If one man's trash is another man's treasure, there's a chance Todd Bowles could turn the New York Jets secondary into a strong group.
Last offseason, the Jets failed to stack their roster with enough depth in the secondary. That cost them during the course of the season as injuries befell many of their key players, forcing inexperienced players to play significant roles and safety Antonio Allen to change positions. With square pegs in round holes, the Jets defense suffered.
But Bowles could be the cure for the common cornerback.
His experience as a defensive backs coach is not to be taken lightly, and though he may not have his hands directly on that group from start to finish as he has in years past, he will still be tasked with finding the best ways to use those players by maximizing their strengths and masking their weaknesses.
Bowles served as a secondary coach for the Jets in 2001, the Cleveland Browns from 2002-2004 and the Dallas Cowboys from 2005-2007. He was the Miami Dolphins secondary coach and served as the assistant head coach from 2008-2011, filling in as the interim head coach for two games in 2011 after Tony Sparano was fired. Bowles was then the secondary coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, before taking over as interim defensive coordinator midway through that season. That catapulted him into the discussion of new defensive coordinators, and he joined the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2014.
He has worked with some great coaches, including Bruce Arians, Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Andy Reid. He has worked with a lot of defensive backs in a variety of schemes, and now he gets to work with a talented group using his own scheme.
All that experience will be valuable as he works with first-round picks like Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor, as well as diamonds in the rough like Dexter McDougle and Darrin Walls. But there's something else working in their favor.
Under Rex Ryan, the Jets defense was asking a lot of its cornerbacks. There were some zone schemes from time to time but for the most part, its cornerbacks were asked to provide tight coverage in man-to-man defense. The scheme worked great when Ryan had cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in their primes, but it was also putting a lot of stress on cornerbacks who may not necessarily be entirely cut out for that line of work.
There will be man coverage involved in Bowles' scheme; just ask general manager Steve Keim.
"Some people don't understand the kind of stress and pressure we put on our corners," he said in an interview on Arizonasports.com 98.7 FM, via Kent Somers of AZCentral.com.
In that sense, the players who were drafted to play in Ryan's defense will not be entirely out of water in Bowles' scheme. They will, however, be asked to carry out multiple assignments, and their roles could change from week to week, series to series and even play to play.
One week, he'll be running a base 3-4 zone scheme; the next week, it'll be a 4-3 man scheme. He's not afraid to run a four-man rush with zone coverage on the back end, but his real roots are an aggressive blitz scheme with man coverage. The scheme will change depending on the opponent, but it will also be adaptable to the strengths of its players.
"This defense is based on guys and what their ability allows them to be good at. What they were drafted for," said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
The versatility of Bowles' scheme relieves the Jets defensive backs of some of that constant pressure they face by giving them a break from chasing down receivers in their routes for 60 minutes.
Some players will have to round out their games; Milliner will have to learn how to backpedal, and Pryor will have to learn to play a more sound style of defense. But both men will still have opportunities to do the things they excel at.
Milliner could be placed in Patrick Peterson's role as a man cover corner, tracking a team's No. 1 receiver. Pryor could fill a role like the one occupied by rookie safety Deone Bucannon as a hard hitter and man-to-man cover safety on tight ends.
The Jets defense has been suffering from an outbreak of square pegs located in round holes, but with Bowles at the helm, those pegs can be rounded into form to fit nicely into his scheme.