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Entering training camp, cornerback was viewed as one of the weakest positions on the Jets' roster. Many view Darryl Roberts, who started five games at cornerback last year and another five at free safety, as an inadequate option to start across from Trumaine Johnson. Johnson, of course, had his own issues with injuries and insubordination last year, too.
In the first preseason game, Roberts and Johnson weren't tested in their brief appearance. However, concern intensified about the depth on the roster, as the second unit struggled badly. Derrick Jones, who was released the next day, was burned for a long catch and Parry Nickerson gave up a number of catches, including one that went for a 51-yard touchdown. Rookie Kyron Brown also had a bad mistake that led to a 22-yard gain as he sought to jump the route on a pass to the slot receiver, leaving his man open on the outside.
Over the past few days, that lack of depth has been exposed, as Johnson -- who has been having a great camp by all accounts -- pulled his hamstring on an interception return on Sunday. He left practice and was not on the field on Monday.
Brown, who played reasonably well on Thursday night other than that one mistake, had taken over for Johnson on the first unit in practice on Monday. Unfortunately, he also went down with a hamstring injury.
Suddenly, the Jets have Arthur Maulet -- a player who only just returned to practice after a hamstring injury of his own -- working with the first unit. In addition to starting, Roberts is currently the team's number one cornerback. In the slot, Brian Poole continues to be backed up by Nickerson. Beyond these four, none of the healthy reserves - Dee Delaney, Tevaughn Campbell, Mark Myers and Alex Brown - were expected to make the team.
After Monday's practice, head coach Adam Gase downplayed his concerns, suggesting that he looks upon this as a great opportunity for someone to step up and that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will relish the opportunity to scheme around any personnel deficiencies. He acknowledged, however, that GM Joe Douglas will continue to look for opportunities to improve the roster, but that he'd remain focused on the guys they have right now.
Gase was optimistic that Johnson will be ready for opening day, so long as he doesn't suffer a setback. However, as the depth was already widely considered to be inadequate with everyone healthy, Douglas should definitely continue to work the phones. These injuries, even if they prove to be minor and short-term absences, serve as a warning as to the kind of situation the Jets could find themselves in should they suffer in-season injuries.
In terms of what they can actually do at this stage of the offseason, there aren't many obvious upgrades readily available. At least cornerback is a position where you can throw someone out there and just tell them to cover their man, so they perhaps don't need as much time as some other positions to learn the ins and outs of the playbook.
Many believed the Jets would ultimately re-sign Morris Claiborne, who started for the team in the past two seasons. However, the injury-prone Claiborne spent most of the offseason rehabbing, and has since been handed a four-game suspension by the league. He signed with the Chiefs over the weekend.
The next most obvious place to look is Philadelphia. They have several players battling for roster spots, most of whom Douglas was involved in bringing in. The Jets could wait for cutdowns or pre-empt the issue by trading for someone they see as an obvious fit. They'll similarly be keeping their eye on the situation in Cleveland, where Williams was the interim head coach last season, and Chicago, where assistant general manager Rex Hogan was stationed. Gase may also have his eye on some Dolphins cornerbacks.
If they're to aim bigger, one name previously floated as a possibility for the Jets was Arizona's Patrick Peterson. Unfortunately, he's been suspended for the first six games, so he wouldn't be an ideal option even if he had become available.
Perhaps the top name that could potentially become available is Jalen Ramsey. The 24-year old, two-time Pro Bowler is in the middle of a contract dispute with the Jaguars, and is already talking about leaving for Las Vegas or Tennessee if he hits free agency next offseason. It might take a first-round pick to do so, but if Jacksonville could be persuaded to rid themselves of the distraction and cash in on him while they can, Douglas should be at the front of the line.
Until then, the Jets have little choice but to do what Gase suggests and work with what they've got.