For all the money the Jets spent to upgrade their secondary in 2015, the defense has been woefully inconsistent and its pass coverage has been shoddy.
Those hefty contracts couldn’t mask the unit’s collective flaws, and injuries exacerbated their poor play.
Now the Jets — who also have a need at quarterback and outside linebacker — could be looking to upgrade at cornerback or safety this week in the NFL Draft.
The last time the Jets addressed the secondary in either the first or second round was 2013 and 2014, when former general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan drafted Alabama’s Dee Milliner ninth overall and selected hard-hitting Louisville safety Calvin Pryor 18th overall a year later.
Now Milliner is out of work (general manager Mike Maccagnan declined to pick up his fifth-year option last spring), Pryor’s inconsistent play means his roster spot isn’t guaranteed in 2018, “Revis Island” is a distant memory now that former star cornerback Darrelle Revis has been released, and veteran safety Marcus Gilchrist tore a patellar tendon in mid-December.
Asked in March if the team plans to pick up Pryor’s fifth-year option, Maccagnan said: “Those are things that will work themselves out here in time. But I would say at this point and time, it’s not something I want to weigh in and comment on.”
Maccagnan addressed Revis’ release with the signing of former Cowboys corner Morris Claiborne. The 27-year-old is talented but will have to prove he can stay healthy — something he hasn’t done consistently in his five-year career. And the Jets clearly have to make more moves to shore up their secondary.
If there ever was a draft class to find a ballhawk, this is it. It’s loaded with talented players who have the potential to be legitimate starters and, perhaps, bona fide NFL stars. And Maccagnan needs to get one, either by keeping the No. 6 pick or moving back in the draft order.
Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker and LSU safety Jamal Adams are projected to go in or near the top 10. If the Jets stay at No. 6, they could have a shot at landing one of the three, even with teams such as the Bears (No. 3) and Titans (No. 5) possibly looking for secondary help of their own.
Hooker played through a sports hernia and a torn hip labrum last year for the Buckeyes, but doctors reportedly gave him a clean bill of health recently. Lattimore has dealt with chronic hamstring issues since high school. But their injury history likely won’t scare off NFL teams.
Should Maccagnan choose to trade down in the first round in an effort to acquire more picks, the Jets still would be in position to snag a talented corner or safety.
Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Tre’Davious White of LSU, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson and Washington’s Kevin King are just a few of the cornerbacks who could be taken later in the first round.
Versatile Michigan star Jabrill Peppers and Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu also are potential first-rounders at safety.