New York Jets – Looking Ahead to the 2013 Cornerbacks

Mike Donnelly breaks down what is left of the New York Jets cornerbacks post Darrelle Revis trade

Now that Jets fans have had a day to mourn the loss of the greatest defensive player in team history, it’s time to look forward and pick up the pieces that are still here. With perhaps the best defensive coach in the league running the show, and centerpieces like Mo Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, and Antonio Cromartie, the defense is still likely to be amongst the league’s best. But without Number 24 out there in the secondary, the cornerback position will look much different. Let’s take a look at where the position stands now, and how the team will go about trying to replace Mr. Revis.

Antonio Cromartie – Yes, Darrelle Revis is a once-in-a-generation type talent at cornerback, but Antonio Cromartie isn’t too shabby himself. He’s coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he stepped up big time and took over the Revis role covering the top receiver on each team 1-on-1. He’s amongst the top ten players in the league at the position and will be heavily relied upon in 2013 to perform up to the same level as a year ago. Cro knows it’s his show now and he has to be “The Man”, and there’s no reason to think he can’t handle the job.

Kyle Wilson – Kyle Wilson gets a lot of flak from Jets fans, and sometimes rightfully so. But a lot of the criticism he receives is due to the fact he was drafted in the first round three years ago and hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of that. Had he been drafted in say, the 3rd round, people probably wouldn’t be so hard on him. After being shuffled back and forth from outside to nickel and back to outside throughout his career, he gets to settle in to one spot from Day 1 and know what his job will be the whole season. The talent that made him a first round pick is still there, and hopefully he’s ready to step up and become a legitimate NFL starter. He was very close to Revis off the field and trained with him regularly, so we can only hope he picked up a few things from his mentor along the way. Oh, and for the love of God, let’s hope he dropped that ridiculous finger wagging as well.

Ellis Lankster – When Revis went down last year, it meant a major spike in playing time for Lankster. Originally expected to be the 4th corner, he was bumped up to the nickel role, which gets a lot of field time in Rex Ryan’s defense. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really ready for that challenge and struggled for the majority of the season in coverage. The team finished as #2 in the league in pass defense, but that was a flawed stat, as the Jets were usually trailing and the run defense was poor. Had teams been inclined to pass more often against the Jets, Lankster would have been exposed even more, and things could have gotten ugly quick. I expect Lankster to be back on the team next year due to his solid special teams play, but if he’s any higher than 4th on the depth chart, it could be a rough season.

Aaron Berry – Berry is the forgotten man in the Jets secondary. He was signed last year after the Revis injury and must have gotten injured signing that contract, because he was rarely seen from that point forward. Fortunately, he signed a 2-year contract and is expected to return healthy this year. There’s a strong chance he can grab that nickel role and play a pretty large role on this defense in 2013. He was a solid corner in Detroit before landing with the Jets, and he has the talent to strive in Rex’s man scheme.

Darrin Walls – Walls received minimal playing time after being promoted to the active roster in November, but was actually very impressive in that limited action. With a full year in his pocket now, and a whole offseason of working with Jets coaches and learning all the nuances of the playbook, Walls is a wildcard in the Jets secondary. The Notre Dame product has the talent to produce and at 6 foot, 200 lbs, the size to go with it. He will be given the chance to show what he can do in training camp. Don’t be surprised when you hear Rex talking him up this summer.

Isaiah Trufant – Trufant is another player that showed some promise last seasons, but unfortunately suffered an injury that cut his season short. He’s a very solid special teams player, so he will likely earn himself a spot on the roster, regardless of how much he plays at corner. However, he did show promise in coverage last season, and he will be in the mix to be the 4th corner.

1st Round Pick: Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes – There’s a chance the Jets could look to use one of their two first round picks on one of the top two corners in the draft, but I think this option is highly unlikely. With Cromartie and Wilson in the fold, the Jets already have two legit NFL players at the position, whereas at other positions… not so much. I expect those two first rounders to be used elsewhere, whether they keep those two picks or use one to trade down. However, if they pick up an extra middle round pick in a trade down, that’s where they could add a corner.

Middle Round Draft Pick: Tyrann Mathieu? – I’m just throwing the Artist Formerly Known As The Honey Badger out there as a possibility, but there are several corners the team could target in those middle rounds. Mathieu is just the most intriguing. He was long regarded as one of the best defensive players in college football before a string of off-the-field issues led to him being kicked out of school and off the football field for over a year. He can likely be had in the 3rd or 4th round, and if he keeps his nose clean, he could provide excellent value. He’s the kind of player Rex Ryan loves due to his versatility and playmaking skills, and he could really push to use a draft choice on him.

Author: Mike Donnelly

Mike Donnelly is a Staff Writer and life-long Jets fan, who was previously a featured columnist at multiple other New York Jets and fantasy football websites. He lives and works in finance in the NYC area and will help lead our Jets and NFL coverage in 2013.

  • Joe Barra

    Calling Kyle Wilson a legit NFL player seems like a stretch too me.

    I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on Honey Badger in the 4th.

  • Joe Barra


  • Lidman

    Please, don’t encourage the ‘Honey Badger’. He is a ‘playmaker’, I get that. It’s easier to be a ‘roving playmaker’ at LSU, where your team is generally more talented, at nearly every position, than the other team, than it is in the NFL. This guy is not an NFL CB, and taking him in round 3/4 would appear to be a huge mistake in my opinion.

    On Cro, he’s getting $11mm this year, and if he has an equivalent year, he’s going to wan big $. First off, given his history, I don’t know that you give this guy a big guarantee (I may be wrong, but 1st impressions are hard to live down…I’m not however working with the guy everyday). But, can you imagine this guy walking away, because the NYJ won’t pay him 12-14mm a year?

    As far as cap space goes, Wilkerson is going to need to be dealt with next year, and if Ellis steps up, they’ll have to deal with him too.

    If Miliner slips, I think you take the guy. He’s got size and speed, played a lot of man coverage.

  • Mike Donnelly

    Cro restructured and is making less this year.. I’d expect them to wrap him up to a long-term deal after this year because his cap charge next year is something like 14 million.

    I don’t love Mathieu, but I think Rex Ryan would maximize his talents and use him really well as a jack of all trades kind of weapon.

    And as far as Wilkerson, there’s a chance he could be wrapped up after this year, but it’s usually after a player’s 4th year that the team really wraps him up long-term. I’d have no problem whatsoever if they wrapped Mo up early though. He’s worth it.

  • keator

    Once we get Mark off the books this year we can truly build the team. Its a painful tear down, but the future is bright bc 6 will no longer be a jet after this season

  • You guys are way too educated to be calling
    Wilson a legit nfl corner! I read everything you’ve written for the past 2 years, and never have I disagreed more. I would say a legit nickel at best, not a legit starting cb!!!

  • Lidman

    I don’t think Cro took a pay cut. I think he will be paid more this year,than he was originally scheduled to make, understanding that he’ll never get next year’s contract (cap number).

    My main point is, what do they think they are going to sign Cro for, after Revis gets 16 per? The Franchise level for CB is roughly 10.5, so is locking up Cro at 12-13, really good value when he’s not nearly what Revis is? Cro is an above average CB. Revis, when healthy, is a defensive weapon. Teams don’t ‘game plan’ around Cromartie.

  • KAsh

    I like Mathieu, but simply as an experiment. I think he does not have the height and weight to be a regular cornerback, but as a nickel corner, he is like the anti-Tavon Austin: a quick, small, versatile guy that can be used to cover anybody. So there might be good value with a fourth-round pick or lower.

    All talk about Wilson is premature. He is not going anywhere and he needs to prove he can legitimately handle the role. Let him go out there and play and only draft a possible replacement if he is the hands-down BPA.

  • Lidman

    Wilson’s rookie deal expires after 2013. If he doesn’t prove to be a ‘starting CB’, he’s gone.

  • Mark Phelan

    Rex must rethink his defensive strategy so it does not depend on spending $28 million on CB’s.