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The Cornerback Position: What May Have Been

It's hard to feel confident about winning games when you don't have cornerbacks to believe in, however using a little hindsight, we look at what could have been.

Al Bello

Now just because a player is performing for another team, it doesn't mean his level of performance would be the same for you. Some would be the same, some would be better and some would be worse, depending on defensive system, coverage schemes and the defense as a whole. However it's no secret that teams are looking at the Jets cornerbacks as a position of weakness, who can blame them? We have a 1st round draft pick who's only average in the slot, Kyle Wilson has allowed 6 completions on 7 targets into his coverage. We have a 1st round draft pick who can't get healthy and looks as though he'll miss his 3rd game of the season (Milliner), we have a UDFA who's starting on the outside who's allowed two touchdowns and opposing QB's have a 117.6 passer rating when throwing into his coverage. Finally we have a converted safety who's actually performing at a reasonable level being rated as the 44th best QB out of 97 who have taken at least 25% of their teams snaps.

It doesn't paint a pretty picture, and it's a far cry from where we used to be, with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie lining up opposite one another. When the 2013 season finished, we had an obvious need at the cornerback position. Despite several key names hitting the open market, the Jets failed to bring in a viable starter. You all know the story by now and I'm sure you are all as frustrated as I am. If the team really expected contributions from Dimitri Patterson, a player who is a liability when lined up on the outside, and can't stay healthy anyway, and Dexter McDougle, a rookie 3rd rounder coming off a serious injury, then we have to question their short-sighted roster building.

However, are the players we could have taken in the draft, or signed through free agency actually performing? I was interested in finding out and I thought as long as I was doing the research, why not share it here. So below you'll find a table of players we could have signed and their NFL statistics and NFL cornerback rank per PFF through three games of the season.

For the same of time restraints, I've limited this list to 10 players who were possible targets or at least available.

Name Team NFL Rank QB Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries Tackles Missed Tackles Targets Receptions Completion % Yards YAC TD INT PD
Kyle Fuller Chicago Bears #1 0 0 0 14 2 15 8 53.3% 132 49 0 3 1
Dominique Rodgers Cromartie New York Giants #5 0 0 0 13 2 27 13 48.1% 179 79 1 1 3
Antonio Cromartie Arizona Cardinals #10 0 0 0 6 0 10 4 40.0% 30 5 0 0 3
Jason Verrett San Diego Chargers =17 0 0 0 9 0 12 7 58.3% 64 11 0 0 1
Vontae Davis Indianapolis Colts =19 0 0 0 7 0 15 6 40.0% 54 14 0 1 1
Aqib Talib Denver Broncos #23 0 0 0 14 0 20 11 55.0% 155 39 1 0 3
Alterraun Verner Tampa Bay Buccaneers #25 0 0 0 16 1 12 10 83.3% 161 37 1 0 0
Darrelle Revis New England Patriots #36 0 0 0 7 0 16 8 50.0% 103 12 1 1 2
Charles Tillamn Chicago Bears #47 0 1 0 10 0 9 7 77.8% 66 9 0 0 1
Justin Gilbert Cleveland Browns #91 0 0 0 8 2 15 11 73.3% 151 30 0 0 1

Now three weeks is not a massive sample size, and I'll likely re-visit this around week 10-12 to see if the players continue their performances. I expect Kyle Fuller to drop a little and I expect Justin Gilbert to get better, that is the life of an NFL rookie cornerback. However as you can see, the early return on the corners we had a shot at are extremely positive. 7 of the 10 are in the top 25 and between them all, they have given up just 4 touchdowns on the season.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the one that got away. We actually got him to the facility but allowed him to sign for the Giants. So far he is ranked as the 5th best cornerback in the league, and the guy we let go is ranked as the 10th best corner in the league. As mentioned and I can't stress this enough, this is a small sample size. However the more I watch the NFL this year, the more I think we really missed out on an opportunity to really solidify this defense.

If you look to the free agents in 2015, it's nowhere near as strong. You have Chris Harris in Denver as the top corner who will hit the market, but the way he's playing at the moment, I can't see them allowing him to hit the open market. Revis may become available if he can't restructure with the Patriots, there is no way he'll come back at the current $25 million cap hit for next year. It's going to be interesting to see how John Idzik handles the cornerback situation. I really don't think we have the talent on the roster and I can't see the talent in free agency, so will we be drafting out 3rd first round corner in 5 years come the 2015 NFL Draft?