The second day of the Joe McKnight experiment seems to be paying off.
McKnight, who is making the transition to cornerback with the loss of Darrelle Revis, showed improvement Thursday.
“We’re trying to teach Joe our defense, the coverages and things like that,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “One thing I know — from a physicality standpoint, from talent and a physical standpoint, he can match up. Yesterday, he actually picked off all three quarterbacks. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.”
McKnight acknowledges that it is between the ears and not between the sidelines that will be the biggest adjustment. But learning to play the position within the defense’s scheme will be the biggest challenge.
He’s making plays — McKnight intercepted quarterback Mark Sanchez again on Thursday in practice — but it isn’t from his grasp of the defense or his assignments.
“I’m still relying on my athleticism right now. I don’t have my technique down. I have to rely on the athleticism as I get the technique down,” McKnight told Metro. “But I feel ready. I have to stick with my man. Do I know the defense? I don’t know the defense. But I’m game ready and I feel I can step in.”
He doesn’t seem ready to call him a cornerback quite yet, but Ryan raves about the potential behind moving McKnight to defense. The focus for McKnight this week is exclusively on getting a grasp of what he needs to do mentally when he’s on the field, if he’s on the field against the 49ers this Sunday.
“I think he needs that. I think offensively he has a good enough grasp of our system. But on defense, he probably can’t tell you anything,” Ryan said. “That’s why we’re putting him in there and kind of bringing him along that way. Work him on defense and obviously he’ll still have a role on offense.”
As far as the defensive work, McKnight is willing to rely on his physical abilities on Sunday if called upon.
“I should be good,” McKnight said. “If you’re an athlete you step in and play.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.