When Eric Mangini demoted Dwight Lowery from the starting cornerback position during the second half of the Jets’ 26-17 win at the Bills on Nov. 2, it was clear that the rookie cornerback had his first slump in the NFL. Lowery burst onto the scene after a strong preseason and starred in the Jets’ season-opening victory over the Dolphins with two touchdown-saving plays, but he struggled in recent weeks. In yesterday’s 47-3 trouncing of the Rams, when almost nothing could go wrong for the Jets, Lowery had a few hiccups. The Jets’ fourth-round pick was whistled for two pass-interference penalties, one of which occured in the endzone.
While Darrelle Revis continued to transform into one of the league’s shutdown corners aside from Lowery, the depth behind them was a substantial weakness. Hank Poteat, despite seemingly being a Mangini favorite, is at best a nickel cornerback at this point in his eight-year career. Poteat has made multiple key plays in the last few weeks, with a sack and forced fumble in a win over the Bengals on Oct. 12 and an interception yesterday against the Rams. David Barrett served as a cornerback in recent years, playing 42 games (20 starts) the last three seasons. However, this season, Barrett has spent time at safety and has contributed in the Jets’ improved defense. In the Jets’ 48-29 loss to the Chargers on Sept. 22, Barrett intercepted Philip Rivers and returned the ball 25 yards for a touchdown. Then there’s Justin Miller, who was raring to return to have a big year after a torn ACL forced him to miss the 2007 season. Miller suffered a setback in a preseason victory over the Giants when he injured his foot and he has not returned to the field since. Even though Miller has been healthy in recent weeks, his position on the bench has remained the same. The Jets drafted Miller in second round (57th overall) the 2005 NFL Draft to fill the team’s need for a solid cover corner and also prove the special teams unit with an explosive return man. Unfortunately, all Miller has done in his three-plus years with the Jets is provide the latter. In 34 games (12 starts) Miller has yet to record his first NFL interception. Even Drew Coleman has played his way onto the depth chart ahead of Miller. Coleman is not exactly dependable as a cover corner in the secondary.
But why Ty Law? Yes, Law was once a shutdown corner, he worked under Mangini when the Jets’ head coach served as the Patriots’ defensive backs coach from 2000-2004 and he enjoyed a Pro Bowl season with the Jets in 2005 with ten interceptions. But nonetheless, the move comes as a surprise. In an especially short week in what should be the Jets’ most important game since they lost to the Patriots in the 2006 Wild Card round, do the Jets really have to count on Law to stop the Patriots? His familiarity with Mangini and his experience within the league should help him learn a new defensive system in an extremely short time span, but is Law suddenly going to turn the Jets’ secondary into a force? My guess is that Law will be featured exclusively as the nickel corner, which could turn into a nightmare for the Jets. In lining up as the nickel corner, Law will be forced to cover the NFL’s best slot receiver, Wes Welker. Not only does Welker possess some of the softest hands in the league, but his speed and elusiveness makes him very difficult to cover. If the Jets are bringing in Law mid-week after sitting out the season’s first ten weeks, they must be convinced that Law is in the physical shape to provide an impact immediately.
The bottom line is the move smells more like desperation than smarts by general manager Mike Tannenbaum and company. Last season in 16 games with the Chiefs, Law recorded 47 tackles and two interceptions.
Through nine games, the Jets’ defense ranks 21st (223.4 yards) in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game.
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