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Reader Questions: Why Did the Jets Cut Cornerback Depth With Patriots Game Ahead?

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A few people had a question yesterday about the timing of the Jets waiving Marcus Williams. It isn’t necessarily that anybody questions letting Williams go, only the timing. Was it wise to cut a cornerback the week the Jets are set to face the New England passing attack?

It is a valid question given how proficient the Patriots are at throwing the football. There is a simple answer.

There isn’t a need for extra cornerbacks more than any other game. The Patriots don’t run an offense based on loading the field with wide receivers.

When the question was first presented, I took a look at the personnel groupings New England has used this year. They have used four wide receivers on only 6.1% of their passing plays. That accounts for 13 plays in the first 5 weeks. There have been no plays where they had five wide receivers.

The Patriots have built an offense to exploit mismatches with skilled receiving threats at positions like tight end and running back. These players draw linebackers and safeties in coverage. Defensive players at these positions typically aren’t as skilled in coverage as cornerbacks. Forcing these defenders to cover is a pretty smart strategy for an offense in that context.

So far this year, over 40% of New England’s targets in the passing game have gone to either backs or tight ends.

The Patriots certainly have dangerous wide receivers like Brandin Cooks, but their offense isn’t about flooding the field with wideouts. Their personnel groupings rarely do so.

That is why there was no particular need to preserve extra depth at cornerback. One would presume the waiving of Williams means Darryl Roberts and Juston Burris are on the way back. With Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine at the top of the depth chart, the Jets let go of their fifth cornerback in a week where they are unlikely to utilize their fourth cornerback much.