Confident Clowney ready to step up

June, 9, 2009
6/09/09
11:04
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Anytime a name receiver is rumored to be available, the New York Jets are said to be interested.

Plaxico Burress, Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards have been involved in Jets talk. Many draft analysts predicted the Jets would draft a receiver, maybe Percy Harvin or Darrius Heyward-Bey.

The Jets were in need of a prototypical No. 1 wideout even before Laveranues Coles wriggled out of his contract. They've declined to replace him thus far, creating even more skepticism that the Jets are set at receiver.

At least two players on the depth chart disagree.

 
  Joe Robbins/Getty Images
  David Clowney caught one pass for the Jets last season.

"I think we're good," Jets receiver Wallace Wright said. "People want to speculate, but with the talent we have in that room, I don't think we need anybody else."

David Clowney has a more specific solution to New York's receiving needs. The third-year speed demon with one career NFL catch considers himself the answer.

"I don't stress or harp" on the stream of reports the Jets are looking for outside help, Clowney said, "because at the end of the day it's all in my hands. That's been my whole mind-set. If they would've drafted a first-round receiver, he would have had to earn that job just like me, and I would just have to beat him out."

Clowney was emphatic about what he can offer the Jets. He took a break from the youth football camp he staged Saturday in his hometown -- the presence of teammates D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Vernon Gholston, Kareem Brown, Brian Schaefering, Marques Murrell, Nate Harris, Stanley Daniels and Wright gave it the feel of a Jets' organized team activity -- to talk about his expectations for 2009.

Clowney has been taking reps with the first- and second-team offense throughout OTAs.

"I'm grinding, trying to get that starting job," Clowney said. "I'm really hoping that they give it to me. I'm working for it.

"Shouldn't be a reason why I shouldn't get it, but with all this competition, we're going to make the best of it. We're all going to be out there, making plays."

There are few certainties with the Jets' receiving corps. One is that Jerricho Cotchery, with a team-leading 71 catches and 858 yards last year, will be on the field. Another is that sophomore tight end Dustin Keller can be a menacing mismatch.

Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

 
  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
  Jerricho Cotchery paced the Jets with 71 receptions and 858 yards last season.

Chansi Stuckey had 32 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns last year. Brad Smith chipped in with a dozen catches. Clowney made one, Wright zero.

"We haven't had the chance to show the world what we can do on the NFL stage," Wright said.

Clowney can offer something the others don't. He flies. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds at the 2007 NFL scouting combine. Only four prospects ran it faster.

"Clowney can run," Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris said at Clowney's camp. "Separation is what you look for from a receiver. He's a fierce competitor and he poses a threat to any defensive back."

Harris knows Clowney from the Packers. They drafted Clowney in the fifth round out of Virginia Tech, but he didn't make the roster. Instead, the Packers signed him to their practice squad. A month later, the Jets snagged him off the Packers' practice squad, waived him three weeks later and stashed him on their practice squad.

When Brett Favre landed with the Jets last year, he was impressed with Clowney's development.

"I didn't think he'd make it three weeks in Green Bay, and he didn't," Favre said in November. "Maybe he made it four. It was more his, I shouldn't say attitude; I think he really wanted to be a good player. It was more his actions and stuff. He was acting like a young player, not that that's uncommon.

"This year it seems like every time [a coach] asks him a question, he knows the answer. That's the first step. The guys have to trust you to be in the game. I think he'll get his chance."

Favre could've used Clowney's breakaway stride last year. Jets receivers struggled to separate. While Cotchery and Coles can catch most anything they touch, they don't have game-changing speed like Clowney does.

In two preseason games last year, Clowney had eight receptions for a league-high 222 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four Brett Ratliff passes for 163 yards against the Cleveland Browns. He zipped behind Cleveland's secondary for touchdowns of 71 and 70 yards.

"I knew I was ready after that Cleveland game," Clowney said. "I knew it. I ca
me back against Washington and performed even better."

Clowney had four receptions for a comparatively modest 59 yards against the Redskins, but he broke his collar bone during the game. The Jets deactivated him until Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills.

Clowney caught his first NFL pass in that game, and it was a doozy.

In the third quarter, Favre fired down the right sideline. Clowney made a dazzling one-handed grab before getting pushed out of bounds.

On the stat sheet, it was a single catch, but it was a satisfying one for Clowney, a tangible reward for a player who had endured waivers twice, being placed on a practice squad twice and a lengthy injury.

"I have no doubts at all. None whatsoever," Clowney said. "They know I can do it. They know it's there. Now it's just making sure I'm consistently doing it."

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