Even though Jets CB Bless Austin is entering Year 3 of his NFL career, this was the first offseason he could reap the benefits of voluntary OTAs.
A sixth-round pick in 2019 out of Rutgers, Austin was recovering from ACL surgery as a rookie. Then there was no in-person offseason last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's definitely a tremendous benefit," he said. "This is something that you want as a player to take the next step in your game to try and buy as much time as you can to work on certain things that you need to work on from last year before training camp. You need things like OTAs where you get to slow it down. There's no game the next week or the next two weeks. You get to slow it down and really intercept all the information that's being told, implement it, get the reps and then go into training camp with that knowledge as opposed to learning everything in training camp."
Austin, 24, has the most experience among the Jets' cornerbacks. He's played in 18 games (16 starts) over two seasons. He played in 11 last season (10 starts) and totaled 63 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 4 pass defenses and 1 forced fumble. Austin (6-1, 198) has the size and length that analysts believe fit what Head Coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich want in their corners.
"I feel like any system fits me well," Austin said. "I feel like I have rare ability with my size, but I have the movement, the footwork, the speed, the change of direction and athleticism. Not a lot of other guys in the NFL have the athleticism at my size. It doesn't matter what scheme I'm in, I'm going to make plays regardless. Having a scheme like this that's cornerback friendly, it definitely takes the load off and helps you out."
He added: "I like the things we're doing on defense tremendously. We're still getting into the fine tuning and details of everything, so I don't want to go throwing so much on it, but I'm very excited about the defense he brought here. I'm mostly excited about everything that he's building in the culture and the program."
Austin likes how Saleh and his staff set a priority of focusing on the small details because he feels that younger players, like himself, tend to overlook them.
"I love the way he pinpoints the small things and shows you how it can lead to bigger issues because as a younger dude, that's something you don't really grow up taking too seriously," he said. "It comes down to the finest detail. If you're not taking your steps the right way or have any uncertainty with what you're doing, all the little things add up."
Throughout the spring, senior defensive assistant and cornerbacks coach Tony Oden stressed two main things with his room, which includes Austin. No. 1 -- getting on the same page with his room in verbiage. No. 2 -- minimizing techniques that he asks the players to do so they can perfect their craft one step at a time.
"What they called things last year may be similar to some of the things that we do, so we have to make sure we get on the same page in that regard," Oden said. "The other thing that we do, there are certain defenses they may have run that we didn't run, so we want to be able to finetune some of the things that we do, maybe minimize some of the scenarios these guys are put in."