The Jets cornerback situation looked troubled at best heading into the preseason. The starting tandem featured inexperienced and unproven players Dee Milner and Dimitri Patterson. Now, as the regular season looms, Dee Milner has a high ankle sprain, while Dimitri Patterson went AWOL and was subsequently released this week.
With the top two corners down, Gang Green claimed journeyman corner Leon McFadden off waivers. While this move is for depth purposes, it shows the desperate nature of the Jets front office as it relates to the situation at corner. Rex Ryan’s defensive philosophy has been predicated on having outstanding corners with great coverage ability. However, the defensive approach of leaving corners alone in man coverage will almost certainly have to change with this current collection of corners.
Right now, especially with the aforementioned injury to Millner, the Jets consist of cornerbacks who have only typically been used in nickel and dime packages. Unless Antonio Allen or Kyle Wilson make remarkable improvements, the Jets will struggle mightily in pass coverage, especially if they use the typical man to man principles Rex Ryan has implemented in the past. Therefore, the Jets will need to rely heavily on zone coverage to thwart the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Simply put, it could get ugly. Taking a quarterback off his line by creating pressure via blitzes and exotic looks and forcing him to shift his feet in the pocket is the necessary strategy to fluster the top quarterbacks in the game. Time and time again, it has been shown that sitting back in zone coverage is ineffective against the best. However, due to the lack of skill at the cornerback situation, this is what the Jets will be resigned to playing more of this season.
As the saying goes, everything is good in moderation. Ryan will need to mind these words even more carefully this season, as his heavy/exotic blitz packages will need to be scaled down for more base coverage emphasizing help from the safeties. Calvin Pryor will need to make an immediate impact from his safety position, providing both over the top help to the corners while delivering hard hits on receivers coming across the middle.
For the first time in the Ryan era, the concerns are on defense. The Jets have cornerback crisis, and it’s the responsibility of everyone involved to hide the glaring weakness, or it will be a long season.