The Jets will be putting a lot of faith in Bryce Hall and Bless Austin, two young cornerbacks.
Published: 2021-08-05 10:47 pm
Jets’ success could hinge on cornerbacks Bryce Hall and Bless Austin
nypost.com

Youth can thrill. Youth also can kill.

Youth can be reckless and sometimes too exciting for its own good.

If, by the time final roster cuts are made later this month, the Jets don’t have the youngest team in the NFL by average age, they’ll be around the top five.

The face of the Jets’ youth, after first-round draft pick quarterback Zach Wilson, lies in their cornerback corps, a position at which general manager Joe Douglas curiously opted not to add any veteran experience in the offseason.

During the Jets’ minicamp in June, rookie head coach Robert Saleh spoke boldly and with confidence (or whistling past the graveyard) that he was prepared to roll with the youth at cornerback.

Will that result in sinking or swimming in the pass-happy league the NFL has become?

That remains to be seen. Check back sometime around Thanksgiving for a proper sample size.

“When you’re dealing with young guys, the excitement is like when you’re driving on the freeway and you’re on [empty], you’re like, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ ’’ Saleh said after practice on Thursday. “It’s like a roller coaster. But at the same time, you see an unbelievable amount of growth happen from play-in and play-out, and day-in and day-out.’’

(image)
Bryce Hall and Bless Austin
Bill Kostroun; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Jets have a rookie quarterback (Wilson), two starting cornerbacks in their respective second seasons who have combined for one career interception, and rookie starters on the offensive line (guard Alijah Vera-Tucker) and at receiver (Elijah Moore). Can a team win in the NFL with a roster as young at the most critical positions as the Jets are?

“I’ve seen [young] teams win, I’ve seen [young] teams have growth,’’ Saleh said. “I’ve seen veteran teams lose. It’s a matter of gaining confidence, jelling, having the ball bounce your way and really getting confidence. This group is a very confident group … a very young, confident group.’’

Sometimes it can pay to be young and dumb, oblivious to the pitfalls of inexperience.

Good news for the Jets is the polished and mature way one of their prospective starting corners conducts himself.

Bryce Hall, in his second year out of Virginia and a fifth-round pick in 2020, wants to be like former Jets great Darrelle Revis. He has modeled his work routine after Revis’ through ardent film study and cerebral preparation leading into game day.

“That’s what I’m striving for — to be like that, studying my opponents,’’ Hall told The Post on Thursday. “When I was in college and became a corner [he was a receiver in high school], I wanted to study what the best corners did and how they did things, so I got Revis’ tape when I was at Virginia and I would study him.

“It would be amazing, because you never saw him really get beat by anybody. He was all over the field, he traveled. That’s something I really respect about him. He was definitely a legend. I try to take a little bit of that.

“I haven’t been able to speak to him yet, but that would be something I would love to do. Hopefully, if he comes around, I would be able to catch up with him.’’

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Bless Austin
Getty Images

If Phil Simms can stop by Giants camp and talk to his former team as he did on Wednesday, you’d like to think the Jets can arrange a Revis visit with Hall and the young cornerbacks on this roster.

“Hall Island’’ would have a nice ring to it, yes?

The Jets have only one cornerback who has been in the NFL for more than three years, Justin Hardee, who was signed in the offseason to play special teams.

If the season began tomorrow, their starting corners likely would be Bless Austin, who has played in 18 NFL games and is still searching for his first interception, and Hall, who played eight games as a rookie last season. Javelin Guidry, who played 11 games last season, and rookie Michael Carter II are the top candidates to play nickel corner.

Overall, the Jets have four rookies at cornerback: Carter, Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn.

“The biggest difficulty for them is they don’t necessarily have the veteran guy to look to show them the process, to show them exactly what it’s supposed to look like,’’ defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said of his cornerbacks. “At the same time, it creates this unbelievable competition across the board. These young guys get better every day.’’

Will they be good enough to mask their inexperience?

Will their youth thrill Jets fans or kill the Jets?

“Pete Carroll once said, ‘You can’t be afraid to play young guys,’ ’’ Saleh said before training camp, referring to the Seahawks coach, for whom he used to work. “They’re hell on wheels and they’re fun to watch. It could go either way.’’

Hang on tight.

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