With the recent season-ending injury to elite cornerback Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets are searching far and wide for options to help their secondary survive the fallout. One of those options appears to be moving running back Joe McKnight to the defensive side of the ball.
“He’ll have a role on offense, but we’re also teaching him how to play corner,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of McKnight. “Not quite a full-time capacity, but he’s going to be over there a ton in the meetings and everything else. He has the necessary skills to be able to play corner.”
We all know that Ryan is an eccentric shot-caller who likes to think outside of the box when it comes to adjusting to what the NFL throws at him.
This is the same guy who acquired Tim Tebow this offseason in hopes of adding that dynamic playmaking attribute to his offense. So far, that plan has backfired as Tebow has seen more playing time on special teams than offense. This is also the same coach who has guaranteed Super Bowl appearances and fallen short season after season. He’s got lofty goals that are rarely achieved.
So what makes Ryan think that McKnight lining up at cornerback is a good idea?
Yes, McKnight is a superb athlete who does have sufficient experience at the position, dating back to his high school days. Through his first few practices at cornerback this season, McKnight has shown some promise, picking off three passes on Wednesday. It’s not like he’s making any sort of impact at running back, managing only 337 rushing yards through his first three seasons in the league.
What makes this a poor fit is McKnight’s constant inconsistency. One minute, the shifty back is making people miss and lighting up the highlight reel. The next, he’s fumbling away the football and his confidence. Throughout his football career, he has relied so heavily on his natural athleticism that he has failed to incorporate technique into his game. A cornerback without technique makes coverage a fallacy.
On top of everything else, it sounds like McKnight isn’t exactly excited to make this difficult transition to the cornerback spot.
“I mean, I was drafted as a running back,” McKnight said. “The way I took it as was I wasn’t good enough to play running back. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but that’s the way I’m looking at it right now.”
It’s hard enough for players to make a positional transition when they’re willing to do anything to make an NFL roster. It’s even harder when that player thinks he’s being punished and isn’t a fan of the move.
With Revis out of the picture, the Jets defensive backfield is looking ugly with Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant as the only capable fill-ins across from starter Antonio Cromartie. I find it hard to believe that McKnight entering that mix will clear up their secondary struggles, though.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Ryan is digging deep down into his bag of tricks for this one. I hope he’s prepared for the consequences.