If he can stay healthy, the New York Jets have a new Island in their secondary, and his name is Morris Claiborne.
Generally speaking, when we think of shutdown corners, we think of interceptions. Most fans are enamored by interceptions, because they’re fun to watch, but don’t expect many interceptions to come from cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2017 with the New York Jets.
In his career, Claiborne is averaging one interception every ten games. Don’t expect that trend to change in 2017. With that said, don’t expect him to give up a lot of catches either.
According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via STATS, Inc.), through Week 4 last season, the man covered by Claiborne was targeted 24 times. Those receivers had nine total catches and zero touchdowns. In addition, the quarterbacks only completed 37.5% in the direction of Claiborne. That’s the definition of shutting down one side of the field.
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In that same article, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said this about Claiborne:
He’s on top of the details, all those things. As a player, when you have talent like that, and when you put together kind of the grind and the work, the improvement starts showing.
There’s no doubt a corner with the skills of Claiborne is what this defense needs. Bowles wants to be aggressive and blitz. The Jets need corners who can man up on an island to do that. Claiborne can, and he will in 2017.
You won’t see the interception numbers pile up like the early days of Darrelle Revis (21 in his first six seasons). However, that doesn’t matter if the completion percentage is low when passes are headed his way, and he isn’t allowing the other team to score.
Williams was moved all over the field by the Jets in 2016, seeing 49 coverage snaps from the left corner spot, 122 from the right and 125 out of the slot. Williams had his most success out of the right corner position where he allowed a QB rating of 71.5 when he was the primary defender in coverage (compared to a 134.3 QB rating from the left and the slot). Claiborne has historically stayed on the left side of the field (90.5 percent of his coverage snaps left year came from the left corner), which should help Williams settle into the right.
Claiborne will shut down half of the field. That will significantly help the Jets defense, especially their pass rush.