The NY Jets would be wise to take it slow with cornerback Blessuan Austin as opposed to relying on him as a starting option in 2020.
Austin was selected by the Jets with the 196th overall pick in the sixth round in last year’s draft as a low-risk flyer of a pick. The former Rutgers standout had missed nearly all of the last two seasons after tearing his ACL in consecutive seasons.
After earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention as a sophomore, Austin would play in just three more collegiate games over the next two seasons as one of college football’s most promising young cornerbacks was relegated to the sidelines.
And despite his late-season surge with Gang Green, nobody even expected Austin to step foot on the field in 2019.
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Austin began the year on the reserve/non-football injury list and many expected the Jets to eventually place him on the injured reserve as he continued to recover from his knee injury.
But the 23-year-old was activated ahead of the team’s Week 10 matchup with the New York Giants. He would be inserted into the starting lineup at halftime and he wouldn’t be removed until the final game of the season.
Along the way, Austin showed the most promise out of any of the Jets’ boundary cornerbacks finishing with a very respectable 71.4 Pro Football Focus grade. He would be benched in Week 17 after a blown coverage assignment in the previous week ending his season on a sour note.
But all in all, Austin showed that he could be a possible starting cornerback of the future and he did so when few expected him to even play in a game in 2019 — let alone make an actual positive impact.
However, with all that being said, the Jets would be foolish to go into 2020 relying on him to be a starter.
Blessuan Austin’s success in 2019 came in a very limited sample size. The Queens native played in just six and a half games and while he found success, it’s tough to project the same over a full 16-game season.
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Remember Darryl Roberts? The veteran impressed in a limited starting role in 2018 and parlayed that success into a new contract and a starting role in 2019. That turned out to be a huge mistake and the Jets are likely to move on from him this offseason.
Of course, Roberts was considerably older than Austin, but it does demonstrate the concerns that come with putting too much stock into limited playing time.
But perhaps most importantly is the idea of Austin’s health.
After playing in three games over a two-year span, Austin returned to the gridiron in 2019 to play in seven contests. And even though he came away injury-free in his rookie season, the medical history has to be a concern.
With a player like Austin who carries as much injury baggage as he does, it could be difficult to rely on that player as a starter — especially if the injuries have occurred relatively recently.
None of this is to say that Austin can not and will not be a starting cornerback in the near future. But it is to say that the Jets shouldn’t bank on his success in 2020.
Trumaine Johnson and the aforementioned Darryl Roberts are surely gone which will open up two starting jobs on the outside. Realistically, neither of those jobs should be filled with players currently on the roster.
Austin could certainly compete for a starting role in 2020, but to go into the season with him guaranteed the No. 2 cornerback position would be a mistake.
Blessuan Austin showed promise in 2019, but it’s best that Jets fans curb their expectations in regards to the talented, but inexperienced cornerback.