Robert Saleh makes it clear that the New York Jets’ defense does indeed value cornerbacks
Prior to the New York Jets‘ major moves of the 2022 offseason (in free agency and the draft), one of the common narratives that floated around the team was the notion that its defensive scheme does not place a high value on the cornerback position.
This belief largely stemmed from the Jets’ lack of premium additions to the cornerback room in 2021. That year, the Jets did not sign any notable veteran free agents and waited until the fifth round of the draft to select their first cornerback. New York entered the regular season with a cornerback group that was entirely made up of young, unproven players who were low draft picks (if they were drafted at all).
The Jets wound up dispelling that narrative by making a pair of substantial investments at cornerback in the 2022 offseason. They splashed in free agency by signing former Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed to a three-year, $33 million deal, and then proceeded to draft Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner with the fourth overall pick.
There was already proof in the pudding, but Saleh made sure to definitively set the record straight on the team’s valuation of the cornerback position when speaking to the media on Friday (day one of the team’s rookie minicamp).
“I’m not sure on that narrative,” Saleh said of the idea that his defensive scheme does not value cornerbacks. “We drafted Jalen Ramsey when I was in Jacksonville with a top five pick. We had Richard Sherman, obviously he was drafted late in Seattle, but we went out and got him as a free agent in San Francisco.
“Corner is very important, because it’s everything we talk about on third down and in crunch time when the whole world knows you’re passing the ball and the whole other side of the world knows you’re in man coverage and it’s a one-on-one football game. That’s difference-making,” Saleh said.
Saleh pointed out that Gardner is capable of doing the things that NFL cornerbacks must do at a high level to win games.
“Sauce has the ability to do that in man coverage, but he has his zone coverage ability, he has tenacity in tackling, which teams do to us. They shorten up formations if you will, to get the corners tackling and all that stuff. Especially playing the AFC North this year. That’s all they do for a living is make your corners tackle,” Saleh said.
Saleh explained that he believes it’s on the perimeter where games are won, highlighting the cornerback position’s role in that battle.
“The perimeter of football is where games are won, when you talk about your edge rushers, your tackles, your quarterbacks, receivers, corners. Because like I said, it’s game on the line, everyone knows you’re passing and you’re in man coverage. Corner is very important.”