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Ellis Lankster's Keeping the Faith

Posted Aug 26, 2014

Backup Corner Believes Jets Will Rise Above Their Multiple Problems in the Secondary

Jets fans might have felt that Rex Ryan was whistling past the graveyard when he described some of his cornerback depth after Monday's practice.

"Darrin Walls, I think he's really improved. Ellis Lankster, he's really improved, too. Antonio Allen was showing some good things at corner until some friendly fire," the head coach said. "I think we'll be just fine."

One of the aforementioned Jets is also very confident in the situation down on the corner despite Dee Milliner's high ankle sprain and Dimitri Patterson's indefinite suspension.

"I'll say this to the fans or whoever will listen," Lankster said. "They're going to be shocked this year. I'm not going to lie. The defense got 10 times better from last year. We already know the defensive line, the linebackers are great. Everybody's worried about the secondary, but we're going to show them this year."

Now don't think of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Lankster is a believer in the power of positive thinking, not just for the Jets' beleaguered secondary but for his own career. I asked him how the recent reps have gone, since he's been a corner for his football career, and he corrected me.

"I only got one full year, my senior year, to play cornerback in college football," he said, referencing his final two years at West Virginia. "My freshman and sophomore years at Jones County [MS] Junior College, I played receiver and running back, but only corner in the games when they needed me. In high school I was both but mostly offense.

"I really hadn't learned a lot of technique on how to play corner until my senior year of college."

When that's taken into consideration, Lankster has done remarkably well as a pro. He broke in with the Bills as a seventh-round pick in 2009, then made his way to the Jets in '11. That season was remarkable in the sense that Lankster broke out with several big plays, all against Philadelphia. There was his 67-yard interception-return TD in the preseason, then he became the only player in franchise history to recover two fumbles by opponents' special-teamers in the same regular-season game.

The next season he had his first two regular-season picks and his first sack, of Seattle's Russell Wilson.

Last season he logged only 30 plays on defense but he continued to contribute on special teams. And now with his increased exposure on defense he's taking his corner play to those new levels Ryan mentioned.

"The more opportunities have helped me perfect my technique. I'm coming along real good," he said. "I'm finally learning how to read receivers better and stuff like that."

Ryan and coordinator Dennis Thurman are doing what they have to with their bruised-up secondary, coaching the "next man up" until the "first men down" return to action. For Milliner, there is hope but no guarantee that he'll be ready for the Sept. 7 opener. For Patterson, Ryan and GM John Idzik won't be sure about the length of his suspension until they "gather more information about what led to his behavior" of not showing up for the Giants game or the Sunday practice two days later.

Yet Rex has also pumped up the confidence of Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, Lankster and all the other corners on the roster for the challenge ahead. And Lankster says his coach's words are perfectly logical.

"Rex and DT have been coaching all their lives," he said. "They've coached Revis, they've coached Antonio Cromartie, they've coached Ed Reed, they've coached Samari Rolle. So if Rex and DT say we're ready, then we're ready."





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