Cornerbacks Review: Some Positives Seen, More Needed

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The Jets cornerback situation was like many other positions on the Green & White in 2018: Some very good developments got overwhelmed by injuries and other issues.

For starters, Jets corners had as many pick-sixes (two, by Morris Claiborne vs. Indy and Trumaine Johnson at Tennessee) in '18 as they had in the previous seven seasons combined.

Through 10 games, Claiborne already was having the best of his seven NFL seasons with career highs in PDs and INTs, prompting him to say, "I feel like this is the best I've done, I feel like I'm playing my best football." He went on to become only the second Jets CB in the last five seasons to log 1,000 defensive snaps (joining Buster Skrine, who had 1,011 snaps in 2017).

And at Buffalo, Johnson had the first two-interception game by a Jets CB in three years to help his team to a much-needed road win.

But then came the overwhelming parts.

Claiborne was listed with a shoulder injury beginning before Week 8 at Chicago plus foot, neck and ankle pains at different times. He played through them, although his second-half numbers weren't as strong as his first-half stats, until he was placed on IR before Game 16. Johnson sat out five October-November games with a quad injury and was a healthy scratch for the season finale. Buster Skrine missed two games with a concussion.

And after the defense last season slashed in half the number of long passes to wideouts, the opponents' numbers bounced back to 2016 levels — 18 completions of 30-plus yards to WRs, seven for touchdowns.

It all added up to a pass defense ranking (not all on the corners' shoulders, of course) of 24th in the NFL in yards/game allowed — their lowest ranking since finishing 29th in 2008.

The Top Images of CBs During the 2018 Season

Looking Ahead
The Gregg Williams-led defensive staff will be working again with Johnson, last year's big free agency signing. The Jets may or may not lose Claiborne and Skrine, their top two corners in terms of defensive snaps, as well as Darryl Roberts, who started five games at CB, four of them at LCB when Johnson was sidelined, and five at safety, to unrestricted free agency.

Several young prospects could also return, including fourth-year man Rashard Robinson and three former sixth-round selections — Parry Nickerson from last April's draft, who saw the most action (212 snaps on defense, 110 special-teams plays), and Derrick Jones and Jeremy Clark from 2017, who each saw his only action of the season in the finale at New England.

On the Roster in 2018
(Def—defensive snaps; ST—special teams snaps)

DBs GP GS DNP IA Def ST How Ended
CB Morris Claiborne 15 15 0 0 1002 9 IR
CB Buster Skrine 14 11 0 2 693 124 Active
CB Trumaine Johnson 10 10 0 6 670 6 Active
CB Parry Nickerson 16 2 0 0 212 110 Active
CB Rashard Robinson 10 1 0 1 83 69 Active
CB Derrick Jones 1 0 0 15 38 3 Active
CB Juston Burris 4 0 0 3 0 50 NWT
DB Jeremy Clark 1 0 0 4 0 7 Active

Reserve/Future Signing

DB Tevaughn Campbell

Potential Free Agents in 2019

Unrestricted: Morris Claiborne, Darryl Roberts, Buster Skrine. Exclusive Rights: Jeremy Clark.

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