CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets were in damage control Monday, covering their butts after failing to properly address the cornerback situation in the offseason.
There was general manager John Idzik, telling reporters, "We have no regrets whatsoever" -- his response to a question about whether he second-guesses the conservative approach in free agency.
There was coach Rex Ryan, claiming, "This defense will be an outstanding defense" -- on a day in which he lined up a converted safety (Antonio Allen) and a special-teams ace (Ellis Lankster) as his starting corners.
The Jets are in this predicament because No. 1 corner Dee Milliner suffered a severe ankle sprain Sunday and will be lost for a few weeks and because rookie Dexter McDougle wrecked his knee and will have season-ending surgery. There's a chance Milliner could be back for the season opener, but he'll need several weeks before he's on top of his game -- and that's if there are no setbacks.
They'd be in better shape if Idzik had signed one of the top-tier cornerbacks in free agency, but he ...
Failed to re-sign Antonio Cromartie after cutting him and saying they'd welcome him back.
Failed to sign free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie despite having him in the building on a visit.
Refused to make a play for Darrelle Revis even though Revis was interested in a return.
Despite having close to $30 million in cap room, the Jets settled for the injury-prone Dimitri Patterson, signing him to a one-year, $3 million contract. Now he's injured. An opposing scout, commenting Monday on Patterson, said: "The problem I had with him -- aside from his injury history -- was the scheme fit. If you're a press-man team, he's really not that type of player -- or personality. Now, as a nickel, maybe."
The Jets drafted McDougle in the third round, hoping he'd be able to contribute immediately even though he missed most of his senior year with a shoulder injury. Now he's done. It sure looks like they're paying for taking the cheap route in free agency.
"I don't think immediate spending translates into winning," Idzik said. "I think responsible spending translates into sustainable winning. That's what we're about." (To be fair, Idzik didn't seek out the media to plead his case; he spoke to reporters after multiple interview requests.)
Naturally, Ryan echoed that sentiment, even though I have a strong hunch he would've surrendered a week's salary to land Revis.
"If you had an uncapped (system) and could spend like the Yankees ... trust me, we'd have an all-star team," Ryan said. "Our owner would say, 'All right, let's go for it.' But you have fiscal responsibilities. When you're looking at the big picture, it's not just a one-year or a one-shot deal. We want to have sustainable success and build it that way."
The Jets are trying to be patient. This is the longest practice week of the year -- six padded practices -- and they want to use the unusually long stretch to evaluate the players on campus -- mainly Allen, Lankster, Darrin Walls and Ras-I Dowling. There's also Kyle Wilson, but they want to leave him in the slot. Ditto, Johnny Patrick. Idzik said he was "comfortable" with his depth at the start of camp.
"We're going to let this thing kind of play out this summer and see how it goes," he said. "So, I guess, the silver lining is we've got enough time in camp to do that."