The New York Jets are apparently thinking outside the box when it comes to their cornerback depth.
McKnight, an outstanding special teams player who led the NFL in kick return average in 2011, was a cornerback and running back in high school before becoming a fulltime offensive player at USC.
McKnight played one snap on defense last season, pass rushing on a cornerback blitz, pressuring the quarterback into throwing an interception. He also returned a kick for a touchdown in that game, a 34-17 Jets loss.
When Revis is on the field, the Jets typically have five or six cornerbacks active on a weekly basis, but this week there are only four fulltime cornerbacks that are healthy and ready to play.
Antonio Cromartie, who himself has dabbled in playing both sides of the ball, will be the Jets’ number 1 cornerback this week. Kyle Wilson, typically the Jets’ starting slot corner, will start opposite Cromartie on the outside.
Ellis Lankster, who entered the game when Revis went down last week, will likely get the majority of the snaps in the slot. Isaiah Trufant, himself questionable with an ankle injury, is the only other cornerback on the roster.
The Jets are expected to get safety Eric Smith back this week, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Smith on the field along with fellow safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Rookie Josh Bush will have a big role as well.
However, McKnight could be the wild card. The 24-year-old special teams standout was beaten out for the third-down running back role by Bilal Powell, and McKnight only saw a total of three snaps on offense in Week 1.
It would be unwise to expect McKnight to be a shutdown cornerback, having only practiced it sparingly in the NFL. But Rex Ryan definitely likes what he’s seen from the versatile young man.
If McKnight does see time on defense this week, I wouldn’t expect it to be for more than a handful of snaps. However, he did help force a turnover the last time he was on that side of the ball, so keep your eyes peeled.
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