Hungry Jets Cornerback Core Enjoys ‘Going Under the Radar’

Bless Austin

Getty New York Jets cornerback Blessuan Austin runs drills during a morning practice on July 28, 2021.

There has been a ton of talk about the New York Jets cornerback room this offseason, but projected starter Bryce Hall backed his group during a press conference on July 29, 2021.

“I wouldn’t want to be with anybody else,” Hall told reporters regarding his teammates that make up the inexperienced CB room. “There’s a lot that we can improve on… [but] I’m excited to [see] where we can go. I think we got a great group of guys, like just character [wise], and a great group of people, and we got really good coaches and we buy-in and we believe.”

The coaching staff and scheme should prove to be a determining factor in whether or not these young defensive backs succeed in 2021. The Jets gave up the fifth-most passing yards and the third-highest completion percentage (69.1%) in 2020 under the previous administration.

Head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are expected to run some variation of a Cover-3 in the secondary. Generally, this defense relies heavily on zone coverage, which may either involve more press or deep looks.

The key is the defensive line, as this scheme puts a large emphasis on the four-man rush getting to the quarterback in a hurry. The linebackers and safeties drop back in coverage more than they blitz, so the cornerbacks have a ton of help as long as the pass-rush gets home.

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Belief Is ‘Mutual’

Coach Saleh has believed in this youthful group of corners since day one of OTAs.

Hall explained how much he and his teammates appreciated that, saying: “Yeah I think anytime your coach believes in you, I think that’s something to be said and I think you just really want to buy into everything that he’s doing, everything that he’s saying, because it’s mutual, you know? He believes in us and we believe in him.”

The Jets HC has made it a point to stress the development of players over the course of the spring and summer. Rather than replace someone with a veteran free agent, Saleh would always prefer to teach the youngsters that are already on the roster.

“We got young guys that we can kind of mold,” cornerbacks coach Tony Oden told the media. “[They] don’t have a lot of battle wounds and a lot of scars, or a lot of things you [have] to unteach. It’s kind of like you’re starting with a mold of clay that hasn’t been fully shaped just yet, so we can put our hands on them and shape them the way we want them.”

Regarding the scheme that is designed to confuse opposing quarterbacks, Hall said the “key is just making everything look the same.”

He continued: “From an offensive standpoint, what they want to do is they want to try and find that one person that gives away the tell.” As you can see, this system relies on cohesion and chemistry, not shut-down corners. It’s “simple” yet “detailed,” as both Ulbrich and Hall have noted in the past.

“We might not have any big star players,” voiced Hall, “but we just come to work and we’re hungry… it’s not that we’re trying to take things personally, I think we kind of like going under the radar, but when we perform and we do our [job] I think it goes a long way.”

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Cornerback Roll Call

Hall told the media that he feels he’s grown as a player mentally after his rookie campaign. Third-year professional Blessuan Austin and sophomore Lamar Jackson might understand how that feels, but the rest of this outside group is mostly filled with rookies outside of special teams specialists Justin Hardee and Corey Ballentine.

Nickelback Javelin Guidry is the only other player in this room with NFL experience.

Enter the 2021 rookie class, which includes four talented cornerbacks that are determined to show the world they belong.

  • Former Pittsburgh Panther, Jason Pinnock, the long athletic scheme fit.
  • Duke ball-hawk and natural slot DB, Michael Carter II.
  • The feisty former junior college longshot who worked his way to the pros, Brandin Echols.
  • Priority undrafted free agent and fast fan favorite, Isaiah Dunn.

Team reporter Ethan Greenberg asked Lamarcus Joyner if any of the corners have caught his eye yet. The veteran safety responded: “To be honest I just think that overall everyone is working, everyone is doing well. If that’s the case, I feel like everyone on my team has caught my eye because everyone is going along with what the coaches are preaching and we’re trying to become a better team.”

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Early Returns From the Rookies

In the interview with Ethan Greenberg above, Pinnock told the team reporter that he feels like this is his perfect fit. “I’m going to excel here, I’m going to do a lot of great things under Ulbrich and Coach Saleh,” the rookie stated.

He noted that his favorite part about the defense are “the dynamics of each coverage,” explaining that it may not be a lot but it’s “in-depth.”

Pinnock told Greenberg that he’s been leaning on “Bless [Austin],” but added that all the rookies “lean on each other.” The Pittsburgh product had his first interception of training camp after tallying one prior INT in minicamp.

He wasn’t the only one though. Former Kentucky Wildcat Echols had a pick-six the other day off quarterback James Morgan.

Dunn has also impressed beat reporters like DJ Bien-Aime early on. The UDFA should have an outside shot at the starting job opposite Hall, but for now, the Oregon State product will just focus on making the Week 1 roster.

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