The New York Jets are about to enter the play-out-the-string phase of their season, following their loss two weeks ago to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Had the Jets (4-6) won that game – and it was quite winnable, considering the Bucs were without starting quarterback Jameis Winston and starting wideout Mike Evans, and faced old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick – Gang Green could’ve still been in the mix for one of the two Wild Card playoff spots. Alas, the Jets couldn’t capitalize and are now faced with the fact that the remaining six weeks are all about evaluating talent and finding out who has a future in green and white.
One unit that will have a lot of eyes on them over the next few weeks will be the secondary – particularly the cornerbacks. It’s been one of the few inconsistent outfits on a solid defense, so with the remaining games featuring some elite quarterbacks on the docket, many of them will be on audition.
Sunday’s tilt with the Carolina Panthers will feature Cam Newton. And after that, Gang Green will face the likes of Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs), Tom Brady (New England Patriots), Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers), and Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints). That’s a murderer’s row of signal callers.
Jets’ cornerbacks have struggled for most of the season, with and without top corner Morris Claiborne, so Sunday will be a great chance for those on the active roster to show head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan that they belong and that they have what it takes to play the position at a high level. Claiborne will be back in the lineup against Carolina.
Cornerback Darryl Roberts said he’s looking forward to testing his mettle against some of the best passers in the league, starting with Newton.
“If you have a person who plays our position, you got to have thick skin, amnesia, forget about the failures. Just compete. That’s what I do,” reasoned Roberts, who added that’s not always as easy as it sounds. “I think it’s just different for certain players. Certain players handle failure and success different ways. … I know playing my position, it’s pretty tough. I know I probably won’t win every battle, but I just try to win more than I lose and win my matchup. If somebody catches a pass on me, I like to compete. I’m going to really get focused to get the next play.”
Newton will definitely test the young secondary’s wares, especially considering Gang Green had a difficult time rattling the very ordinary Fitzpatrick in Tampa. The cornerback position is a fickle one, as there are times when a guy can look like a world-beater against the elite one week, and look meek against a journeyman the next.
Jets’ cornerbacks get their chance against an upper echelon on Sunday. And according to veteran cornerback Buster Skrine, a major reason for any success will come down to the mental aspect of dealing with pressure and adversity.
“Cornerback is a confidence position. You got to be able to, if you mess up, move on to the next play, because they’re going to throw the ball out there regardless,” said Skrine. “I would say we always talk about mentally.”
Skrine has nine penalties this season and has seen his share of opposing wideout’s backs. But that won’t deter him from trying to shut down Newton’s weapons and get some redemption for that Tampa game.
He and his cornerback mates can all use some deliverance, starting this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Gang Green notes:
- In order for the Jets’ secondary to slow down Newton and Co., they’ll need to curtail the penalties. Gang Green is fourth in the league with 81 penalties. Skrine has nine, while Claiborne has been flagged six times, which is the third-most at his position. Newbie Rashard Robinson, who came over via trade with the San Francisco 49ers for a fifth-round pick, a couple weeks ago, has eight penalties. He’s yet to play on defense for the Jets, but if/when he gets in, he’ll need to fix that issue.
- Bowles has been proactive this week in practices by using different techniques to keep his handsy cornerbacks off receivers. Bowles had them hold tennis balls while defending, with the thinking being if the corners have their hands full, then they can’t grab and hold receivers coming out of their breaks. Whether that works or not will be on display, Sunday.