the game’s best safeties. In 16 games last year, he had 65 tackles, an interception and seven passes defended. His ability to read and react in the backend and provide support is a major reason why Adams became an All-Pro a season ago.
With Maye providing support and putting out coverage fires, Adams was free to be a playmaker, rushing the quarterback and being a heat seeking missile in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams defense. Adams became the Jets only Pro Bowl selection last year because of not only his athleticism but in large part due to Maye’s ability to be a release valve if something broke in the secondary.
Now with Adams shipped off, Maye steps up and will have a big –and ever-expanding role – in the Jets defense.
“Marcus brings a lot of versatility and he’s extremely smart, he’s able to help get guys lined up and make things look like one thing and get to something else,” Gase said last week. “You know he’s one of those guys that there’s nothing that you can say that he doesn’t do well.”
Maye, admittedly, is working on the new, emerging role. He is the face of the defense now and a seasoned veteran. The fact that he is one of the stars of preseason this year shouldn’t be a surprise.
It isn’t that Maye is suddenly finding his star quality. In fact, he always had those capabilities.
Now, with Adams on the other coast, he has the chance to finally shine.
“We were different spots, different situations in years prior, I had different guys on the defense and stuff like that,” Maye said.
“When you have guys who can do most of the things, you can plug them anywhere and you can expect them to be. I’m in a different spot but still playing the same football.”