Our series grading each position group on the Jets in 2015 goes on. Today we address the cornerbacks. As a refresher, here is the John B Grading System.
A - An enormous success by any definition
B - Happy with the production
C - Not terribly thrilled; not terribly upset
D - A disappointment
F - A total catastrophe
2015 in review
The Jets spent big during the offseason looking to upgrade their cornerback position. They didn't have much of a choice. The position was a mess in 2014, probably the worst group in the league. Furthermore, new coach Todd Bowles' defense ideally brings pressure and leaves corners on an island. It is a premium position in the scheme. In came Buster Skrine. Back came Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
Revis came in with the biggest pricetag and reputation. It is clear that Revis, now on the wrong side of 30, has seen a decline in his game. Disastrous efforts against DeAndre Hopkins in Houston and Sammy Watkins in Buffalo are proof of that. At the end of the day, though, Revis did make the Pro Bowl. It was deserved. There has been much talk of his decline, but his numbers were still very impressive.
Top 5 CBs in passer rating allowed— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 7, 2016
Josh Norman: 54
Trumaine Johnson: 55.3
Darrelle Revis: 56.5
Patrick Peterson: 61.8
DBs w/ lowest burn %— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 23, 2015
The burn percentage stat was from December 23. It presumably went up when the finale against Buffalo was factored in. Still, it gives you the idea. Revis is not the best cornerback in the league anymore, but suggestions he is finished are greatly exaggerated. At least they were in 2015. He was a legitimate Pro Bowler and number one corner. Gone are the days where you can stick him against the other team's best receiver every week, but you still could stick him against the other team's best receiver on most weeks. These numbers do not even tell the entire story since Revis frequently lined up against the other team's best target without much help.
Antonio Cromartie, on the other hand, had a rough season. Around the halfway point of the season, he ranked near the bottom of the league in a number of key cornerback stats. He did recover to have a nice finish, however.
Buster Skrine had a bit of an up and down season. Still he generally fit in well as the nickel.
Marcus Williams was one of the big beneficiaries of the team's spending spree. As the number four cornerback, he was able get his feet wet and develop in limited snaps against favorable matchups. The guy who looked like he was in over his head frequently as an undrafted rookie starter in 2014 actually led the Jets with 6 interceptions. Let me tell you that interceptions are a horrible way to evaluate cornerbacks. Williams deserves more praise for winning his matchups. This was a success story for the Jets. Because they brought in talent at the position, they were able to put a young player in a position to grow.
Looking to 2016
Cromartie almost certainly cannot come back. The Jets need the $8 million in cap space cutting him will bring. They need it so badly that it would be difficult to justify bringing him back even at a reduced rate. That likely will leave Skrine to slide up to the number two role and Williams to slide into the number three slot. Can Williams handle the upgrade? That is likely to be one of the key questions of the 2016 season as it pertains to the cornerback position.
The other question is whether Revis' decline will continue or whether he will hit a plateau and age gracefully. A cornerback playing at his level this season is a valuable part of Todd Bowles' defense even if you have to throw help his way a little more frequently than in the past. If his decline accelerates, his contract has an escape hatch built in. The Jets could cut him in a year.
When the Jets spent, hopes among many fans were that this would be among the top cornerback corps in the league. It wasn't at the very top, but it was a vastly improved unit that contributed to a good pass defense. It's tough not to grade on a curve since these guys were such a vast improvement over the trainwreck that was the 2014 cornerback group.