On The New York Jets Cornerback Situation

Joe Caporoso on the New York Jets cornerback situation heading into the 2014 season

The New York Jets enter the 2014 season with a messy situation at the cornerback position. You don’t need us to tell you that, as it has become the number one story surrounding the team in the absence of any quarterback circus or controversy. Geno Smith has just played really well and Mike Vick has settled into being an ideal backup. Carry on to cornerback, where there is plenty to talk about.

Without getting too bogged down in what happened in the past, let’s take a quick roll through the Jets recent offseason activity. They made an early play for Vontae Davis in free agency this offseason but basically ended up being leveraged by him for money from the Colts. They had a visit with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but were never going to match the 12 million guaranteed the Giants threw at him. They were more interested in a short term, prove it type deal from a player who has had inconsistencies throughout his career and openly discussed retirement this past February. Antonio Cromartie was never seriously considered for a new contract due to health concerns and his play in 2013. Their plan B after Davis ended up being Dimitri Patterson on a 1 year contract with 1 million guaranteed as a hold the fort starter until a draft pick (who ended up being Dexter McDougle in the 3rd round) was ready to play opposite of Dee Milliner.

Plan B hasn’t worked. Patterson has struggled to stay healthy (which has plagued him throughout his career), hasn’t performed when on the field and recently went AWOL during a pre-season game. McDougle tore his ACL in training camp the same day that Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain, which will likely hold him out until week 2 or 3. Cornerback was a question mark coming into training camp and that question has only been amplified.

John Idzik has admirably rebuilt this roster from the scrap heap it was at the end of the 2012 season, while compiling young players and opening up cap space to keep key pieces long term. Yet, he has opened himself up to fair criticism at cornerback in 2014 as Patterson continues to be a messy, unproductive signing.

Now, to say Idzik has completely spurned the secondary since coming here is factually incorrect. He has used his highest pick in the draft in consecutive years on a cornerback and then a safety, along with adding another 3rd round corner and signing a starting caliber safety (Dawan Landry). The injury to McDougle and struggles of Patterson shine a brighter than expected light on two lower key moves he made to start this offseason, re-signing Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.

The Jets will likely head into week one with Walls and Antonio Allen starting at cornerback, as this year’s first round pick Calvin Pryor has shown himself capable of starting right out of the gate at safety. With Milliner still out, putting Allen at corner allows the Jets to keep their best 11 on the field at most times and further flex his versatility as they are likely to play plenty of three safety looks going forward anyway. Lankster should see plenty of rotational action as well, especially with Kyle Wilson playing so poorly in the slot. Wilson’s struggles are also the reason Patterson is still being kept around, as he has shown himself to be a capable slot corner when healthy.

When Milliner returns, the Jets will be relying on him to be their top cover guy while Walls can hopefully be a competent starter opposite of him and allow Allen to move back to his more natural safety spot. Rex Ryan will adjust his defense to put more on his safeties, where the Jets have three very capable players and less on the corners. Beyond that, the team will be counting on their front seven, particularly their dominant defensive line to help bail out their corners as well.

It is not strong situation for the Jets at corner but it should not be a deathblow to their season that they don’t have a proven second starter after Milliner hopefully returns from injury in September. They have too much top talent upfront and potentially at safety, nevermind if Demario Davis and Quinton Coples take the next step at linebacker. Rex will need to get creative to hide the shortcomings on his depth chart but all good coaches need to do this, as every team has spots that are inevitably weaker than others and thinking Rex can’t coach a defense without top end corners is shortchanging him.

Bashing Idzik for the Patterson signing is fair. Yet, let’s see the season Dee Milliner, Calvin Pryor, Antonio Allen, Darrin Walls and Dawan Landry put together before overreacting and saying the secondary is a disaster, nevermind the rest of the defense. It would seem to make more sense to weigh the positive of hitting on Milliner and Pryor in the first round (IF they have good years) more than the negative of missing on a 1 million guaranteed, 1 year contract. Just like it meant more that Idzik hit on Sheldon Richardson last season than that he missed on somebody like Antwan Barnes (another low-cost veteran addition who didn’t end up panning out, although his was due to injury).

…One final note – Can we stop with the “Jets had opportunity at Darrelle Revis and passed on him this offseason” articles?” This completely misconstrues the situation. Look at the relationship between the Tampa and New England front office. Revis went directly to New England after being released with a contract ready to roll for him. There was never high level discussions between TEAM REVIS and the Jets organization. Revis’ manager texting Manish Mehta or Jason Cole doesn’t equate to his agents sitting down with John Idzik or Woody Johnson.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owne and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • Dreraystat

    I find it hard to believe that a coach like Rex Ryan (especially after reading low crossers) will ever allow Patterson to play for him again. Quitting on your team had to be mortal sin #1 to Ryan , no? I think he’s only still here for depth in practice until they sign a cb that shakes loose, and then he’s gone

  • yy212

    10/10
    best article in weeks

  • David

    I will say this with the CB’s and this was even before Milliner got hurt: The Jets CB’s were too much of a question mark for a NY Jets team that had as much money this offseason as they had to spend on FA’s. I understand keeping some around if an injury occurs or someone hits the market that you didn’t expect, but come on this is ridiculous. If you are going to keep all this space, at least get some of your key cogs like Harrison, Wilkerson, and Kerley locked up long term.

  • Sam

    I still want revis to finish his career with jets. Even if it’s just a retirement contract or maybe a Charles Woodson type situation

  • Jay

    Excellent thoughtful look at an issue the masses are foaming at the mouth about. Idzik was not going to make a large financial commitment to any free agent corner, given the Jets’ draft picks & the league’s increased emphasis on defensive secondary penalties. Imagine the talk if a FA corner signed for big money busted due to increased penalties or became gun shy. Mcdougle’s injury was unfortunate, but given time & good coaching, I think the Jets will be ok.

  • I liked the way AA looked in preseason at CB but I’m a little worried how he will fare when teams actually game plan for him. He should be okay for Matt “pick 6” Shaub but I pray Milliner is ready for week 2.

  • Joe Caporoso

    I’d be stunned if Wilkerson, Harrison and Kerley all don’t receive long term contacts in the next 12 months, also expect the Jets to easily be able to lock up Coples, Allen and Davis long term the following year.

  • Big Al

    so u think there is no reason to get a viable corner now for insurance from recent cut lists??? I completely disagree

  • Joe Caporoso

    Don’t think there will be many, if any difference makers available at CB after cuts. Jets will likely add somebody but I doubt they play more than Walls, Allen or Lankster at CB.

  • Big Al

    they need to get james from giants, immediately

  • Sleeve

    Milner, Patterson, McDougle, Allen all got injured in a one week period. I would have a hard time thinking of any current Team/ Front office that would be prepared for the scenario of an injury to the top 4 defensive cover players. Luckily it’s preseason and other then McDougle – no one will miss significant time.

    Hopefully during the season Milner can get back to form, he really looked great in preseason, get Allen to face up on larger pass catching threats, and Paterson in mainly the slot. It would be interesting to see what CB’s get axed on final roster cuts, and if the jets can make an upgrade with someone.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    The reaction to the Jets injuries at CB seems ridiculously overblown to me. The anger directed at Idzik because he didn’t go on a Tanny-esque “drunken sailor” spending spree has grown even more irrational & exasperated as Idzik continues to ignore the demands for rash action while continuing to implement his strategy.

    This whole situation reminds me of a bratty kid crying because he got the “wrong” toy on Christmas.

  • Frank Antonelli

    Love Jet fans. I’m speaking in generalities and not specifically aimed at any one individual. Always using 20/20 hindsight to prove a point. There is no guarantee that if they had signed someone else that they wouldn’t have been injured. Whenever injuries hit a specific position there will be turmoil. Rex is no stranger to this, while in Baltimore he had to deal with just such a problem on a couple of occasions and he found a way to overcome the challenge. Of course let’s not wait and see what happens let’s all thump our chests and claim to have seen this all along. I would say that most Jet fans do NOT qualify as the next Nostradamus but rather the next NostraDUMBASS!

  • glegly

    @Sleeve Excellent point. Some teams have depth at CB that might’ve survived this spate of injuries/nonsense, but the list is small, maybe 2-3 teams (like…cough, cough…the Pats). But this was a glaring position weakness in March, and it’s still a weakness, just reshuffled the players. And then have your #1, 2, 4, 5 DBs go down within days of each other, this became predictable.

    If 2014 is going to amount to anything, let’s DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Trade for a CB, even if it weakens another group. Do it now. We run into a good/great group of QBs early in the season. Do it now.

  • dpdoble

    Trade Hill & Kenrick for a quality CB

  • Dan in RI

    No doubt that CB is our weakest position, but injuries will happen. It is incredibly bad luck that the Jets have had injuries to Milliner, McDougle and Allen. The Patterson injury isn’t so much bad luck as an almost inevitable occurrence, given his history, but the AWOL incident just adds fuel to the fire. We can fault Idzik for not spending the money needed to get a good veteran–but there’s no saying that a DRC or Verner, or Davis might not have gone down with an injury.

    Unfortunately, I doubt that Milliner will be fully healed before mid-September at the earliest. These high ankle sprains are nasty, lingering injuries.

  • Goodson last year…Patterson this year…you get what you pay for. This isn’t’ a matter of ‘spending like a drunken sailor’, as much as it is understanding the market place. I think Idzik has done a solid job with the draft, and if he can get anything, from any of his 3rd+ round picks in either year, he’ll have done a very good job. Hopefully, Winters makes strides this year.

    My issue, from the beginning was counting on an injury prone, aging slot CB instead of bringing back Cro-who’s looked healthy so far this pre-season. Once they decided to part ways with Cro, they simply failed to address an area of ‘extreme need’. I think Milliner will be a top level guy, based on his December. However, I may have green glasses on, and even if he were healthy, he’s still a second year player they were counting on to be their #1 CB. Walls, Lankster, Wilson are all limited. The injury aside, drafting McDougle in the 3rd round was questionable to begin with, and after Milliner last year, could they really have counted on him for much this year?

    I know it’s only pre-season, but Geno’s poise and decision making look leaps and bounds better than last December, let alone last year. I think it’s criminal, that this team might be compromised by the lack of attention paid to such a crucial position. Jay, the idea that because of new emphasis on secondary play, by the league/refs, is a reason not to bring in a CB makes zero sense. I’d argue you want to have a guy who is recognized as a good player. Umpires often gave guys like Gwynn, Boggs and Ted Williams calls, on balls/strikes, under the premise if they didn’t swing, it wasn’t a strike. Good CBs get calls, rookies and guys like Patterson…don’t.

    This idea of ‘building for the future’ is great in theory, but in a league that has a 100% injury rate, it’s simply not something you can count on. You want a consistent winner, find Tom Brady, Peyton or Aaron Rodgers. This team has over $21mm of cap room, and will eventually have to spend money, to meet the minimum levels. Remember, the cap is going up. Wilkerson, Snacks and Kerley aren’t going to eat up $21mm in cap room annually. Beyond them, who can we say is a ‘must keep’ that will need to be addressed in the near future?

    Again, I think Idzik’s drafts will prove to be solid, at worst (largely because I believe in Milliner and Geno last year and believe Pryor will be very good this year). I still believe he should have gone WR in rd 3 (anyone notice how well Donte Moncrief has looked for Indy) and packaged some picks to try and move up. Time will tell if any of his 4th rounders, and above ever really contribute (to this point, I don’t think any of last year’s have, including Bohanon). But, as far as FA, I’m not impressed. Telling us Idzik got the team out of cap hell is an overstatement. What move did he make that wasn’t obvious? Goodson was a disaster last year. Landry was nothing special. Colon may have been a leader, but he wasn’t as good as Slauson-and the OL was an issue last year. David Nelson was picked up off the scrap heap, and while he may have been effective, that says more about the NYJ WR core, than it does about Nelson IMO. This year, Breno has been solid, and the OL has certainly looked better (for all of you who were worried about ‘Brick and Nick…yes, it still only pre-season). Patterson is making a case to be Goodson 2.0. CJ2K looks good, but sorry he was a luxury, where CB was a real need…oh wait, there is 21+mm in cap space we could have had both? Babin probably will be a decent situational guy, but I don’t think anyone is counting on him playing 50+ snaps a game.

    Finally, Joe, if you have any inside info you can provide, on the Revis situation, please let us know. Otherwise, your view is your view and how do we know you have any more legitimacy to your opinion than Manish, Cole or Ian O’Connor for that matter. Revis basically signed a 1yr deal. He’s a stud. He knows he defense and whether you like his ‘money money money’ attitude or not, it never affected his play on the field. If Idzik were looking to do the best thing for the organization, and his Head Coach, he would have walked into Woody’s office and said: “Hey dude, this is like hitting the lottery. I know there are some scars, but remember: ego trips are the most expensive. This is a top 5 player at the position. We have a huge need, the cap space and don’t have to make a long term cap commitment. You brought me here to build the best team I can. This guy makes our defense Seattle-like”. No, Idzik figured bringing in a 32yr old, injury prone, journeyman-who evidently is very sensitive-was the better move. I just hope this move doesn’t wind up biting this team in the rear, because the O looks better, and Geno looks a lot better.

    Sorry, I’m not negative..I’m realistic…it’s not all Unicorns and Rainbows. Idzik screwed the pooch on this and it’s ok to call him out on it.

  • I left Decker off this. He’s looked as expected. Funny, I would have rather Idzik went…well ldzik…and brought in Nicks on a 1y ‘show me’ deal, than the commitment he made to Decker. That said, I don’t think Decker will be a bust, but I’m not ready to call him a great signing, at this point, either.

    BTW Joe, fwiw, I think cutting Hill is probably the right move now. I had continually said he should get the 3rd year, and cited multiple cases of players who had proved themselves. However, this team can’t afford to carry a player like him, and cut a guy like Salim who is just as fast, and looks like a ST demon. I still would like to see MM send the guy on a simple ‘9’ route…just once.

  • Addage

    There is a better chance for Revis to finish his career with the Winnipeg Jets than the NY Jets

  • Sean F.

    Spot on sir. I think you nailed the right chord here. Instead of bitching about who we DON’T have, let’s see what Chef Rex cooks up with what he does. He’s a master schemer and should find ways to make coverages work with the talent on the defense as a whole.

    Only concern is Milliner’s ankle injury holding him back from his skills.

  • Stevesc

    Lidman, I agree with you about Cromartie… He would have been a better option than Patterson, and no real difference cost wise. I don’t agree about Revis. You say the money, money, money doesn’t affect his play on the field. I remember a few years ago when he decided to hold out, you know the Tannenbaum/Ryan begathon to get him to come back. If you have to worry about him being on the field at all, then it’s not worth it. Let’s see what’s in store for the Patriots after this season. IMHO.

  • Willie

    Just because we have $21 million in cap space means we should spend it on bad deals. We tried to sign davis from Indy and he decided to stay home. Cro is probably the biggest mistake to me, we could have gotten him to take a payout and singed Patterson for one year and still had a ton of space to roll over to next year. But he rolled the dice and missed. Happens all the time in the nfl. We need to evaluate the body of work and so far idzik looks to have done ok. Need to a couple of years to finalize review of drafts and see how used cap space next year

  • Joe Caporoso

    Thank you for reading/the comments everybody, greatly appreciated! My main point is that it is fair to criticize Idzik for relying on Patterson to be 1 starter at CB, yet that is 1/22 starting spots on the roster so I’m not going to kill the guy when he has built a deep RB group for a run heavy offense, improved our pass catching options substantially and just may have a found a QB in the 2nd round (still up in the air but he has been promising this summer). Ultimately the success of his drafts (particularly the early round picks) and larger FA signings will determine how good of a job he did and like the way it is trending. As for Revis, I suggest getting over it, he hasn’t been on the team for 2 years and again he was never close to coming here this offseason, like I typed zero high level contact between his agents and jets management.

    Also ICYMI, spoke further on NYJ CB situation this offseason here: http://www.newyorkjets.com/videos/videos/Blogger-Roundtable-Who-Starts-Opposite-Milliner/7b91a90c-0ca8-4bd0-8404-8db8aee2ec91

  • glegly

    In case this group didn’t think that the state of the NYJ secondary was publicized enough, it actually caused a Grantland writer to consider who has the worst position groups in the NFL, With our group being Patient Zero. Ugh.

    http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-weakest-link-a-look-at-the-worst-position-groups-in-the-nfl/

  • twoshady18

    Lets kill two birds with one stone. convert Stephen Hill to corner… he has size and speed and it wont matter a ton if he doesn’t catch the ball ; )

  • THIS IS GREAT ARTICLE,This article a must read for all jets fans!!!