The New York Jets took several dart throws on day three of the 2021 NFL draft.
After ignoring several key positions like linebacker and cornerback with their primary resources, Gang Green finally invested something tangible last April.
Not much was made initially of their band of misfit toys, but the coaching staff maintained a quiet confidence. That bravado led to Gang Green fully embracing a youth movement last season.
In a sink or swim league, one rookie rose to the challenge and his arrow is pointing in the right direction heading into 2022.
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The Path Is There for the Taking
Rich Cimini of ESPN was recently recapping the 2021 campaign for all of the Jets rookies.
During that assessment, he highlighted defensive back Michael Carter II for winning the nickel job during the offseason and never letting it go.
MC2 entered the league as the No. 154 overall pick in the fifth round out of Duke. Despite his humble draft beginnings, the 22-year-old (who will be 23 by the start of the 2022 season) had a golden opportunity at immediate playing time with the Jets.
Carter II cashed that in by playing in 15 games this past season and starting in seven of those contests. He racked up over 72 combined tackles, five pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and one sack.
Now after an encouraging rookie season, Cimini says the talented youngster has the “inside track” to be the starting nickel defender heading into 2022.
An Incredibly Important Piece to the Puzzle
When assessing roster needs and the importance of positions, the slot corner spot is often overlooked.
In the NFL today the game is driven through the passing game. With that, the nickel defenders are routinely a part of the base defense which means guys like MC2 are going to be on the field early and often.
For as many things as Carter II did well in his rookie campaign, his glaring weakness and really that of the entire secondary was the inability to make plays on the football.
The Jets’ defense finished the 2021 season with only seven interceptions, which ranked 31st in the NFL only behind the Las Vegas Raiders.
Out of those seven picks, only two of them came from the cornerback group.
Cimini noted in his column that, “the organization’s hope is that his ball skills and instincts improve with time and reps.”
The best way to help out your young offense is by creating short fields to work with off of turnovers. That didn’t happen in 2021 and if Gang Green is going to change the narrative that is going to have to happen in 2022.
There are two ways to look at the numbers.
Either the Jets secondary has poor ball skills and they will continue to struggle next season. Or they just got incredibly unlucky with the bouncing of an oblong-shaped football and the numbers will even back out.
The green and white brass believes it is the latter and things are due to change. Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding.