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Dimitri Patterson thinks Jets' secondary will step up

Jets cornerback Dimitri Patterson defends against wide receiver

Jets cornerback Dimitri Patterson defends against wide receiver Jacoby Ford during training camp in Cortland on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Credit: Hans Pennink

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Dimitri Patterson is all for free speech. That being said, he can't wait to prove a lot of people wrong.

"That's the good thing about professional sports: You have an opportunity to go out there and shut people up,'' the Jets cornerback said Tuesday.

Patterson, who has quadriceps, calf and ankle injuries, returned to practice on a limited basis. And that's a good thing, considering the state of the Jets' secondary, depleted by injuries.

Cornerback Dee Milliner is still shelved because of a high ankle sprain. Cornerback Dexter McDougle announced via Twitter that he will have shoulder surgery Wednesday, and Ras-I Dowling has been slowed by a groin injury. To plug roster holes, the desperate Jets even made third-year safety Antonio Allen a starting cornerback.

All eyes were on this secondary before training camp began. And now Patterson can hear the murmurs of nonbelievers.

"They have the right to exercise their First Amendment right. Fine,'' said Patterson, who added there's "no doubt'' he'll be ready for the regular-season opener against the Raiders. "The best thing to do when everybody has an opinion is to go out during the regular season and be consistent and play well. And everything will take care of itself.''

The Jets flirted with high-priced cornerbacks earlier this offseason, but to no avail. They came close to signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he chose to sign a five-year, $35-million contract with the Giants the day after he left Florham Park.

The Jets came to training camp with 10 corners, but each had a question mark related to age, experience or injury history. Patterson was one of them. He's on his sixth team entering his 10th NFL season and has played in only 15 games the past two years because of injuries. He's also been sidelined for much of training camp.

Unlike in years past, when the Jets had shutdown corner Darrelle Revis and a healthy and motivated Antonio Cromartie, the strength of Rex Ryan's defense rests in his front seven. But defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he hasn't lost faith in the secondary.

"Yeah, I feel confident,'' Richardson said, laughing. "I have no choice. I mean, it's not that I'm being pressured to be confident [in the defensive backs]. I know they get the same coaching that everybody gets, the same coaching Dee got, Dexter got. So I'm just waiting for them to go on and fill those shoes. I have 100-percent confidence in them.''

Said linebacker Calvin Pace: "Injuries happen. There's numerous teams dealing with it, we just happen to be one of them. The guys they put in, they've got to show up. And they will.''

Patterson believes they will, too. But only time will tell who's right.

"I think it's unrealistic and unfair to give opinions this early,'' he said. "Guys have to show what they can do. And that's what the season is for. You've got to let the season take its course.''

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