Bless Austin may only be a second-year pro. But that makes him a grizzled veteran in the Jets’ secondary.
That’s why coach Adam Gase was holding out hope the cornerback will be able to play on Sunday against the explosive Chargers in Los Angeles.
Austin was listed as questionable with a neck injury on Friday. Gase, before practice and before the Jets left for the West Coast, said: "Hopefully, Bless has a good day today and we’re good to go for Sunday."
Austin had an MRI on Thursday. Without relating specifics, Gase said "That’s a positive MRI result. We’ll see how today goes."
If Austin can’t play, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would be left with rookies Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry, newly acquired Corey Ballentine, and Arthur Maulet as the available cornerbacks. Rookie Ashtyn Davis and fourth-year pro Marcus Maye are the safeties.
The Chargers have prime targets for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry. Herbert has thrown for 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Even if Austin plays, it will be quite a challenge for the Jets.
"That’s our job," Gregg Williams said. "They’re good young men and it’s time for them to play. We’ve had to nurse some of them back to health and we’ve got them back to health. It’s time to play."
Earlier this week, the Jets released cornerback Pierre Desir and placed nickel back Brian Poole (shoulder) on injured reserve.
"The big thing was, ‘Next man up,’ " Williams said.
Linebacker Neville Hewitt, who calls the defensive signals, said: "Communication really is making sure they’ve got the call and they understand the call and adjustments and just helping them have confidence within themselves to know that whatever you think is the right thing to do is probably the right thing and not to second-guess yourself and just play."
The Chargers (2-7) may represent the best chance on the schedule for the Jets (0-9) to avoid a winless season.
"We can definitely feel the urgency to win," Hewitt said. "Right now, we feel like we have to win. A lot of us come from other teams and you’ve probably never been 0-9 in your life before. It’s tough, but I feel like we have the opportunity."
The Jets announced they signed offensive lineman Conor McDermott to a one-year contract extension. McDermott, a fourth-year pro the Jets claimed off waivers from Buffalo in 2019, has played in eight games (22.2 percent of the offensive snaps) this season.
Extra points (and FGs)
Kicker Sam Ficken (groin), who has missed the last three games, is listed as questionable. Gase said he was supposed to kick in practice on Friday to see if he can play Sunday. If not, Sergio Castillo will continue to handle the kicking chores.