Throughout this offseason process, he has continued to beat “the play the young cornerback” drum, despite public pressure from the outside to add a proven veteran.
While there’s still a chance Gang Green could add an experienced starter for the backend of the defense ahead of training camp, that appears less and less likely with every passing day.
That puts all the pressure on the young corners on the roster to either put up or shut up. It was and is an incredibly bold move by Saleh, but it could pay off in a big way down the road.
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Hashtag Blessed Could Be Trending in 2021
One of the corners that are expected to snag one of those starting positions this September is Bless Austin.
Coming out of Rutgers, he was the ultimate definition of a dart throw in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft.
While Austin had all the talent in the world, his inability to stay healthy in the college ranks was the major reason his draft stock plummetted.
In four years he only played in 25 career games. The 24-year old suffered a torn ACL in his junior season. He followed that up the following year with the same injury to the same leg.
Considering his draft status and expectations coming in, Austin has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets at a critical position of need.
When you look back at his rookie season, despite not making his debut until Week 10, he made the most of his opportunities.
From Week 10 through Week 13, Austin had a 87.5 grade from PFF and only allowed seven catches on 16 targets. He ended up finishing the year as the No. 18 overall rookie in Pro Football Focus’s rankings.
In his first two professional seasons, he has played in 18 games. During that span, Austin recorded eight pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and 88 combined tackles.
One Way or Another We’ll See What He’s Made Of
The Jets boast arguably the worst cornerback room in the entire NFL. It’s a positional group that lacks star power and experience.
Coach Saleh said it earlier this offseason, they’re teaching this crop of corners a brand new language in 2021. Last year former Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams asked his group of players to do something completely different than what they’re being asked to do now.
Regardless of what the outside perspective is these corners are going to get plenty of opportunities to prove the doubters wrong.
While the green and white don’t face the most daunting array of quarterbacks on the 2021 schedule, there are plenty that could easily light up the Jets this year.
This trial by fire mindset will separate the boys from the men.
Saleh will be throwing his young corners to the wolves and inevitably some of them will be eaten alive.
Although there will be some that get toasted but ultimately are better for it in the long haul. Saleh is using the 2021 season as an evaluation period.
The Jets, despite all their resources this offseason, couldn’t build Rome in a handful of months. They tried to build up everything they could, but the cornerback position was pretty much left untouched.
What transpires this season will sort out which players are keepers and which ones are going to be gone. Austin has a chance to prove he belongs and can earn a starting spot, not only in 2021, but for many years to come.
With minimal competition behind him, Bless will have ample opportunity to gain invaluable experience and hopefully show enough glimpses to lock down his spot on this roster moving forward.