The New York Jets have been dealing with all kinds of injury problems at cornerback, and they faced the Cincinnati Bengals in their second preseason game without Dee Milliner, Dimitri Patterson and Dexter McDougle. Patterson should be back soon, while Milliner is probably out until at least Week 1 and McDougle has been lost for the season. With injuries to three key players at corner, the Jets have been forced to give their reserves far more playing time.
One of the reserves who was given a big opportunity was 5th year man Ellis Lankster, who has been a special teams ace for the Jets the last two seasons. Lankster was handed a starting job against the Bengals, and he was the only starter in the secondary who turned in a solid performance against Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ first team offense. Lankster will probably get the opportunity to start again when the Jets take on the New York Giants on Friday, and he has a huge opportunity to carve out a significant role.
Antonio Allen was decent following his conversion to corner for the Cincinnati game, and the Jets didn’t exactly do him any favors by throwing him into the fire against A.J. Green. Realistically, Allen is going to be a safety again once Milliner returns. However, Patterson struggled against the Indianapolis Colts, while Kyle Wilson was absolutely awful against the Bengals. There is a growing sentiment that Patterson is a better fit in the slot as a replacement for Wilson, leaving the Jets needing another starter on the outside.
If Lankster continues to play well, he could earn that role. Darrin Walls had an interception to seal the win over the Bengals, but he only played against backups. If Patterson returns against the Giants, it will be interesting to see how the playing time and roles break down. Lankster should start again, and another solid performance will really give Rex Ryan and the coaching staff something to think about as the regular season nears.
The Jets will obviously be looking to see what happens after the first round of roster cuts, and they will be interested in any solid veteran corner that hits the open market. In the meantime, they must focus on finding a solution to their problem on the current roster, and Lankster could be the player that gets that opportunity. He responded well against the Bengals, and now it is up to him to keep it going. If he can, don’t be surprised if he plays a much bigger role than just special teams this season.