For all of positive mojo emanating from this Jets training camp, with the new coaching staff headed by Adam Gase having injected instant energy to a franchise that had been flatlining for the past few years, there’s been a lot of focus and alarm about the team’s deficiency at cornerback.
Before starter Trumaine Johnson suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him 12 days ago and before Johnson’s replacement, undrafted rookie Kyron Brown, went down with a hamstring injury, cornerback already was a weak link on the defense.
The situation became so dire that Jamal Adams, the Jets’ top safety and arguably their best defensive player, announced, “If they need me to go to corner, I’ll go to corner. I’m dead serious.”
Good coaches don’t break up a position of strength to help out a position of weakness, so that was never an option for Gase. What Gase is hoping for, though, is for Adams and fellow safety Marcus Maye to become such a tight tandem that they mask the deficiency at corner.
After an injury-plagued 2018 season and offseason, Maye is ready to rejoin Adams in the defensive backfield, where the two — with their chemistry and raw physical talent — have a chance to become among the best safety tandems in the NFL. The Jets’ defensive success might hinge on that, based on their woes at cornerback.
In order for that to happen, though, there is a number that Maye must hit this season, and it has nothing to do with tackles or turnovers created. Maye’s magic number is 16, as in regular-season games played. If he reaches that number, it may lead to good things.
“There’s definitely motivation to prove, to not just everyone [else] but to myself, that I can do this, and just to be out there all 16 games is a start,’’ Maye said after Thursday’s practice, their last session in advance of Saturday preseason home game against the Saints.
Maye played all 16 games his rookie season, when he was drafted in the second round after Adams was picked in the first. Maye finished with two interceptions, a forced fumble and 78 tackles. Before he was hurt in 2018, he had an interception (returned 104 yards for a TD), a forced fumble, a half-sack and 36 tackles in six games.
Saturday’s game against the Saints will provide a preview of things to come for Maye, who hasn’t played in a game since Week 6 of last season, when he suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the rest of the year.
Maye was not cleared for contact in practice until this week, when he was able to shed the red jersey (which signifies no-contact).
“Once that red jersey came off, we were rolling, because he’s in dynamic shape,’’ Gase said. “That’s all he’s been doing [working out] — almost to the point where he’s kind of tired of it. He’s in great shape. His livelihood is running. He’s one of those guys you don’t have to worry about fatiguing during the game.’’
As low-key as his personality is, it’s clear Maye is stoked to play again and reunite with Adams, his close friend.
“It’ll be exciting just to get back out there on the field, to be out there with the guys, run around, be a part of the team and just play football,’’ Maye said. “Everything is right on schedule. It was a long offseason, lot of hard work to get to this point.’’
Gase said Maye’s injuries were not things “he could have prevented’’ and that “he had some bad luck.’’
“He’s done everything he can to get back out on the field,’’ Gase said. “I love how he pushed to practice this week. He wanted to be available for the [Saints] game. Everything looks like it’s a go. He tries to do everything right, and hopefully we can keep him on the field.’’
Gase has grand visions of Adams and Maye patrolling the back side of the defense.
“Those two guys together are fun to watch,” the coach said.
Adams on Thursday called it “exciting’’ to have Maye back out there with him.
“We feed off each other, man,’’ Adams said.
“We’ve got a great relationship off the field first, and once we get on the field, it just picks up naturally,’’ Maye said. “We’ve got a pretty good understanding for each other. We feed off each other on the field without even looking at each other. We know the sky is the limit for us.’’