Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comThe Jets are no strangers to reclamation projects. Over the lats few years the team has picked up players like Aaron Maybin, Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Dixon. On the roster currently are Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jermaine Cunningham and Ras-I Dowling.
Jarrett quietly established himself as a backup for the Jets in 2013. Cunningham has seen some time in the nickel pass rush package this spring (TJB, June 6) due to Antwan Barnes’ ACL recovery. Lastly, cornerback Ras-I Dowling is playing well and impressing the coaches in practice.
Could the former Patriot be another darkhorse candidate as a contributor to the Jets defense this year among a deep group of corners?
Dowling was signed by the Jets as a practice squad player last October after being cut by the Patriots coming out of camp. Dowling was taken with the 33rd pick in the 2011 draft by the Patriots, but was injured in both 2011 and 2012 and has injury concerns that date all the way back to high school, with PFW going as far to call him “snakebitten.” For that reason, it might be hard for Dowling to get over the injury issues that have hindered his career, but it is his instincts, size, athleticism and ability to jump a route that made him a Patriots second round draft pick in the first place.
So far this spring, Dowling has had some good moments according to Dom Cosentino of the Star-Ledger.
Cosentino wrote this about Dowling over a week ago.
During two different plays on Wednesday, he managed to stay stride-for-stride with both Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, preventing both from catching deep balls thrown in their direction.
Cosentino looks like he’s keeping a close eye on the former Patriot, who had another notable pass break-up this week.
[Dowling] did it again on Wednesday by getting a hand in to knock away a short slant Vick had thrown for tight end Jeff Cumberland. That said, Dowling was likely only playing with the starters because Dee Milliner sat out with hamstring tightness and Darrin Walls was absent for what Ryan called a “personal thing.”
While Dowling might not make the final roster, all he can do is take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented to him and do his best to stay healthy. If Dowling can keep breaking up passes in practice it will lead to a long look at him come the preseason. ESPN NY’s Rich Cimini wrote about Dowling Saturday stating that “if he stays healthy, Dowling could push for playing time in a sub package.”
Beyond the youth movement in the secondary, what makes cornerback particularly fascinating this summer is the training camp competition that looks to be setting itself up from the inside out.
As the team prepares for camp, there will be (1) additional experience for galvanizing players like Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster, (2) a new hold-the-fort starter Dimitri Patterson from free agency, (3) Kyle Wilson’s last year under contract and (4) two new corners added through the NFL draft this unit. This could be one of the best camp battles on the roster from top to bottom.
Ras-I Dowling might emerge as a viable contributor to this team or might never make it off the launchpad due to his injury history. But until then, it should be fun to watch him compete in camp.