Mix of injuries, confidence among New York Jets cornerbacks

What exactly do the New York Jets have at cornerback? It’s hard to take a definitive tally these days.

You’re presumably a Jets fan if you’re reading this, or maybe you just wandered over to our corner of the Internet by accident. Regardless, you have heard that the Jets’ cornerback situation is not very good, to put it nicely. The Jets let Antonio Cromartie walk during free agency and only signed journeyman Dimitri Patterson to fill his roster spot. Then, the team drafted Maryland’s Dex McDougle, a corner coming off a season-ending injury, in the third round.

McDougle injured his shoulder in the third game of his 2013 senior season and lost the rest of his college playing career. That’s not to say he didn’t attend the rest of Maryland’s games, supporting his teammates from the sideline.

“Since September my focus has been just to get healthy and to get back as fast as I can, just get the mental reps [while recovering] and just know what I’m supposed to do,” said McDougle. “I’ve been real patient up until this point. Then when I came in here and there was a green jersey hanging up, I was just real happy.”

Head coach Rex Ryan was just as happy.

“I’ll tell you, I called him out in front of the whole team, I thought it was impressive,” Ryan told reporters. “Here’s a kid that’s been learning those 80 plays on defense, yet really hasn’t been able to go through anything… He’s done the tough part. He’s got to sit there and pay attention knowing he can’t get on that field and then take it out there today. I know he was excited to finally get that green jersey on.”

McDougle exchanged this red jersey for a full-contact green one.

McDougle exchanged this red jersey for a full-contact green one.

McDougle is now “out of the red,” referring to the red no-contact jerseys reserved for injured players, and he can participate in all drills for the rest of OTAs. But as one cornerback returns from injury, another seems hobbled. Dee Milliner has continued to be limited in practices this week, not due to a pulled hamstring, but “hamstring tightness.” Needless to say, Rex is not pleased.

“He has to understand that he has to be in extraordinary shape,” Ryan said last week about Milliner. “His challenge is to be in world-class shape because we have to have [him] out there. He needs to be out there. He needs to get work because that’s how he’s going to get better… He’s got to step it up because I think he has all the talent in the world.”

As Milliner continued to miss practice this week, Rex only said that he continued to be mad at and disappointed in him.

Darrin Walls and Dimitri Patterson have been taking most of the first-team snaps while Milliner has been sidelined. (Kyle Wilson still projects to be the nickel.) Patterson, the Jets’ main free agent cornerback signing, is not a household name, but he thinks he has the talent to be.

“I’ve been asked to do what [Antonio] Cromartie was asked to do,” Patterson said last week. “Do I have a high profile? No. Do I have the biggest name? No. But I’ve covered the same receivers, and I’ve held up extremely well against the same receivers, the elite guys…. I’ll put my film [up] with anybody’s. That’s the reality of the situation.”

Patterson might have the inside track to a starting position as we wait on the Milliner and McDougle situations. One is taking perhaps over-cautionary measures staying off the field, while the other couldn’t wait to finally get back on it. June is a long waiting game for NFL fans, and we can only fill that time with speculation, but I can safely speculate that this will be the unit with the most drama and competition at training camp.