"A guy we don't talk a whole heck of a lot about is Ellis Lankster, because he's not a starter at corner," coach Rex Ryan said last week. "But he plays a ton for us — one of the premier special team players in the league."
Having been on the field at cornerback for just three plays through our first two games, Lankster's still emerged as a key contributor. He's taken the field for 89% (58 of 65) of our special teams plays so far this year and leads the Jets with three kick coverage tackles.
"I'm on this team to play special teams," Lankster said, "so I've made it all about special teams."
The Jets aren't utilizing him as a punt returner, though that was his role throughout his collegiate years at West Virginia and as a rookie with the Buffalo Bills. But taking the ball out of his hands hasn't taken away from his emerging as "a difference maker as a teams guy," Ryan said.
For anyone who believes the 5'9", 190-pound CB might be too small to play with the big boys in the NFL, go back and rewatch the second play of the fourth quarter in the Week 1 win over the Buccaneers.
Sprinting down the field in punt coverage, Lankster split two blockers, tracked down and wrapped up Tampa Bay PR Eric Page, and held him in place briefly.
"But he just kept trying to run. Once I had gotten behind him, I felt he was light," he said about the 180-pound WR, smiling as he reminisced on his "incredible" tackle, "so I just picked him up and slammed him down."
His Twitter account (@EllisLankster21) blew up with people explaining to him that he had pulled off an amazing suplex wrestling move. Hulk Hogan... I mean, Ellis Lankster, recalled making a similar play back in high school, "but I never thought I'd ever do that in the pros."
Lankster credits special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica for consistently setting him up to succeed by putting him in the proper position. His on-the-field attitude helps as well, though. "I don't mind making a big hit, or taking a big hit," he said. "I don't like to brag about myself, but I play rough and aggressive. I do it for Rex, because that's what he loves about his players."
With a clear understanding of what the team's asking from him, he's thriving in his role now one-eighth of the way into the season. If he keeps it up, Lankster could quickly become a guy that we do talk a whole heck of a lot about.
*Special Teams Sunday