New York Jets: Secondary hurting in more ways than one

Geno Smith and Michael Vick made no bad mistakes. David Harris was at the center of most of the big plays on defense. Chris Johnson could have done a little better than a half-yard per carry. But Jets fans know what the real story coming out of Thursday’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts was: the defensive secondary was as sloppy as expected.

Now, two injuries sustained in Sunday’s practice have devastated the secondary even more.

Dee Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain and third-round pick Dexter McDougle tore his ACL on Sunday. Milliner will miss 3-4 weeks, and McDougle’s rookie season is already over.

It’s an especially tough blow for McDougle, who missed most of his senior year at Maryland with a shoulder injury. Thursday’s Colts game was McDougle’s first game action in 11 months.

Meanwhile, Milliner recently proclaimed himself to be the best cornerback in the league, but his performance on Thursday at least made him look like the best corner on the team. He broke up two passes in his limited playing time, including one from Andrew Luck on the game’s first drive.

Maybe the Jets aren't losing the best cornerback in the NFL, but if Milliner misses regular season games, it might feel that bad.

Maybe the Jets aren’t losing the best cornerback in the NFL, but if Milliner misses regular season games, it might feel that bad.

While it’s hard for players to cope with injuries sustained in practice, we have to look at the team’s perspective as well. Dimitri Patterson looked awful in his Jets debut, giving up two big pass plays to the Colts early as well as being called for holding. And Patterson is dealing with an injury (calf/ankle) of his own.

This means the only healthy cornerbacks on the Jets’ roster are Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster, sixth-round draft pick Brandon Dixon and Ras-I Dowling. (Jeremy Reeves and Johnny Patrick are also injured.)

We know what we can expect out of Wilson, who typically plays nickel corner. Rex Ryan told reporters he “has been pleased with” veterans Walls and Lankster, and that the “next man has to step up” after Milliner and McDougle went down.

But that was before the MRI results came back. Seeing what he’s losing and for how long, and seeing how poorly Patterson played Thursday, Ryan and general manager John Idzik should be looking at which cornerbacks are still on the free agent market. The New York Daily News’s Manish Mehta reported today that the Jets reached out to free agent CB Asante Samuel to gauge his interest in joining the team. Jabari Greer is another player I threw into the mix a few weeks ago; he told ESPN last week that “will be the NFL comeback player of the year” if the right opportunity presents itself and he joins a new team.

I don’t know what better situation there is than a team in such desperate need for a good, healthy cornerback.

One good piece of news for the Jets’ secondary – first-round pick safety Calvin Pryor will make his Jets debut Saturday, August 16, when the Jets travel to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Pryor missed the Colts game while recovering from a concussion.

Pryor had better be the elite hard-hitting safety every analyst projects will fit perfectly in Ryan’s defense, or else the Jets are in trouble.

The Jets play the Bengals 7 p.m. Saturday on CBS. Check back here for more analysis before the game, and follow me and iSportsWeb on Twitter (@Adam_Zielonka and @isportsweb).