New York Jets Defensive Backfield Even More Suspect After Injuries at Cornerback


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets were thin in the defensive backfield to begin with.

In fact it was their biggest hole heading into 2014 training camp. Antonio Cromartie was sent packing while no proven asset was brought in. That hole has now stretched after losing two of their top three cornerbacks this past weekend in Cortland and the Jets are in even more dire straits now than a season ago.

The growing cause for concern for the Jets and their secondary is legitimate at this point. While nobody should hit the panic button without having played a game, this could be the most damaging chain of events imaginable for gang green heading into the new season.

The cautious optimism about this defense’s suspect back end has quickly morphed into something more like alarming anxiety with Week 1 less than a month away.

Second-year player and No. 1 cornerback Dee Milliner went down with an ankle sprain that may sideline him through the start of the season; we’re unsure because it’s too swollen to get an MRI done currently. I’m no doctor but I’m fairly confident the phrase “too swollen” when referring to an injured body part isn’t positive.

Rookie Dex McDougle has shined throughout camp and was perhaps destined to make the first team when he tore his ACL, ending his season. The Jets are now down to the oft-injured Dimitri Patterson (who missed four days of practice in a row) and safety (yes, safety) Antonio Allen at cornerback. With Patterson out, it’s been Ellis Lankster also getting snaps with the first team. He’s a vet and can play a little bit but this high pressure spot isn’t the ideal position to put these guys in at all.

Even the most optimistic Jet fan can’t be as comfortable and nonchalant as Rex Ryan and John Idzik seemed when talking about the situation. Rex thinks the defense isn’t going to miss a beat and Idzik talks about the depth of the cornerback pool as if there’s a pro bowler waiting in the wings.

Really? If New York’s cornerback pool was so deep, why is the first move after the top three guys go on the shelf to have a safety play the position with the first team?

There’s an obvious lack of faith in the backup CBs as there should be and that’s GM Idzik’s fault—but that’s a different conversation. No offense to the Lanksters, Johnny Patricks, Darrin Walls’ and Kyle Wilsons of the world, but they aren’t starting level players and there’s no reason to believe they can handle NFL number one and two receivers consistently.

Who knows, the Jets’ best bet may truly be to see what the athletic safety Antonio Allen can do as an NFL corner and maybe I’m wrong and this won’t turn out as bad as it currently looks. But brass can’t play us for fools—there is absolutely something to be worried about.

The Jets face a slew of upper echelon quarterbacks and receivers during the first half of 2014 and make no mistake, those offenses are going to try to throw on gang green all day long. Opponents can’t run on the Jets anyway—this plays right into their hands.

The desperate situation also puts even more onus on a defensive front that needs to get a ton of quarterback pressure and bail out their corners before teams start putting up serious numbers. Rex, the members of that front seven and Jet fans all fancy this unit as one of the most dominant and suffocating in the NFL—now they have no choice but to be exactly that.

New York’s weakest link just got weaker. Barring an unlikely personnel move, it’s going to take a Herculean effort from the depth corners and rest of the defense to overcome it. I hope Rex is right. I hope his defense is genius enough to work with literally anyone playing cornerback and we’re worrying for nothing. But the way it looks now, there’s a gaping hole in the Jets defense that needs to be shored up in a hurry before things start going downhill very, very fast.