Jets Position Review: Cornerback

Overall, this is the most concerning position on the roster with a total of 31 combined starts between all of them and the highest drafted was 154th overall. However, they all bring skills and traits that makes me believe they can develop into viable starters. Bryce Hall I have the most faith to be a star as he followed up a dominant college career with quality play in the 2nd half of 2020. After him it’s anyone’s guess who will be starting week 1 but realistically the group isn’t much worse than last years. A veteran would give the Jets defense the opportunity to be elite this year behind a dominant defensive line.

To start, Bryce Hall was one of my favorite players in the 2019 draft due to his elite on field production, athleticism and the fact he was projected as a late day 2/3 pick. When the Jets were able to pick him 158th overall, I was ecstatic as I believed he would be a lockdown corner in the NFL. In college he was playing himself into the 1st round as he led the nation in forced incompletions in 2018 before an injury ended his senior year early. After a slow start rehabbing his knee, Hall looked like a star facing off against Metcalf, Allen, Woods and Parker. While he was the victim of great plays by the offense, Hall played tight coverage and showed his sky-high potential. After a year of experience and 2 years removed from his knee injury, I believe Hall will take a huge leap forward and be regarded as one of the best young corners in the game. The Jets defense rides on his ability to lockdown opposing receivers.

Javelin Guidry is the current favorite to win the slot corner spot after impressing in limited time as a rookie. Guidry’s claim to fame is his elite speed, dominating the 100 m race in high school and college. In coverage he uses that speed to mirror opposing receivers and close gaps quickly to make plays on the ball. Guidry also packs a punch forcing 3 fumbles which was tied for 2nd among corners despite only playing 171 snaps. Given his impressive performance and the fact that he’s the most experienced slot corner on the roster, I expect Guidry to be the starting slot corner week 1. He’s flashed the ability to be a starter, now he gets the opportunity to win the job.

Bless Austin is the most experienced corner on the roster being the primary corner the past 2 years. As a rookie he immediately improved the Jets pass defense and along with Maulet were part of the reason the Jets went 6-2 in the 2nd half of 2019. However, as the starter in 2020 he struggled greatly, especially at tackling missing 11 which ranked 17th in the NFL, despite missing 5 games. While I have hope that he can improve, he struggled greatly in zone which is Saleh’s/Ulbrich’s base defense. He’s the favorite to enter the season as CB 2 due to his experience but our rookies will have every opportunity to take that spot. At only 25 and some high end play as a rookie, he can still turn it around.

Lamar Jackson was an UDFA in 2020 that had a successful college career using his size to bully opposing receivers. With the Jets he started 6 games as a rookie and played as well as he could with impossible assignments like 1v1 against Deandre Hopkins and left on an island against the Raiders. He gives the Jets good size at corner and has experience starting but his lack of athleticism limits his potential. At only 23, he gives the Jets some solid depth.

Justin Hardee was done to bring in high character player and fill the Jets biggest hole on specials teams. Hardee was universally loved in New Orleans where he played almost exclusively on special teams. The Jets allowed the 6th most yards per punt return in 2020 mean while Hardee had a 90.4 ST PFF grade good for 6th in the NFL. However, his biggest impact will in the locker room. He’s an extremely hard worker and will be a great mentor to an extremely young group of players.

The rookies are an unheralded group made up of players picked in the 5th and later or weren’t even drafted. However, they all bring good traits that Saleh believes can make them meaningful contributors. All the Jets CB so it’s fair to expect them to compete for meaningful role.

Isaiah Dunn may be the best of the bunch despite going undrafted to the shock of the Jets coaching staff. He shined in camp and showed consistent improvement each day. Dunn’s college tape shows a smart player that will thrive in zone coverage. Despite being a former WR, Dunn has 0 interceptions to go along 18 career pass break ups.

Michael Carter II has a legitimate chance to be the Jets starting slot corner as Guidry is the only true competition. He’s undersized but brings good speed and quickness to go along with an excellent college career. In 4 years with Duke he consistently graded well and capped off his career with allowing 15 completions for a 48.4% completion rate for 122 yds and a passer rating of 56.1. He will be pushing for playing time day 1.

Jason Pinnock is the last player I’ll focus on and can make the biggest impact for the Jets. Pinnock idolized Jet legend and Pittsburgh alumni Darrelle Revis. Exclusively an outside corner, Pinnock was 3rd in the nation in press coverage snaps which will help him in Saleh’s scheme. He dominated the competition allowing only a 29.5% completion percentage good for 4th in the FBS with 10+ target and best among those with 30+. He also is behind only LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr in forced incompletions in the red zone. However he also has major red flags in that 17 of his 44 targets were dropped or poorly thrown and still allowed 5 TDs and 24.5 yards per reception. He has the physical ability and flashed lockdown potential, now it’s up to Saleh to develop him.

It’s still an option for the Jets to add a veteran corner to lead the group and provide serviceable play. Top remaining options are Steve Nelson, Richard Sherman, and Brian Poole. They would provide a huge boost on the field and their experience and leadership would be a huge help to a very young roster. I would love to see the Jets bring in one of them in right before the start of the season to lockdown the starting spot and provide mentorship. Our corners are 24 or younger and would greatly benefit from the experience and mentality a veteran would bring. I trust Saleh to put his players in the best position to succeed and to add whatever he needs to give the Jets the best product on the field for this year and years to come.

Cornerback is the question mark on the biggest battle as several young players are competing for the starting spot. Bryce Hall is the favorite to be the #1 after an impressive college career and a respectable rookie year. After him however it’s anyone’s guess. Bless Austin has the most experience in year 3 with 16 career starts but was dismal last year despite a promising performance as a rookie. Javelin Guidry and Lamar Jackson were UDFA’s in 2020 that started as rookies with Guidry looking like a potential answer at slot corner. This year we added several names with starter potential in Jason Pinnock, Michael Carter II, Brandon Echols, and Isaiah Dunn. All together the highest drafted is Carter at 154th, so this is an unheralded bunch. However, I believe this group can turn some heads and make an impact in 2021.

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