The Jets may have found a solution to their cornerback problem and it took a college linebacker to fill it.
Antonio Allen had a very solid day in first game as a cornerback as he played a major role in the Jets' 19-14 season-opening win over the Raiders.
The third-year pro, who played linebacker at South Carolina before he moved to safety in the NFL, was asked by the Jets during preseason to move to cornerback. Injuries to Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle tested their depth at the position and the Jets needed his athletic ability at a position with paper-thin depth. Allen rose to the occasion several times on Sunday.
He was more than comfortable in his press coverage — which the 3-4 defense asks him to play a lot — and he matched up well throughout the game on Denarius Moore.
“I thought I did pretty good. I mean we did pretty good overall as a defense, but me I thought I did pretty good,” Allen said. “[I] came up and made a couple big third-down stops. The only problem I'm having right now is the deep ball, the one deep ball they caught on me. But everything else I feel good, feel comfortable.
“I was a little nervous. First game too, different position. I think a lot of guys probably had a little nerves coming in but just held up my poise and went out there and played.”
Perhaps Allen's biggest play of the day won't appear with his name on the boxscore.
With 8:20 left in the third quarter and the Raiders on third down at their own 16-yard line, Allen stayed stride for stride with Moore, who was the hot read on the play. Allen kept himself glued on the Raiders target who had 46 receptions and five touchdowns for a bad offense last year.
This allowed Dawan Landry to sack Derek Carr on a safety blitz for an 11-yard loss. But while Landry got the cheers for the play, it was Allen's coverage on a dig route that froze the quarterback and made the sack possible.
“Anytime you have great coverage, that lets the blitz get there. That's what happened,” Landry told Metro. “I was just hoping I'd get home. Whenever there's a sack like that, it's usually because of good coverage. It wasn't an all-out blitz.”
The Jets set up Nick Folk's 42-yard field for a 13-7 lead on the ensuing drive.
Allen had another solid play early in the fourth quarter when he wrapped up James Jones in the open field on a quick out. He consistently made his tackles in addition to some surprisingly good coverage.
Allen had only played the position for one preseason game prior to Sunday afternoon.
“Of course we're going to come in every single game with the same attitude, trying to keep them under however many yards they had today. They almost broke 100 or something,” Allen said. “Keep that up, keep our eyes in the right place, feet and just play the ball.”
Allen finished the game tied for the team high with five tackles.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.