Local product has Robert Saleh’s attention early in Jets career

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  • Robert Saleh
    American football coach
  • Elijah Riley
    Elijah Riley
    American football defensive back

Not much of a fuss was made when the Jets signed Elijah Riley off the Eagles practice squad in early November.

As a Long Island native who attended Newfield High School (Selden, NY) and Army, Riley’s arrival made for a few localized stories. Otherwise, no one thought much of New York adding a safety with four career defensive snaps.

Riley has since played 109 defensive snaps over two starts for the safety-depleted Jets, and he’s looked good while doing so. He earned a 67.0 Pro Football Focus grade for his performance against the Dolphins in Week 11, and he topped that with a 76.1 mark for Sunday’s win against the Texans.

A third down, impact tackle for a loss was one of five total tackles Riley recorded in Houston. But he’s been all over the ball in practice since joining the Jets, making his strong play less of a surprise to Robert Saleh.

“Elijah has been here three weeks and it seems like he’s gotten the ball more in practice than we got all OTAs and training camp,” Saleh said Monday. “He’s been a ball magnet over the first three weeks.”

So far Riley has 11 tackles with the Jets, including that aforementioned TFL. Having rarely played defense in six career games with the Eagles, Riley never made a tackle before becoming a Jet.

While Riley has been productive in practice and in games, that’s not what has Saleh most impressed. Rather, it’s the 23-year-old’s mind that may land him an extended look with Gang Green moving forward.

“His superpower is his mental horsepower,” Saleh said. “He is a very smart young man, he can process very quickly, he does a great job communicating pre and post-snap. He’s a hair-trigger type player in that when he sees it, he is 100 miles an hour with the ball. But he’s very accurate when he does see it.

“He’s been impressive in these first three weeks and we’re excited to see him grow over these next six weeks to see what he can make out of this season.”

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