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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Training camp preview: Wide receiver

By Rich Cimini

Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Wide receiver

Hill
Projected starters: Eric Decker, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley (slot).

Projected reserves: David Nelson, Jalen Saunders, Jacoby Ford, Shaq Evans.

Notables on the bubble: Clyde Gates, Greg Salas, Quincy Enunwa (sixth-round pick).

Player to watch: Hill. It seems like he's in this category every year, doesn't it? In this context, it's not a positive. This is Year 3 for the talented, but inconsistent Hill, which means it's time to earn his scholarship. He showed positive signs in the spring, and he'll probably have a solid training camp. The problem is maintaining it into the season. The former second-round pick tends to fade when the pads go on, resulting in a Mr. August reputation. It's all there for him. He could win a starting job with a strong camp or he could play his way out of a roster spot if he regresses.

Top storyline: The receiving corps is better than last season, but how much better? Decker replaces Santonio Holmes as the No. 1 receiver, giving the Jets a dependable, low-maintenance player from a winning program. He isn't the flashiest guy around, but he'll be there for Geno Smith and he won't drive the coaches crazy with moodiness. The question with Decker is whether he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but we won't know that until the regular season. For now, the challenge is to find a running mate for him. The Jets are hoping one of the others -- Hill, Kerley, Nelson or maybe a rookie -- can separate from the pack and nail down the No. 2 job.

Training camp will be a success if ... : The Jets aren't entering the season with all their eggs in the Hill basket, as they've done the previous two years. If they're not, it means at least one of the other receivers had a terrific camp, minimizing their reliance on the inconsistent Hill.

Wild card: Ford. As a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2010, he looked like a budding star, averaging nearly 19 yards per catch and scoring on three kickoff returns. But he faded away, in part, because of injuries. If healthy, Ford is an absolute burner, the kind of player that can change field position in the blink of an eye. Question is, will the Jets get the 2010 Ford or the '13 version?

By the numbers: The Jets need receivers that can make plays with the ball in their hands. The team finished 30th last season in yards after the catch (1,356), according to ESPN Stats & Information.