Hackin’ the NYJ by Nolan Hack: Wide Receivers
The entire Jets offense is in a holding pattern. Outside of mainstays D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, this unit is overrun with young unpolished players, uninspiring no names and veterans who are past their primes. The Jets wide receivers are no different. Just look at the top of the depth chart. Santonio Holmes is 4 years removed from his career year of 1248 yards, which was the only 1,000 yard season of his career. Stephen Hill is a raw route runner who has been hampered by drops early in his career.
This receiving unit is far from elite but it does have some viable talent to it. Stephen Hill has the ability to zoom past defense and torch them deep. Jeremy Kerley and Clyde Gates have become more physical WRs and been more proactive versus tougher and tighter coverage. Undrafted free agents Zach Rogers and Marcus Davis both have the talent to make an NFL roster. Rogers could provide depth in the slot. Davis can get down the field using his stout 6'3/233 pound frame.
Hill and Gates both have serious speed to burn. Hill averaged a ridiculous 29 yards per catch his senior year at Georgia Tech. Mr. Gates was able to run a 4.37 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. But the rocket fuel these men posses will continue to be squandered once again if Mark Sanchez is under center this season. Sanchez lacks the arm strength to consistently get the ball down field. Hill's yards per catch dropped a staggering 17.3 yards while Gates' average was down by 3.9 yards (from their last year in college compared to their first year with Mark Sanchez and the Jets). These two will need the rookie Geno Smith under center to give them an opportunity to open up the deep passing game for the New York Jets.
Jeremy Kerley has turned into a productive slot receiver. He led the Jets in receiving yards with 827, which was more than double the yards of any of his teammates. Kerley has some nice wiggle to him to get free from a tackle after the catch. He can work off a wheel route to get down the field and get deep vs zone coverage. And he's not afraid to take a hit when trying to bring in a pass.
Holmes' availability early in the season is a question mark, as well as what he'll to do after coming back from the worst Lisfranc injury possible. His negative attitude, inconsistent play and inflated contract may very well make this Holmes' last season in New York. If Geno Smith plays most of the season, Stephen Hill will have a real shot to become the Jets number one receiver. It's too bad Holmes is owed so much money, because the Jets may be better off without him. Without Holmes on the field, the young guns would get more snaps and that would allow them to mature and learn on the field.
Davis has very underrated ability but has some maturity issues and underachieved at Virginia Tech. He gave ACC defensive backs fits with his ability to jump up for the football (39.5 inch vertical leap), to use his body to box out defenders (has nice strength to him/benched 19 reps at Combine) and burn them down the field (18.7 yards per catch as senior). If he makes the roster he would give the Jets another deep ball option, as well as some added muscle in the receiving core.
Gates is 27 years old and he showed real signs of improvement last season, despite not being able to take advantage of his speed. He's a nice 25-30 snap per game option for the Jets.
New York will still lack consistent production from their wide outs this season but this group could take a step forward.