FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jason Pinnock grew up playing cornerback. He was 7 years old when he started. It was the only position he wanted to play.
Pinnock’s favorite player was Jets great Darrelle Revis. “I was the one begging to play corner,” he said. “I wanted to be Revis.”
Pinnock, who is from Connecticut, followed in Revis’ footsteps somewhat.
He went to the University of Pittsburgh, played cornerback there and was drafted by the Jets last year. Late in Pinnock’s rookie season, though, the Jets decided to move him to safety. It took some getting used to, but now Pinnock loves it.
“I do,” he said. “If that’s what you wanted me to admit, there you go. I do. I like it more.”
It wasn’t the Jets’ plan initially. They drafted Pinnock in the fifth round as a cornerback. As the season wore on and the safety position got decimated by injury, they started training Pinnock to play there.
Robert Saleh thought with the 6-foot, 205-pound Pinnock’s size, strength, athleticism and speed, he could make the transition. The Jets are pleased with his progress.
“We’re excited where Pinnock is,” safeties coach Marquand Manuel said. “You can see the freakish athleticism. It’s the reason why we drafted him at corner. He’s in an awesome space.
“He’s getting real confident in his communication. You see the ball skills, the running and hitting and all that. We were never concerned about any of that. Now it’s just the fact of him getting the reps and the ability to go out there and doing it over and over and over. Being consistent. He’s doing a good job.”
Pinnock said he wasn’t necessarily on board when the Jets first came to him.
“It was like, ‘Damn, why is this happening?’ ” he said.
Then Pinnock came around and started to embrace the change. He discovered how much he liked playing safety and saw that he could be successful there.
“I’m weird,” Pinnock said. “I like adversity. I like being uncomfortable. You learn a lot. I took it on the chin the first day they told me. Then it was kind of like, ‘If you all feel I have more opportunity.’ I just want my feet on the grass. If that’s what I got to do, that’s what I got to do.”
Pinnock said going from speedy wide receivers to tight ends, “it’s kind of like slow motion,” but he’s applying what he knows about playing cornerback and using it as a safety.
Because the Jets play a lot of zone defense, he has to cover more of an area of the field. That hasn’t been too difficult for him. dPinnock. He said the biggest difference is the mental aspect of the game.
“You have to know the interior,” Pinnock said. “You have to know run gaps. You have to know backs, tight ends. That’s the biggest thing.
“Corner for me, my personal experience, I used to just follow people. I was a lockdown corner. I just followed guys and took them out of the game. That was my role on the team. Now having to learn all the other pieces, that’s always going to be the biggest transition.”
Jordan Whitehead and LaMarcus Joyner are expected to start at safety, but Pinnock will be in the mix. With Joyner missing time with an illness, he’s been playing with the first team.
It allowed Pinnock and Whitehead to be on the field together again. They were teammates in Pinnock’s first season at Pitt. When the Jets signed Whitehead away from Tampa Bay, Pinnock reached out to him right away. He called playing with Whitehead again “surreal.”
“It’s like come full circle,” Pinnock said. “Coming from playing corner, I wouldn’t have thought I’d get to play side-by- side with him. It all came full circle. We love it. That energy when we’re out there together, you can feel it.”