It’s rare a sixth-round pick receives significant snaps during his first season.
But that could be the case with Jets defensive back Jarrick Bernard-Converse, as he isn’t an ordinary rookie.
The Jets safety spot was a weakness for a defense that finished fourth in points and yards allowed. Bernard-Converse could be a late-round jewel if he progresses as a player during training camp this summer.
Between his time at Oklahoma State and LSU, Bernard-Converse played in 64 games, starting 56 of them as he has played at cornerback, safety, and as a slot corner. He feels like that experience will be a benefit to the Jets roster.
“I think it helped me understand defense better and understanding how to play the game,” Bernard-Converse said about playing multiple positions. “It just expanded my mind and challenged me to learn more than one position and that was corner. I feel like playing safety helped me gain more knowledge of the game.”
After being a three-star prospect out of Evangel Christian Academy in Louisiana, Bernard-Converse committed to Oklahoma State as he played multiple roles for the Cowboys during his four seasons in Stillwater. Bernard-Converse registered 195 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions at Oklahoma State. Instead of entering the 2022 NFL Draft, Bernard-Converse used his extra COVID year and transferred to LSU, where he would be closer to his hometown of Shreveport.
“Our DC [defensive coordinator] had left, Jim Knowles, he went to Ohio State and knowing that was home for me and that was an opportunity to go play my last year at home,” Bernard-Converse said.
At LSU, Bernard-Converse played in more of a pro-style defensive scheme at LSU under defensive coordinator Matt House as the Tigers players ran both a 4-3 and 3-4 formation. House used his defensive linemen to create havoc in the backfield instead of sending a lot of blitzes.
That benefited Bernard-Converse as he not only played as a safety for the Tigers, but he also covered some of the best receivers on the outside and inside defensively. Bernard-Converse also came up to the line of scrimmage and made his presence known as a sound tackler.
Jets coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich pride themselves on finding versatile players in their defensive scheme. Although he was listed as a safety during rookie minicamp, don’t be surprised if Bernard-Converse is used in a multitude of ways with his 42-inch vertical jump and 4.40 speed.
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“You watch as much tape as you can on all of these kids and one thing that Joe [Douglas] hit on is that he has tremendous versatility,” Saleh said. “He can play all three spots in the backend, so we’re excited to get him here.
“One thing I will tell you is he does fit the mindset that we play with on defense and very smart good communicator. We’re excited to get our hands on him and see where we can best use him.
“We know he can play multiple schemes. He’s very, very smart, extremely instinctive, so like Joe said, he can play corner, he can play nickel, he can play safety. We’ll see him in rookie minicamp, phase two, and we’ll build from there.”
During rookie minicamp, Bernard-Converse and the other drafted rookies only participated in a few positional drills as they were getting acclimated to their new surroundings. That also includes the Jets conditioning program, their meal plans and just learning where to go for meetings.
All-Pro cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner watched his new teammates on the sideline during practice. Bernard-Converse didn’t get to speak with Gardner, but he is enjoying his short time as an NFL professional.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Bernard-Converse said. “Just getting out there, being out here, finally being able to say I practiced as a pro and just living in the moment.
“I think it is a pretty great culture here, it’s a lot of good players and a lot of positivity going around, so I feel good about it.”