Plot Thickens at CB2 as Jets’ Minicamp Is Underway

Jason Pinnock

Getty New York Jets cornerback Jason Pinnock recovers a fumble with the Pittsburgh Panthers on September 16, 2017.

New York Jets minicamp began yesterday, June 15, 2021, and all eyes were on Robert Saleh’s depth chart.

The ones took the field for the first set of 11-on-11s as pandemonium hit Jets Twitter.

A flurry of questions and predictions flew in from all over and I won’t lie, even I got involved in the mid-June roster speculation.

That last bullet piqued my interest most though, as I consider the CB2 battle behind Hall to be paramount for the Jets in 2021.

Early Favorites for the CB2 Role

Pinnock got the minicamp-start on the outside with the whole fanbase watching and Bless Austin sidelined.

Does that mean that the fifth-round pick out of Pittsburgh is the new Jets CB2? Of course not, it’s June, but it’s still very notable news.

I love Pinnock as a scheme fit for this Saleh defense. The press coverage specialist is freakishly athletic, scoring a 9.78 out of 10 on his Relative Athletic Score during his pro day. The only corners in Jets history to score higher were Kevin Williams in 1998 (9.88) and Darrelle Revis in 2007 (10.0).

This rookie metric is calculated by averaging different athleticism scores and comparing those results with every other player from their positional group from 1987 up until the year the new prospect was drafted.

Side note. Some other current Jets that are high on that list include Jabari Zuniga (9.74), Mims (9.77), Alijah Vera-Tucker (9.80), Quinnen Williams (9.84), Mekhi Becton (9.85) and Jonathan Marshall (9.99).

Back to Pinnock, the rookie has the length and physicality to excel with the Jets. He’s not the type of shutdown man-coverage DB that will stick with a player for five-plus seconds, but he will win the battle at the line of scrimmage and give his pass-rushers time to work.

At Pittsburgh, he had the lowest completion rate allowed in 2020 amongst college cornerbacks at just 30% allowed.

While Austin is obviously in the running, his 51.1 Pro Football Focus grade in 2021 speaks for itself. A former Mike Maccagnan draft pick in 2019, Austin could be fighting for a roster spot if some of these rookies shine in camp.

The other major darkhorse here could be undrafted rookie Isaiah Dunn. The Oregon State product is yet another Douglas draft pick known for his toughness and physicality in coverage, and he’s caught the eye of a few Jets beat reporters this spring.

This has become a growing theme that we’ve seen with Saleh’s defensive backs. Dunn has better burner speed than Pinnock, as a former track star, but worse athleticism and quickness.

Pinnock also has better ball skills, with six interceptions at Pitt and one in minicamp off Zach Wilson on a Vyncint Smith deflected drop. Dunn recorded zero interceptions at Oregon State.

Both of the rookies are plus-tacklers against the run and played more zone than man in college. Here are some of the top day one highlights.

Interesting Swap at Nickel

At nickelback, we saw a bit of a surprise, Echols started over Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry.

I wouldn’t make too much of the change in the slot. Robby Sabo of Jets X-Factor wrote: “Michael Carter II also received his fair share of first-team reps, but Tuesday was Echols’s day.”

That’s not to say Echols won’t have a place in this defense. The rookie sixth-rounder had a huge day on Tuesday (June 15) and his versatility as a player that can line up all over the defense makes him an asset for defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

At Kentucky, Echols spent most of his time on the outside with 77% of his snaps coming as a true cornerback, according to Michael Nania of Jets X-Factor. He also played 15.8% in the slot, 4.3% at inside linebacker, a combined 2.1% at either safety position, and 0.8% at outside linebacker.

College is a little different than the pros, so don’t necessarily expect Echols to sub-in next to C.J. Mosley, but understand that the rookie has an adaptable game and that’s something coaches like Saleh love.

Echols feels like the perfect dime-package defensive back to have on the roster for depth, but his performance at minicamp proved that he can be so much more if he can continue to develop.

The rookie was known for his aggressive coverage and ball-skills at Kentucky, as well as his athleticism and length registering a 4.35 40-yard dash and a 42.5-inch vertical. He was used much more within a zone scheme in college and is a tenacious tackler against the run.

Based on OTAs and minicamp, it feels like Guidry is losing a bit of ground to rookies Carter II and Echols at nickel.

‘What Happened to Adding a Veteran?’

The veteran option is still always on the table for Joe Douglas, but as he explained in an interview with Chris Long on the Green Light podcast, it comes down to a balance between their leadership qualities and their ability to contribute on the field.

From hearing Saleh speak on the matter, it sounds like the Jets want to see what they have at cornerback before making any outside additions.

Having said that, if the consensus is that players like Pinnock, Austin, Dunn and Echols aren’t ready for the spotlight after training camp, don’t doubt that the Jets might bring in some experience late in the process.

Based on hearing Douglas’ conversation with Long, the only two vets I see the Jets signing before Week 1 are either Richard Sherman or Brian Poole.

To me, guys like Steven Nelson and Josh Norman don’t fit the “team-first culture” that Douglas and Saleh are trying to instill in New York.

Who do YOU expect to start alongside Bryce Hall at cornerback? Let us know on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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