TOJ Jets Roster Preview – The What Ifs…

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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 safetiesand 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 TAKEMilliner 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.

  • Dan in RI

    Probably about 80% right in the “Scorching Hot 2014 Cornerback Take”. But which 80 right, and which 20% wrong? I’ll guess that Dowling makes more of an impact than many people think, stays on the club, and is a solid contributor.

    Also, just one word about Patterson’s injury history–it has only been the last couple years that he’s had bad luck with injuries. Before that, he was pretty healthy. So you never know.

  • KAsh

    To incubate eggs, the temperature cannot be too low or too high. Naming a starter goes against everything the Jets have done the past two years – example: has there been one instance when someone on the team explicitly called Wilkerson a starter? – but by naming Patterson a starter, you temper what would otherwise be intense scrutiny and rampant speculation about Rex’s #2 corner. Patterson shields the newbies from the pressure. We, now, talk about who will succeed Patterson, how long Patterson can hold up, and, at most, how quickly can someone be ready to replace Patterson.

    And this is just a collection of talented corners. When you have Walls, Dowling, and Patrick, a former second-round pick who was injured, and two players that combined for 763 defensive snaps last year, favorites for what would essentially be the #5 corner on the team, you have the potential of finding gems at corner. The bottom of the roster is always dedicated to special teams, so those kicks, punts, and returns will need to be heavily scrutinized this year to determine who is separating himself from the others.

    I also will say that Dixon has less chance of making the roster than IK, because IK has a much smaller wall to climb at his position.

  • JetOrange

    The price of Cornerbacks in the NFL is crazy. consider the DRC contract with the Giants, and pay ing Patterson over 30, often injured vet, 3.5 million. Idziik did a great job extending Lankster and Walls. I think both are ready for prominent roles. Lankster is always looked at as a special teaser, but he has the skills to work the outside, or as a slot CB. Walls has size, can work with big receivers or Hybrid TE’s, his game got better with the addition of Pryor, giving the Jets deep coverage, let’s Walls become more aggressive. The Jete will probably not get comp picks in next years Free Agency because with 22 million in cap room carried over in 2015, the Jets will take in more Free Agents, than lose therefore no comp picks. I think the 2015 free agents Kerley, Ellis, and In this case Wilson could all be signed to team friendly contracts. In the case of Wilson, looking at Patterson’s contract, if Kyle signs a four year deal with a Cap charge of under 3 million a year, I’m on board, just think that CB’s are an important part of Rex’s defense, and the CB market is a little out of wack.

  • Bacon

    I feel like a lot of people look at Jeremy Reeves as a workout warrior, but he knows how to put his speed and vertical to use while in coverage based on his college tape (most of which I watched live as an Iowa State fan). I agree that he’s probably a practice squad player this season, but Reeves should be considered a legitimate option to replace Kyle Wilson in 2015 if he can stick around.

  • jetOrange

    The Jets tradionaly carry 10 defensive backs. I am a big Lankster & Wals fan. Trade Wilson for a fifth in training camp. 5 CB,s , 4 Safeties. Dowling plays coverage safety / big Corner.

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  • Joe Caporoso

    Thanks for the comments! This should be an interesting position to watch, as there is potential for a few diamonds in the rough to pop up in training camp. Many question marks but also if a few things break right, CB could be much better than many expect

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