Monday, March 17, 2014
Cornerback crisis puts Rex on edge
By Rich Cimini
The New York Jets' current cornerback crisis reminds me of an anecdote shared by former general manager Mike Tannenbaum. This was back in April 2010, when they had just used their first-round pick on cornerback Kyle Wilson. They already had Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, so there was some question about the wisdom of adding another corner.
Tannenbaum recalled a conversation with Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. When he hired Rex Ryan from the Ravens' staff in 2009, Tannenbaum asked Newsome what to expect.
"(Newsome) said, 'I'm shipping him up I-95, and he has a little sign around his neck that says, 'I need corners,'" Tannenbaum said at the time. "That's just who Rex is. He cannot have enough corners."
So it doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand how Ryan is feeling these days: He's freaking out.
The Jets cut Cromartie (an expected move), showed no interest in Revis when he became a free agent and haven't added any veteran corners. (Sorry, we're not counting San Diego Chargers castoff Johnny Patrick.) Their top corners, as we speak, are Dee Milliner, Wilson, Patrick and Darrin Walls.
Free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie visited Saturday before heading over to the New York Giants for a sitdown. He's the best available corner in a thinned-out market. He's far from perfect (he was awful for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012), but he's 28 years old, can play man-to-man and is coming off a good season with the Denver Broncos. He might not be a 10, but when an 8 hangs out with a bunch of 5s and 6s, he looks like a super hero. (Kind of reminds me of that funny nightclub scene in "Hall Pass," a very under-rated movie, if I must say.)
The ESPN free-agent tracker rates Rodgers-Cromartie, Dimitri Patterson (cut by the Miami Dolphins) and Carlos Rogers (cut by the San Francisco 49ers) as the best available corners. I'd add Cromartie to that list.
The tracker scouting reports:
Rodgers-Cromartie: "One of the best corners on the market, Rodgers-Cromartie was a solid starter on a unit that struggled in 2013. He has good size, and his length and ball skills allow him the chance to make a lot of plays. On film it looks like his pedal and turn are not always consistent, which is why he gets beaten deep too often, but he will show some good flashes in man coverage and can be effective in sub packages. He can be susceptible to double moves."
Patterson: "Patterson has very good ball skills and the route recognition to play man-to-man defense as a perimeter cornerback. Was productive when he played in 2013 but a groin injury limited him and eventually led to him being placed on injured reserve. Does not have great size or length but can be a short-term starting option for a defensive back-needy team."
Rogers: "A soon-to-be 33-year old who is now best suited to handle slot duties after several productive seasons with both Washington and then San Francisco. Rogers' injury issues have been concerning in recent seasons, and after a standout 2011, he's regressed in overall play. He has strong ball skills but lacks the burst to stick with wideouts on the perimeter."