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The Jets added some safety help after Marcus Maye’s season-ending Achilles injury.
New York signed safety Elijah Riley off the Eagles’ practice squad Tuesday. He joins Ashtyn Davis, Sharrod Neasman and Jarrod Wilson in the deep secondary.
Riley has had limited exposure in the NFL after signing with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Army in 2020. He played mostly special teams in five games last season with just four total defensive snaps over two games. This year, he’s only been active for Week 7. He played eight special teams snaps.
However, with Maye out and the Jets thin at safety, Riley could see some defensive snaps with New York. Here are five things to know about Gang Green’s newest defender.
New York native
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Riley is returning to where he grew up. The safety was born in Port Jefferson, New York, and attended Newfield High School in Selden, New York, on Long Island. He was so good in high school that he won the 2015 Suffolk County (NY) Player of the Year award. Riley stayed in the state for college and attended Army, which is located in West Point, New York.
Special teams contributor
The Jets signed Riley for safety depth, but he can play on special teams as well. Riley played 65 special team snaps during his rookie season with the Eagles and helped on special teams at Army. He even blocked and returned a field goal against Buffalo in 2018.
Versatile defensive back
(Mitchell Leff-Getty Images)
The Jets signed Riley as a safety, but he can play elsewhere in the secondary. He tallied 79 combined tackles, eight tackles for a loss, four sacks, six pass breakups, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery during his senior season at Army when he played outside corner. Riley would be a bigger cornerback at 6-foot, 205 pounds, but it’s good to have someone who can play different positions.
(Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports)
Riley was thrust into Army’s starting lineup as a freshman under terrible circumstances. Starting safety Brandon Jackson, a native of Queens, New York, died in a car accident two days after Army’s second game of the 2016 season. Only a freshman, Riley stepped in as the Black Knights’ starter.
“To be thrown into a starting lineup for a football team after such a tragic event was a very tough thing to overcome,” Riley told the Black Knight Nation. “But everybody rallied around each other.”
(Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports)
Athletes from military academies like Army previously had to serve at least two years of active-duty service or in the reserves before being considered for a waiver to play professional sports, but Riley seized an opportunity to change the policy. He directly asked then-President Donald Trump if players could get waivers immediately at the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy presentation in May 2019.
“I asked President Trump if there could be a waiver to play pro ball right after graduation and basically put our military commitment on hold,” Riley told Newsday in 2020. “And we could fulfill that obligation after a pro career.
“He was surprised but regrouped quickly.”
In November 2019, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that allowed graduates to either delay their military obligation or repay the cost of their education. Riley signed with the Eagles five months later.