2020 New York Jets Preview: Cornerbacks

2020 New York Jets
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Back in 2018, the New York Jets gave Trumaine Johnson a massive five-year, $72.5-million deal. Last off-season, the Jets re-signed Darryl Roberts to a three-year, $18-million deal to play opposite of Johnson. Quickly, almost as fast as they signed their deals, injuries and poor play took over their time in Florham Park. Now, only Roberts is on an NFL roster for training camp – and it’s not with the Jets.

The days of overpaying for cornerbacks in free agency are over for the Jets, at least for 2020. The team is confident in their young, upstart cornerback room and their ability to hold down the fort over 16 games in Gregg Williams’ defense. So who exactly earned the confidence of the Jets front office to not use high capital on new cornerbacks?

2020 New York Jets: Cornerback Preview

The Starters: Pierre Desir (CB1), Blessuan Austin (CB2) and Brian Poole (Slot)

Finding hidden gems is one of the most difficult things to do in football. In the NFL, there is so much focus on top prospects and free agents, leaving little attention paid to lesser-known players. And for the Jets, they have an entire cornerback unit filled with players trying to earn their keep in the league.

First is former Indianapolis Colts starter Pierre Desir. Joining Gang Green on a one-year deal, Desir offers an experienced corner coming off of a down year in 2019. The soon-to-be 30-year old hopes to regain his form from 2018, when he finished with an impressive 77.7 grade from PFF. He will need to stay healthy, but Desir starts training camp as the favorite to be the Jets top boundary corner.

Meanwhile, a must-watch competition will be taking place opposite of Desir. The Jets have multiple young corners who stepped up to start in 2019 and will look to do so again. Yet second-year corner Blessuan Austin seems to have the upper hand. His knee issues from college seem to be behind him, as once he joined the team in Week 10, he never looked back. The sixth-round pick from Rutgers started six out of seven games, with a forced fumble, six deflections, and a promising 71.4 grade to his name. At just 24-years old, Austin will get a chance to prove he is an option going forward on the outside.

Last but not least is the Jets’ most valuable cornerback from a season ago in Brian Poole. Returning on a one-year prove-it deal, the 27-year old looks to replicate a dominate 2019 season. Finishing as the ninth-highest graded corner in the league, Poole hopes to show his career-year was no accident. The Jets starting trio has the potential to be a solid and consistent group for Gregg Williams’ secondary. However, if things go south again, the Jets have more internal options.

The Backups: Bryce Hall

Every year in the NFL Draft a few prospects find themselves sliding because of injury concerns. For Bryce Hall, he is no exception. Entering the draft season as an expected day two pick, his season-ending ankle injury saw him fall to day three. Nevertheless, the Jets may have acquired the steal of the draft in the fifth round.

At 6’1” and 202lbs, the Virginia product entered the started lineup as a freshman and never looked back. In his breakout junior year, Hall totaled 62 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a stunning 21 deflections in just 13 games. There is no question in regard to Hall’s talent. It simply becomes whether or not Hall can stay healthy.

The Bubble: Arthur Maulet, Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston, Lamar Jackson, and Javelin Guidry

Behind the top four cornerbacks, the Jets have a full-fledge cornerback competition filled with former Colts and rookies. Arthur Maulet’s promising 2019 season opposite of Austin has him as the favorite for a roster spot. After spending time with the New Orleans Saints and Colts, Maulet made the Jets roster out of training camp last season. In 12 games (six starts), Maulet totaled 38 tackles, five for a loss, and an interception on his way to a solid 65.2 grade.

Joining Maulet in the battle of the former Colts are Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston. Wilson, 24, enters his fourth season out of Florida. He performed well in his first two seasons before falling apart last season. Ultimately, the Jets traded the 211th overall pick for Wilson in the hope he can become the player the Colts once took in round two. As for Hairston, the Jets traded for the former fifth-round pick just before the start of the 2019 season. Hairston played 11 games, starting in six, although his coverage issues led to inconsistent playing time.

As for the rookies, let’s begin with non-NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. At 6’2″ and 208lbs, the Nebraska prospect brings excellent size on the outside. While he does not have great long speed or run defense, Jackson fits the mold of a big-bodied boundary corner. Almost the complete opposite of Jackson, Javelin Guidry brings speed in a small frame. At 5’9” and 191lbs, Guidry is not a going to contest the Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins of the NFL. Given his lack of ball skills, Guidry offers elite speed on special teams and quality tackling ability in the slot. While Jackson can offer more immediate upside on defense, Guidry will need to find his way in coverage against stronger NFL receivers. Both have a chance to make the roster, although Jackson’s length gives him an advantage towards making the team.

Last Word on the 2020 New York Jets Preview: Cornerbacks

General manager Joe Douglas has been very outspoken about bringing in the right people through not just free agency, but the draft. Pierre Desir and Brian Poole are two players who have a chance to cash in big next off-season. But if Blessuan Austin and Bryce Hall – two young and very talented cornerbacks can establish themselves as potential solutions going forward at corner, it would be a huge win for the team. And the days of overpaying for aging corners in free agency will finally come to a close.

Stay tuned for the next article in the 2020 New York Jets Preview series with Safeties!

2020 New York Jets Preview Series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Lineman, Offensive Tackles, EDGE Defenders, Interior Defensive Lineman, Linebackers

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