Though the move caught many people off guard, I actually like the decision by coach Rex Ryan. McKnight is an outstanding athlete and I believe he could potentially develop into a contributing member of this defense once he's had a chance to get acclimated to the terminology and technique of the new position.
I remember McKnight from his days as a highly recruited prep athlete at John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana. He was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country and his decision to sign with USC was the top story on National Signing Day in 2007. While he was listed as the nation's top tailback recruit, he also excelled in the secondary during his high school career (see video, above).
I reached out to Jeff Curtis, one of McKnight's high school coaches, to get some feedback on the Jets' new cornerback.
"Joe was the best athlete that we've ever had here and the best athlete that I've seen at the high school level," Curtis said. "He was primarily a DB as a freshman and sophomore before we moved him to the offensive side of the ball for his junior and senior years. If anyone can make that transition, Joe can do it."
I usually don't put much stock in what a high school coach has to say about his players. However, this isn't just any high school program. John Curtis Christian is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by Rivals.com and has won more than 20 state championships in football-rich Louisiana.
I realize there is a drastic difference between playing cornerback in high school versus matching up with professional receivers in the NFL. It's hard to predict how long it will take McKnight to get comfortable enough to contribute at this level, but at least he has some history at the position.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.