The New York Jets‘ receiving corps was one of the biggest question marks facing the team entering this season. With Jeremy Kerley as the only healthy, proven receiving option, the Jets were banking on young players developing or veterans returning to form. On Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, they got both.
I wrote last week that Santonio Holmes appeared to be looking like himself after a Lisfranc injury that cost him the majority of last season. On Sunday Holmes was even better, as he had a huge game and showed no ill effects of his injury. Holmes hauled in 5 catches for 154 yards and 1 TD, including a spectacular one-handed, over the shoulder grab against tight coverage that he took 69 yards to the endzone.
Holmes’ excellent game overshadowed another receiver’s breakout day, as second year man Stephen Hill began to look like he might live up to his enormous potential after all. Hill is a 6’4″ receiver with 4.3 speed, but he has struggled with consistency and mental mistakes, and has very rarely looked like the deep threat an athlete of his caliber should be.
On Sunday however, Hill was able to get behind the Bills defense on multiple occasions, and he caught 3 balls for 108 yards and a touchdown. Hill’s performance is a very positive sign, as the Jets are counting on him to develop into a high level outside receiving threat.
The greatly improved performances of these two receivers made rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s life much easier. Smith targeted Holmes more than any other receiver, and the veteran’s reliable hands came through in the clutch. With Holmes and Hill able to work deeper routes, Smith was able to push the ball vertically and stretch out the defense.
This gave the added benefit of opening up things underneath for the run game, and Bilal Powell responded with a career day. The only thing missing was Kerley, who only had 2 catches for 25 yards. However, the effectiveness of the run on Sunday resulted in the Jets recording a season low in pass attempts. That will change, and there will surely be plenty of targets for Kerley in future.
The Jets would not have won the game without the contributions of Hill and especially Holmes. If they can continue to give the Jets good receiving threats on the outside, the entire offense will benefit. The Jets have been trying to figure out who their playmakers will be all offseason, and on Sunday Holmes and Hill answered the call.