EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets might need to rebuild their secondary after this season, but safety Jaiquawn Jarrett is making a case to be part of the team’s future.
Jarrett was the defensive star of the Jets’ 20-13 victory against the Steelers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium that snapped an eight-game losing streak for the AFC East cellar dwellars.
Replacing 2014 first-round draft pick Calvin Pryor in the lineup, Jarrett had 10 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and two interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger.
The Jets went into the game with three takeaways on the season. One reason was a secondary depleted by injuries and ineffective play.
Jarrett became the first Jets player since Ty Law in 2006 to record three turnovers in a game.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Jarrett said. “I’m blessed with the opportunity I have.”
The tackles, interceptions, fumble recovery and sack were career highs for the third-year safety from Temple. Entering the game, Jarrett had recorded 58 combined tackles, two forced fumbles and a half-sack in 37 career games with the Eagles and Jets.
“(The coaches and teammates) put me in this position,” Jarrett said. “They were doing their job, allowing me to go out and do my job.”
After the Jets’ game-opening drive, culminated by Nick Foles’ 23-yard field goal, Jarrett’s sack of Roethlisberger on third-and-15 from Steelers 34-yard line forced a punt, which led to T.J. Graham’s 67-yard touchdown one play later.
On the Steelers’ subsequent possession, Jarrett recovered Antonio Brown’s fumble on the 21. Five plays later, Michael Vick connected with Jace Amaro on a 5-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets a 17-0 lead.
Arguably, the game’s most important play occurred on the Steelers’ next drive when Jarrett picked off Roethlisberger at the Jets 2. Prior to the interception, the Steelers offense began to look in sync as it marched 60 yards in 12 plays.
On the play, Roethlisberger’s pass intended for Martavis Bryant was tipped by Marcus Williams, and Jarrett settled underneath it like a center fielder before returning the ball to the 11.
“Marcus did a tremendous job,” Jarrett said. “He made the play, actually. I was just in the right position. Marcus gets the credit for that one.”
Like his first interception, Jarrett’s leaping pick on the opening drive of the second half halted a Steelers’ drive that appeared to have promise. With the Steelers possessing the ball on the Jets 40 and trailing 17-3, Roethlisberger threw a pass into triple coverage that Jarrett leaped to grab.
Jarrett was asked whether he got the game ball.
“We’ll see,” Jarrett said with a smile.
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.