Cornerbacks get beat. It happens, even to the very very best. Receivers will occasionally run past them to get open, ballcarriers will break a tackle with a juke, and sometimes they’ll even get run over by a bigger, burlier player. Michael Carter II, the Jets’ nickelback, has been on the humbling end of just about all of those situations during his college and pro career.
But there is one on-field ignominy he so far has avoided, and given that he laughed nervously and immediately knocked on the wood of his locker when the potential for it was broached, hopes he can continue to avoid.
He’s never been hurdled.
“No, no, no,” Carter said.
Neither has Sauce Gardner, who said it is “probably the worst thing” a defensive back can have happen to them.
Worse than giving up a huge touchdown? Yup, he nodded.
On Sunday, Carter and Gardner and the Jets will face Josh Allen, the MVP-quality quarterback for the Buffalo Bills who has been burning defenders in just about every imaginable way possible this season. Like many dual-threat quarterbacks in the league he can win matchups through the air or with his legs. Unlike most of them he will often do both at the same exact time.
Allen has shown a propencsity and proficiency for leapfrogging would-be tacklers throughout his career, using his long legs to crank his big body up in the air and sail over a defender who is coming to meet him for a takedown. Sometimes he returns to the ground on his feet and keeps going, other times he stumbles, but he shows absolutely no fear in taking to the sky at moments when other quarterbacks typically hit the turf and slide to safety. He takes off and lands so often he should be playing Sunday’s game at LaGuardia and not MetLife.
He’s already made highlight reel hurdles twice this season, clearing Roger McCreary of the Titans in Week 2 and Justin Reid of Kansas City in Week 6. He did it last year to L’Jarius Sneed of Kansas City and Devin McCourty of the Patriots. He posterized Zach Cunningham of the Texans in the playoffs and even did it as a rookie in 2018 when he debuted the move and went over an accomplished linebacker, Anthony Barr of the Vikings.
He is the Edwin Moses of quarterbacks.
This week the Jets know he may try to do it against them.
“He’s so big it’s only natural for people to want to go low on him,” Carter said. “I feel like he knows that.”
As bad a look as it is to be jumped over as a defender, having it done by a quarterback must make it 10 times more humiliating. A player can only make a fool of opponents so often before he starts to get payback for those kinds of acrobatics, though.
“I’m sure he knows that, too,” Carter said. “But he’s been good so far.”
From a technical standpoint, Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said no one should ever be in a position to be hurdled.
“When you tackle just in general, all of our fundamentals that we teach -- leverage, keeping your eyes up, running through contact, wrapping, going chest to chest -- those all apply and if you do that, you shouldn’t get hurdled,” he said. “It’s the guys that drop their head that typically get jumped over. That’s a technique we would never teach just from a safety standpoint, putting our guys at risk. So, if you apply your basic fundamentals, it shouldn’t happen.”
Yet it does. And the Jets may have to try to stop it.
“You have to take the same approach to how you tackle anybody, a running back or a receiver, because he is such a good runner and different running the ball from the quarterback position,” Carter said. “He’s not really much of a slider so you have to expect that and go and make the tackle.”
That’s probably the best way to stop someone from jumping, giving them a good legal whack in the chest or shoulder and making them pay for going airborne. It could be what the Jets have in store if Allen tries to hurdle any of them.
Then again, they’re not exactly saying what they have planned.
“We’ll wait to see if he tries to do it to me or somebody on our team,” Gardner said. “I ain’t good at saying what’s gonna happen. We’ll have to wait and see.”