Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham Jr.
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Here are the toughest matchups for the New York Jets defensive backs going into this upcoming 2019 regular season.

Michael Nania

As teams begin to settle into minicamp, the season continues to inch closer. We are only about two months away from the beginning of the preseason. Rosters have taken shape and we are starting to get a feel for how each team is going to look this year.

For the New York Jets, there are a few clear weaknesses. These issues will end up being the biggest question marks going into training camp.

Perhaps the biggest of them is the cornerback position.

The Jets mostly ignored the corner spot throughout the offseason. Therefore, they’re left with a position group that will have opposing wide receivers salivating.

Mike Maccagnan backed up the truck for Trumaine Johnson last season, but unfortunately, the former St. Louis and Los Angeles Ram didn’t come close to meeting the expectations laid out by his deal. He played in only 10 games and was a magnet for chunk yardage when he was on the field.

Beyond Johnson, the Jets are left with a huge collection of unproven names. The team elected not to re-sign Morris Claiborne, who was a decent veteran starter. In turn, they’re left with Darryl Roberts as the No. 2 corner. Roberts has physical upside and has shown flashes, but really hasn’t shown enough to be the kind of player you would want to rely upon as a starter.

The competition will be wide open for playing time. Young Jets draft picks like Derrick Jones, Jeremy Clark, Parry Nickerson, and 2019 draftee Blessuan Austin will all have shots to claim a roster spot and maybe even compete to start.

At slot corner, the Jets replaced the erratic Buster Skrine with the similarly erratic Brian Poole. Poole is younger at only 26 years old entering his fourth season. However, he has similar issues with consistency. Nickerson could have a shot to push for the starting nickel role.

Altogether, it’s obviously a group littered with question marks. The cornerback position has a chance to be the weakness that holds the Jets back in 2019. Why? Because the Jets’ 2019 schedule is stacked with stud wide receivers.

Who is the best among them?

Week 2: Odell Beckham Jr. (Cleveland Browns)

OBJ will make his first return to his old stomping grounds in Week two. The Jets will be playing host to Beckham in his first prime time game as a member of the Browns.

His résumé speaks for itself. When healthy, Beckham has been unstoppable. Since he entered the league in 2014, Beckham has averaged 92.8 receiving yards per game, third-most in the NFL over that span. He’s also caught 44 touchdowns in his 59 career games, an average of 0.75 per game. This statistic ranks second-best in the league since 2014.

Back in 2015, Beckham caught six passes for 149 yards in a loss to the Jets. Former Jets corner Darrelle Revis missed that game, and OBJ took advantage.

Beckham did have one clash with Trumaine Johnson, back in his 2014 rookie season. He caught eight passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns that day, in a 37-27 New York Giants win over the Rams. The 148 yards was a career high at the time, but Beckham would break it the very next week. It currently sits as the seventh-best single game total of his career.

Week 3: Julian Edelman (New England Patriots)

It goes without saying that Edelman is the prototypical Jet killer.

In his last four games against the Jets, Edelman has caught a total of 22 passes for 325 yards (81.3 per game) and two touchdowns.

Tom Brady‘s No. 1 target underneath has struggled at times to stay on the field. When he has been able to suit up, Edelman has quietly emerged into a bona fide elite weapon in the latter stages of his career. Since 2013, Edelman has averaged 69.8 receiving yards per game, 14th-best among wide receivers. His average of 6.4 receptions per game over that span trails only Michael Thomas, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.

Week 5: Alshon Jeffery (Philadelphia Eagles)

Jeffery is one of the most underrated No. 1 receivers in the game. Since he broke out for the Bears in 2013, Jeffery is ranked 10th in the league in receiving yards (5,814) and is tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns (38).

Since joining the Eagles, Jeffery’s box score production has dipped a little bit, but his presence alone has helped Philadelphia become a prolific passing offense. Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have thrown 67 touchdown passes, third-most in the league. Jeffery has caught 15 of those, ranking sixth among wide receivers over the last two seasons.

Jeffery has seen quite a bit of Trumaine Johnson and has struggled in those matchups. In four matchups against Johnson, Jeffery has caught a total of 17 passes for 162 yards, an average of only 40.5 per game.

Week 6: Amari Cooper (Dallas Cowboys)

The Cowboys gambled by giving up a first rounder for Cooper, a former first-round pick himself. It paid off, as the University of Alabama product flipped the switch down the stretch.

Cooper played nine regular season games for the Cowboys last year and accumulated 725 yards (80.6 per game) and six touchdowns in those games.

The only other players in 2018 to collect 700+ receiving yards and 6+ receiving touchdowns over their team’s final nine games were Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, and Antonio Brown.

Cooper stayed on track in the playoffs, averaging 85.5 yards per game over the Cowboys’ two postseason contests.

Week 12: Antonio Brown (Oakland Raiders)

The blonde-‘stached stud has already been mentioned twice prior to this section, a testament to the consistent greatness he has displayed throughout his career.

It took a few years for Brown to really hit his stride. Once he did, he just kept on going.

2013 was when Brown broke out. Since then, he leads the league in receiving yards (9,145) and receiving touchdowns (67). The next closest player on the receiving touchdowns list since 2013, DeAndre Hopkins, sits a whopping 20 scores behind Brown.

It has tended to be clouded beneath all of the drama that arose at the end of last season, but Brown set a new career high for receiving touchdowns in 2018. His 15 receiving scores led the NFL. He also had his second season in three years in which he caught over 100 passes without fumbling the ball a single time.

Brown clashed with Trumaine Johnson once, back in 2015. He caught 11 passes for 108 yards in a 12-6 Steelers victory.

Week 16: JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Sam Darnold‘s former college teammate looks ready to fill the giant shoes left by Antonio Brown.

The young stud, who will only be 22 as he enters his third season, has been a big play machine. As a rookie, he averaged an astronomical 11.6 yards per target, picking up 917 yards on only 79 targets and 58 catches.

He would extrapolate that efficiency in a bigger role as a sophomore. Smith-Schuster saw his target total go up by more than double, seeing 166 balls thrown his way this past season. He caught 111 of them for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing fifth in the league in receiving yards. For the second straight year, he had the league’s longest reception of the season, grabbing a 97-yarder in back-to-back campaigns.

Smith-Schuster has already accumulated 2,343 receiving yards, 10th-most in the NFL over the past two seasons.

Since 2000, only four players have amassed more receiving yards over their first two seasons than JuJu has: Michael Thomas, A.J. Green, Josh Gordon, and Odell Beckham Jr.

Stiff challenges await. The stars will be coming out to play against the Jets this year, many of them on Gang Green’s own field.

Will Trumaine and the rest of the corners prove themselves ready for the test?