Andy Benoit had an interesting observation about the way the Jets were utilizing cornerback Morris Claiborne last week.
#Jets Film: Claiborne matched to Parker, who is only #Dolphins WR who doesn't align in the slot.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) September 28, 2017
Sometimes teams have their cornerbacks shadow a receiver, following him all over the field. Sometimes teams have their cornerbacks line up in specific spots on the field. Shadowing gives the defense the matchups it wants, but some corners are comfortable lining up in one specific area for the majority of their snaps.
Pro Football Focus keeps track on whether teams shadow or have their corners play in specific spots. Benoit's tweet interested me so I decided to take a look.
Sure enough, the Jets have had Claiborne shadow a receiver in two of their three games. The Jets didn't shadow anybody in the Week 1 loss to the Bills, but Buffalo doesn't have a terribly dynamic receiving corps. There probably wasn't a receiver who justified a shadow.
In Weeks 2 and 3, the Jets did have Claiborne shadow a receiver. In Week 2, Claiborne matched up against Amari Cooper on 80.8% of Cooper's routes. Indeed, in Week 3 Claiborne drew Devante Parker on 68.2% of Parker's routes.
It definitely seems to be the case that this was a limited shadow. Cooper had 5 snaps in the slot while Parker had 10 against the Jets. Claiborne only had 3 total.
It is worth a reminder that while players are technically cornerbacks no matter where they line up, playing on the outside is different from playing on the inside. The difference can be so great that one can argue they are two different positions. On the outside, you have the boundary to help you as you can steer receivers into it. On the inside, no such aid exists.
Three weeks provide a limited sample size, but it appears so far that the Jets are using Claiborne to partially shadow. He will take a receiver on either side outside, but they do not want to move him into the slot.
I can't really say whether this is a good or bad idea yet. It is just something to watch as the season moves along.