The Jets have come under some fire this offseason for not addressing their depleted secondary. The team let Antonio Cromartie walk in free agency, lost out to division rival New England in the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes, and the only note-worthy addition was third-round draft pick Dexter McDougle — a guy who was projected to fall to the sixth or seventh, and who most analysts feel is a reach. Gang Green is now relying on Dee Milliner, who struggled so mightily last season as a rookie that he was benched twice, to be "The Guy", and the depth chart behind him gets awfully thin awfully fast.
None of which concerns Dmitri Patterson. Signed on April 1 to little fanfare, Patterson will most likely be the guy charged with replacing Cromartie — who, baggage aside, was a reliable guy to put on an island — and believes he's more than capable of filling that hole.
"I've been asked to do what Cromartie was asked to do," Patterson said Wednesday. "I don't have the high profile, I don't have the biggest name. But I've covered the same receivers, and I've held up extremely well against the same receivers."
Confidence aside, the nine-year vet has been around long enough to know that none of this talk matters. That everyone who covers or talks about the team thinks his unit is a question mark, that he'll be the guy bearing the weight of replacing a three-time Pro Bowler, all fade away when it comes time to do work on the field.
"The NFL is different," Patterson said. "What we think, what we believe [does not matter]. It's about what we've seen. I'll put my film against anybody's. That is the reality of the situation."
Unfortunately that film has been too rare over Patterson's career. A groin injury forced him to miss all but ten weeks while with Miami in 2013, and he's played a full 16 game season just once in his career. He's been an underrated contributor for a while — in those six contests last year with the Dolphins he racked up four interceptions and 19 tackles — but just staying on the field has been an issue. It's an issue he acknowledges, but doesn't trouble him.
"If there's one bad thing to say about me, what are you going to say? ‘Oh, he's been injured,' Patterson said. "I look at it as the glass half full. I have not had a skill-diminishing injury, I have not had a career-threatening injury. [Rex Ryan and John Idzik] did their research and see that's not the case, and that's why I am here right now. So I look at it as the now and moving forward."
The Jets need to hope he's right, because his health is going to be essential to a team that has legitimate playoff aspirations in 2014. Milliner has been given the keys, but no one is quite sure what to expect from him, and slot man Kyle Wilson has been underwhelming thus far in his career. Cromartie has left a gaping hole on one side of the field, and Patterson looks like the only guy to fill it. For now, though, that remains a long way off.
"It's about September," Patterson said. "We can talk all day, we have to go out and prove it. Do I think that we have guys to go out there and be extremely competitive? No doubt about it. But we don't truly know that until we get under the lights."