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Top Five Position Battles #4: Cornerback

Dwight Lowery was an extremely effective second corner during the first half of his rookie season in 2008. Lowery showed terrific instincts and a nose for the football. His play tailed off at the end of the season as he was repeatedly burned and eventually benched. The team could not find effective play opposite Darrelle Revis. Things got so desperate the Jets signed Ty Law off the scrap heap, but that experiment was a failure.

These struggles at corner led the Jets to trade for former Eagles Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard. Lito is on the right side of 30 and was at one time known as one of the game's top cover men, although fighting through chronic injuries. Last year, like Lowery, his play tailed off a lot, and he dropped to fourth on the depth chart in Philly. He was reportedly very unhappy with his contract status. He is probably too young for his natural skills to have eroded. With a new deal, the Jets hope Sheppard will be happy and as productive as he was in his Pro Bowl days.

There will be a competition for the starting job. Sheppard showed little in 2008. Lowery tailed off, but he was only a rookie. The team can't ignore how good he looked at the start of the season. His decline started around the same point the pass rush fell off a cliff, which is a death blow for most secondary players. Receivers had all day to get open.

Handicapping the race:

Although Lowery will have a chance to win the job, Sheppard is the favorite. He has the better track record. The team trading for Lito and giving him a big contract was a vote of confidence in him and displayed a lack of confidence in Lowery at least to a degree. I would guess Sheppard starts across from Darrelle Revis in Houston for the opener.