New York Jets: David Nelson

Training camp preview: Wide receiver

July, 16, 2014
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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.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets wrapped up minicamp -- and the offseason -- with a 90-minute practice Thursday in a light rain. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. Quarterback hiccups: One day after his coaches lavished praise upon him for a terrific offseason, Geno Smith ended on a down note, throwing two interceptions in team drills. One was an ill-advised throw, a pass into double coverage. He was looking for Eric Decker, who was covered by CB Dee Milliner, and it was picked off by rookie S Calvin Pryor. Later, Smith (2-for-6 in team drills) was intercepted by Milliner on a deep ball that went off the hands of Decker. It's important to keep this in perspective. Two turnovers on the final day of minicamp doesn't change anything. As Marty Mornhinweg indicated Wednesday, it's Smith's job to lose. Michael Vick was 2-for-7, with a couple of overthrows.

2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.

3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.

4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.

5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.

6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.

Practice notes: Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy

June, 17, 2014
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeways from Day 1 of the New York Jets' minicamp:

1. What a mess: Let's let Rex Ryan describe the day: "It got ugly out there." Did it ever. The two-hour practice was filled with penalties and dropped passes. As usual, there were game officials at practice and they were told to crack down on defensive holding calls, according to Ryan. The last segment of practice resembled last year's game against the Buffalo Bills, when they set a franchise record with 20 penalties. Linebacker Garrett McIntyre was flagged for holding, negating an interception. Looking at the silver lining, it was a good day for fitness. That is because the entire team dropped for 10 push ups after every penalty.

2. Rookie yips: Rookie WR Shaq Evans, who missed the organized team activities (10 practices) because of school obligations, looked rusty and struggled mightily. He dropped two balls against air (no defense) and he dropped another in team drills. In between the mishaps, he made a nice sideline catch in a 7-on-7 drill. Not surprisingly, Evans, a fourth-round pick, was out of sync with the quarterbacks, resulting in miscommunications. Fellow fourth-round pick Jalen Saunders had a drop in 7-on-7s, but it was an overall solid practice. Sixth-round WR Quincy Enunwa, FB Tommy Bohanon and WR Eric Decker had one drop apiece.

Smith
3. Your QB update: Despite the overall sloppiness, Geno Smith and Michael Vick managed to avoid any major blunders, meaning turnovers. Smith completed six of 10 passes, with a sack.

Vick was 7-for-10, with a sack. He missed a couple of open receivers on deep throws, once underthrowing David Nelson with a fluttering pass that was nearly intercepted. Vick was intercepted in 7-on-7 drills, when he threw for Decker on a post route. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson made a great read and jumped the route. He's a cagey vet. Patterson figured out the route combination on that side of the field and knew Decker was going to break to the inside. On the positive side, Vick displayed some of his legendary mobility, scrambling away from pressure on at least two occasions.

Obviously, individual stats don't mean much in minicamp. The division of reps sometimes tells you more about a player's progress -- or lack thereof. In the first team period, devoted to third down, Smith worked with the starters for six out of eight reps. Vick got the other two reps. In the second team period, devoted to the no-huddle, Smith got all 10 reps with the first-team offense. Get the picture? If the reps are divided the same way in training camp, it will be tough for Vick to supplant Smith, as the coaches have indicated.

4. Impressive corner: Rookie Dexter McDougle, who got a late start in the offseason program because of a shoulder surgery from a college injury, continued to make plays. Working with the second-team defense, the third-round pick made at least two pass breakups. He's aggressive at the line of scrimmage, not afraid to engage with a receiver. "I think you saw a little of why we're so excited about him," Ryan said. McDougle and Darrin Walls were the second-team cornerbacks, behind Dee Milliner and Patterson.

5. Odds and ends: Nice day for rookie DT Kerry Hyder, an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. He had a sack and interception. He picked off Matt Simms on a screen pass. ... This was another mediocre practice for Simms, who is battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 job. ... Rookie Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen continued as the starting safety tandem, with veteran Dawan Landry on the second team. ... It looks like rookie TE Jace Amaro already is ahead of Jeff Cumberland in pass-oriented personnel packages. ... Six free agents were invited to participate on a tryout basis, including former Oakland Raiders fourth-round pick Bruce Campbell, a tackle. The others: Punters Drew Butler and Jacon Schum, kickers Andrew Furney and Carson Wiggs and guard Ray Dominguez.

6. Injury report: As expected, RB Chris Johnson (knee), RG Willie Colon (knee) and LB Antwan Barnes (knee) didn't participate in team drills. Johnson, who had surgery in January, participated in individual drills.

WR situation: Decker and question marks

June, 16, 2014
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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.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Kerley
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJeremy 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.

Jets notes: Rex's endless pursuit of B&B

June, 15, 2014
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A few thoughts on the New York Jets as we head into the final week of the offseason:

1. Song remains the same: Rex Ryan's remarks the other day about the New England Patriots (in response to Calvin Pryor's "hate" quote) triggered a memory. Ryan's comments -- "[Pryor] knows who the enemy is" -- came almost five years to the day in which he uttered his famous line: "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." The takeaway: Five years later, not much has changed.

No one knows how the rest of the Ryan era will play out, but it's quite possible he could be remembered one day as a good coach who failed to rise above also-ran status because he was in the same division as the winningest coach-quarterback combination in history. Ryan hasn't been able to conquer Belichick and Tom Brady. No one has, as the Patriots have won the AFC East every year since Ryan took over the Jets in 2009 -- and a whole bunch of years before that. The same thing happened to the New York Knicks in the 1990s; they had some terrific teams, but couldn't get past Michael Jordan.

The Jets have been respectable under Ryan (42-38), the eighth-best record in the AFC over that span, but the Patriots are a league-best 61-19. The Jets finished four games behind the Patriots last season, and there's no reason to think they will overtake their longtime nemesis this season. With Brady expected to play a few more years, Ryan could be playing catch-up for the rest of the Brady-Belichick era -- if he lasts that long. Lousy timing for Ryan? Yeah, you could say that, but he also knew what he was signing up for in '09.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonRex Ryan took some heat this past week after skipping the Jets' final OTA session in favor of taking his team on a bowling excursion.
2. Misplaced criticism: Ryan's decision to cancel the final OTA practice in favor of a trip to a bowling alley fueled some mild backlash on social media. Actually, it's not unusual for a coach to skip the last day. Belichick, of all people, canceled his final OTA practices in 2012 and 2013. He also took the Patriots to the movies late last season. The criticism of Ryan is off base. It's June, for crying out loud! It's not like he took the team to Dave & Buster's on the eve of a big game. Oh, wait ...

3. A delivery of Flowers?: Despite all the happy talk from the Jets about their cornerback situation, I think they should explore the possibility of signing Brandon Flowers, who was released Friday by the Kansas City Chiefs. The question is, will they? As of Saturday morning, they hadn't reached out to Flowers, according to a league source. Then again, John Idzik isn't a hurry-up kind of general manager, so you never know. In the end, I'd be surprised if the Jets show serious interest despite a need (in my opinion) at the position.

Despite a Pro Bowl appearance, Flowers is coming off a disappointing season in which he was demoted to nickelback. He was rated 87th out of 110 cornerbacks last season, according to ProFootballFocus. That he struggled under former Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, whose system is similar to that of Ryan's, is worth noting. We also know Idzik is reluctant to spend significant money for another team's trash. But we're also talking about a 28-year-old player with a substantial body of work, someone who could benefit by a change of scenery. If they paid $3 million for the injury-prone Dimitri Patterson, why not make a run at Flowers, who would be an upgrade? They have about $21 million in cap room.

4. Goodson's future: Flowers may have sealed his fate by not attending OTA practices, which are voluntary (wink, wink). The Jets' Mike Goodson did the same, prompting some fans to wonder why the Jets haven't cut ties with the troubled running back. Goodson's situation is complicated by his legal problems and perhaps personal issues. Remember, he was slapped with a four-game suspension last year for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. I find it hard to believe he'd deliberately stay from the team, jeopardizing his roster spot, unless there's an extenuating circumstance. His agent hasn't returned calls or emails seeking comment, and the Jets have been tight-lipped, except Ryan saying he hasn't heard from Goodson. Ryan said he expects Goodson to attend next week's mandatory minicamp.

5. New kid on the block: Right tackle Breno Giacomini has spent his entire career on zone-blocking teams -- the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, his most recent team. The Jets run a mix of zone and gap blocking schemes, which will require a transition for Giacomini. Before signing him as a free agent, the Jets studied tape of how he fared against common opponents, and they came away convinced he could adapt to the specific style they use against certain teams.

6. Big Mike: To improve his oft-questioned durability, quarterback Michael Vick added four pounds of "solid muscle," he told The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, his hometown. He told the newspaper he felt great throughout OTAs, proudly noting he scored a rushing touchdown last week.

"Still can move," Vick said. "Doesn't seem like any of my skills have diminished. … I still feel like I can play at a high level. That may be tested at some point this season, and I look forward to it."

Vick described himself as a "trendsetter," saying the mobile quarterbacks of today are continuing the style he brought to the league more than a decade ago. He added: "I was kind of the originator. That's something I can take to the grave."

7. Sheldon wants 'Mo money for Wilkerson: Muhammad Wilkerson is taking a low-key approach to his looming contract negotiations, refusing to make public demands. Teammate Sheldon Richardson is doing the talking for him, telling the New York Post, "Hopefully, they do the right thing and pay the man." Oh, they will. The question is when. After exercising a fifth-year option, the Jets have Wilkerson under contract through 2015, so there's no sense of urgency.

Richardson has a personal stake in the matter because in two years, he'll be in the same boat as Wilkerson. If the Jets renegotiate with Wilkerson before his fourth season, it'll set a precedent for Richardson and other former first-round picks.

8. Picture of the week: Here's soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo receiving a throwing lesson from wide receiver David Nelson. No Tebow jokes allowed.

9. The anti-Rex: Can there be two coaches more dissimilar than Ryan and Jurgen Klinsmann? Klinsmann says it's not possible for his team -- the United States -- to win the World Cup. Ryan goes into every game telling his team they will win -- and I honestly think he believes it. Call me traditional, but I like Ryan's approach. Klinsmann might be right, but no one wants to hear that jive. It's a good thing we didn't have a guy like him coaching the 1980 U.S. hockey team.

10. Farewell to a champion: The NFL lost a legend Friday night with the passing of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls. Two Noll disciples became important figures in Jets history -- the late Bud Carson and retired personnel director Dick Haley. Carson, the Jets' defensive coordinator from 1985-88, ran the defense for Noll during the iconic Steel Curtain era. Haley, who worked for the Jets from 1991-2002, was one of the architects of the great Steeler drafts in the 1970s.

Eight takeaways on Jets' OTA practices

June, 13, 2014
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The New York Jets wrapped up their organized team activity practices Thursday with a team trip to a local bowling alley. Thoughts and observations on the OTA phase of the offseason, which consisted of nine practices:

1. Growing up Smith: Quarterback Geno Smith, the likely opening-day starter, drew praise from teammates on two fronts: He was decisive in the huddle, communicating plays quickly and confidently -- a far cry from last season. They also said he was more assertive than his rookie year, demonstrating more vocal leadership. These are the progressions you'd like to see from a second-year quarterback. As for his actual play, it's hard to gauge in OTAs, but there was an obvious reduction in turnovers and sacks. Clearly, it's Smith's job to lose, even if Rex Ryan is reluctant to put it in those words.

2. Strength in numbers: Ryan likes to brag about the team's backfield depth, but depth is meaningless if half the unit is hurt. Chris Johnson (knee), Daryl Richardson (toe) and Mike Goodson (knee/no-show) didn't participate in the voluntary practices, leaving plenty of work for Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory and Alex Green, who thought he was a goner at one point. Johnson and Richardson should be ready by training camp, but given the amount of durability concerns (let's not forget about Ivory, who has a history of nagging injuries), the Jets should take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when they construct the final roster. In other words, load up on running backs.

3. The battle for No. 2: Since there's no competition at quarterback (in the words of Michael Vick), the most compelling battle is unfolding at wide receiver. Who's the 2? Don't be surprised if Stephen Hill (yeah, him) emerges as the starter opposite Eric Decker. Right now, I'd say the top candidates are Hill and David Nelson, figuring Jeremy Kerley will be in the slot. Clearly, this is a make-or-break year for Hill, who has yet to transfer his elite measureables into production. Hill did fine in the OTAs. but, remember, there was no press coverage (not allowed under CBA rules). Diminutive rookie Jalen Saunders got a lot of quality reps and demonstrated impressive short-area quickness, but again ... no press coverage. The wild card is Jacoby Ford, probably the fastest player on the team. He blew away teammates with his speed, but there are durability and consistency concerns.

4. Mr. Jessie James: Decker made headlines by skipping two days of practice to attend the CMT Awards with his wife, country singer Jessie James, which overshadowed his impressive work on the field. He's learning a new offense and getting comfortable in new surroundings, but their prized free agent appeared right at home. He's big and smooth, as advertised. You could tell he puts a lot of effort into his route running. A couple of times, he was off to the side, working on his footwork with receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Cynics will say Decker looked so good because there isn't much around him. There's an element of truth to that, but you don't catch 24 touchdowns over two years by accident.

5. Youth is served: Ryan put first-round pick Calvin Pryor on the fast track, giving him plenty of first-team reps at safety with Antonio Allen. Is the handwriting on the wall for Dawan Landry? The dean of the secondary was relegated to second- and third-team duty, but that was because the coaches wanted to give Pryor and Allen as much on-the-job training as possible. They still need Landry because of his leadership and knowledge of the defense, but Ryan, who recognizes the need for playmakers in the secondary, is intrigued by the speed and athleticism of the Pryor-Allen tandem. No doubt, Pryor will be a Week 1 starter. The only question is how they divide the other spot.

6. Musical linemen: Willie Colon's injuries allowed them to try different combinations at guard, with Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi working in both spots. Ryan said Aboushi looks better at left guard, meaning Winters could slide to right guard if something happens to Colon down the road. There's nothing wrong with experimenting, especially in June, but it doesn't mask the fact that the Jets have no experienced backups on the offensive line. And we're not counting Caleb Schlauderaff, whose experience consists of 14 regular-season snaps. They need to pick up a veteran at some point before the season.

7. Dee's cranky hamstring: It's probably nothing, but maybe it's something. Cornerback Dee Milliner was limited in recent practices because of what the team is calling "tightness" in his hamstring. Yeah, it's only June, but considering all the buildup surrounding Milliner -- coaches saying how much he'd benefit from his first injury-free offseason -- it was disappointing not to see him build on the momentum of last season's strong finish. This could be a moot point by training camp, but it's worth noting, especially since Milliner was beset with nagging injuries last season and played hurt throughout college with various ailments.

8. Jace not an ace -- yet: Rookie tight end Jace Amaro struggled with dropped passes, probably because his brain was overloaded with new terminology. This is a big transition for the second-round pick, who didn't play in a pro-style offense at Texas Tech. He came from a simple, no-huddle system that didn't require a lot of thinking on your feet. Clearly, he has talent, but his development will be dictated by how quickly he assimilates into Marty Mornhinweg's offense. Don't expect it to happen overnight.
Saturday's drops notwithstanding, Rex Ryan likes the look of his 2014 receiving corps. The New York Jets spent money ($15 million guaranteed for Eric Decker) and draft picks (three) to improve the weakest position on the team.

"From top to bottom," Ryan said, "it’s a much better group of receivers than we had probably at any point last year."

[+] EnlargeShaq Evans
Bill Kostroun/AP PhotoPerhaps rookie Shaq Evans could develop into the Jets' No. 1 receiver role this season.
Let's examine that statement.

The high point last year, if you could call it that, was the start of the season, when the Jets' top three wideouts were Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley. (Incredibly, the trio played only one game together -- the opener.) You could argue they ended the season in better shape, with the surprising David Nelson replacing the injured Hill. Either way, the narrative is the same: It was a deficient receiving corps that lacked speed, depth and a true No. 1, because even when Holmes was healthy, he wasn't really healthy. Clearly, he was a diminished player because of his surgically repaired foot from 2012.

You know what? For the sake of comparison, let's drop the "at-any-point" qualifier and look at the group as a whole. The top receivers last year, in my opinion, were Holmes, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Clyde Gates, Greg Salas and Josh Cribbs, who really didn't play much receiver. The latter three are marginal NFL players.

The top receivers this year, as of now, are Decker, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Jacoby Ford, Gates, Shaq Evans, Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa. This time, the latter three are rookies with varying degrees of upside. Based on what I saw from rookie camp, and from talking to talent evaluators around the league, Evans has the best chance to make an immediate contribution among the rookies. His skill set is more complete than the others.

"We’ll see what kind of receivers we have," Ryan said, "but you could put out an unbelievable (4x100) relay team."

To me, Decker is an upgrade over Holmes, although there are many who question whether Decker is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Beyond Decker, the top four could be the same as last year, with Kerley, Nelson and Hill filling out the top spots. The Jets still lack a home-run hitter, a need they failed to address in the offseason. Someone has to develop into that guy and crack the top three. Maybe it can be Hill -- if he's healthy and consistent. Maybe it can be Ford -- if he's healthy and can recapture the promise he showed as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2010. Maybe it can be one of the rookies.

So, yes, I'd agree with Ryan's statement that it's a better overall unit than last season, but I wonder whether it's as good as it needs to be.

Jets Twitter Mailbag

April, 19, 2014
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It's the weekly Jets Mailbag and since Rich Cimini is out of the office this weekend, I'll be tackling your questions.

How Decker could impact draft strategy

March, 13, 2014
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So the New York Jets' wide-receiver situation has improved over the past 24 hours, with the addition of Eric Decker. Now you have Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and David Nelson as your top four guys. You have basketball size with Nelson (6-foot-5), Hill (6-4) and Decker (6-3). The Jets could add another veteran in free agency, perhaps James Jones (6-1).

Does this preclude them from drafting a receiver in the first round? Not at all. They absolutely could select a "speed" player to complement all the big bodies. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. certainly could see them going in that direction. He believes they still need a No. 1 receiver because he doesn't see Decker thriving in that role.

"I think Decker is a good No. 2 receiver," Kiper said Thursday in a media conference call. "If you’re asking more than that, maybe you’re expecting too much. He was in the perfect scenario certainly in Denver with Peyton [Manning] last year, when you think about what he was able to do numbers-wise. When he was at Minnesota, I had a second-, third-round grade on him when he came out. I liked him coming out of Minnesota as a 2, not a 1.

"If you get a guy like Marqise Lee or you get a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. (at No. 18), or if you get a guy like Brandin Cooks at that point, you’re still getting a guy who could be very viable with Decker," Kiper continued. "They still could take a wide receiver. If they didn’t, you have to look at a versatile linebacker, you certainly could look at a tight end if [Eric] Ebron slid down there. There’s going to be an attractive receiver still there. What they have to decide is, is Decker enough or do they want to get an Odell Beckham Jr. or a Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee because all three of those players -- at least two of those -- I think still could be there when the Jets pick."

We still have two months to debate it.

Jets to host Decker in unofficial FA 'visit'

January, 21, 2014
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One of the benefits to hosting a conference champion at your facility during the run-up to the Super Bowl is being able to show off your digs to potential free agents. In real-estate terms, it's like an open house: Come on in, check us out and see if you can envision yourself here.

Decker
The AFC champion Denver Broncos have a player who might draw interest from the New York Jets in free agency -- wide receiver Eric Decker.

For four days next week, Decker and his teammates will practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., a 224,000 square-foot facility on a 27-acre campus. The players won't have full access inside the building -- some areas are off-limits -- but they certainly will get a good feel for the place, which includes a 5,500 square-foot locker room, five practice fields and a massive field house. For Decker, it'll be like an extended free-agent visit, with non-verbal recruiting.

No doubt, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would like to have a receiver of Decker's ilk in his offense -- young (27 in March), athletic and big (6-foot-3). The Jets have similar players in Stephen Hill and David Nelson, but Hill has been a disappointment. Nelson is a keeper; it'll be up to them to decide if they believe he can prosper in a prominent role.

Over the last two seasons, Decker has 172 receptions for 2,352 yards, ranking 11th and ninth in the league, respectively. Interested teams will have to address two big questions about him: How much of his production is due to Peyton Manning's brilliance? Is he good enough to be a No. 1 receiver?

No doubt, Decker has benefitted greatly from having Manning, not to mention fellow receiver Demaryius Thomas on the other side. But Decker's ascent started pre-Manning, in 2011, when he scored nine touchdowns in his first full season as a starter.

And that came with Tim Tebow throwing the ball. If he can score nine times with Tebow ... well, you can fill in the rest.

Sunday notes: Saving Coach Ryan

December, 29, 2013
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MIAMI -- Wrapping up another New York Jets season:

1. Stay of Rex-ecution?: Although signs point to Rex Ryan's return, as first reported Saturday by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the team has yet to make anything official. Let me say this: It's the right move. Owner Woody Johnson would be making a mistake if he signs off on Ryan's ouster. Most supporters point to his work this season as the biggest reason to keep him, but let's take a step back and look at the wider view. Consider:

a. He's the second-winningest coach in Jets history, trailing only Bill Parcells in winning percentage -- .604 to .519. That doesn't include Ryan's four playoff victories, a franchise record. An organization that has lost Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick should know better than to turn its back on promising coaches.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMany people with ties to the Jets feel that coach Rex Ryan brought much more than just wins to the franchise. He brought a sense of belief.
b. There are no slam-dunk upgrades among the usual suspects/candidates. Darrell Bevell or Dan Quinn or Ken Whisenhunt won't excite the fan base, and GM John Idzik knows it. That's probably one of the reasons why he's interested in retaining Ryan. Despite three straight non-playoff seasons, he's still good box office.

c. Ryan provides endearing intangibles. To explain them, listen to retired Jets guard Brandon Moore, who played under Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini and Ryan.

"He changed the culture in the building," Moore said of Ryan. "Before he got there, they talked about winning championships, but no one believed it. With Rex, you believe it's possible."

Moore also said, "If they fire Rex, they'll never find anyone who wants to win a championship for that organization as much as Rex does. He truly loves the Jets. You can't put a price on that."

Your move, Woody.

2. Making it hard to say goodbye: If something goes haywire and Ryan ends up getting fired, it would be a fascinating news conference, especially if the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins to finish 8-8. What would Idzik give for a reason, that Ryan did a bad job?

3. Cloud of uncertainty: Ryan and his staff have had to work this season under the toughest of circumstances -- little or no job security. At least seven assistants, an unusually high number, are in the final year of their contract. A situation like that can create a huge distraction, but Ryan & Co. have done an admirable job of focusing on the job at hand.

4. Rex vs. Tom: Ryan's record is 41-38. Tom Coughlin's record over the same span is 42-37. I get it, Coughlin won two championships. I'm just throwing the numbers out there.

5. Pace setter: Strong words the other day from LB Calvin Pace, who was asked about the prospect of having to start over with a new coaching staff. "As a player, it's not ideal. ... It's chaos. Because then you're seeing bodies, people getting cut and what-not." Thing is, to an outsider like Idzik, who has his own ideas, that might be appealing.

6. MartyBall: I think OC Marty Mornhinweg has done a credible job this season, considering the paucity of skill-position talent. But doggone it (one of his pet expressions), how can you not notice how well the Philadelphia Eagles are doing without him? His previous team, with pretty much the same skill-position players as last year, is ranked No. 2 in total offense and No. 2 in scoring under first-year coach Chip Kelly. A year ago, it was 15th and 29th, respectively.

7. What a kick: You can bet PK Robbie Gould's four-year, $15 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) with the Chicago Bears opened some eyes in the Nick Folk camp. Folk, due to become an unrestricted free agent, has produced numbers over the past two seasons eerily similar to those of Gould, now the highest-paid kicker in history.

Field goal percentage in 2012 and 2013: Gould 87.0, Folk 86.7.

Percentage in the 40-49 range: Gould 81.3, Folk 81.0.

Percentage in the 50-plus range: Gould 83.3, Folk 85.7.

Interesting, right? If the Jets think they can re-up with Folk for the usual one-year deal, they will lose him.

8. Nnamdi and the Jets: I guess it's a good for the Jets that CB Nnamdi Asomugha turned down their five-year, $50 million offer in 2011. Asomugha, whose career declined steadily from 2011, announced his retirement this week. Even though he spurned them, he made an impact on the Jets -- in a bad way. His $16 million-a-year contract with his first team, the Oakland Raiders, became the negotiating threshold for Darrelle Revis in talks with the Jets -- a price they considered ridiculous and, obviously, never were willing to meet.

9. Speaking of Revis ...: For all the talk about his surgically repaired knee, he ended up having a very good season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He hasn't missed a game and he's the top-rated corner in the league, based on the statistical metrics used by ProFootballFocus.com. On Friday night, he was named to the Pro Bowl. No one on the Jets made the Pro Bowl. That's a hanging curve if you want to take a shot at the Jets.

10. A full Nelson: As Kristian Dyer of Metro New York pointed out, WR David Nelson actually signed a two-year deal when he arrived early in the season. Most in-season acquisitions sign for one year. This was a nice pickup by the Jets. Nelson has played more snaps (508) than any receiver on the team since his Week 5 arrival. He has 31 receptions, third on the team.

Nelson dedicates game to foster child

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
8:05
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As New York Jets receiver David Nelson toured New York City with Davion Only on Saturday, the 15-year-old foster boy had a simple request for Nelson.

"I asked him if there was anything to let him know he was in my heart," Nelson said. "I was playing for him today and he told me to point to the sky after my first catch."

[+] EnlargeDavid Nelson
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsDavid Nelson had two touchdown catches against the Browns.
With 1:18 left in the first half, Nelson finally tallied his first catch, finding an open spot in the back of the end zone to haul in a six-yard touchdown catch in the Jets' 24-13 victory against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Just as he promised, Nelson walked out of the back of the end zone and pointed up to the sky. A touching weekend became even more memorable for Nelson and Only.

In addition to hosting Only and a fellow orphan this weekend as part of his i'mME charity, Nelson scored two touchdowns to help the Jets to their win at MetLife Stadium. Only made headlines in October when he asked members of a St. Petersburg, Fla. church to adopt him.

"Inspiration," Nelson said. "Just talking to them and hearing their life story, what they've been through and all the obstacles and circumstances they've overcome to kind of be where they are now. This is a (15)-year-old kid who just wants a family. His mom passed away back in June and just to hear his perspective on life and the things he hoped to do in his heart truly inspired me."

Nelson's i'mME organization attempts to help orphan children, and according to its website, it is looking to build an orphanage in Haiti. Saturday, he took the pair of orphans around New York City, showing them famous New York spots as they were tailed by the TODAY show. He told The Associated Press that the day on the town was supposed to be: "a crash course in Christmastime in the city."

Sunday, Nelson had the pair join him at the game, and he said he planned to celebrate with them after the Jets' win. Facing the team that released him in the preseason, Nelson caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the first half that sliced the deficit to 10-7, and he added a five-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter that put the Jets ahead for good, 17-10. He finished with four catches for 33 yards.

The touchdowns marked his first scores of the year, and his first in a regular season game since Nov. 27, 2011, when he was with Buffalo.

Those touchdowns, though, paled in comparison to what spending the weekend with Only meant to the receiver.

"I was truly humbled yesterday to have the chance to spend the day with [Only] and learn from him and just to be in his presence," Nelson said. "Today, it was a little different feeling. I was playing for him and I was loose and free and I'm extremely grateful I was able to play the way I was for him."

Two-minute drill: David Nelson

November, 30, 2013
11/30/13
8:00
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Our weekly Q & A is with New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson, who played with the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to 2012:

As a high-school senior, you were called out on national TV by Regis Philbin, a Notre Dame alum who didn't appreciate your decision to de-commit from the Fighting Irish in favor of Florida. It happened on "Live! With Regis & Kelly." What was that like?

[+] EnlargeDavid Nelson
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver David Nelson has 17 catches for 211 yards with the Jets this season.
DN: He looked into the camera and said, 'Big mistake for you, kid.' They were excited for Charlie Weis coming in. I committed to Tyrone Willingham, and he got fired and they brought in Charlie. I was the first one to leave Charlie and go somewhere else. My mom still has that tape, it's recorded on a VHS. My mom loves Regis Philbin, so the fact that he mentioned my name on national TV was really cool for her. To be an 18-year-old kid and having a nationally known name mention me, even if he was bashing me for making the wrong decision, it was pretty cool. Looking back, I think I made the right decision.

You grew up in the Dallas area, dated a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and got a chance to experience a storybook moment in your hometown. Tell me about it.

DN: When I was in Buffalo and scored a touchdown against the Cowboys, I ran the ball over and handed it to her (Kelsi Reich). A lot of people think I proposed to her. They say, 'You're the guy who proposed to his girlfriend.' I'm like, 'No, that was the guy from Boise State.' I just gave her the football, gave her a hug and walked away. We were dating, that was my girlfriend. I'm from Dallas. I had 80 family members in the stands. It's so random that you're playing the team your girlfriend cheers for in your hometown. I happened to score a touchdown, so all the stars aligned.

You played with Tim Tebow at Florida. What's your favorite Tebow story?

DN: My favorite story was, day of the national championship (January, 2009). We had three or four hours off, a time when guys get their minds right, go over the game plan, last-minute preparations at the hotel. I remember receiving a text message from him: 'Hey, can you come to my room?' When the starting quarterbacks calls you to come to his room four hours before the national championship, you get a little alarmed. What's going on? What's happening?

I walked into his room and there were five other guys and our team chaplain sitting there. He was sitting on his bed, and he opens the book of Matthew from the Bible and reads this verse: 'Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' Before the biggest game of our lives, he was humbling himself before us. He was saying, 'I have so much pressure on me, so much attention, so much expected of me, but after reading this verse, I want to humble myself in front of my peers. What happens tonight, let's just go out and have fun. Give whatever we have and enjoy the moment.'

A lot of times, guys put out this image that they have it all figured out and have all the answers. For him to say that and do that at that time, it truly meant something. A lot of us grew closer to him and connected on a deeper level. It was truly powerful. (Note: Florida defeated Oklahoma, with Nelson scoring on Tebow's famous jump-pass.)

You and your brothers, Patrick and Daniel, are raising money to build a residential village for orphans in Haiti. How did you get involved in that?

DN: About three years ago, I was on a mission trip to Haiti. It was my first time there. I've always loved kids. I'm the oldest of eight. I've always been surrounded by kids, and I knew I'd do something with kids when I got older, I just didn't know what. I spent a weekend at an orphanage and met a couple kids whose mother and father passed away in the earthquake. They're kids who don't have anything to call their own, except for a pair of clothes and some shoes, but they still have so much hope for life. I came back and my life was changed by those kids, by their hope and perspective on life.

I called two of my brothers and asked if they'd go back with me. We went back and stayed for a week. Our lives radically changed because of those kids. I was playing in the NFL, but these kids didn't care who I was, they didn't care what I did, they didn't care what I was bringing them, material wise. All they wanted was love and attention, and for me to hold them and play soccer with them. It rocked my world. My brothers and I made it our mission to provide for these kids any way we can, so we started this non-profit organization back in January.

Nelson: Receivers pressed too much

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
7:20
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' receivers and tight ends haven't had too many days worth remembering this year, but Sunday's efforts were by far the worst of the season.

The Jets were led by 48 yards from Greg Salas, which is the fewest yards by a Jets' single-game leader this season, and the receivers combined for only 60 receiving yards in the 19-3 loss to Baltimore. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith had more receiving yards than every wide receiver except Salas.

[+] EnlargeDavid Nelson
AP Photo/Gail BurtonThe Jets receivers couldn't quite get a grip on the ball in Baltimore.
Receiver David Nelson, who was held without a catch, said Monday the receivers "pressed" too much.

"We have to do a better job of catching the ball when the ball is thrown our way. I think yesterday we were trying to press a little too much," Nelson said. "We were trying to make big plays as a receiving group instead of just taking what was giving to us. We became way too impatient and we were trying to press too much."

The Jets only had 140 passing yards Sunday, with receiver Josh Cribbs even completing a 13-yard pass to Smith, but the receivers didn't make plays to help their quarterback. Of the 10 completions on the day, three went to running back Bilal Powell. Nelson, Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill hauled in just one of their 10 targets, with Holmes providing the lone 12-yard catch.

Nelson said the pass-catchers pressing too much manifested itself in various ways. He said it could have been trying to turn five-yard routes into 60-yard plays, perhaps not looking the ball into their hands or even not running routes correctly. The Jets staff said there were three drops by the unit.

"It just seemed yesterday we tried to put too much on ourselves as receivers to take over the game when we should have just let the game come to us," Nelson said.

The lack of performance by the tight ends and receivers is a consistent problem for the Jets. The team has just two 100-yard outings by its receivers, and both came Sept. 22 against a ravaged Bills secondary.

In the Jets' last four games, their leading receiver has 80, 57, 71 and 48 yards. Just once in their last eight games has the Jets' leading receiver totaled more than 80 yards.

Jets coach Rex Ryan doesn't believe the team lacks play makers but just wants to see them get healthy. The team is currently without Jeremy Kerley (elbow), while Holmes and Kellen Winslow have also missed multiple games, although Winslow's absence was due to a suspension.

"I think we have weapons. We need more consistency," Ryan said. "I think part of it is the practice field, some of the timing might be off, all that. We haven't had a full complement of guys on the practice field. ... That plays into it a little as well. You worked a certain route now you have a different player running that route. We got to get healthy and get our guys back on the practice field."

Notes: Jets conjure up Alosi memories

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
8:35
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BALTIMORE -- Three years removed from one of the most embarrassing plays in franchise history, the New York Jets triggered unpleasant memories Sunday with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on their sideline.

It happened on Jacoby Jones' 37-yard punt return in the third quarter of the Jets' 19-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Jones reversed field and ran up the Jets' sideline. During the run-back, the Jets' Troy Davis was blindsided by Courtney Upshaw, a crushing block that drew a gasp from the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. An unidentified Jets assistant coach, perhaps protesting the legality of the block, erupted and got too close to the sideline.

The Jets' bench was penalized for interfering with officials. At least they didn't try to trip any opponents players. Former Jets strength coach Sal Alosi infamously tripped a Miami Dolphins player in 2010, fueling national headlines. Ultimately, Alosi resigned under pressure.

Soon after Sunday's penalty, CBS went into the archives, showing a replay of the Alosi debacle.

"He's on the white (boundary) -- it's not like was on the field -- but I know it's a point of emphasis to be off that area," Rex Ryan said. "It wasn't intentional, and you get caught up in the moment. We saw one of our players get hit. Those things happen. It's unfortunate. We're not the only team (that it's happened to). At that time, I was expecting a different call."

Meaning a penalty on Upshaw. Davis suffered a chest injury and didn't return to the game. Ryan, caught on camera, seemed incredulous by the call, mouthing what appeared to be an expletive.

Mo better than the rest: One of the bright spots for the Jets was DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who recorded two of the four sacks. He has 10 sacks, the most by a Jets player since John Abraham recorded 10.5 in 2005. Wilkerson is on a roll, with seven in his last seven games. He also was flagged for roughing the passer, tackling Joe Flacco beneath the knees -- a hit that could result in a fine.

Razzle dazzle: One of the Jets' best plays (there weren't many to choose from) was a 13-yard pass from Josh Cribbs to QB Geno Smith out of the Wildcat. It was the first reception of Smith's career, becoming the first Jets quarterback to catch a pass since Ken O'Brien made a 27-yard reception from Al Toon in 1991.

Suspect pass pro: Geno Smith was sacked three times and under heavy pressure, especially in the first half, but the pass protection was "decent," according to Ryan. He seemed more upset with the receivers, lamenting dropped passes. Unofficially, there were two drops -- Santonio Holmes and David Nelson.

The invisi-Hill receiver: WR Stephen Hill was held without a catch for the third straight game. Ryan had threatened to demote the slumping Hill, but he was in the starting lineup. His snaps, however, was reduced.

Injury report: CB Antonio Cromartie left late in the game with a non-contact hip injury. He has been bothered by a hip ailment for much of the season, but he described this as worse than the previous injuries. RB Chris Ivory sprained ankle on his first carry of the game and will go for an MRI exam. He stayed in the game, which is always a good sign.

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