The New York Jets have been a work in progress at wide receiver for a seemingly endless amount of time. There have been a few one off years of production (hello, 2015) but the reality is that in this decade the Jets have had two receivers exceed 1,000 yards in a single season and they both happened in 2015 (Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker). Going back even further, since 2000, the Jets have only had three other seasons where they had a 1,000 yard receiver (Jerricho “Gawd” Cotchery in 2007, Laveranues Coles in 2006 and 2002)…that is a staggering lack of production in a league that is becoming increasingly offensively dominated and pass happy.
Heading into 2019, the Jets have their quarterback in place but there are questions about the supporting cast around him, particularly at wide receiver. Let’s take an inventory of what they currently have and how they could improve to make life easier for Sam Darnold.
What They Have
Robby Anderson – Recently slapped with a second round tender, Anderson is very likely to be back in 2019 and has been the team’s best overall receiver the past two years by a sizable margin. After a slow start in 2018, he came on strong down the stretch, demonstrating excellent chemistry with Sam Darnold and putting up 24 receptions, 360 yards and 3 touchdowns between weeks 13-16. Anderson has been over 750 yards in each of the past two seasons and likely would have exceeded 1,000 yards in one or both of the seasons if his starting quarterback didn’t miss three games each year (he only totaled 163 total yards over the five games he played with a backup quarterback over the past two years).
Anderson has played in 43 of the Jets 48 games over the past two seasons and only missed three games due to injury. Generally perceived as an outside the numbers “one trick pony,” Anderson has shown flashes of being able to be a more complete receiver but has lacked enough consistency to fully put that perception to bed. He is still a player who needs to improve his ability after the catch, his route diversity and ability to handle physical, press coverage. Anderson has five 100 yard games over the past three years, including only two last year, where he also had nine games with under 45 yards receiving.
The term “true number one receiver” is overused as there is only a handful in the league and it is more important to field a diverse, talented pass catching group that has the flexibility to move around the formation. Anderson being the team’s “lead” receiver isn’t preventative from them succeeding on offense but he needs more weapons around him to create more favorable matchups and maximize his production.
Quincy Enunwa – Fresh off signing a 4 year, 33 million dollar contract, Enunwa is clearly a player the Jets view as a foundational piece on offense. He is probably the most athletically gifted player on the team not named Jamal Adams and has shown flashes of tantalizing playmaking ability when he has been able to stay healthy.
Unfortunately staying healthy has been a major problem for Enunwa since the end of the 2016 season. He missed all of 2017 with a neck injury and then missed five more games last season while battling various ailments. After a fast start (21 receptions, 278 yards, 1 touchdown in the Jets first four games), he disappeared for the rest of the season with only one game over 40 yards and no more touchdowns. To be fair, Enunwa’s use in Jeremy Bates offense was one dimensional and lacked imagination but he has still not shown enough durability and consistency to be counted on for 16 games yet.
As we saw in 2016, Enunwa can do a little bit of everything: play H-Back, line up in the slot, and compete outside of the numbers. Adam Gase would be wise to utilize his versatility and not reduce him to a slot receiver who only catches smoke screens. He should be doing a little bit of everything, including getting opportunities on nine routes and post routes outside of the numbers.
Overall, Jets fans tend to overrate Anderson and Enunwa (this blogger is guilty of it himself at times), both are intriguing, exciting young players who are among the handful of useful pieces the team has moving forward, neither are All-Pro or Pro Bowl caliber players. They have wildly different games and skillsets but the duo is somewhat comparable to what the Jets had when Coles and Cotchery were here…both good but not great receivers, who had the ability to pop over 1,000 yards once or twice.
The durability concerns, particularly with Enunwa, means the Jets have a major depth problem at the position. You need three starting receivers in today’s NFL and the Jets don’t have that at the moment and you need to do better than being one rolled ankle away from needing to throw multiple passes to Andre Roberts in a single game.
What Else They Have
Deontay Burnett – Darnold’s college teammate flashed with limited opportunities but it would be naive and poor self-scouting for the Jets to assume he can be the full time third receiver based on such a small sample size. Burnett is a nice depth piece at this point but still somebody who is going to need to earn a roster spot this summer, particularly with a new coaching staff around.
Jermaine Kerase – Coming off one of the least efficient seasons in recent team history and that is saying something with how bad the Jets have been at receiver some years. Kearse compounded his lack of production on field with questionable effort and annoying quips to the media about Darnold and his usage.
The Jets need to make at least two serious additions to their current group of receivers. The urgency of that need is decreased somewhat if they sign a player like Le’Veon Bell or to a lesser extent Tevin Coleman, who will regularly be utilized as a pass catcher and if they add a credible second tight end behind Chris Herndon to more regularly allow him to bounce between Y, H and WR. Regardless, the depth chart is bare right now. It is a player who missed 21 of his last 32 eligible games, a UDFA who was signed midseason in 2018 and Anderson, who is still technically exposed to an offer sheet and has never exceed 900 yards in a single season. So…
This is a weak wide receiver class but that doesn’t mean value can’t be found if the Jets are smart shoppers. Tyrell Williams would be a redundant player with Anderson and doesn’t have the production in the past two years to merit the contract he is likely to receive. Golden Tate’s lack of production in Philadelphia last year was surprising and alarming for a player on the wrong side of 30 but he should have another productive year or two left and provides terrific YAC ability. Devin Funchess inconsistency, downturn in production last year and the lack of hesitancy the Panthers are having in letting him walk are all red flags. More intriguing names are slot receivers like Adam Humphries and Jamison Crowder, particularly Humphries who is only 25, has been steadily increasing his production year over year and has good size for an inside receiver. John Brown is an interesting “second tier” name who has regularly been a big play receiver throughout his career. The rest of the market is spare parts and depth pieces at best and that includes Donte Moncrief who the Jets are rumored to have interest in.
It seems unlikely the Jets are going to be serious bidders for Antonio Brown and there is nothing concrete out there about AJ Green being available. Their potential trade targets may end up being less splashy names like Mohamed Sanu and Albert Wilson. It also sounds like Nelson Algholor may be available and be’d be an intriguing target for a late round pick if the Jets miss out on Humphries and Crowder.
The consensus top ranked players like this year are usually DK Metcalf, N’Keal Harry, AJ Brown, Marquise Brown, Deebo Samuel and Kelvin Harmon in some order. It is unlikely the Jets are going to take any of those players third overall, despite Metcalf’s combine performance but those names could come into play if they trade back. If the Jets don’t draft a receiver in the first round, it is likely (or should be) a focus position in the middle rounds, particularly if they acquire a second round pick in any offseason transactions. Mike Maccagnan drafting receivers on day two and day three has been a disaster zone through four years (Devin Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Charone Peake) so hopefully there will be improved targeting this year.
The Jets need another starter at receiver for three wide looks and a quality depth option for any prospective missed time from Anderson or Enunwa. They also need developmental players at the position. Hopefully with candid self scouting, the Jets are aware of how much work is needed at the receiver position this offseaosn.