Cornerbacks are a vital position to every NFL team and without proper depth a quarterback will pick apart an opponent’s secondary. The New York Jets have arguably the best pair of cornerbacks in the league with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and it is a risk for any quarterback to throw against them.
Having former first rounder Kyle Wilson as the number three corner is also a great luxury to have. Wilson seems to be reaching his potential as the years go on. Jets fans should feel privileged to have such a great top three, but what would happen if one of these men were not there? Injury is not a big issue for these men but what if one did occur or worse what happens if Darrelle Revis holds out in the future?
The direction of this article is not to talk about a holdout because the odds of Revis holding out this year are basically zero. Instead I present a dissected look at the cornerback core to see if there is indeed a player on the roster that can step up if something out of the ordinary should occur. The reason the odds of a holdout are zero is a reason that not everyone knows about.
Many Jets fans do not know that Revis’s contract has a fail-safe clause that states if he misses any mandatory workouts it will add three years onto his deal worth nine million dollars. By all means if Revis wants to be paid three million a year I am sure Jets fans would not mind. The fans seem to realize this time around that the Jets do not have the money to offer a blockbuster deal and the common sense thing to do is wait until next year to engage in contract talks. Obviously Jets fans hope that the situation can be resolved without a holdout of any kind in the future, but Darrelle Revis’s agent Neil Schwartz and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum clearly do not get along.
Jets fans can think back to the days of Pete Kendall and Chris Baker who were represented by Schwartz as a realization to the hostility between the men. Kendall and Baker left the team and stated that were lied to by the front office which caused a bit of a stir. There is no denying that Revis should be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL but with Schwartz as his agent striking a deal will be no easy task. An agent’s mindset is money, so when their clients get a raise they get a raise. The last thing the Jets need is a return to Roscoe Diner in the future. This team seems to be moving in the right direction with young players and improved coaching. They cannot use anymore distractions that seemed to plague them in the past.
The fourth cornerback position for the Jets is a complete mystery with no clear cut guy assigned to that role. The players in the running are Ellis Lankster, Julian Posey, Ryan Steed, Isaiah Trufant, D’Anton Lynn, Donnie Fletcher , and of course Tim Tebow. All joking aside it is unclear how many positions Tim will be playing but sorry Tebow fans cornerback is sadly unlikely. Last year the position was Donald Strickland’s but with his departure it is up for grabs. This will be a training camp competition with no favorites; best man wins which makes for exciting football.
The next man on the depth chart after Kyle Wilson is Isaiah Trufant, but that does not mean he will be the one that wins the job. Trufant has been with the Jets on two separate occasions and is best known for his touchdown return against the Cowboys in week one last year after Joe McKnight blocked a punt. Besides that play Trufant’s ability is basically unknown totaling 10 tackles in his NFL career with no other noticeable stats. Trufant is pushing 30 and took the long road to end up where he is currently. Starting in the Arena League then moving to the UFL, Trufant had to prove he had what it took to make it to the NFL. The only downside to his long journey is as age increases playing ability tends to decrease. The Jets organization and fans are hoping this is not the case with Trufant, at least not this year.
A player that has been regarded highly and was actually called the fourth cornerback by special teams coach Mike Westhoff is Ellis Lankster. Westhoff said “As far as the fourth corner spot, I would have to say at this point, there is a young kid by the name of Ellis Lankster who played primarily special teams for us a year ago. He’s done a real nice job for us and he’s taking on a bigger role.” These are great words coming from such an amazing coach but much like Trufant, Lankster is unproven. He has bounced around every year of his career starting with the Bills in 2009, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2010, and currently the Jets since last season. He has a total of 6 tackles with the Jets. A point that needs to be made is with the top three corners on the roster it is hard for any other corners to get playing time. This is not a bad thing, but still there has to be a lot of work put in to win this competition. The fact that coach Westhoff supports him gives him a huge boost in the competition along with his confidence.
Another player with past team experience is Julian Posey. Posey was a practice squad player last year and is being given a shot to stick to the active roster this time around. Posey is undersized at 5’11” but has blazing speed running a 4.46 forty yard dash. His numbers were not outstanding in college accumulating only 4 interceptions and 143 tackles but with his speed an interception can turn into a foot race. At age 23 Posey has many years ahead of him to learn and grow. In a situation such as the one the Jets have Posey will need to learn quickly to have a legitimate shot at the 4th spot on the depth chart.
An intriguing player that is a candidate for the role of 4th cornerback is Ryan Steed. Getting Steed as an undrafted free agent was an absolute steal. CBS’s Rob Rang went on record saying that Steed could have been a first round pick if his times were fast at the combine. Thankfully for the Jets his times weren’t stellar and they got him where they did. A team captain at Furman, Steed has tremendous upside and a great motor on the field. His ability was evident when he received an invite to play in the 2012 Senior Bowl. He was the first invite from Furman in 18 years which makes it even more of an accomplishment. His numbers decreased in his last year and he had injury problems which led to him slipping out of the draft.
Two other undrafted cornerbacks signed by the Jets are Donnie Fletcher from Boston College and D’Anton Lynn from Penn State. Both men have a long road to get on the field it is just a question of if they have the skills to do it. Both men are on the smaller side at 6’1” so they would have to play bigger than they actually are. Fletcher led Boston College last year with 5 interceptions while Lynn only managed 1. Lynn is the son of Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn so there may be a little unfair advantage there. Lynn is not the fastest guy or the best tackler so hopefully his Dad can help him out to redefine his skillset.
As you can tell the 4th cornerback position truly is a mystery. There are no household names on the list but rather a group of men who are willing to leave it all out on the field to make this team. There is no way every one of these players can make the team and odds are there will a surprise or two among the group. No one on the list is guaranteed a roster spot which will make them play at a whole new level. Early indications point to Lankster landing the job but it is way too soon to tell. While everyone is debating Sanchez vs. Tebow or the right tackle position I will be watching these men give it their all.