Last week, the Jets acquired cornerback Johnny Patrick on a waiver claim from the San Diego Chargers. Jets fans might not know much about Patrick, so I’ve been reviewing game footage to try and get a sense of what he brings to the table.
The 25-year old Patrick is 5’11″ and 190 pounds and was a third round pick in the 2011 draft. He spent two seasons with the New Orleans Saints before joining the Chargers last year. He was primarily a nickel back last season, although he did start four games due to injuries. He intercepted one pass, the first of his career, and recorded 1.5 sacks.
After the jump, I look in detail at footage from Patrick’s first two seasons in the league to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Johnny Patrick?
Patrick played his college football at Louisville, where he was a teammate of current Jet Bilal Powell. He ran a 4.48 forty at his Pro Day in 2011 and was drafted in the third round by the New Orleans Saints. He barely played in his rookie year, but had a slightly more prominent role in his second season. However, he struggled and was released in February last year.
The Chargers picked him up and he contributed well for them, playing in 13 games and starting four. He would play almost 500 snaps before ending up on injured reserve with three weeks to go following an ankle injury. He recorded 38 tackles, one interception, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, all career highs.
After Patrick was released last week, the Jets claimed him off waivers and will assume the final year of his contract, which will pay him $700K in total, provided he makes the team.
Let’s look at his numbers from his career so far:
68 tackles (eight on special teams)
14 missed tackles (four on special teams)
Coverage numbers: 67-for-93, 936 yards, five TD, one INT and four passes defensed
Completion percentage: 72.0%
Yards per attempt: 10.1
QB rating: 117.4
Five penalties (two on special teams)
Here’s my observations from watching the footage, divided into categories:
When employed as a nickelback, Patrick would usually enter the game in the slot. However, he didn’t play exclusively in the slot. For example, in week three, he started on the outside and whenever the nickelback (Richard Marshall) entered the game, Patrick reverted to the slot.
As you can see from the numbers above, Patrick has had his struggles in coverage since entering the league. In 2012, only Trevin Wade had a higher QB rating when thrown at out of all cornerbacks to play over 200 snaps. In 2013, Patrick gave up a completion on 77.6% of his targets, which was tied for second worst among all NFL corners. However, he didn’t surrender a touchdown pass, having been beaten for five in 2012, so that was a step in the right direction.
From the footage, there were two areas in particular where he struggled. He constantly gave up too much of a cushion in coverage and was beaten, often routinely for first downs, by players coming back to the ball or breaking to the outside. This was even an issue on third and short, where he had a tendency to be too far off and, despite closing to make the tackle, easily gave up the required yardage. The other issue was that he struggled against good route runners who could make sharp breaks, occasionally losing his balance. He was particularly susceptible to getting beaten on slant routes, surrendering yardage after the catch on a few big plays.
Despite these struggles (and perhaps it’s a good sign that they were often isolated to similar, perhaps fixable, situations), Patrick did show some signs of improvement. I didn’t find that he failed to look back for the ball and there were a few plays where he did a good job of staying with his man. Also, on some of the plays where he seemed to be too far off his man, he was able to recover back to the ball and prevent the receiver from making the catch. I’d also note that the Chargers don’t really have a number one corner that follows the other team’s top target, so Patrick was often matched up against elite players like Dez Bryant, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker, with mixed results.
Patrick doesn’t have elite athletic numbers, but when he did get beaten, it was usually through technique rather than lacking the athleticism to stay with his man. He shows good burst when breaking towards the ball and gets downfield well on special teams.
Patrick is a pretty physical player, not afraid to use his hands and capable of laying some good hits. He didn’t get too many chances to show this off, but there was one play in particular where he played press coverage on his man on third and short and had the receiver blanketed, forcing the quarterback to deliberately overthrow his man out of bounds.
Patrick made some nice plays in run support, including a few tackles in the backfield. On one play, he tackled the runner for a five yard loss following a run blitz from the slot, avoiding the left tackle with good speed into the backfield. On another, he skipped over an attempted cut block to contain and stuff the runner for a short gain. However, on another run blitz, he overpursued, leading to a big run.
As noted in the numbers above, Patrick has had quite a few missed tackles, although he is a good hitter and does contribute in the running game. There were one or two plays where he missed the tackle at the second level, leading to a bigger gain, including an important one in overtime against Washington where Alfred Morris side-stepped his tackle to gain 19 crucial yards.
Patrick blitzed 24 times last year, recording 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and one pressure. He showed a knack for finding a route through traffic to the quarterback and for hitting the quarterback hard but legally. As noted above, he has a quick burst that is ideal for a player blitzing from the slot.
To have been targeted 93 times and only intercepted one pass and broken up another four is not particularly impressive. In addition, all of those pass breakups saw him knock the ball loose after the receiver had his hands on it. He never really jumped his man’s route. His interception was an athletic leaping grab after he came off his man in the slot in trap coverage to break on a ball thrown to the outside.
There were a couple of examples of blown coverages that Patrick was involved in. One saw him pass off Desean Jackson to the safety behind him…only the safety behind him (Eric Weddle) had vacated that area to help out on Donald Butler’s man. That led to an easy touchdown which was negated by an offensive penalty on a drive where the Eagles had been running several rub routes, perhaps in a direct effort to exploit Patrick’s lack of experience. Another blown coverage saw him drop off his man to the outside as if he was playing zone, leaving that man all alone over the middle for a big gain. That’s not unusual for a young player, but Jets fans will recognize that blown coverages can happen in Ryan’s defense due to its complexity, so you need to know your role.
There were also a few example, particularly on wide receiver screens, where Patrick was a beat slow to react and either didn’t get out to the receiver in time, or found himself blocked out of the play. His anticipation could have been better on those, but again that’s hopefully coachable.
Patrick is a player that can get fired up and seems to exude confidence and swagger. On one play in particular, Andrew Luck tried to find Reggie Wayne in the end zone, but Patrick stayed with Wayne well and then got in his face after the play. There were at least a few examples of him celebrating and being demonstrative after a play where he arguably got beaten and bailed out by a bad throw or dropped pass.
While he hasn’t put up big numbers on special teams, Patrick does play an important role. He operated as a primary gunner at times on the punt unit, beating his man impressively to force a fair catch on a couple of plays. He also was in the mix on kickoff coverages, although he did find himself blocked out of some plays. What impressed me most was his work in the vice role (blocking the opposing team’s gunner from getting downfield). Some of his work in that role was as good as I’ve seen. However, his consistency in this role left a lot to be desired. The potential is there for him to be really good at it though.
As noted, Patrick missed the end of last year with an ankle injury. However, perhaps a bigger concern is the fact that he suffered three concussions. He didn’t miss any games prior to being placed on injured reserve though, so presumably all of these concussions were mild.
Perhaps affecting his draft stock, Patrick had an arrest in 2010 on an assault charge. He later pled guilty to “harassment with physical contact”.
Had I done this research prior to the Jets re-signing Ellis Lankster, I’d probably be predicting that Lankster was unlikely to return. As it happens, they announced Lankster had re-signed that same day. The reason I say this is that Patrick brings a lot of the same things to the table that Lankster does and could have be seen as a potential replacement.
Since they did bring Lankster back, I’d reason that they brought Patrick in to double up at this position and have someone on the roster that can push Lankster, develop behind him and potentially fill in if he’s unavailable. Of the two, I have certainly seen more from Lankster in terms of press coverage and he’s a better gunner, but Patrick has similar size and athleticism and has played similar roles over the course of his career. The other major advantage Lankster brings is that he has received significant playing time without being picked on anywhere near as badly as Patrick has.
This doesn’t mean that they can’t both make the roster. You can never have too many special teams contributors and Patrick has experience of playing in the slot which only Kyle Wilson can match from the current roster.
With a big free agent addition anticipated, Darrin Walls back on board, Aaron Berry still in the team’s plans, Wilson and Dee Milliner locked into their roles and a few other longshots in the mix, Patrick has his work cut out to make the roster. However, he’s got some experience and, despite some struggles, has progressed during his time in the league and continues to show enough promise to warrant a look from the Jets.
There are more signings to come and I’ll be scouting these for TJB in the days and weeks to come. Between now and the draft, we’ll also return to some of the names at the bottom of the roster who have been added since the end of the season.