One of the New York Jets’ lone bright spots in Orchard Park was clearly the play of young cornerback Blessuan Austin, who held his own against a great wide receiver group.
In his first game back on the field since being benched at halftime of the Jets’ Week 16 loss to Pittsburgh last December, second-year cornerback Bless Austin was moving with a noticeably different sense of urgency than his teammates on defense. The Queens native broke on throws quickly and finished tackles with ruthless authority, confidently talking smack and getting in opponent’s faces after each play.
Dennis Rodman-esque tenacity is fun to watch, but it hardly matters if the player does not fulfill his actual responsibilities. In Buffalo, Austin mostly walked his talk, holding up well in coverage against a talented wide receiver group that shredded the rest of the Jets defense. Austin allowed three catches for 12 yards and one first down over 52 snaps in coverage, leading the Jets secondary with only 0.23 yards allowed per coverage snap.
It was not all good for Austin, who was tagged with an alarming three missed tackles, but there was a lot of positive to take out of the 24-year-old’s seventh career start, which is what we will be focusing on here.
(All-22 film does not come out until Tuesdays, so we will be taking a look at the broadcast view here.)
Austin is capable of making some splashy plays coming downhill. Although he should probably tighten up on his tendency to go low when tackling (which is the root of his issues with whiffs), his impressive length, quick reads, effective angling, and accurate targeting allow him to make some strong finishes down low.
On this 1st & 10 play in the first quarter, Buffalo runs a read option to Austin’s side with a jet sweep motion. Austin reads the wide receivers’ block attempts to diagnose the run in a hurry. While Austin is initially drawn to the motioning receiver, he recovers in time to make a diving stop on Allen for a three-yard loss, cutting him down with an accurately-targeted shot at the knees.
Austin made an enormous play to keep the Jets in the game late in the first half. The Bills motion the receiver on Austin’s side across the field to create some misdirection on a designed keeper to the boundary side (towards Austin). Austin, responsible for the flat, is placed in a crucial position. He decides to play it aggressively, going outside of the pulling left tackle to pursue Allen in the backfield. It’s a risky decision, but it pays off, as Austin dips beneath the blocker and chops a leaping Allen to force a fumble that is recovered by the Jets.