Robert Saleh Drops Hint for Jets’ Plan at Cornerback in 2021

Bryce Hall Jets

Getty New York Jets cornerback Bryce Hall smiling after a huge interception during the 2020 season.

When you take a look at the New York Jets cornerback room it lacks some luster.

Analysts across the NFL have strongly suggested that Gang Green should add some more experienced bodies to the rotation.

Despite the public pressure, head coach Robert Saleh apparently likes what he currently has on the depth chart:

“There’s a lot of work to be had. These corners are young, big, and they’ve got a great mental demeanor. They want to learn, they want to do good. We have a lot of time. The easy answer right now is to bring in a veteran. The problem with doing that is a veteran would just eat up reps and that wouldn’t give us an ability to look at all these young guys who are starving for an opportunity. So we have time and a lot of opportunities for these guys to show who they’re and what they’re capable of.”

NYJ Isn’t Ruling Out Adding a Veteran

While it appears Saleh is against adding a veteran at corner right now, he didn’t rule adding one potentially down the line:

“Right now the focus is completely on the guys we have,” Saleh said. “We’re excited about the group we have. We’ll cross that bridge with potential veteran cornerbacks when we get to that bridge. Right now the sole focus is on our guys.”

During the past few months, Gang Green has been linked to a variety of veterans:

  • Richard Sherman formerly of the San Francisco 49ers
  • Steven Nelson formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Potentially re-signing slot cornerback Brian Poole.

Training camp doesn’t start for the Jets until the end of July. This time right now during voluntary OTAs is more important for the youngsters on the roster. Those reps are invaluable. While it’s quite common for veterans to skip this portion of the offseason. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

A Gutsy Play by Saleh

Saleh is rolling with the unproven youngsters on his roster instead of snagging a proven commodity in the form of a veteran.

It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.

You have to respect Saleh for the confidence, but this is a decision we could look back on a few months from now as a major mistake.

Essentially what we’re boiling this down to is two possible philosophies from Saleh.

He either really believes that his front-four is going to be able to create enough pressure up front that it won’t matter who is playing corner. This is possible with all the talent the Jets have on the defensive line.

If that plan fails, the Jets could get picked apart all year long. Their depth chart is littered with inexperience and youth:

  • Bless Austin
  • Corey Ballentine
  • Michael Carter II
  • Brandin Echols
  • Javelin Guidry
  • Bryce Hall
  • Justin Hardee
  • Lamar Jackson
  • Zane Lewis
  • Jason Pinnock

The most “seasoned veteran” on this team is Hardee who is entering his fifth professional season, but he primarily plays on special teams, not in the defensive backfield.

While the other philosophy from Saleh that could be at play here is the long-term view. There may be some initial bumps in the road with this level of youth at corner, but all of these players will be that much better off gaining this invaluable experience.

Your projected starters right now are Bless Austin (entering his third season) and Bryce Hall (entering his second season) on the outside. While either Guidry (entering his second season) or MC2 (rookie) will be your slot option.

Last season the Jets allowed the fifth-most passing yards (4,409) in the NFL, the third-most touchdowns allowed (34), and opposing quarterbacks had a 105.6 QBR against the Gang Green defense (fourth highest in the NFL), per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Saleh better hope he’s making the right call. If he’s right the Jets could find some gems for the future. Although if he’s wrong, Zach Wilson better be ready to throw the ball early and often because the green and white are going to be playing from behind a lot in 2021.