Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
The Jets announced Wednesday that cornerback Brian Poole has been added to the Active/Non-Football Injury list. This means they are a man down in the secondary for Thursday morning's practice and will continue to be until he's reactivated.
Listing him in that way doesn't save the Jets a roster spot and he can be activated at any time, as soon as he's ready to practice. It's merely a precautionary measure against him suffering further setbacks and remaining out for an extended time. Since Poole evidently showed up with the injury rather than suffering it during organized team activities, the team could in theory part ways with Poole in such a scenario without being on the hook for his salary.
The reality is that this likely isn't particularly serious and the Jets could see Poole back soon. However, even if he returns within the next few days, he will have lost ground in the battle to earn the nickelback role he's been projected to win since the Jets signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal back in March.
Poole's main competition for the role has been considered to be Parry Nickerson, who was a sixth-round pick in last year's draft. Nickerson saw some time in the slot role backing up Buster Skrine last season and had mixed fortunes. He made a few nice plays but was also picked on in coverage at times.
The Jets have been trying to mold Nickerson into a slot corner despite the fact he played mostly on the outside at Tulane. He lacks size but has the kind of athletic profile and skillset which led to many draft experts projecting him as being a slot corner at the pro level. However, it's interesting to note that he was also getting some reps on the outside in organized team activities during the spring.
An emerging candidate could be Arthur Maulet, whom the Jets signed to a futures deal in January. The 26-year-old has played in 12 NFL games with two teams, including one start. During that time, he has mostly played on the outside, but has held up reasonably well in limited reps on the inside. He was reportedly getting some first team reps with Poole out on Thursday.
Undrafted free agent Kyron Brown, who flashed during the offseason, has limited experience of playing in the slot but the Jets might view him as someone they can develop into a slot corner as they attempted to do with Nickerson last season.
Poole's absence could also be an opportunity for an extreme longshot like Tevaughn Campbell to get extra reps and a chance to turn some heads. He played in a variety of coverage roles up in Canada and has some good athletic ability.
Otherwise, most of the potential options lack experience of playing on the inside, including all of the main contenders to start.
Outside-the-box solutions might involve bringing up an extra linebacker or safety rather than using a conventional nickelback. James Burgess or Blake Cashman have decent coverage skills and Jamal Adams has already shown that he can hold his own against big targets in the slot. Montrel Meander and Jeremy Clark have played both safety and corner so would be familiar with coming up to line up opposite a slot receiver, albeit that they would probably be more comfortable in off-coverage.
Any safety or linebacker would probably struggle against a speedier slot receiver like a Julian Edelman, Jakeem Grant or Cole Beasley though.
Poole's absence likely won't affect the battle for starting roles on the outside, where Trumaine Johnson is expected to be paired with Darryl Roberts unless someone like Derrick Jones beats him out or the Jets make a move for a veteran like Morris Claiborne.
Ultimately, Poole could well return in a few days and this will all be forgotten, but if the absence does drag on and starts to affect his status for the first preseason game, this could end up being a bigger blow for Poole himself than it is for the Jets. If he falls behind in the battle to win this key role, he might find himself relegated to special teams duties or even potentially off the roster altogether.
However, if nobody steps up and does well in Poole's absence then that will be a matter of grave concern and might lead the team to look at external options to fill that role in case Poole misses time during the season.