Jets Cornerbacks Review: CBs 'Rose Up' Despite Adversity

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On the Roster in 2019

Table inside Article
Player GP/GS/DNP/IA Def/ST Snaps
Brian Poole 14/10/0/2 749/91
CB/S Darryl Roberts 13/10/0/3 713/143
Nate Hairston 11/6/0/5 391/86
Bless Austin 7/6/1/0 388/9
Arthur Maulet 12/6/0/2 348/103
Trumaine Johnson 7/5/0/1 314/9
Maurice Canady 8/2/0/0 239/74
Kyron Brown 3/1/0/1 53/24

Injured Reserve: Johnson, Brown

Potential Free Agents in 2020
Unrestricted: Canady, Poole
Restricted: Maulet

Looking Back
Count cornerback as another position heavily impacted by injuries on the 2019 Jets. One number captures just how heavily:

Eight.

In a healthy, stable season, teams might have only three different starters at LCB, RCB and nickel. In a rougher year, maybe six different corners might be needed.

This past season the Jets used eight different players as CB starters: Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, Nate Hairston, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bless Austin, Kyron Brown and Maurice Canady. Roberts, Poole and Maulet missed multiple games with injuries; Johnson and Brown ended the year on IR.

Since 1966, the Jets have used eight different cornerback starters in only one other season, 1987, when three of the starters were replacement players from Games 3-5.

Yet as with other position groups on the team — linebacker, offensive line, tight end — the corners survived and even thrived under coordinator Gregg Williams and DBs coach Dennard Wilson. The pass defense numbers don't indicate a team scrambling to fill corner positions week after week. The Jets were 17th in the NFL in net passing yards allowed/game but 12th in yards allowed/pass play. Their opponents' passer rating of 88.0 was 12th best in the league. Opponents' 51 completions of 20-yards-plus yards were 15th-best and the Jets' lowest 20+ passes allowed since 2014.

"This is a really good group of guys," DC Gregg Williams said of his defense as a whole, and it certainly applied to corner. "There are things that took place this year that hadn't happened in a long time. A lot of people out there are surprised that this group of young men continued to have to go in and play in injury situations, they rose up and stepped up and somebody believed in them, not only me but their own position coaches."

See the Best Images of the Cornerbacks During the 2019 Season

Looking Ahead
The good thing about all of the above is that the corners on the roster gained valuable playing time. Six of them played 300-plus defensive snaps, while Canady, who arrived in November off waivers, played 239 snaps. Of that group, only Poole and Canady can become unrestricted free agents. Maulet could be an RFA.

Re-signing Poole, the steady performer who was one of three Jets with a pick-six last season and the only CB to do so, or finding someone just as productive at nickel, will be important.

Also, the Jets brain trust will examine Trumaine Johnson's role going forward. It was initially hoped that Johnson, the big-ticket free agency signing in 2018, would be in for a season to rival 2015 with St. Louis, when he had a career-high 7 INTs under Williams, then the Rams coordinator. Instead, Johnson had arguably the least-impactful season of his nine-year career with 1 INT, 2 PDs and 25 tackles on 313 defensive snaps in seven games before going to IR with injuries to both ankles.

As heartwarming as the corners' story was this season, the position will need better health and consistency to compete with the 2020 slate of opponents. The Jets won't revisit with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, who scorched their pass defense for five TDs, no INTs and a 130.6 rating in Game 14, but the schedule will include some top-10-caliber passing games triggered by the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, the Raiders' Derek Carr (again), possibly the Chargers' Philip Rivers, the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the Rams' Jared Goff.

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