After another lost New York Jets season, it’s time to evaluate this 53-man roster. This daily ranking continues with No. 10, cornerback Blessuan Austin.
That explains how a first-round talent fell to this team’s final selection in the sixth round (196th overall).
The original Mike Maccagnan plan was to “redshirt” the Queens-bred rookie and let him learn the speed of the game during the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. But Austin insisted he’d be “100 percent” by training camp.
Needless to say, Adam Gase and his coaching staff understood the dearth of talent at cornerback on the roster — and were thrilled to discover Austin’s rehab far ahead of schedule. The 23-year-old debuted in the second half of the team’s MetLife victory over Big Blue.
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Then he started the next six games and looked like a shutdown corner before getting exposed late in the season for allowing big plays downfield. He somehow got downgraded to a healthy scratch in the final week against Buffalo.
Austin finished the season with 25 combined tackles, four passes defended, and a forced fumble, leading to an outstanding first-year Pro Football Focus grade of 71.4. During the seven games he played, the team posted an impressive 5-2 mark.
Austin explains how he learned so quickly to contribute to the green-and-white.
“It’s not hard at all. I’ve got talented veterans on the back-end, so I just lean on them. They’re the reason that a lot of these things are happening right now, especially my defensive backs coach, Dennard Wilson. The preparation that he has provided for me is just outstanding. He’s always making sure that I’m ready, and he pushes me like no other. I thought I was my own hardest critic, but not at all. He keeps pushing me, and me, I’m coachable. So, I’m just trying to listen to everything and take it in.”
2020 will be a key season for Austin as one must question a baller who rose so high and fell so far over the course of a half-dozen games. It’s too early to tell if Austin is that emerging starting cornerback.
But after all that he’s been through, don’t be foolish enough to discount the upside of this sculpted 6-foot-1, 200-pound physical specimen.