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Monday, June 16, 2014
WR situation: Decker and question marks

By Rich Cimini

Interesting battle brewing for the No. 2 job at wide receiver -- aka The Guy Opposite Eric Decker. Will it be Stephen Hill? David Nelson? One of the rookies? It certainly will be one of the things to watch this week during the New York Jets' three-day mandatory minicamp, which opens Tuesday.

Jeremy Kerley
Jeremy Kerley did much of his damage last season from out of the slot.
Based on experience and production, the job should go to Jeremy Kerley, who led the New York Jets last season with 43 receptions. But here's the thing: Kerley is more efficient in the slot. Like a lot of 5-foot-9 receivers, his efficiency declines when he lines up on the perimeter.

In 2013, 29 of his 43 receptions came from the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Let's take it a step further: Kerley was targeted 47 times in the slot, giving him an impressive catch rate of 62 percent. All told, he ran 206 routes from the slot.

When lined up wide left or wide right, Kerley ran only 60 pass routes and was targeted just 21 times. The significance? Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg played to Kerley's strength, finding ways to get him the ball in the slot even though he was often considered the No. 1 or No. 2 receiver on the field because of injuries to Santonio Holmes, etc. Look for more of the same in 2014.

Now, in the interest of fairness, we have to point out that Kerley did well with his limited opportunities on the outside. In fact, he caught 14 passes on those 21 targets (67 percent), although many of those were short, high-percentage throws. He made seven catches on seven targets on throws to the right, but the average throw was only 4 yards.

We just threw a bunch of numbers at you, and we all know numbers don't always tell the entire story. Here's the bottom line: The Jets can use Kerley and Decker in two-receiver sets while putting Kerley in places where he's most effective -- i.e., the slot. Mornhinweg has a myriad of ways to attack, especially with the addition of rookie Jace Amaro, a "flex" tight end who can line up just about anywhere.

The idea is to put the best players on the field, so, no, the Jets won't force a receiver into action simply to have a traditional starting lineup. Chances are, it'll be a committee approach, with Decker and a host of role players -- unless, of course, someone steps up in training camp and blows away the competition.