New York Jets cornerback Brian Poole is exceeding expectations so far this season despite a lackluster showing from the team’s other cornerbacks.
Poole was signed away from the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason after three seasons spent down south. The 26-year-old originally entered the league back in 2016 as an undrafted rookie out of Florida and it didn’t take too long for him to start making an impact.
Due to a slew of injuries to the Falcons’ cornerbacks — including top corner Desmond Trufant — Poole was asked to play meaningful snaps early on in his career. Poole would end up playing in all 16 games in his rookie season making nine starts.
Not bad for an undrafted rookie.
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In fact, Poole would earn significant praise for his rookie season grading out as the fourth-best rookie cornerback that season by Pro Football Focus finishing with a very solid 77.5 grade.
His coverage playing in the nickel was solid and he was extremely efficient when used as a pass rusher. And to this day, no cornerback in the league has recorded more QB pressures since Poole came into the league in 2016.
However, his play would significantly drop off in the subsequent years and he would never really regain his 2016 form. In 2017, Poole ranked dead last out of 91 eligible corners in completion percentage when targeted with a woeful 84.4%.
And in 2018, Poole’s PFF grade dropped to a measly 61.7 as he once again disappointed — even despite a stronger second-half to the season.
For that reason, the Jets were able to get Poole on the cheap this offseason for a one-year contract worth just $3.5 million. Poole was brought in to be the Jets’ replacement for Buster Skrine in the slot after four seasons of frustratingly inconsistent play.
There were very little expectations for Poole along with the rest of the team’s corners going into 2019. But in the face of incompetence around him, Poole has managed to shine more than anyone could have imagined.
Through four weeks, Poole is actually PFF’s highest-graded cornerback in the entire NFL. That’s right, the Jets have the cornerback with the highest-rated coverage grade in the league on their roster.
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Poole’s sudden emergence has been well-timed too with the expectedly poor performances from the team’s outside cornerbacks. Trumaine Johnson has been benched and the Jets have been starting career backups in Darryl Roberts and Nate Hairston on the boundary.
Neither has played particularly well and it’s clear that the team’s cornerbacks remain their biggest concern on defense. Except, however, for Poole.
It’s still very early in the season, but Poole is looking more and more like the 2016 version of himself with every passing week. In fact, he’s playing the best football of his career right now — it’s just going mostly unnoticed.
Surrounded by an inept cornerback depth chart, Brian Poole has managed to excel even while his teammates’ flounder.
And it’s about time that he begins to get the recognition that he deserves.