The Jets have a number of positions that have underperformed this season but the one position that seems to be trending upwards is wide receiver. The Jets have put together a good group at wide receiver beyond their top two, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The injury to Decker this season helped magnify the emergence of Quincy Enunwa. These last four games, however, will be the perfect opportunity for the Jets to examine the next four receivers: Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall, and Devin Smith.
Robby Anderson seems to be Bryce Petty’s favorite target, almost to a fault. So, he seems bound to get a good amount of experience in the coming weeks. So far this season, Anderson has had a few chances to showcase his speed. He has found himself beating coverage deep a good number of times this season. Unfortunately, Anderson was then either under-thrown or ignored by Ryan Fitzpatrick most of those times. But, when Robby Anderson has had targets and catches they’ve mostly been for big yardage plays. He’s averaging 13.0 yards per catch this season. He seems to be very much what the Jets were expecting out of Devin Smith. In the remaining games, it would be good to see Anderson develop his effectiveness running underneath routes and deep comebacks to counter the times he tries to break the top off the secondary. He has had some issues with drops in the limited action he has seen this season, but hopefully more reps in practice will work that out.
Charone Peake is yet to really display some of the potential we caught a glimpse of in the preseason during the regular season this year. Hopefully these last few games will see him on the field more often. At 6’3″ and 210 lbs, with impressive leaping ability, Peake is a red-zone threat and carries many physical similarities to a former Jet, Braylon Edwards, whose number he actually wears. The Jets would be delighted if their 7th round draft pick repeats anything close to kind of success Edwards had in his career but it certainly isn’t completely out of the question. First, he needs to see more time on the field.
Jalin Marshall has had a tough rookie season. In the preseason, he shined brightest of all the receivers in the group because of the success he had on special teams and the ease he seemed to have working himself into the Jets’ offense. Marshall also turned out to be a more polished route runner than what was anticipated. That momentum has gradually declined as the season progressed, however. Muffed punts, and fumbles have seen Marshall fall out of favor a bit. Marshall’s playmaking ability makes him hard to completely count out, though. He probably won’t be returning kicks anymore this season, but it might be better for him to focus on building consistency catching passes before going back to returning kicks.
Devin Smith has yet to be medically cleared to play this season. Jets are hoping he can make his first appearance this week in San Francisco. While Smith has every reason to be threatened by Robby Anderson’s success, there’s no rule that says an NFL team can only have one deep threat. In fact, multiple down the field threats could create lots of room for receivers to get open underneath. Be on the lookout for moments where Smith and Robby Anderson are on the field at the same time. Smith may not have flashed much last season, but he now has an extended preseason with the games remaining in 2016 and those before the 2017 regular season, to show the Jets that he’s still a valuable player to keep around and keep involved. The Jets will be expecting a lot from their former 2nd-round pick. But, any signs of his speed and effectiveness decreasing after the knee injury he suffered could put his job at risk.
The Jets have an opportunity to not have to worry about the wide receiver position for years if these young players can fulfill the upside of their potential. If they can show themselves to be reliable, the Jets might even consider shedding either Brandon Marshall or Eric Decker’s contract and use that money to improve other, less promising areas of the team.
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