Continuing our preview of the New York Jets roster, today we look at the position that is considered their weakest by many: the cornerbacks. Don’t miss our breakdown of the defensive tackles, defensive ends, inside linebackers, and safeties…and make sure to check out Connor Rogers and myself discussion of the position on the New York Jets website.
Dee Milliner #27 – 722 defensive snaps (66 percent) – 56 tackles, 3 INTs, 17 passes defensed
Arguably the Jets biggest x-factor next season outside of Geno Smith, the team desperately needs Milliner to be the player he was the final few weeks of the 2014 season. IF, Milliner can be that player and has developed properly in the offseason, he should be a very good lead corner in Rex Ryan’s defense. It is likely he is going to frequently track the other team’s top receiver. Milliner has the skill set to do this but how consistent can he be? And can he stay healthy? The Jets spent a top ten pick on him for a reason and he will be immediately thrown into the fire in year two with high expectations.
Dmitri Patterson #24 – 237 defensive snaps for Miami Dolphins – 19 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INTs, 6 passes defensed
The Jets are banking on Patterson to be a hold the fort starter until third round pick Dexter McDougle is ready. It is a fairly risky strategy considering Patterson’s injury history. IF, Patterson can stay on the field, he should be a competent starter opposite of Milliner and be a good ballhawk as a frequently targeted player opposite of him. It was somewhat surprising that Rex declared Patterson a starter so early in the offseason but clearly the team feels better about him beginning the season with the first unit than Darrin Walls, Ras I-Dowling or McDougle.
Kyle Wilson #20 – 465 defensive snaps (42 percent) – 26 tackles, 1 pass defensed
Wilson isn’t as bad as some make him out to be…or as good as some make him out to be. We tease him here for the exaggerated finger wags but he has developed into a competent nickel corner, which is still a disappointing ceiling for a 1st round pick. However, any talk that he is one of the top slot corners in football is hyperbole. He was not frequently targeted last year and still let up a handful of untimely completions. Outside of that, while you don’t want to get buried in overanalyzing “big plays,” Wilson simply doesn’t make any…ever. The Jets didn’t even consider him as an option to be a full time starter on the outside this year, instead preferring to go with Patterson or McDougle down the road…which doesn’t speak well to Wilson’s long term future here.
Dexter McDougle #43 – Rookie
Ugly number choice, Dex. ANYWAY, the Jets have high hopes for their third round rookie who flashed in very limited game tape last season and is working back from a shoulder injury. Rookie cornerbacks are going to struggle, particularly third round rookie cornerbacks. Despite having plenty of raw skills, McDougle’s game needs plenty of refinement. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jets gradually increase his playing time as the season went on and to see him thrown in as a starter by November. There will be bumps along the way but there is long term starting potential for McDougle opposite of Milliner.
Darrin Walls #30 – 289 defensive snaps (26 percent) – 21 tackles, 4 passes defensed
Walls played relatively well when given the chance last season but it doesn’t seem that the coaching staff is overly high on him as anything but a depth player. Yet, if Patterson isn’t healthy and McDougle isn’t ready, Walls would be a capable placeholder opposite of Milliner. He has been working in Rex’s defense for two years now and is a special teams contributor. I’m not sure if Walls will ever flourish here on defense but he is intriguing player that deserves a longer look.
Ras I-Dowling #34 – Injured/DNP in 2013
An OTA/minicamp darling for many Jets fans. Dowling is a former second round pick of the New England Patriots with tantalizing measurables. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy in the NFL, only playing nine games in three seasons. Dowling will get a chance this summer to make his case for both a roster spot and a contributing role on the defense. And once again IF he can stay healthy, may be able to push for playing time on the outside if the players in front of him are ineffective or injured.
Ellis Lankster #31 – 29 defensive snaps – 18 tackles
A core special teams player. Lankster should make the roster for that reason alone, unless all the players above can all stay healthy and a handful could show special teams value. Lankster is more so battling Johnny Patrick, Jeremy Reeves and Brandon Dixon for a roster spot than the players listed above. Lankster plays with a fearless, high speed style on specials which can often lead to big hits…or missed tackles.
Brandon Dixon #42 – Rookie
A sixth round pick out of Northwest Missouri State. Dixon is very raw and is going to have to make an immediate impression on special teams to avoid being placed on the practice squad. Outside of fellow sixth rounder IK Enemkpali, Dixon probably has the lowest chance of making the Jets final 53 out of any draft pick.
Johnny Patrick #22 – 474 defensive snaps for San Diego Chargers – 68 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT
Patrick is an intriguing bottom of the roster player, who was claimed off waivers by the Jets early in the offseason. A former third round pick, he saw a good chunk of playing time for the Chargers last season. He isn’t frequently talked about as a candidate for the final 53 but with a strong, healthy summer has just as good of a chance as sticking as Dowling or Lankster. Keep an eye on him as a sleeper this summer.
Jeremy Reeves #41 – DNP
A blazer (4.29 forty) from Iowa State, who is built to be a nickel corner and special team gunner (5’7, 170 pounds). Reeves is roster a longshot and would need show immediate special teams value to stick on the final 53. He is a likely practice squad candidate.
SCORCHING HOT 2014 CORNERBACK TAKE: Milliner plays 16 games and is an above average starter. Patterson starts the season opposite of him, McDougle finishes it. Patrick surprises and grabs a roster spot. Dowling makes less of an impact than many anticipate. This is Kyle Wilson’s last season in New York.