The New York Jets’ young cornerbacks are anchoring the team
It’s still too early to anoint them as a truly elite unit … but their achievements only continue to become more legitimate by the week.
The New York Jets‘ young cornerback room burst onto the scene in Week 1. They held their own against the Carolina Panthers’ highly respected wide receiver trio of D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall, combining to allow just 77 yards and zero touchdowns throughout the game.
Over the next two games, Carolina would drop 140 yards on the Saints’ cornerbacks and 170 yards on the Texans’ cornerbacks.
For reference, the league-average single-game performance for an NFL cornerback room this season features 127.4 yards allowed and 0.9 touchdowns allowed.
The Jets’ unit went out and replicated its performance against the Patriots in Week 2, combining to give up a measly 93 yards and once again going four quarters without yielding a touchdown pass.
Make it three weeks in a row with a solid performance from the Jets’ corners.
Against a thriving Denver passing attack, the Jets’ cornerbacks allowed 109 yards and yet again prevented the ball from crossing the goal line. The previous week, Jacksonville’s corners allowed 168 yards and a touchdown against Denver. In Week 1, the Giants’ corners allowed 146 yards and a touchdown to the Broncos.
Through three weeks, here is where the Jets’ cornerback unit ranks among the league’s 32 units in various categories:
- Penalties: 2 (8th-fewest)
- Yards per target allowed: 6.7 (8th)
- Yards per game allowed: 92.0 (6th)
- Yards per reception allowed: 9.5 (5th)
- Touchdowns allowed: 0 (1st, tied with Raiders)
- Yards after the catch per reception allowed: 3.3 (4th)
This has been the best position group on the Jets’ roster without much of a debate – a prediction that not a soul in this universe was bold (or foolish) enough to make throughout the offseason.
Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II spearhead Jets’ top-notch cornerback play
Left cornerback Bryce Hall has been the driving force. He’s played 97% of the Jets’ defensive snaps to lead the cornerback unit, but he has rarely ever popped off the TV screen or had his name called. That’s because he has dominated his assignments and preventing passes from being thrown his way.
Hall has been targeted six times over 102 snaps in coverage, an average of 17.0 coverage snaps per target that makes him the most infrequently targeted cornerback in the NFL out of 92 qualifiers.
Slot cornerback Michael Carter II is the unit’s standout play-maker. He has provided sticky coverage down the field to limit deep targets, keeping everything in front of him. Targets thrown Carter II’s way have traveled only 2.6 yards downfield on average, ranking third-lowest among qualified cornerbacks.
Carter II feasts on the short targets that he forces. The 11 passes completed against his coverage have resulted in a measly 50 yards. His average of 4.5 yards per reception allowed is the best in the NFL among 92 qualified cornerbacks.
A fierce tackler, Carter II has made 19 tackles and missed just one.
Brandin Echols has been a solid supporting piece
Right cornerback Brandin Echols has been imperfect but is getting the job done for a No. 2 corner. He has allowed eight of 12 passes in his direction to be completed for 85 yards, an average of 7.1 yards per target that ranks 36th out of 92 qualifiers (62nd percentile).
It should be noted that Echols had a 19-yard pass interference penalty against the Broncos (although it was a questionable one that Echols contested publicly in a since-deleted tweet). Impressively, however, that is one of only two penalties that have been called on the Jets’ corners so far this season. Hall had one illegal use of hands penalty.
Javelin Guidry is doing fine for a fourth cornerback
Finally, No. 4 cornerback Javelin Guidry has been much less disastrous than you would typically expect a team’s fourth corner to be.
Guidry has yielded five catches on eight targets for 68 yards, an average of 8.5 yards per target that is a tad below the 2020 league average for cornerbacks (8.0), but most of the yardage he has allowed came on tightly-contested catches via a perfect pass. His numbers are due to improve if his coverage quality remains the same.
The New York Jets have something special cooking at cornerback
There are a lot of problematic issues regarding this Jets team that fans should be supremely disappointed about. But this cornerback unit has been an enormously positive surprise, and that should not go underappreciated just because the rest of the team has been so awful.
If this unit keeps it up, the Jets could finally have themselves some exciting long-term talent at a position where they have not enjoyed stability since the days of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie (the young versions).