This week, I’ll be breaking down the wide receivers, led by the mercurial but extremely talented former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who enters his third season in New York.
The 28-year-old Holmes, who spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, signed a five-year deal with the Jets last July but clashed at times with former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Now entering his seventh NFL season, the Jets’ bonafide number 1 receiver will be counted on more than ever as the most senior member of a very young receiving corps looking to find their way.
In addition to a new offensive coordinator in former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, the Jets have a new receivers coach in Sanjay Lal, who held the same position with the Oakland Raiders the last three seasons.
Lal was instrumental in the scouting of free agent wide receiver Chaz Schilens, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets in March and is the only other veteran wide receiver in camp this season.
Schilens, a 26-year-old entering his fifth NFL season, has had trouble staying on the field in his career but brings a big, 6’4, 225 lb frame to the table along with some serious straight-line speed.
Other than Holmes and Schilens, the other nine wide receivers the Jets are bringing to camp are all 25 years old or younger, and all have limited NFL experience.
The most experienced among them is fourth-year pro Patrick Turner, who only has ten career receptions and one career touchdown, which came in the final minutes of the Jets’ Week 17 loss to the Dolphins last season.
Kerley, a 2011 fifth-round pick, had 29 receptions as a rookie, 19 of which went for first-downs. He also saw time as a punt returner and even as a trigger man in the Wildcat, completing a 41-yard pass on his only pass attempt.
The 21-year-old Hill will be attempting to transition from college speedster to legitimate pro receiver, and he’s certainly got the physical skills to do so.
The 6’4, 215 lb Hill says he’s been studying his playbook on average about 12 hours a day, and he intends to make an immediate impact as a rookie alongside Holmes on the outside.
If the Jets end up only keeping five receivers on the active roster, Holmes, Hill, Kerley, Schilens and Turner are the most likely candidates to be those five. That being said, six other receivers will be competing for a job in camp.
Rookie seventh-round pick Jordan White had an impressive senior season at Western Michigan University. He led the nation with 140 catches for 1911 yards, including 17 touchdown catches in 2011.
White will be competing for a roster spot with 2011 seventh-rounder Scotty McKnight, who is coming off a knee injury and did not appear in a single game as a rookie.
Other receivers in camp include DaMarcus Ganaway, Dexter Jackson, Royce Pollard and Eron Riley, all of whom will be looking to put themselves on the map and make an name for themselves.
I expect we’ll see Holmes, Hill and Kerley getting the majority of playing time, with Schilens and Turner pitching in as well. If there’s room for a sixth WR, I’d say White is the most likely candidate to make the team as well.
With Mark Sanchez entering his fourth season, he’ll need to find stability in his receiving corps, something he’s never really been afforded in his career under Brian Schottenheimer.
With the Jets going back to a run-first, ball-control offense under Sparano, the passing game will have to be efficient to make an impact. They have to be able to keep teams honest so defenses don’t key in on stopping the run.
Santonio Holmes will have to lead by example with this young receiving corps, but the younger players have to pull their weight, too. No doubt, the coaches and players will have their work cut out for them.