When the offseason began, cornerback Brian Poole wasn’t a name you heard floated about as a possible free-agent target for teams. But after three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons elected not to tender the restricted free agent and he hit the open market. The Jets were in need of a corner to play inside the numbers and the one-year deal made sense for both sides.
“I like playing in the nickel, but I can play on the outside as well,” Poole said after signing his contract with the Green & White.
While Poole could line up outside occasionally for the Jets, it’s expected the 5’9”, 213-pounder will predominantly line up over the slot receiver. He is coming off his best pro season as he registered career highs in interceptions (3), sacks (3) and tackles (74).
“First and foremost, I’m physical,” he said. “I’m fast, I’m a cover guy. I do a good job blitzing as well.”
An undrafted free agent out of Florida, the 26-year-old Poole appeared in 47 games for the Falcons and made 21 starts. Playing in 2,167 snaps, Poole collected 196 stops, five sacks and four interceptions in addition to 20 pass defenses. He will spend a lot of time in coverage, but Poole’s ability to get to the quarterback could be a perfect fit for aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“We talked a little scheme, so I’m definitely excited about the role he has for me,” Poole said of Williams.
Poole will find comfort inside the Jets’ locker room that includes two fellow Florida products in OL Jonotthan Harrison and S Marcus Maye. During their SEC days, Poole and Maye lined up for years together in the Gator backfield.
“I feel like the whole secondary is great,” said Poole, who was recruited by Maye over social media. “I’m excited to work with all those guys.”
The Jets secondary could look dramatically different than last season. The hope is Maye, who was limited to just six games in 2018 due to shoulder and thumb ailments, will pair up with Pro Bowler Jamal Adams for a full year at safety. After an uneven campaign, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, a first-tier addition in free agency last spring, could thrive under Williams once again after they tasted success together with the Rams. Across the way, the versatile Darryl Roberts re-signed while Morris Claiborne, who started 30 games in 2017-18, remains a free agent.
With teams forced into sub packages nowadays, the nickel position is a starting spot on defense. Buster Skrine signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency and the Green & White elected to go in a different direction with Poole. Speedster Parry Nickerson, a sixth-round pick in 2018, should provide competition there and the draft remains. But Poole fills a significant need and he’s eager to start anew on a team with plenty of fresh faces.
“Coach Gase is great. I got a chance to meet him yesterday,” Poole said. “Really great guy. Made me feel at home, so I definitely feel like this is the place for me.”