NFL training camp starts at the end of July, which means players around the league are getting their last bits of offseason work in before the real work of trying to make the roster begins.
For certain players, this season is what some may call “Make or Break,” meaning they need to put together a productive year or they could be looking for employment elsewhere at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
- 11 games (10 starts)
- 63 tackles
- Four passes defensed
Why Make or Break?
Since being drafted by the Jets in the sixth round in 2019, Austin has had two seasons to establish himself as a viable full-time starter but has been unable to do so. Many expected the Jets to bring in an upgrade which would relegate Austin to a reserve role. However, the Jets opted not to address the position in free agency, affording him one last chance to prove he belongs.
He will, however, face competition for his spot from players like Jason Pinnock and Isaiah Dunn, each of whom have seen some first team reps during the offseason.
However, this is Austin’s first full offseason at the pro level because he was rehabbing an ACL tear in 2019 and the pandemic led to a truncation of 2020 offseason activities. He may therefore make good progress at training camp, especially if he fits well within the new system.
What will break it?
Austin’s athleticism and length should make him a good option as an outside cornerback, but his first two seasons were blighted with inconsistent play. His coverage skills and overall numbers weren’t all that bad, but he made a lot of mental errors that will soon see him replaced if they continue in 2021.
Towards the end of a promising rookie season, Austin found himself in the doghouse and was benched for the last game and a half when he let his man get behind him for an easy touchdown just before halftime in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also blew a few similar coverage assignments in 2020.
The other big negative with Austin last season was his reckless tackling. He missed a league-high eight tackles in the first three games as the Jets got off to an 0-3 start that sent their season into a tailspin. In addition, he overpursued and lost contain on a momentum-shifting 3rd-and-31 conversion in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Clearly, Austin focused hard on improving this over the remainder of the season as he only had three more missed tackles the rest of the way. He can’t afford to fall back into bad habits here, though.
What will make it?
We’ve established that Austin will need to play with more consistency and cut out the mental errors in 2021 to hold onto his spot, but if he’s going to convince the team he’s a viable option into the future, the Jets also need more playmaking from him.
Austin has yet to intercept his first NFL pass and only had four breakups in each of his first two seasons.
The hope here is that the retooled defensive line will put opposing quarterbacks under more pressure, so a player like Austin can attack some errant passes.