New York Jets: Todd Bowles looking to convert a CB to FS?


The defensive secondary of the New York Jets has been highly touted heading into the new season. The addition of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist in the off season has changed the depth chart significantly. The once dismal Jets’ secondary has been rebuilt and by most accounts its ready to shut down opponents and their passing strategies.

Behind the presumed starters, the Jets have some very good young talent. Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle return from injuries that placed them on injured reserve last season. Marcus Williams and Darrin Walls also return after making contributions last season.

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Then there is the lesser known guys like Keith Lewis, Curtis Brown, and Dashaun Phillips. This group is not without talent either. The Jets are seemingly swimming in talent at cornerback. A nice problem to have going into training camp in a pass-happy NFL.

The safety position is not quite as clear, however. Marcus Gilchrist was signed in the off season, presumably to man the starting free safety position for the Jets in 2015. Gilchrist however, is still recovering from off season surgery and has missed OTA’s and minicamp.

The reports are he should be ready early in camp. Behind Gilchrist for depth is a position that is up for grabs. Let’s take a look at safety for the Jets.

Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen are presumed by many to be the players to man the strong safety position for the Jets. If that is the case, then it would appear it’s an open competition behind Gilchrist for a roster spot.

The Jets have a promising prospect in Rontez Miles who has spent the last two years on the practice squad or battling injury. Jaiquawn Jarrett returns as well to attempt to make the final roster.

Newcomer UDFA Durell Eskridge joins the group this season as well. These players are not void of talent, and a healthy Miles might surprise, but this isn’t exactly the cream of the crop competing to back up Gilchrist.

Miles has the highest upside of the three competing safeties. Miles is listed as 6’0″/202 pounds by the Jets. He has struggled with some bad luck and bizarre injuries in his time with the team, but his talent is apparent.

The problem with penciling in Miles as the back-up free safety is his experience.  In two years with the Jets, Miles has only seen action in one game in 2013, but posted no statistics.

Jarrett is a four-year veteran of the NFL. Drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he joined the Jets in 2013. Jarrett is listed as 6’0″/196 pounds by the team.

Seen by many as disappointing, the former second-round pick has failed to play up to his draft position. Jarrett is not without talent, but his game needs to be more consistent.

Nov 9, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) runs with the ball while New York Jets free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (37) attempts to tackle him during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Steelers 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Eskridge is a rookie UDFA signed by the Jets after this year’s draft. While its hard to imagine that the Jets would go with a rookie back up at free safety, Eskridge will have his shot to show off his skills this summer.

There is even the group of fans that think he could be the future for the Jets at free safety, though I think that might be a bit premature of a judgement. Eskridge is listed as 6’3″/207 pounds by the Jets.

With a perceived lack of depth at free safety, could Todd Bowles be considering converting some of his depth at cornerback to add to the competition this summer? If Bowles chooses, there may be three candidates he might consider.

A corner to free safety conversion isn’t rare in the NFL by any means, and it might provide the Jets a better solution at the position. Cromartie is now 31 and coming off a rebound season with Bowles last season. I think he is the least likely of the corners to be asked to move to free safety, but he could make a good one.

If Milliner and McDougle are healthy and can play to their draft positions, Cromartie may be asked to change positions to make room for the Jet youth movement at corner. Cromartie would not be the first older veteran cornerback to make the conversion and extend their career.

Williams showed off his skills last year in attempting to make a name for himself in a decimated Jets’ secondary. Williams measures out at 5’11/196 pounds and is just 24 years old. Playing in the final 8 games of 2014, Williams impressed many with his ball skills.

He posted 36 tackles, 29 of those being solo. Williams showed he can tackle, a great attribute to have in your free safety. In the passing game, he managed 7  pass defenses and added a rare interception in 2014. Williams has talent, his problem is that the Jets are very deep at cornerback. Safety may be a spot he can claim a spot.

Dec 28, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets cornerback Marcus Williams (22) lines up in the backfield during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis is a young returning Jet cornerback who spent 2014 on the practice squad. Williams measures out at 6’1″/190 pounds and boasts 4.36 speed. Seen as a long shot to make this roster by many, I like what Lewis brings to the table.

Stuck in much the same position as Williams, Lewis might benefit in a conversion as well. Lewis is a tough player, he took a long journey to get to this point, and he’s here to compete. With the crowded competition at cornerback, a conversion to free safety might be his best chance to win a spot.

I’m not certain if any of these three will be tried out at free safety. I think its highly unlikely Cromartie is even considered. The other two young guys might provide some interesting competition to the free safety position this summer.

Do you have a suggestion for the position? Who do you see as the main back-up at free safety? Leave us a comment and Let’s Talk Jet Football!!

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