It's not unusual in today's NFL, COVID-19 or not, to have extreme changeover at a position. Nevertheless, the transition at Jets cornerback since the days of Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine in 2016, or even Skrine and Morris Claiborne in '17, is significant. This offseason, Darryl Roberts and Trumaine Johnson, who combined for 35 starts the past two seasons, departed. Meanwhile, former Colts Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson arrived, Brian Poole re-signed to lead a small group of holdovers for another season, and Bryce Hall came in via the draft.
Dennard Wilson, entering his fourth season as the Jets' defensive backs coach, spoke on a few occasions about the corners he'll be coaching up beginning with Friday's first practice of 2020 training camp.
Poole got 10 starts as the nickel, contributing 62 tackles and 6.0 tackles for loss/no gain to lead all Jets CBs and adding five PDs and his first pro scores — an INT-return TD vs. Oakland and a safety tackle vs. Buffalo. Wilson describes him as "very intelligent" and "an overachiever" who'll do "whatever he can for the betterment of the team."
"He's a baby linebacker at times — depending on when we play our nickel personnel vs. '12,' he has to play in the box," Wilson said. "Then he has the ability to go out and cover, and in the NFL, covering the slots in man-to-man coverage is a tough thing to do. So he has a lot on his plate. ... He's a big piece to the puzzle in how we put this defense together."
The coach praised Desir's ball skills, which he's put on display in six pro seasons, the last three with the Colts.
"Pierre can run with just about anybody in the league," he said. "He has outstanding top-end speed, he can look and locate the ball. He's a smart, cerebral player, a guy with a receiver background. Obviously the things we're measured at, points allowed and takeaways, a guy with ball skills that can go locate it is huge for our defense."
See the Jets Linebackers and Secondary Working Out at Training Camp
Quincy Wilson arrived in a late-draft trade with Indianapolis, yet he's a known quantity to Dennard Wilson, who scouted him along with Marcus Maye and Poole at the U. of Florida after the 2016 season.
"Quincy was one of those guys we evaluated and we brought in. He had familiarity with me as a coach, since I was here at the time," Wilson said. "He and Marcus are very close, they're tight-knit. It brings a different dynamic. Marcus and Brian can tell Quincy what to expect from me as a coach so he doesn't come in blind when we report and get this thing rolling."
Bless This Corner
Bless Austin is one of those returnees, a low-round 2019 pick out of Rutgers who came in rehabbing an injury, then was thrown into the corner mix vs. the Giants and provided plays in seven games (six starts).
"Bless didn't have a lot of great film, but when he played, he produced. He loves football," Wilson said. "There's still so much stuff he doesn't know, so many things he wasn't able to create good habits on last offseason. So going into this season and training camp, I know his strengths and weaknesses, I know what he needs to work on, he knows what he needs to work on. Hopefully we can piece it all together and you'll see tremendous strides within his game."
Similar to Austin, Hall was a day three draftee coming off injury in April's draft.
"Bryce is an extremely smart young man. He conceptually picks up things easier than most, so I think that helps him out," the coach said. "The sky's the limit for him as long as he puts in the work. As long as he comes back healthy and takes coaching and does things to the best of his ability, I think it won't be a problem for him as a player."
The Rest of the Room
Two other veterans saw action last year in Nate Hairston (yet another former Colt who made six starts in '19) and Arthur Maulet (good production in the second half of the season after recovering a muffed punt at New England early). Also on the CB roster are undrafted rookies Javelin Guidry, Lamar Jackson and Shyheim Carter.
"I think it's a versatile position," the coach summed up. "They're hard-working guys, some of them have been overachievers. I can't wait to see them come out on the field."