A Receiver's View of the Jets Receivers

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First a few updates:

1. Rich Cimini caught up with Leon Washington at a commercial shoot and wrote an article in today’s Daily News about their discussion. Apparently, there has been little to no progress on his ongoing contract negotiations with the Jets and he is seriously considering holding out in training camp, which begins July 30th. Mike Tannenbaum…your organization has the money, Leon Washington is your top playmaker, he has been a model Jet his entire career and is heavily underpaid right now, give him the new contract he deserves.

2. I wasn’t crazy about the season premiere of Entourage. Last season was a step up from the previous two, so I am hoping they won’t start regressing again. I can deal with the show lacking any plot because of the humor but the first episode wasn’t even that funny. However, I am glad to see Sloan back in the mix…TurnOnTheJets.com is a big fan of her.

 

3. Second half baseball predictions: Red Sox win the AL East, Yankees take the wild card. Mets finish 15 games out of first place. Pedro Martinez bombs with the Phillies. World Series? Dodgers vs. Yankees…that’s right after starting out 0-8 against Boston and losing the division to them, the Yankees upset them in the ALCS.

A Receiver’s View of the Jets Receivers

Let me preface this article by stating I am certainly no expert on the wide receiver position and I am not claiming to be. However, I did play the position for 2 years in little league, 4 years in high school and 4 years in college. I have also been to multiple receiver camps and been required to watch countless hours of tape about the position, so I like to think I have some idea of what I am talking about.

I am biased in that I love talking about the position and decided that after going back through some Jets game tape from the past two seasons, I would write an article about my observations on the Jets personnel in 2009. Anyway, here it goes:

The Jets enter 2009 with a clear number one receiver, Jerricho Cotchery. Brian Schottenheimer will be moving him all over the field in an attempt to have him heavily involved in every game. Cotchery will work primarily out of the slot, but will also be split out in certain situations and frequently be put into motion in an attempt to free him up.

When I watch Cotchery play, I am constantly impressed with his hands, ability to run after the catch, precise routes, and strong knowledge of the defense. Regardless, he has some physical limitations which prevent him from being a top flight NFL receiver. Simply put, he lacks the the size and speed to constantly fight off double teams and get open. He also lacks the top end speed to run by most corners in the NFL, which is why most “go” routes thrown to him the past two years, end up being jump balls, with Cotchery either knocking it away, occasionally making an acrobatic catch, or it being picked off.

Arguably the best game Cotchery ever played was against the Ravens in 2007. He racked up 7 catches for 165 yards and single-handily kept them in the game. Ironically, his success was because of the lack of respect Rex Ryan showed him. He constantly left him in single coverage with nickle back Corey Ivy in the slot or a safety. Cotchery simply kept running option routes, and choosing to run about a 10 yard stop or out route, he would then break a tackle and be off for a huge gain. Unfortunately as the Jets number one, team’s top corners will be following him around the field and he won’t have the space to operate that he did against Ravens on that day.

Cotchery excels in the short to intermediate passing game. He is at his best when he is running intermediate crossing routes or short option routes. A good day at the office for him should be 6 catches for 70 yards, since he lacks game breaking ability. He isn’t quick to enough to beat corners on double move routes consistently or to run by them. His big plays this season will come on a short catch, with a long run after since he runs more like a running back than a receiver.

Chansi Stuckey is easily the Jets next most polished receiver. He is very good in short spaces, runs crisp routes, and has very good hands. He is a prototype slot/#3 receiver. Stuckey found success last season working out the slot on 5-7 yards option routes (which he mostly snapped into quick hitches or outs) and short screens or crossing patterns. He is guy you want in on 3rd 4-6 yards to go. Unfortunately, since the Jets are thin at the position he will likely be asked to play alot of split end this year, which doesn’t fit his strengths at all.

An outside receiver needs to be able to run the deep curl and comeback route. Stuckey is quick, not fast. Cornerbacks won’t be scared of him running by them on a “go” route, which means they will be on top of him when he snaps back for a curl or comeback. This isn’t a problem for most split ends since they usually have good size and are more possesion receivers. They can simply used their large frame to shield off the defensive back, yet Stuckey is barely 6 foot and 190 pounds and doesn’t have that ability. Stuckey also doesn’t have the ideal skill set to run a deep corner or post, because he lacks top end speed.

The Jets best bet in obvious passing situations will probably be to move Stuckey in the slot and have Cotchery play on the outside, or let Dustin Keller play some split end and potentially let both Cotchery and Stuckey work in the slot, with another receiver on the outside on the other side of the field.

That other receiver could be Brad Smith or David Clowney. Smith is blessed with a good combination of size and speed but isn’t a natural wide receiver. He is still uncomfortable catching the football and struggles heavily with press coverage. Smith fights the ball, and has difficulty with those “tough” catches that aren’t easy but NFL players need to make. For example, when you run a stop/hitch route and you are working back to the quarterback to the inside and he fires the ball high and to the outside, it is a very hard catch. Yet, a NFL player needs to make that catch 9 out of 10 times. Smith isn’t at that level yet and we have seen that in 2007 when he dropped multiple passes like the one I just mentioned.

Smith would be best used in situations where his athleticism can do most of the work. He is a good target for a jump ball in single coverage and made a nice touchdown grab against the Giants in ’07 on that type of play. However, he isn’t quick enough to work out of the slot as a full time #3 guy and smart teams will press him up on the outside, limiting his effectiveness.

David Clowney doesn’t have a large body of work to study but he clearly showed he has the speed to run by defenders last pre-season. Brian Schottenheimer likes taking shots down the field by sending a receiver in short motion towards the formation and then sending them on a deep crossing route (like Clowney caught in the regular season against Buffalo) or a skinny post (like Clowney caught in the pre-season against Cleveland) usually combined with play-action. Clowney is the most qualified Jet receiver for these routes, although expect to see Cotchery also running the deep crossing route often. Another positive of Clowney’s speed is that corners will give him extra space, meaning he should be able to hitch up at 10 yards and be open a couple of times per game. He showed an ability to work the intermediate stop/hitch last pre-season also, which is important because he can’t just catch deep balls.

The Jets probably won’t have a clear cut #2, 3, and 4 receiver and will be best served by rolling their players through in packages that play to their strengths along with Dustin Keller/Leon Washington. Chansi Stuckey should be a frequent target on 3rd and short/intermediate and other situations where the Jets are looking to pick up a quick 5-8 yards. Jerricho Cotchery will be all over the place and needs to take advantage when he sees single coverage. He will catch his usual crossing routes/curls/outs but also needs to break a few tackles and make some big runs after the catch to keep the Jets offense moving. Brad Smith should be a red-zone target and remain primarily a gadget player in other situations. Clowney should be able to catch a curl route or two a game and hopefully his share of deep balls.

New Jets Player Highlight of Day: Hopefully the guy who will be throwing the balls to all these previously mentioned guys, Mark Sanchez. Here are all his pass attempts from last year’s Rose Bowl against Penn State, after a slow start, he picks it up big time.