The Jets began the transformation of their secondary in 2017, and so far, the complaints should be minimal. Adding former Cowboy Morris Claiborne along with rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye proved to be smart moves for the Jets. And obviously, the team didn’t stop there.
Stepping into 2018, the Jets went all in on former Rams CB Trumaine Johnson, who was arguably the best corner available on the open market. This combination of the two veteran CBs in Johnson and Claiborne, along with the rookie tandem on Adams and Maye shines a promising light on the secondary. Devoid of any potential injuries, this defense should be able to defend the pass better than most.
However, can that veteran duo keep up with the task? On paper, with Johnson as the No.1 and Clairborne as the No.2, it looks as though the Jets could have a top-3 CB duo in 2018. But with Clairborne previously battling injury, and Johnson occassionaly struggling against top tier receivers last year, it is yet to be seen how it will all play out.
Top-3 CB Duo?
Claiborne was certainly a refresher for the Jets last year. He started 15 games after playing in only 32 in the previous four years with the Cowboys due to injury.
With eight total passes defensed, Claiborne solidified himself as one of the league’s top shadow defenders.
How Morris Claiborne fared when in shadow coverage last season pic.twitter.com/LiBXqR1ZYR
— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) June 21, 2018
Ultimately, Claiborne was fifth in yards allowed per route in coverage in those 10 games in which he shadowed only one player. He shadowed the most in 2017 behind only Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
And despite the graphic, Claiborne allowed a passer rating of only 61.2 on 46 targets in his first 10 games, according to PFF. A foot injury midway through the season then caused him to miss one game, and another ailing injury affected his play over the final month. He allowed a passer rating of 91.3 in the final five games.
Joining him this year is the now 2nd-highest paid corner in the league in Trumaine Johnson. And he’s paid that much because, well you guessed it, he’s good.
In 15 starts last year, Johnson recorded 65 tackles, 14 passes defensed and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. However, Johnson struggled in coverage against the likes of Pierre Garcon and DeAndre Hopkins at times, but in all, it was an above-average year for him.
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But digging into the stats a bit more reveals why he got such a nice pay-day. As one of the biggest, most physical corners in the NFL, Johnson is at his best when he can get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage – or in press-man. In fact, Johnson was the league’s best press-man CB in 2017:
A little sneak peak of the Rams' section of my coverage book. Trumaine Johnson finished #1 in press-man effectiveness with an 84% "in position" rate. He allowed just 43 yards all season in press. pic.twitter.com/2DjYDC3mFC
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) February 4, 2018
If you look at it closely, the Jets could have a threating CB duo on their hands. With Johnson likely taking on the responsibilities of opposing No.1 receivers, Clairborne should be able to be more a ball hawk against a team’s No.2.
But it won’t come into formation right off the bat. Claiborne needs to prove he can shake the injury bug and minimize flags called his way (penalized 10 times last season). And Johnson needs to be able to increase effectiveness out of the press-man coverage.
All-in-all, the Jets very well could have a top-3 CB duo in 2018. Competition will include that of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in Jacksonville, and Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward in Los Angeles (Chargers). Not to mention Johnson’s former team regrouped their loss by adding both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
The reality is that it will likely be a rocky start for the Jets CB tandem, who try and work out their flaws with support from Adams and Maye. If injury can be avoided, and penalties limited, who says the Jets couldn’t have a top-3 CB duo in 2018?