The New York Jets’ biggest question mark is the cornerback position.
We’ve harped on it all summer long, debating whether or not this inexperienced group can develop and make the plays that are required of them. Many fans responded with a resounding ‘no.’
Others preached patience and coaching. The man leading that charge has been head coach Robert Saleh.
It’s been no secret that the regime would prefer to develop the youth. Back in June, Coach Saleh told reporters that you “can’t be afraid to play young guys,” a lesson he said he learned from Pete Carroll — who’s won a game or two.
He’s also explained that the only difference between your average NFL player A and player Z is “opportunity and reps.” Saleh and Joe Douglas have stood by these principles and no matter what ends up happening in 2021, you have to credit their conviction despite plenty of pressure from media and fans to sign a veteran corner.
Now here we are in September, and the message has not changed. On September 2, Saleh addressed the inexperience, explaining that it’s the coaching staff’s job to get them prepared.
“The challenge when you’re with a rookie from a coaching staff standpoint is ‘can you keep them ahead of the game,’ so can we get them exposed to the things that are going to happen to them before they actually happen,” The Jets HC stated.
He added: “The thing that, as coaches, we take pride in is to avoid unscouted looks… where it happens on game day and boom, it’s the first time they see it, so we try to stay ahead of the curve and make sure we get as many scouted looks as possible.”
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Does Saleh Have One More Trick up His Sleeve?
During his September 1 press conference the day before, Saleh had hinted at an intriguing possibility within the Jets’ secondary. Bless Austin had just been released, and the coach was commenting on his possible replacement when he said this.
“Yeah, you can talk about all four of them [as options] in terms of Brandin Echols, you’ve got [Jason] Pinnock obviously, [Isaiah] Dunn and [Javelin] Guidry.”
Saleh snuck that last name in there, but the player should not be overlooked. Guidry has been the Green & White’s best coverage defensive back this summer according to Pro Football Focus with an 89.7 coverage grade. This continues the former undrafted free agent’s 2020 trajectory, which earned 76.5 coverage marks from PFF.
Plain and simple, Guidry has been better than rookies like Echols, Pinnock and Dunn. Not only that, he’s been better than starter Bryce Hall. The question is, do his skills translate over to the outside corner role or not?
The theory here is that rookie Michael Carter II could easily start in the slot with Guidry making the change. The Duke product has been the third-best coverage defensive back during the preseason behind Guidry and safety Sharrod Neasman with 76.6 grades.
Saleh discussed the nickel competition after the Philadelphia Eagles game on August 27. “We’re really excited about the slot-corner… when you look at Michael and Guidry we think they’re two NFL starters with potential to be even more with their youth, they’ve got a chance to grow into that position.”
The Jets HC continued: “I think Guidry has such great speed and foot quickness, and he’s a lot stronger than you think. Then you’ve got Michael who’s just such a great communicator and very smart, so we’re really excited about those two, those are definite starters in this league.”
I’ll repeat, “definite starters in this league.”
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Guidry Might Be Top Option at Outside Corner
Everyone loves to talk about 2020 UDFA Bryce Huff, who’s made major strides, but nobody seems to ever mention Guidry who’s come just as far in a short period.
The Utah product started two games his rookie season, appearing in 11. For the most part, he adequately replaced veteran nickel Brian Poole after a season-ending injury. Guidry also had a propensity for causing turnovers, with four forced fumbles in 2020.
When you consider that Dunn was burnt more often than not throughout the preseason, Pinnock missed snaps with injury and inconsistency, and Echols was called for multiple defensive pass interference penalties, Guidry may be the most reliable candidate.
He has that extra year of experience and we’ve seen smaller CBs around the league succeed despite their size. A few names that come to mind are Chris Harris Jr., Bryce Callahan and Desmond King, all of which have played outside at times throughout their impressive careers.
At the very least, Guidry learning both positions provides the Jets with even more versatility, should adversity arise — and we all know how much Coach Saleh likes to account for adversity.