Earlier this week, the New York Jets cut veteran cornerback Pierre Desir in favor of rookie Bryce Hall. Then on Thursday, Brian Poole, one of the league’s top slot corners underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. His season, and potentially his time with the Jets, are done as he is a free agent this off-season. Additionally, Blessuan Austin, who has made seven starts this season, is undergoing an MRI on a neck injury. His status is now up in the air.
That being said, the Jets cornerback unit is going to be unrecognizable for the last seven games of the season. Made up of late-round picks, castaways, and undrafted free agents, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be working with an unproven unit once again down the stretch. So who exactly will fans be seeing playing alongside safeties Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis on Sundays? Let’s take a look…
What the New York Jets Cornerback Group Looks Like for the Rest of 2020
Imagine going from an NFL debut to starter in a matter of two games. That is what Jets fifth-round pick Bryce Hall will be doing Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Jets have always had faith in Hall to become a starter, as shown by cutting Desir in favor of him. Gang Green took a chance on his upside in the draft, knowing he had early day two talent if healthy. That being said, like Austin, the Jets allowed Hall to start the season on injured reserve as he recovered from an ankle injury from his senior year at Virginia.
After just making his debut against the New England Patriots in the Jets’ last game, he will now enter the starting lineup. Originally, the team cut Desir expecting Hall to play alongside Austin and Poole. Except due to their injuries, Hall quickly has all eyes on him.
It was around this time last season, where injuries forced Arthur Maulet from the practice squad to the Jets starting lineup. Who knew that one year later it would be the exact same situation.
The 27-year-old spent originally signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, before moving to the New Orleans Saints in 2018. Then joining the Jets in 2019, he found a role in Williams’ defense. He finished last season with six starts in 12 games, with one interception, 38 tackles, and five tackles for a loss. Maulet earned a career-high 65.2 grade from PFF, which was good for 56th out of 115 qualifying corners.
As Maulet is likely to make his return to a consistent role on Sunday, he will play a big role for the Jets. In his fourth season, he now stands as the team’s most experienced corner.
One of the two Jets undrafted free agents about to see an increase in snaps, Javelin Guidry is most known for having the second-fastest 40-yard dash in the 2020 NFL Combine. The Utah product has primarily been used thus far on special teams, which allows him to capitalize on his speed and athleticism. At 5’9” and 193lbs, Guidry is best suited for the slot, making him a potential replacement going forward for Poole.
Unlike Guidry, Lamar Jackson has already gotten the opportunity to start… and struggled. He has played in six games this season, making two starts. This season, he has given up a 153.6 rating when targeted, with quarterbacks passing for two touchdowns and 190 yards. Nevertheless, there is a lot to like about Jackson’s game. He offers a big, physical boundary cornerback at 6’3” and 215lbs. Given the injuries at the position, expect to see more of number 38.
Last but not least is the recent waiver-wire pickup from the New York Giants, Corey Ballentine. A sixth-round pick last season, Ballentine has primarily been used in the return game. Through 22 career games, Ballentine has 19 kick returns with a 23.5 average. For now, he is likely to be used mainly on special teams as he gets adjusted, but he will likely be seen in coverage. He has two career starts, although he has been rather ineffective. This season, opposing quarterbacks have a 145.3 rating when targeting Ballentine, and he was not much better his rookie season.
Last Word on the New York Jets Cornerback Unit
When a team is 0-9 and gets slammed with injuries, a team must turn somewhere to make a change. Henceforth, this is why head coach Adam Gase stated earlier this week how “We’re looking to play as many of these young guys as possible.” Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin (if healthy) have the talent to be long-term pieces. Maulet has experience on the outside, while the remaining three will compete for snaps. Either way, the remaining seven games will loom large for their 2021 outlooks with Gang Green.
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