After losing his nickel spot with the Indianapolis Colts to fellow Temple Owls alum Rock Ya-Sin, Nate Hairston has newfound hope after being traded to the New York Jets.
It’s never a good thing when a player is traded for a conditional draft pick days before the final trim down to 53, but for Temple Owls alum Nate Hairston, a fresh start could be just what the doctor ordered to prolong his professional football career.
That’s right, after handing Todd Bowles his walking papers this past December after four seasons as the organization’s head coach, the New York Jets have re-injected a little ‘Temple Tuffness’ back into the building with a late-August trade.
While these sort of trades happen pretty frequently in 2019, as teams have become increasingly willing to exchange conditional late-round compensation to avoid fishing on the waiver wires, seldom do they result in an exchange of players with a legitimate chance to start on their new teams.
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Fortunately for Hairston, he may soon become the exception to the rule, as the Jets’ cornerbacks group is terrible.
After allowing 2018 starters Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears respectively in free agency, the Jets opted to reload their secondary in-house with former-reserve Darryl Roberts and journeymen lifers Arthur Maulet and Brian Poole and thus far, the results have been less than satisfactory.
Outside of Trumaine Johnson, a borderline Pro Bowler who signed a five-year, $72.5 million deal with the club in 2018 to become their new number one cornerback, the Jets may have the worst cornerbacks group in the league, with very little prove depth from two through five and no young, ascending prospects waiting in the wings.
While Hairston’s addition is hardly a magic pill to fix Adam Gase‘s porous secondary, he does have solid NFL pedigree and at 25 years old, should be able to push to start sooner rather than later either on the outside or in the slot.
With 11 career starts over two seasons – five less than presumed starter Darryl Roberts despite playing one fewer season in the league – Hairston has almost exclusively played slot cornerback at the NFL level, but crossed trained at outside corner as recently as last summer, and could prove to be a versatile option at their position.
And with two years left on his rookie deal, the ascending Jets can play the long game with Hairston’s development.
As ESPN’s Rich Cimini pointed out in his write-up on the deal, Hairston is a bit of an odd fit with the Jets’ presumed coverage scheme, as he only pressed 16 percent of the time with the Jets, but after spending the first half of his college career playing wide receiver, it’s not hard to imagine the former Owl adapting to effectively running routes with receivers in a more man-heavy scheme.
Will it work? Only time will tell, but after losing his starting spot in the slot to fellow Temple Owls alum Rock Ya-Sin, a move to the Big Apple could bring newfound hope to Nate Hairston’s ability to stick in the NFL longterm.