As the Jets get close to training camp, I am examining the roster and giving you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 25: Bless Austin
Last year’s ranking: Unranked (rookie)
Age on Opening Day: 24
How acquired: Selected in the sixth round of the 2019 Draft
Years left on contract: 3
2020 Salary Cap figure: $715,743
Looking back at 2019
Austin was a nice surprise for the Jets in 2019. He began the year on the non-football injury list as he recovered from a knee injury he suffered in college. He came off the NFI list on Nov. 7 and saw his first action in Week 10 against the Giants. Austin played well enough that day off the bench that he was named the starter the next week.
Austin would start the next six games and fared pretty well. He showed that he was a solid tackler and he had four passes defensed. Austin is a long corner who plays physical. He delivered some really big hits.
Things fell off for Austin in Week 16 when he gave up a 29-yard touchdown to Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson with nine seconds left in the first half. Austin was benched for the second half and did not play in the season finale against the Bills. Sources said the coaches were unhappy with how Austin responded to the benching against Pittsburgh. They felt he sulked instead of accepting it as a challenge.
Outlook for 2020
Austin is one of the cornerbacks competing for the second outside spot, opposite Pierre Desir. If Austin can build off his play late last season, you’d expect him to get the job. Austin looked like he belonged until that slip against the Steelers.
He is going to have to win back the coaches’ trust, but he should be able to do that.
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The Jets drafted Austin in the sixth round in 2019, hoping they were getting a steal. Austin had an injury-filled career at Rutgers but was viewed as a very talented player there.
Austin should be a solid backup and rotational player at the very least from what he showed last season. But if he has a strong training camp it won’t be a surprise if he is starting Week 1 against the Bills.