Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comHere’s a chance to look at some of the position battles that should play out over training camp in the coming weeks.
The Setup: There’s a lot of questions about how effective these Jets wide receivers can be after the group they fielded headed into the season last year, but it’s not a long thin limb to stretch out on to say that the group will be better. The removal of the ball-and-chain that was Santonio Holmes for an able, competent and competitive Eric Decker seems to be addition by subtraction, followed by addition by addition. Decker will likely play the standard “X” receiver and see more see most of the man-coverage (and extra attention from opposing secondaries). Jeremy Kerley will likely be very productive from the slot. But who will be the team’s “Z” receiver?
The Main Contenders: David Nelson, Stephen Hill
The Darkhorses: Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, Quincy Enunwa, Greg Salas, Clyde Gates
The Analysis: For the Jets it might just come down to what the play calls for in a given situation and then rolling out the right “Z” accordingly. Nelson has proven he can be productive with Geno Smith dating back to his time with the Jets last year where he came in and was productive in short order. Nelson runs a lot of slants and outs, the shorter possession-style routes that work well in conjunction with his massive frame and radius. It’s hard to know what we can expect from Stephen Hill this year, but one can understand why the Jets are extending hope. Hill has unnatural size and speed make for alluring potential, but his time seems to be running out. Knee issues and both Mark Sanchez and Geno’s hesitance to find Hill deep might indicate a lack of trust between quarterback and receiver. The Jets drafted three receivers (in addition to TE Jace Amaro) and Hill’s leash is getting shorter. Saunders seems to be penciled in for a returner’s role on special teams, but keep an eye on if the Jets use him in a dynamic deep threat role similar to how Mornhinweg used DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia.
The Projection: We fully expect that the role will seem some sort of platoon-duty, with Nelson seeing the majority of the reps, and the rest trailing. Also, don’t sleep on Jeremy Kerley sliding out to the flanker role. He’s been decent there in the past when Tone was in the body shop. Now, with two pass catching tight ends and overall more talent on offense, Kerley could be even more effective.