Updated, 5:45 p.m. ET
The talk about Joe McKnight playing a role in the secondary has been with him coming out of high school, and it’s been on the back burner with the Jets last season and even this season.
Today Rex Ryan, taking into account Darrelle Revis’ severe knee injury and the desire for some flexibility at the position, moved McKnight toward the corner burner.
“We’ll do that this week with Joe,” the Jets head coach said at his midday news conference. “He’ll have a role on offense, but we’re also teaching him how to play corner — not in a full-time capacity, but he’s going to be over there a ton, in the meetings and everything else.”
With Ellis Lankster (low back) questionable for Miami and then with Revis going down late in the third quarter and Antonio Cromartie even missing a snap after jarring his shoulder, the Jets have the need for some in-game corner flexibility. And with McKnight being used little on offense (seven plays, three rushes, no receptions) and contributing on kickoff returns and a few other special teams units, he is an option to go in the game on the defensive side of the ball.
McKnight played corner his first two seasons at John Curtis HS in Louisiana, and even after he emerged on offense his last two seasons, he continued to contribute at corner, in particular as a junior with three interception-return touchdowns. He has said he was recruited by USC in part due to his secondary skills although he was used primarily as a running back and secondarily as a punt returner by the Trojans.
Needless to say, playing CB even on a part-time basis in the pros would be a challenge — in fact, McKnight said today, “Me playing cornerback in high school is not helping me right now” — but this is something the Jets seem ready to explore as they move forward.
“Even when he was a rookie, we felt he had the necessary skills to play corner, the athleticism, the ball skills,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to think Joe McKnight couldn’t be a corner. It’s just going to take time, obviously, but with DT [Dennis Thurman] and Jimmy O [Jim O’Neil] over there, I think we’ve got great teachers.”
After practice, McKnight put the best face on it, yet he admitted, “I was surprised, but you’ve got to move on. … The way I took it was I wasn’t good enough as a running back. The coach tells you your position’s changed, you’re going to take it a certain way. That’s how I took it. It might not be the case, I don’t know what the case might be, but that’s how I’m taking it right now.”
While surprised, he said he wasn’t “disappointed or anything like that. Coach makes decisions, you’ve got to go out and do what they say to do.”
He even said he enjoyed a productive first day at his new position, coming up with three interceptions.
“Yeah, Mark [Sanchez] threw me one, I think [Tim] Tebow threw me one, and Greg [McElroy] … I think I got one from all three,” he said. The implication was that the QBs each threw No. 25 a pick to welcome him to that side of the ball. In any event, McElroy didn’t recall throwing one in McKnight’s direction.
“But Cro got me a couple of times,” the other Mac said. “I hate throwing picks, but if it translates on Sunday, I’m fine with it.”
And McKnight said he’s fine with this new line on his NFL résumé.
“I’m just happy to be on the football field,” he said. “I’m not one to stand on the sidelines.”
Word during Ryan’s news conference came from a reporter that the NFL and the NFL Referees Association may have reached an agreement to end their labor impasse and that the league’s officials could return to work possibly as soon as this weekend’s games.
None of that has been announced yet, but one way or the other, Ryan said it wouldn’t change his approach to getting the Jets prepared for the 49ers.
“If that’s the case, all we can do, all I’m going to do is get our football team ready to play, no matter who’s out there officiating,” Ryan said. “That’s the job of any head coach.”
The Jets list 19 players on this week’s first injury report. At the top of the list, Revis is being listed as out. LB Bart Scott (toe), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee) did not participate in today’s practice. Four more players — FB John Conner (knee), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and WR Patrick Turner (hamstring) — were limited. The other 11 Jets were all full-go at practice. Click here for the Jets’ full injury report.
San Francisco is listing only five players on their report. LB Patrick Willis (ankle) and P Andy Lee (hand) were full participants in today’s practice in Ohio. RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and WR Ted Ginn (ankle) were limited. DT Isaac Sopoaga (ankle/knee) did not practice.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Ellis Lankster, joe McKnight, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, San Francisco 49ers
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