Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets rookies. However, we stop today to take a look at a recent veteran addition with defensive end Ronald Blair.
Blair, 28, is 6’4 “and 270 pounds and was a fifth-round pick in 2016. Blair has only started two games in his career, but has been a productive defenseman in rotation with the 49ers since its writing. He has 88 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 22 lost tackles in his career.
Blair wasn’t a much sought after high school rookie, although he was Georgia Region 4-AA Defensive Player of the Year in his senior year with 112 tackles, nine sacks and a six pick. from 70 yards.
He ultimately chose to attend Appalachian State, where he started 51 games over the next five years. After starting 24 games in the first two seasons and racking up 100 tackles and 6.5 sacks, Blair was injured in two games in his freshman year and chose to take a medical red shirt.
During his junior season in the red shirt, he was a second-team selection in all conferences as he recorded 43 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
His final year saw him do even better as a first-team selection with career highs in tackles (71), tackles for loss (19) and sacks (7.5). He also had a pick-six.
Blair posted bad numbers during his combined training which saw him partially injure himself, but he improved in time for his professional day and increased his stock by improving most of his numbers. The 49ers ultimately selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.
After contributing 16 tackles and three sacks as a rotating rookie, Blair has had a productive start to the season and made the first two starts of his career, but then got injured and missed the last 10 games.
He rebounded in 2018 to post career highs in tackles (36) and sacks (5.5) and had another solid season in 2019 when another injury put him in the injured reserve in November.
He did not play in 2020 as he suffered a setback during the rehabilitation process and was unable to return to the pitch.
Now let’s see what Blair brings to the table, broken down into categories.
Measurables / Athletics
As noted, Blair’s combine drive numbers were poor as he weighed 284 pounds and injured the quad during his 40-yard sprint. However, he posted a solid 32 reps on the bench press.
By his professional day less than five weeks later, Blair had lost weight to 270 and he significantly improved his speed and explosiveness figures with an excellent 4.85 in the 40-yard dash, 33.5-inch vertical. and 119 inch wide jump. He was, however, unable to improve his poor combine agility figures.
Blair lacks ideal length but is otherwise essentially the prototypical size for a defensive end in a four-front.
In college, Blair played primarily as a 3-4 defensive end, although he occasionally lined up outside the tackle or inside. However, he mostly played as a 4-3 end at the NFL level.
During his rookie year he actually played the majority of his reps indoors, but since then he has only played indoors on rare occasions.
When aligned on the outside, Blair almost always has his hand in the dirt, mostly in a four-point position. This is not necessarily a system requirement as Dee Ford was usually on his feet when playing on the rim. It was rare for Blair to get up at the snap, but he played both right and left.
Blair is a relentless player who puts in a good effort in the trenches and plays the whistle. It shows this effort on this piece.
He played a full-time role in college but never played 40 snaps in a game until 2018 at the NFL level. However, he ended up playing over 500 snaps that year, including 50 per game in the last month of the season, so he can potentially handle a newbie’s workload.
Blair developed well against the race and was having his most consistent season as a race defender when he was injured in 2019. His strength is an asset here as it allows him to hold up well to the point of ‘attack.
However, he’s also quick out of position and explosive enough to punch holes in the backfield.
He will have to be able to put the advantage in this system but he can also move sideways and also shows that he can penetrate and get rid of his blocker on this play.
Blair also gives a good effort when chasing plays from the back and sideline.
As a passer, Blair’s pressure numbers weren’t great, but he recorded 13.5 sacks, including 5.5 in 2018.
He’s at his best when he can get a leverage advantage from the edge. This allows him to use his strength to get around the corner.
Coming out of the rim, he shows that he can use a good deception by leaning in and then bursting out like he does on this coin.
Blair can also be effective on stunts, showing good aggression on this play to reach the quarterback.
Blair doesn’t have an arsenal of exotic rushing moves but is technically proficient at what he does. He uses his strength here to get that outside leverage advantage, then goes into a rip motion to get around his man.
On this play, he does a good job of clapping the offensive tackle’s hands to maintain a clean edge separation.
Against the run, Blair generally does a good job with his pad level and the way he uses his hands.
Blair has had a decent production as a tackle and does a good job of closing in the open field and wrapping up in space. His knee injury in 2019 came during a clutch play where he dragged Russell Wilson into space, for example.
He doesn’t miss a lot of tackles, but even though he misses one here, it’s telling that he always backs up to make a tackle and shows visible frustration with himself for not making the play. in the backfield.
Blair doesn’t fall into the cover very often, but he has shown his ability to do so effectively on film.
Even in this game where he gives up a downstream catch, Blair disrupts the tight end of the line and stays close to him on a downstream road.
Blair can make a few plays in the blanket. He had six picks in middle and high school and also had another defended pass in middle school.
Instincts / Intelligence
Blair obviously does a lot of film preparation because we often see him anticipating and reacting well to pre-snap keys.
On this part, he immediately feels the passage of the screen and withdraws to rush and come to a stop.
However, he can be deceived by deception. He misread this piece and crashed inside at the end to leave a large race track open.
Blair was named defensive student-athlete of the year by the Sun Belt Conference in Appalachian State.
Blair made a few contributions on special teams, mostly rushing kicks and punters. However, he also displayed an ability to contribute as a blocker on returning units.
He also safely lined up a kickoff with the 49ers when the kick was short.
Blair is probably less likely to have to play for special teams after an injury.
Attitude / Behavior
Blair is known to be a favorite of current Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who has said he “loves him to death” and praised his approach on and off the field. . 49ers general manager Jon Lynch also praised his character.
On the court, he has only received three penalties in four years – two for offside jumping and one for defensive detention.
He was a two-time captain and one of the team’s top executives at Appalachian State.
Blair suffered an ACL tear in 2019, but his recovery initially seemed to be going well as he was running again within four months. However, he then suffered a setback and eventually had to undergo follow-up surgery in 2020 which caused him to miss the entire season. Whether he’s fully recovered or not will dictate his chances of a roster.
He has also had problems with his thumb in the past. A serious injury in 2013 caused him to miss most of the season and demanded a medical red jersey, then he injured his thumb again when he landed in the injured reserve in 2017.
His combine training was destroyed by a quad injury sustained while running his 40-yard dash.
As stated, Blair is a Saleh favorite and was handpicked by the Jets because he fits into their system. While he’s never worked with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich before, Blair should be more than comfortable with Ulbrich leading Saleh’s defense.
He can compete for time as a strong winger in the base package and can also get rotating reps off the bench in peak situations.
Blair was a teammate of Matt Cole, Tevin Coleman and Austin Walter in San Francisco.
Blair is a solid addition to the locker room who could play a useful role as a mentor if he’s healthy now.
He’s always been a reliable and productive reserve for the 49ers and is able to play occasionally to make an impact.
The Jets have plenty of options on the defensive line, including a few promising youngsters, but if Saleh loves Blair so much, it will take a lot for one of them to get him out of the rotation.