Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Position Overview: Wide Receiver

This is the second in the offseason position reviews. Previously, I have reviewed the quarterbacks.

Remember last season when Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey were the opening day receiving corps? The Jets have come a long way in less than 12 months, as now they feature the talented but enigmatic Braylon Edwards as well as a former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to go with the sure-handed Cotchery. But first, let's look at the 2009 unit.

Looking back: A Work in Progress

Last year, there was very little pressure put on the receiving corps and the passing game in general. Rex Ryan knew the Jets' only way of winning with a rookie quarterback and non-explosive receivers was by following the Baltimore method: run the ball and play dominant defense. Still, the Jets started 3-1 last year with Mark Sanchez throwing to Cotchery, Stuckey, David Clowney, and Brad Smith.

The addition of Braylon Edwards before week five provided a deep threat that, according to the coaching staff, not only improved the passing game but also stretched defenses enough to open up the running game. However, his inconsistent hands came with him from Cleveland, and while he flashed brilliance, he also had some head-scratching drops.

While not as big a name as Edwards, Cotchery was the Jets' steadiest receiver. He's a professional receiver who lines up all over the field, rarely puts the ball on the turf, and has great feet along the sidelines.

Clowney made a few plays in the middle of the season, but when Edwards and Cotchery were healthy, he wasn't versatile enough to get on the field. Smith was the anti-Clowney, as the Jets put him all over the field, including behind center, because he can block, catch, and run well.

Looking Forward: More Talent, More Problems

The Jets' passing game will be an interesting case study. Rex Ryan has called Edwards one of the most impressive players in camp so far while Sanchez has gushed about Holmes's all-around ability. With both players needing new contracts after the season, many speculate the two will be battling each other to see who stays long-term with the Jets.

Cotchery remains the consummate professional, and by far the most reliable of the three with his sure hands. He doesn't have as much big play ability, but with Edwards and Holmes on board, that's not a problem.

The clear upgrade in talent at the position as well as Sanchez's continued growth should make the passing game an integral part of the Jets' offense rather than an afterthought. Will it be enough to satisfy everybody? Holmes is coming from a winning organization in Pittsburgh, and Edwards was a model citizen since he arrived in New York.

Bottom Line
While it's hard to predict what could happen after 2010 with the contract situations of Edwards and Holmes, for just this coming season, you may not find a more talent trio in football than the Jets' group. And that's saying something considering what the Jets started last season with. Holmes will miss four games, but Edwards and Cotchery are plenty good enough to win by themselves as starters. Once Holmes is in the mix, watch out.

New York is still going to be a run-first team, but if something happens to Shonn Greene or LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets are far more likely to entrust Mark Sanchez with the offense to make things happen. With the league's top rushing game from a year ago and now a far more sophisticated and talented passing game, the Jets have come a long way. The big question, as is the case across the board, is how well the chemistry will work. But Edwards and Holmes have received nothing but positive reviews since they've arrived here. It seems as if everyone is on board that the ultimate goal is the Super Bowl, and everything else can wait. Hopefully, that remains the case come late December and beyond.


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