Yesterday was a very difficult day for the Jets, a day that many NFL teams have eventually, where they lost two key players to injury. What made it worse is that the two players play the same position which happens to be the weakest position on the field. Cornerback Dexter McDougle, the rookie 3rd round draft pick, had his cleat get stuck in the ground and then felt a sharp pain in his knee, which turned out to be a torn ACL. McDougle is out for the year. More importantly than McDougle (sorry Dexter) Dee Milliner had to be carted off of the field with an ankle injury.
Milliner’s ankle injury was initially thought to be worse than McDougle’s because McDougle walked off under his own power while Milliner had to take the cart but the Jets seem to have caught a break with Milliner’s injury. Instead of a fracture, which was initially feared, which would have probably ended his season before it began instead he has what Rich Cimini, Ian Rappaport and others are saying is a high ankle sprain. The characterization of it from all sources is that he will miss just a few weeks and might even be ready for the opener. That means that it is likely a grade 1 sprain (graded on a scale of 1-3 with 3 being the worst). A grade 1 stain is one where the ligaments of the ankle are stretched, grade two is where there is stretching and a slight tear, grade three involves a complete tear and involves surgery. Since Milliner’s recovery is set at a “few weeks” not months it is fair to say Milliner dodged a bullet and only has a grade one sprain of the ligament. Another sign that the Jets believe Milliner’s injury is that they called Asante Samuel then hung up on him when they heard his asking price. Samuel is a bad fit anyway, a 33 year old zone corner coming into a system where man to man is emphasized.
Another reason not to panic is that it’s August 10th not Week two. Last year Antonio Cromartie did not get injured until Week two and played hurt the majority of the year and Dee Milliner wasn’t competent until his excellent final month to the season. Because Milliner was behind because of a holdout and an injury and was an unknown quantity Rex Ryan did not have time to alter the plays installed or practice that scheme when Cromartie was injured. Now, at least he has time to devise a way to hide a weakness. Whether that’s more double A gap blitzing (blitzing in the gap between the center and the guard) to force the quarterback to throw early or playing Big Nickel an even greater amount of time, or whatever crazy looking defense with traps in it he needs to play to buy enough time for the pass rush to get home. If there is one thing Rex Ryan does well it is put people in the best position to succeed.
A third reason not to panic is that one or more starting corners might not be on the roster yet. I believe that Darrin Walls can blossom into a starter and he will be given a chance to but the Jets will look to bring a corner in during final cuts either by trade or waiver claim. You never know what surprise cuts will happen but good players get cut or teams want to get out of bad contracts at final cut time so there is plenty of time to find a talented corner or corners. With $20+ million in cap space the Jets can afford to absorb a bad contract. Pay particular attention to cuts by Cleveland, Buffalo and Kansas City where the players know the Jets system from Pettine in Buffalo and Cleveland or Bob Sutton in Kansas City. Also veterans shake loose because teams want to re-sign them after Week one when their contracts aren’t guaranteed for the year.
So to wrap it up it seems like the Jets got lucky that their number one corner should be ready for the beginning of the season but lost a key reserve that could have taken the number two corner spot by season’s end. The team will get to evaluate players like Darrin Walls, Dimitri Patterson, Ras-I Dowling and even Ellis Lankster to see if they need to go out and get a depth player or a starting caliber player. Thankfully they have a month before the season starts. There’s lots of work to do.