FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Dexter McDougle is back and on the field with the New York Jets, nine months too late for a team that a season ago was desperate for cornerbacks but now boasts the best secondary depth in the league.
A third round selection of the Jets in 2014, McDougle missed the entirety of last season with a knee injury suffered midway through training camp. The injury was a blow not just to McDougle but also to the Jets as a whole as the then-rookie had looked impressive in camp up to that point and seemed destined for a prominent role on the two-deep, if not a starting spot.
On Wednesday, McDougle returned to the field and looked sharp in drills and team sessions, showing very little wear or tear or signs of rust from his long layoff.
“Just out there, blessed to be back, getting reps again," McDougle said. "So just taking it day by day. Doctors said a couple days ago to let me get in the mix. Just going out there now – just happy to be out there.
“I don't know if I was worried or not, I was just taking it day by day like I usually do. I knew the work I was doing so far up to this point has been pretty good. They've been really happy with the progress. They said I'm a bit ahead of schedule. We didn't know up until a couple days ago. I wasn't really worried but definitely in the back of mind, I was like 'Man, I hope they do let me go out there.' And I am now. As I said, I'm just happy.”
On Wednesday, McDougle stayed step-for-step with wide receiver Saalim Hakim, arguably the fastest player on offense and a former track star. That McDougle could hang with such an explosive player is a sign that he is close to full strength.
“I've been working hard, I've been working hard. I was in the training room, just finished up and they just said they saw me running with Saalim,” McDougle said. “I made a joke, 'Yea, he's kinda slow.' But I was just joking, he's a real fast guy. I trust my speed right now with all the work that I've been doing.”
→ There were several noticeable absences from Wednesday's OTA session including wide receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive end Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
→ Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley did not participate in any drills on Wednesday due to a slight Achilles injury. He did not signal any concern over the injury, and he told Metro that it was more precautionary in nature.
→ Defensive end Stephen Bowen was another player who did not participate in team or individual drills as he continues to recover from a microfracture in the knee. He said that he played with the injury all of last year. He thinks he might be able to participate in next week's slate of OTA sessions.