Posted by Scouts Inc. Matt Williamson
We examined each AFC East team's "weak spot" based on its 2008 performance. In this post, we explore the Jets' wide receiver position.
Tthe Jets are clearly in a win-now mode and should be looking to surround new franchise QB Mark Sanchez with as many pieces as possible to aid his transition to the NFL.
Laveranues Coles is not an upper-tier starting wide receiver, but Jerricho Cotchery has also pretty much always had the luxury of having Coles alongside him on the field. Making up the 70 receptions that Coles accounted for last year will be tough for the Jets to do, especially considering that they have done nothing to bolster the position after Coles' departure. Now that Coles is in Cincinnati, Cotchery surely will be the focus of opposing defense's coverage schemes, whether it be in the form of their top corner or rolling an extra coverage player to Cotchery's side of the field. I do think that he is a superior player to Coles, but Cotchery will still need to step his game up even further in 2009.
Two players who must absolutely be mentioned in this conversation are second-year TE Dustin Keller and the mercurial Leon Washington. Both could very quickly become Sanchez's safety blanket options and best friends.
More of a wide receiver than inline tight end, Keller is an emerging player whom the Jets will split out wide and use in a similar fashion to how the Colts employ Dallas Clark. He caught 48 passes as a rookie and has the ability to stretch the field, but New York will need him to step up his red zone production especially considering their other pass-catching options.
Washington is dynamite with the ball in his hands and is one of the most underrated players in the league today -- both as an offensive weapon and returner. Not only can he have a strong influence on the passing game out of the backfield, but Washington has the skill set to motion out wide and exploit linebacker or safety coverage in that regard as well. Even though he hauled in 47 passes last year, the Jets need to use him in this capacity even more going forward. Washington is a game changer.
While the Jets are very high on their young upcoming wide receivers, they also publicly said the same thing about the quarterback position, and then proceeded to put a package together for Sanchez. The Jets have been awfully aggressive over the past two offseasons and it appears as though now is not the time for patience. It wouldn't shock me one bit if the Jets got their hands on a proven veteran wide receiver before the season opens.
Personally, I want to see much more from Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney, Marcus Henry and even Brad Smith, who remains a project after three years in the league, before anointing any of these four true starting material. There is some undeniable talent in this group, most notably with Stuckey and Clowney, but this foursome combined for just 45 receptions in 2008. The Jets need more.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.