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New York Jets LB and DB preview: The haves and have-nots

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley, Marcus Maye
New York Jets, C.J. Mosley, Marcus Maye, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Questions abound in the Jets secondary

The success of the New York Jets defense in 2021 will vary wildly depending on the position.

While the unit is expected to have a loaded defensive line, the defense’s back seven is littered with question marks, even among the established veterans. Multiple starting roles have yet to be filled with training camp well underway.

In its current state, the Jets’ defense is a case of haves and have-nots.

The Haves

A few players in the back end have starting roles secured: C.J. Mosley, Marcus Maye, Lamarcus Joyner, and Bryce Hall.

Mosley returns after nearly two full seasons out of football. His intelligence and experience should immensely help the rest of the team and ease his own transition to Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense. If Mosley can regain his previous athletic form, the Jets will finally capitalize on their massive free-agent investment.

Maye did not sign a contract extension in the offseason and will play the 2021 season on the franchise tag. With no deal in sight and a second franchise tag unlikely, all signs point to this being Maye’s last year in New York.

On the field, Maye is reliable in pass coverage and run support, and he should thrive in his new role as Saleh’s matchup player. Unfortunately, he likely won’t fill that role for long.

Hall enters his second season as the de facto number one cornerback. After recovering from injury, Hall played in the final eight games of the year, starting the last seven. He was sticky in coverage and rarely caught out of position even on catches he allowed.

Hall is an excellent fit in Saleh’s zone-heavy scheme and should only improve with a full offseason to work.

The question is, will Hall improve quickly enough to secure the top corner spot for good?

The Have-Nots

While most positions on the Jets’ defense are set in stone, there are three jobs up for grabs in training camp: Will linebacker, number two cornerback, and slot cornerback.

Rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen are fighting for the Will linebacker spot. Both safeties in college, Sherwood and Nasirildeen will be transitioning to new positions as well as a new scheme.

Nasirildeen is the better athlete of the two, but he is coming off of back-to-back season-ending injuries. While not as athletic, Sherwood is injury-free, technically sound, and extremely smart, which could give him an inside track to start.

As for slot corner, Javelin Guidry returns after an impressive rookie season. He will compete for the job with two new draft picks, Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols.

Guidry’s experience and momentum from last year should make him the early favorite. Carter II and Echols were added by the new staff, and either player could seize the role with a strong camp, despite Guidry’s strong finish.

The other outside cornerback spot is completely up in the air. Blessuan Austin and Lamar Jackson are the veterans of the group, while Jason Pinnock and Isiah Dunn are both rookies.

Austin is the most experienced but hasn’t shown much consistency. Jackson showed flashes as an undrafted player, but not enough to secure the job outright. Pinnock and Dunn both have potential, but trusting a starting role to a rookie is a big risk.

This week the Oklahoma Drill Podcast finishes their position preview series with the back seven of the Jets’ defense.

Hosts Andrew, Matt, and Vitor break down the established starters, the biggest position battles ahead of training camp, and give predictions for the unit as a whole.

The 2021 Jets’ defense is a mixed bag. They have quality starters in a handful of areas with relative unknowns in others. If the Jets want to be competitive, some of the unknowns will have to step up. The season is right around the corner, and it’s time for the defense to either take flight or take a seat.

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