Commentary

Deep trouble in shallow Jets secondary

Loss to Victor Cruz -- and the Giants -- exposes the shaky subs in Revis-less group

Updated: August 17, 2010, 2:43 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez started with a hiccup, but settled down nicely. LaDainian Tomlinson provided a couple of moments that made you think there's still some life in those old legs. There were other positives for the New York Jets, but something was missing in Monday night's preseason opener.

That something is named Darrelle Revis, and the ripple effects of his holdout were apparent in the 31-16 loss to the New York Giants in the football grand opening at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Nothing that happened in the $1.7 billion PSL palace will dramatically alter the Revis negotiations, which are dragging into Week 3 of training camp, but the outcome provided a sobering look at the lack of depth in the Jets' secondary.

Without Revis, everybody in the cornerback crew moved up a notch in the pecking order. Beyond the starters, Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson, the cornerback depth chart looked like this: Drew Coleman, Marquice Cole and Dwight Lowery.

Shaky, shakier and shakiest.

Did someone let Lito Sheppard back on the team?

Victor Cruz
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireVictor Cruz beat three different Jets corners for TDs. It was Dwight Lowery's turn on this play.

The Jets surrendered three touchdown passes, and the victims were, in order: Lowery (64 yards), Coleman (34) and Cole (5). They were all burned by a rookie free agent named Victor Cruz, a Jersey kid via UMass. Cruz, crafting a Wayne Chrebet-like story, finished with six receptions for 145.

Coach Rex Ryan cracked a joke after the game, saying, "That No. 3 is pretty darn good. I hope they cut him because I know one team that would sign him -- us." Ryan laughed at his own line, but know this: He's concerned about his Revis-less secondary.

And with good reason, considering the Giants played without their best receiver, Steve Smith. Granted, all three touchdowns came against the Jets' No. 2 and No. 3 defenses, but if Revis isn't around for the regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, Coleman, Cole and Lowery will be on the field in the nickel and dime packages.

"Those guys are going to have to step in," said Ryan, who seemed uncomfortable discussing the prospect of life without Revis.

The Jets are trying to hammer out a new contract for their All-Pro cornerback, who apparently isn't going to show until they show him the money. Neither side is talking about the negotiations -- they agreed to a gag order -- so it's difficult to say where things stand.

In Ryan's mind, this is how they stand: Until Revis is here, he's not here. It's still too early to panic, but the preseason will be over in 16 days. Then, it's panic time.

"Obviously, it's a concern," safety Jim Leonhard said. "You take the best corner off your defense, and it's going to hurt. ... We want Darrelle here, but that's the business side of this game. We can't get caught up in that. We have to get better, obviously."

Ryan said he was "totally disappointed" with his backups on defense, although he tried to explain that Coleman wasn't totally to blame (a miscommunication in the secondary, he said). Lowery actually had good coverage on Cruz, who ran a deep sideline route, but he lost his balance as the pass arrived. And that was all she wrote.

And let's not forget, that wasn't Eli Manning making those throws. It was Jim Sorgi and Rhett Bomar. As Ryan might say, Jim Bleepin' Sorgi?

The starting corners, Cromartie and rookie Wilson, held up well, although Cromartie did drop two would-be interceptions. He's supposed to have amazing ball skills, but he reacted to those passes like a New York Mets infielder. Wilson wasn't really tested, so it's difficult to evaluate him.

On the positive side, Sanchez (13-for-17, 119 yards) played well after throwing an interception into double coverage on his first pass. He wanted Tomlinson in the seam, but the throw was behind him. It was batted up in the air and picked off by Antrel Rolle.

"I don't think you could script a worse start for a first play of a second season," Sanchez said.

After that, Sanchez showed patience in the pocket, throwing underneath and spreading the ball to six different receivers. One of those was Tomlinson, who turned a short crossing route into a 14-yard gain on third down. That set up the Jets' first touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Brad Smith.

On opening night, there were plenty of good things for the Jets. But it also served as a warning: With no Revis Island, it will be hard to find a survivor.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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