There’s finally some good news on the injury front for the New York Jets.
Week after week, the Jets have seen key players drop like flies this season. Finally, two of their most important skill position players expect to make their way back.
Starting tight end Dustin Keller (above) and starting wideout Stephen Hill, both of whom have been out most of the season with hamstring injuries, are both expected to return to the lineup this weekend.
The Jets have been decimated by injuries, especially on offense. Top target Santonio Holmes suffered a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury just one week after the Jets lost their best player, Darrelle Revis, to a knee injury.
With Holmes done for the year, and Keller and Hill nursing their respective injuries, the Jets had been relying on Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, Jeff Cumberland and Clyde Gates to pick up the slack.
Mark Sanchez has been erratic and maddeningly inconsistent with Keller out of the lineup, a guy who’s been among the Jets’ leaders in targets, receptions and receiving yards each year of his career.
Having Keller back should give Sanchez more confidence going forward, for as flawed as a player as he is, he’s someone who Sanchez trusts and he’s always had great chemistry with his quarterback.
21-year-old Stephen Hill, the Jets’ second-round pick in this April’s draft, had two touchdowns in his NFL debut back in Week 1 but completely disappeared after that, because of ineffectiveness and injury.
The Jets need Hill to step it up in Holmes’s absence. Jeremy Kerley has done a phenomenal job in his increased role as the Jets’ de facto number 1 target, but Hill is the type of receiver who needs to carry his share of the load.
Kerley does not have elite size or speed, standing just 5’9 and less than 200 lbs, but he’s been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant offense that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way.
While he’s still a raw player in terms of his development as a wide receiver, Stephen Hill brings a 6’4, 215 lb frame and 4.3 speed to the table. Sanchez and the Jets need him to make a major impact, and the sooner the better.
The injury news was not all good for the Jets this week, however. Starting nose tackle Sione Pouha is doubtful with a back injury, and his backup, Kenrick Ellis, is out this week with an injured knee.
Key contributor Eric Smith, who plays a large role on defense and special teams, suffered a scary knee injury in practice this week. He will miss significant time, although his season does not appear to be jeopardy.
Starting center Nick Mangold injured his ankle during last week’s game, but he has not been ruled out and is fighting hard to get on the field this week. He’s an extremely important player on offense.
There’s no telling how Mark Sanchez is going to perform in the coming weeks, but having two of his top targets back in the lineup should help immensely. How much it helps remains to be seen. But he’ll be glad to see them.