The secondary is widely regarded as the Jets weakest link. Without any proven veteran players, the unit is expected to struggle in coverage.
Don’t tell that to Bless Austin, though.
The presumed starter at cornerback, opposite Bryce Hall, is not interested in hearing outside criticism. He believes in his ability to succeed in the NFL, and told reporters his talent will shine through this season.
“I think I’m the real deal, ain’t no secret in that. Click the tape and press play. Of course I make mistakes, but there’s also a lot of plays on that field I made that other corners in this league aren’t making,” said Austin on Monday.
The confidence of the Rutgers product was refreshing to witness, and will prove tremendously useful for Gang Green. Despite being just 25, Austin is the elder statesman of sorts at the position, the only corner with starting experience.
Instilling belief in his fellow cornerbacks will be a huge boost for the overall success of the back end of the defense. And, as the Queens native emphasized in his press conference, the front office also has faith in him and Hall to produce.
“There’s a reason why they didn’t bring a veteran corner in. Not to knock any of the veteran corners that may be out there, but there’s a reason why. They see something in us. It’s no surprise at all,” said Austin.
After all, the former sixth-round pick and Hall were originally top prospects before suffering devastating injuries. Hall had a horrific ankle injury at Virginia that required recovery during his senior year, but had originally been projected to be a first or second round pick. Austin tore his ACL twice in college, and was rehabbing from the second tear in his first offseason.
After COVID-19 cut the calendar short last year, 2021 represented Austin’s first opportunity to participate in a full offseason program. He remained in town throughout the spring and summer months, working with staff at the training facility, honing his craft.
Studying film of Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco, Austin was particularly impressed with Emmanuel Moseley. It is logical that the third-year pro would be drawn to Moseley, who went undrafted in 2018 before becoming an effective starter.
Austin is convinced he can not only reach the level of Moseley, but also soon be considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
The receivers standing across the line from him in practice have certainly sped up the development process. The 6-foot-1 defensive back feels grateful to be able to face off against Elijah Moore and Corey Davis every day.
“It helps me improve it a lot because first of all the formation sets that they come out in and the things that they force me to do, it points out a lot of weaknesses in my game that I once had. So the fact that I’m able to go against that every day, it’s making me feel at home,” said Austin.
The Jets organization must hope their young corner can hope this valuable experience will turn his confidence into consistent play, as they look to establish a top-10 defense in 2021. One thing is for sure: he won’t lose faith in his abilities.
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