Year 2 for Jets' cornerback Bless Austin was filled with adversity and growth.
As he prepares for his third professional season, he looked back at all of the positives he hopes to build on from the 2020 NFL season.
"I'm a smarter player than I was last year," Austin said. "A lot of the things and the information that I had to go over this year, I already had down. It minimized the information I had to retain and made a lot more room for other areas that I needed to work on with my game in practice, off the field and in my game. A lot was taken off and I felt like finally I could focus on football and not have too much thinking going on."
At 6-1, 198 pounds, CB Austin finished third on the defense with 63 tackles in addition to 4 PDs and 1 FF, while playhing in 11 games. Austin, 24, who grew up in in Queens, NY, and attended Rutgers University, wasn't quite satisfied with his play and knows exactly where he wants to be physically and mentally in his third year.
"I want to make that giant leap," Austin said. "I want to make the big plays and be one of the best in the game. Last year I was saying it, but now this year I'm saying it and I can feel it. I can feel it in my heart truly that I need to make that big gain. I feel like I'm going to make it no doubt."
See the Top Photos of Brian Poole, Bryce Hall, Bless Austin and the Jets Cornerbacks in 2020
He added: "At this level, everything is all mental. Everybody has the skill set, but what separates us is the mental. That's where I feel like I'm taking a huge leap, getting older and more mature and understanding the mission and knowing what I want to do. That's the big shift that I feel like is going to take my game to the next level."
Austin played a role on a defense that saw numerous changes throughout the season. A young, talented group at the core, the defense — which finished No. 24 overall in the league — will see changes as Head Coach Robert Saleh implements a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
"It's tough, but you have to adjust as a professional in this league," Austin said. "There's no time to make excuses, you have to be able to come to work and get the work done. We were brought in for a reason. …When you're a professional, you're expected to get the job done by any means necessary."