Many fans argued this talking point before the season and it still holds weight today: should the New York Jets target a shutdown cornerback?
Unless you have the utmost faith that Brandin Echols, Javelin Guidry, Isaiah Dunn or Jason Pinnock will figure it out after another offseason in the system, the clear answer is yes.
Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II look like NFL starters but the other four above have all been too inconsistent to rely on in 2022. The Jets must sign or draft a No. 1 CB — and one publication believes the answer could be a recent franchise-killer.
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Jets Need a Ball-Hawk to Pair With Hall
Hall profiles as a lockdown corner but he doesn’t seem to have the natural playmaking ability of a ball-hawk defensive back. In fact, nobody in the Jets secondary has those traits right now and the lack of turnovers has been an issue in 2021.
With that in mind, Pro Football Network listed Gang Green as the top landing spot for New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson.
Contributor Ben Rolfe wrote the following on the free-agent match:
The Jets have been relying on young players in their secondary this past season. They desperately need to add a more experienced player who can make plays for them, but also one who can lead the secondary. Jackson has been superb throughout his career, both in terms of turnovers and completions allowed. He would fit in nicely as the lead corner for the Jets with the young players around him. The Jets will also have close to $50 million in cap space, so they should be able to pay up to acquire Jackson.
The former undrafted prospect has developed into a star under Bill Belichick, with 24 interceptions in four seasons. Rolfe expects those numbers to earn him “$17.5-20 million” in free agency.
There is a major question to determine when looking at Jackson, however. Is he talented enough to perform anywhere, or is he more a product of Belichick’s system like Malcolm Butler or Patrick Chung — players who failed with other franchises after receiving a large payday?
According to Doug Kyed of NESN, “The reasons JC Jackson went undrafted weren’t football-related. He was arrested and ultimately found not guilty of armed robbery in 2015. … Without those legal issues, Jackson certainly would have been drafted. If his career had gone undeterred at Florida, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he would have been drafted as high as his former Gators teammate Duke Dawson, who was a 2018 second-round pick with the Patriots.”
So, Jackson’s UDFA status was not based on skill. Teams shied away from drafting him based on questions of character.
As we know, Joe Douglas prefers not to take these sorts of risks but at the same time, people change. Jackson has kept himself on the straight and narrow with the Patriots and if the Jets determine he can do the same in New York, why not?
After all, someone will always pay a young breakout corner the number they’re looking for.
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Heavy Analysts Agree
During a special edition live stream of Heavy on NFL’s very own podcast, “I’m Just Sayin…,” the team of writers provided some instant analysis on the Monday night outing between the Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
They also discussed a few hypotheticals later in the segment, one of which was centered around the Jets. At approximately 34 minutes in (if you’d like to listen above), host Brian Mazique posed the question: “What is the missing ingredient with the New York Jets?”
Two of the NFL analysts had a similar answer: a starting cornerback that can play opposite Hall. Lorenzo Reyna of Heavy on Rams and 49ers went first, stating that the franchise should draft Derek Stingley Jr. with one of their two first-round picks.
“I think what they really need is a shutdown corner,” voiced Reyna, “and they can find one in the draft. The person I’m thinking of — Derek Stingley Jr. out of LSU. I think he could definitely be a huge huge need, especially in a division that has Stefon Diggs, that has Jaylen Waddle, that has [Jakobi] Meyers as well from New England. To me, [Robert] Saleh needs that shutdown corner and Stingley does have NFL bloodlines with his grandfather being a former Patriot.”
Heavy on Cardinals analyst Ryan Sanudo was in lockstep, stating: “Yeah I have to agree with Lorenzo, I think corner is an absolute need. You can’t have [Javelin] Guidry out there getting beat by these receivers. I like Derek Stingley out of LSU but I’m going to go the free-agent route, I think J.C. Jackson should be a guy that they should look towards getting in the offseason. This is a guy that’s very young, this is someone that maybe the Patriots don’t give the money towards. They’ve been known for just saying you know what, you can go to the Jets, you can go to the Cardinals with Chandler Jones… so I’m going to go with J.C. Jackson as someone that they can look towards in the offseason, and they got plenty of money, you can say that with the Jets every single year.”
Sanudo suggested you pair a Jackson signing with a draft pick like playmaker safety Kyle Hamilton out of Notre Dame, or cornerback Ahmad Gardner out of Cincinnati.
A tandem addition of that nature — combined with rising stars like Hall and Carter — could transform the Jets into a top young NFL secondary in no time.
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