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Over the last few weeks, we've been breaking down each position in terms of which players are fighting for those final roster spots. Who is in danger of being cut? Who has a chance to earn themselves a bigger role? We continue today with a look at the cornerback position.
Probable Roster Locks
The addition of Trumaine Johnson provides the Jets with a bonafide number one cornerback who can match up with the other team's top target on a weekly basis. This has the added effect of enabling each of last year's cornerbacks to move down into a role more suited to their abilities.
The team re-signed the injury-prone Morris Claiborne, but will no longer have to rely on him to be their top cover corner. On paper, this also enables Buster Skrine to move back into a nickel corner role, which will allow him to play more in the slot where he is most comfortable.
However, ESPN's Rich Cimini recently stated that he expects Claiborne and Skrine to compete with one another for the starting role, and that this could be one of the best camp battles.
All the other spots - and the Jets would typically carry five or six corners - are up for grabs. If more than one player steps up, then perhaps the Jets could afford to trade someone.
In the competition
Throughout last year, the Jets seemed to be hoping that one of their young cornerbacks would step up and establish themselves, but nobody really did. Juston Burris began the year as the number three corner, and even intercepted a pass on opening day. But he fell out of the rotation altogether a few weeks into the season. He, then, regained his spot around midseason when Claiborne and Skrine missed some time, but was benched again later in the year.
Darryl Roberts similarly made four starts, but also had a handful of games where he wasn't in the rotation at all. This might be the last chance for either of these players to convince the Jets they're worth retaining.
The Jets added to the competition before the deadline when they traded a pick for Rashard Robinson, who had been a starter with the 49ers. Robinson played just 20 snaps and was not impressive, as Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill burned him embarrassingly for an easy touchdown. Robinson needs to start delivering on his upside, otherwise the pick they gave up for him is going to go to waste.
Sixth-round draft pick Parry Nickerson probably has a good chance of being on the roster if only because he's not yet had time to wear out his welcome. Nickerson has the athleticism and skill-set to project to a slot role in future. Although, he mostly played on the outside at Tulane, so it might take him a while to crack the rotation.
Other than Nickerson, the best option to back up Skrine in the slot might be Xavier Coleman, who saw brief action as an undrafted rookie last year before getting hurt.
2017 sixth-round pick Jeremy Clark spent most of last year rehabbing a knee injury suffered in his senior year at Michigan. The Jets were hoping he might be a bargain, so we'll get our first insights into his potential at camp. Clark has some experience at safety, but his long arms and ability to play press coverage will see him used at cornerback initially, as long as his post-injury athleticism holds up.
The Long Shots
The lanky and athletic Derrick Jones was another late round pick in the 2017 draft, but the converted receiver was considered a long-term project and it's difficult to see how he can jump ahead of the more experienced players unless he fares better than expected in camp. To his credit, he started to make some plays as camp was winding down last year, and intercepted a pass in the final preseason game.
The two least-heralded defensive backs are Kacy Rodgers II and Terrell Sinkfield, neither of whom have played in an NFL game. Sinkfield is a terrific athlete who has been trying to get into the league since going undrafted in 2013. He has at least played in seven preseason games over the years.
Rodgers, the son of Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, probably projects better to safety and is even listed as a linebacker on NFL.com.
As noted when we broke down the safety position, Todd Bowles likes his defensive backs to be capable of playing any secondary position. Therefore, it's possible they might use a safety in the cornerback position in an emergency.