Going into training camp those three corners were supposed to be the top three corners on the roster but Patterson didn’t show up before a preseason game, McDougle suffered his season-ending injury in training camp, and while Milliner’s season didn’t end until during the season he was never able to fully recover from his injury he suffered in the same practice as McDougle.
All this led to Ryan experimenting with playing safety Antonio Allen at corner and that experiment failed so spectacularly that not only did Allen not pan out at corner but his struggles continued when they moved him back to safety.
Ryan’s defense is predicated on being able to rely on good corners, Ryan is in Buffalo now but Todd Bowles’ defense is even more reliant on having good coverage corners and Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan are determined to rectify their cornerback problems.
“Well, you got to get more than two picks from your secondary, obviously. So, we just got to make more plays,” Bowles said last week at the NFL combine. “Again
as we go forward and see these guys on the field, and see what we have, we’ll go forward from there but we got to get turnovers and we have to stop the ball from being turned over (on offense).”
According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net the Jets are expected to focus most of their attention in free agency on cornerbacks and outside linebacker.
“I spoke with a league insiders about the teams free agency plans. I was told the Jets intend to be big players in the free agent market, specifically on defense,” Pauline said. “I’m told they will target outside linebackers and cornerbacks as big ticket items. They evidently will look for younger, taller corners. Potential free agents who fit that mold include Davon House, Chris Culliver and, someone familiar to the teams new general manager Mike Maccagnan, Kareem Jackson.”
This is confirmed by Brian Costello of the New York Post who correctly points out that while it’s not a surprise that the Jets will look to upgrade their corners it is a little surprising to hear them talk about it so openly. Normally this much talk at this time of year is dismissed as a smoke screen but no one actually thinks the Jets won’t focus on corners, so why bother trying to hide it?
“I would say, at this point in time, literally every position we’re going to try to make as competitive as possible,” Maccagnan said last week at the NFL combine. “I would say there’s certain positions, if you look at our roster based on some injuries last year, cornerback would be a position we’ll probably address, whether in the draft or pro free agency.”
Costello said “the sense I get is the Jets are going to add players at this position through both free agency and the draft.” Costello mentions the free agent cornerback from the Seahawks, Byron Maxwell, as one of their top targets but also says “the talk in Indy was that the Jets and Eagles would be the two teams fighting for him.”
One reason the Jets will likely want to turn to free agency to solve their cornerback problems is this draft class is not particularly strong when it comes to corners and with every team needing corners the few good ones aren’t likely to stay available for long. However, Costello did say he “heard the Jets are very high on LSU’s Jalen Collins and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson.”
As for the status of Milliner, the Jets still aren’t sure of when he will be ready to practice but they don’t sound optimistic that he will be ready for OTAs. If Milliner and/or McDougle do bounce back from their injuries and play up to the level John Idzik expected of them that would be great for the Jets but it’s not something Maccagnan and Bowles are banking on.
“I think when you factor in a player coming off an injury it’s a bit of an unknown, which could have a negative outcome but it could also have a very positive outcome,” Maccagnan said. “So, to me it may be a bit of a wildcard but it’s not necessarily a negative or a positive because if he comes back well from his injury then suddenly you have a good player in him.
“You have to kind of prepare for the worst-case scenario but if you do get him back and he plays well, then if we go out there and address that position and he comes back strong, then it just makes that position stronger. I will say this with cornerbacks -- and I don’t think this is anything any other GM wouldn’t say -- you can never have enough good ones, so I would be very happy if we had a surplus at that position.”
Both players will get their chance to prove they are healthy and good enough to deserve playing time but the Jets can’t afford to not plan for the worst-case scenario and need to add starting quality corners this offseason and look at anything they get from Milliner or McDougle as a bonus.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of relying or not relying on him it’s just a matter of getting the best players in the building,” Bowles said. “If he’s healthy and ready to go, we’ll see if he’s one of the best players. If not we’ll have to do it elsewhere.”