Next Challenge Is to Corral 49ers’ TE George Kittle Jack Bell
The NFL is the ultimate "Now League." The past is not prologue. It's history.
And so while Jets S Marcus Maye had a superlative showing in Week 1 as one of the team's best defensive players against Buffalo (that was then), the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers loom on Sunday at MetLife Stadium (this is now).
This week's likely challenge for Maye is 49ers tight end George Kittle, who injured a knee in last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Though Kittle has yet to practice this week, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said he "fully expects" Kittle to be ready to face the Jets.
"This week Kittle is an extremely tough match up," Jets Head Coach Adam Gase said on Thursday. "He's a guy with great size and is valuable in all aspects of playing tight end. They can even hand off to him at times. He has versatility and is explosive in the way he changes gears. It's impressive. I definitely don't know how there are any tougher matchups you can have than this guy. Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] has the physicality but Kittle has got more of speed, receiverish-type speed when he's running routes."
There is little doubt that Maye opened many eyes around the NFL with his performance last week as he stepped into the void left when Jamal Adams was traded to Seattle. Against Buffalo, Maye recorded two sacks (including his first full career sack in the NFL), forced a fumble, defended two passes and logged an impressive 10 tackles (7 solo).
"I was out there playing ball," Maye said on Thursday. "Coach [defensive coordinator Gregg Williams] did a great job calling the game. I was just out there playing. I got in a groove. Things were coming my way. We didn't get the win and now we have to find a way to come out and find a way to win."
Gase was effusive in his praise of Maye's performance against the Bills, saying: ""Talk about a guy that probably did about everything imaginable at the safety position. From blitzing, coverage, coverage from in the box, safety play, breaking up and almost picking a ball in the red zone, doing a great job of identifying what they were doing and anticipating it. ... I don't think there's many guys that can do what he did last week as far as the variety."
Bradley McDougald, Maye's partner at safety, was asked on Thursday if he was surprised by his teammates performance and versatility. "I wasn't surprised at all. He's a playmaker. He had a great camp, one of best on defense. For him, it was just another day in the office."
Maye is fully aware that he will have his hands full dealing with Kittle (6-4, 250), providing he plays. Kittle was injured in the first half of the Niners 24-20 loss to visiting Arizona. The knee sprain didn't keep the All-Pro tight end out of the second half, but Kittle was limited to 4 receptions for 44 yards (all in the game's first 30 minutes). In 2019, Kittle was San Francisco's top receiver with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and 5 TDs.
"[He's] one of the main guys there, they do a lot through him," Maye said. "You got to be prepared for him to get a lot of looks. They have a bunch of good backs. We have got to be prepared."
The Niners like to get their running backs into the passing game as well -- in Week 1 running backs Raheem Mostert (4 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD) and Jerick McKinnon (3 receptions, 20 yards, 1 TD) were each targeted five times by QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
"They do a good job of getting the ball to them in space many different ways," Maye said. "They have a group of them. Each one is different and we have to be ready when the time comes. They give you a lot of movement. You have to keep eyes on them and be ready. We have to communicate on a high level."