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Jets 2024 Position Breakdown: Will this be Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed and Michael Carter’s last year together?

Heading into the 2024 season, the Jets have made a series of moves to improve the state of their roster and overall

depth, but are they ready to compete for a playoff spot?

In this series, we’ll break down the depth chart for every position group. This time, we’ll go in-depth at the cornerback

positions…


Projected depth chart

Starters: Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, Michael Carter II (slot)

Backups: Brandin Echols, Qwan’tez Stiggers

Key additions/losses: Drafted Stiggers. Bryce Hall signed with Tampa Bay in free agency.

Top Performers in 2023: Gardner was named as a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro after racking up 57 tackles and 11 pass breakups.

2023 ranking via PFF: Gardner 3rd, Carter 13th and Reed 18th out of 133 qualifying cornerbacks.

What Jets’ cornerbacks have going for them

Gardner, Reed and Carter give the Jets a group that is widely considered to be the league’s best. Gardner will likely become the NFL’s highest paid cornerback within the next year or two and Reed and Carter are also in line for a big extension as they each enter the final year of their deals.

Depth is a minor concern with the rookie Stiggers lacking in experience and the versatile Echols having been exploited at times when he’s had to fill in previously. However, it’s worth remembering that the Jets somehow upset the Eagles last year despite the fact that both Reed and Gardner were out, so the coaching staff has shown they can deal with issues at this position.

The Jets did bring in Isaiah Oliver, who has played cornerback in the past, but they’re currently deploying him at safety which may suggest they have faith in their depth at this position.

Key concern for 2023: Interceptions

Despite their dominant play last season, the Jets’ top trio only managed to intercept one pass between them, with Gardner’s dropped interception for a would-be pick-six in the loss to Dallas looming large. A play like that can turn a game on its head so the Jets will hope Reed, Carter and Gardner can all be more opportunistic in 2024.

With the Jets’ pass rush being so dominant, you’d expect the secondary to be able to take advantage of errant or rushed throws, but it seems to have been the safeties who are exploiting this rather than the cornerbacks over the past two years.

Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets cornerback Brandin Echols (26) celebrates his interception that was run back for a touchdown agains the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Player who must step up in 2024: Echols

Echols is a player who has been on the brink of being released a few times in his three seasons with the team, and this year looked set to be a similar situation until Oliver was moved to safety. He’ll still need to perform well enough to retain the primary back-up role ahead of Stiggers, though, as the rookie has been turning heads during the offseason program.

Having previously been a useful special teamer, Echols’ status on the roster may have been strengthened by special teams captain Justin Hardee’s departure, but he’ll also want to establish himself as someone who can get on the field in dime packages and be the first cornerback off the bench both on the outside and in the slot.

Biggest camp battle: Tae Hayes vs. Shemar Bartholemew vs. Myles Jones vs. Brandon Codrington

There may be a spot or two available either on the active roster or practice squad and the journeyman Hayes will be looking to see off a trio of undrafted rookies. Anyone who can prove themselves to be a potential special teams contributor has a realistic chance of winning this competition, so Codrington’s experience as a return man could serve him well.

Safety Jarrick Bernard-Converse may also factor into this competition as he’s reportedly been getting some reps at cornerback during OTAs too.

Overall 2024 outlook

The Jets will rely on their cornerbacks to lock down opposing teams once again as they reportedly plan to get Gardner to shadow some of the top receivers in the league in order to shut down the threat posed by players like Tyreek Hill or Justin Jefferson.

As long as this unit stays healthy, the Jets should once again be solid against the pass and, as noted, the team will hope for more turnovers to come from this group to give them momentum boosts throughout the season.