Dyson helps flatten Vikes WR Troy Williamson
Last offseason, the New York Jets were in the market for a reliable cornerback. The Front Office wanted a veteran defensive back with big game experience and confidence to take charge of a young secondary. On March 30, 2006, head coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum found their man in Andre Dyson.
"Andre is a good, young player who has extensive playing experience at the highest levels in the NFL," said Tannenbaum. "One of our priorities heading into the offseason was to acquire a cornerback that had valuable playing experience. In addition, he has played in two championship games and a Super Bowl and that experience will be an asset to the Jets."
Even though Dyson helped the Seattle Seahawks make it to Super Bowl XL, he was plagued by injury for a large portion of the 2005 season. But Dyson made 15 starts for the Green & White, tying for the team-lead with four interceptions and adding eight passes defended.
"In the secondary, Dyson has been that guy that has been a real solid influence on the room and a steady performer and just a good veteran presence," Mangini said of Dyson during the year. "I have been really pleased with his progress from when he first got here and the consistency that he has shown."
Although the Jets were his third team in as many seasons, Dyson made an immediate impact. On day one of training camp, the Utah alum grabbed hold of the starting right cornerback spot and never let go. He quickly adapted to Mangini's style and continued to thrive through the hot summer and into the regular season.
"It is usually tough for a guy who is new to a team to just jump right into that role, but he has been a really solid performer and he has been a really solid presence," said Mangini, who spent five seasons coaching defensive backs in New England. "He has made a lot of improvements. He has done a nice job of seeing mistakes and correcting those mistakes."
Ironically, when the Jets took the field for their 2006 opener, Dyson found himself back where his professional career started – Tennessee's LP Field in Nashville. The Titans selected Dyson in the second round of the 2001 Draft, and the 5'10", 183-pound cornerback went on to start 12 games his rookie year and his three interceptions led the team. Dyson became the first Tennessee rookie to lead the team in interceptions since Pete Jacquess in 1964.
When Titans quarterback Vince Young displaced starter Kerry Collins in the second quarter, it was Dyson who welcomed the former collegiate star with a first professional turnover. Dyson picked off the rookie's long ball along the right sideline at the Jets' six-yard-line, keeping the Titans scoreless in the first half. On the very next Titans' possession, Dyson picked off Collins – who had re-entered the game – on just the second play of the series.
"It feels good to get two picks in any game, but to come back here - obviously it's a little bit special for me," he said.
Dyson racked up 22 total tackles in his first four games with the Jets. In mid-October, Dyson collected his third interception during the Jets' 20-17 victory over rival Miami. Then in December, Dyson hauled in one of the more memorable interceptions of his career when he picked off future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.
"If you don't have confidence playing corner, you might as well go play somewhere else because you're going to get beat and you're going to give up big plays," said Dyson, who credits his self-assured and determined attitude for his prolonged career. "You can't worry about anything; you need to take it game-by-game. If you start thinking too far in the future, you're going to forget about what you have to do in the present."
Dyson's mindset was warmly welcomed in the locker room. With young cornerbacks alongside Dyson including the likes of Justin Miller and Drew Coleman, Mangini felt fortunate to have him in the backfield.
"He spends time with some of the younger guys and gives them insight – he is a veteran guy with a lot of game experience," Mangini said. "Even for me, he is good to talk to and bounce ideas off of because he has a wide range of experiences in different systems, and that's always important to have that give-and-take."
"Football is football. You come out here, do your job, hustle and make plays," Dyson added. "Every week it's the same attitude - just out there to win, play fast, play hard and play smart. That is what you do no matter what name is on the back of the jersey or what decal is on the helmet."
Dyson's 62 tackles were the second highest total of his six-year career. Unfortunately, a previous injury suffered during the final stretch of the season forced the veteran out of the Jets' first round playoff loss to the Patriots after just one series of action.
"It was just one of those things where my mind, my heart, everything was telling me I could do it, but my body just wouldn't let me," said Dyson. "It was a really humbling, frustrating experience and something I never want to go through again."
Regardless of how his season ended, Dyson's presence was strongly felt.
"He is a tight corner; he makes plays and you tend to not worry about him," said safety Erik Coleman of Dyson. "He has been doing that for years in this league and it's great to have him on this team."