The New York Jets have had a disastrous season passing the ball, ranking just 31st in the NFL in pass yards per game. Geno Smith has been in a major slump, and the offensive line is failing to give him much protection. Adding to the Jets’ passing woes are the poor performances of the wide receivers, a group that has struggled to make an impact this season.
Jeremy Kerley leads the Jets with 28 receptions for 347 yards, while tight end Jeff Cumberland’s three touchdowns are tops on the team. All of the Jets’ receivers and tight ends have missed time with injuries this season, which is partially to blame for their general lack of production. However, there is also a noticeable lack of talent at these key positions that is crippling the Jets’ offense and holding back Smith’s development.
Santonio Holmes is supposed to be the Jets’ No. 1 receiver, but he has missed 5 games with injury and has totaled just 13 receptions for 326 yards and 1 TD in the six games he has played in. That is terrible production from a supposed No. 1 receiver, let alone one who is making $9 million this season. The Jets are all but guaranteed to release Holmes after this season, re-starting their search for a top wideout.
The Jets had hoped that Stephen Hill would develop into a solid target this season, but at this point it is hard to call the 2012 2nd round pick anything other than a bust. He has just 23 catches for 340 yards and 1 TD this season, and he continues to have major problems with route running and drops. Hill is and big and fast, and he still has time to develop. However, he has not shown any understanding of how to play wide receiver at a high level, and he is invisible in almost every game.
Looking ahead to the offseason, it is clear that wide receiver is by far the Jets’ biggest concern. Kerley is a keeper in the slot, and David Nelson and Greg Salas have looked like solid reserve options. However, the Jets need to replace Holmes and Hill as the two starting outside receivers. At tight end, Kellen Winslow is unlikely to return, and the Jets would like to bring in some competition for Cumberland (if he even returns).
The potential list of free agents wide receivers includes Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders, James Jones and Golden Tate, and the Jets should target at least one or two of them. Potential options at tight end include Fred Davis, Dennis Pitta, Garrett Graham and Brandon Pettigrew (Jimmy Graham will also be a free agent, but he will certainly be given the franchise tag). It remains to be seen who will actually be available out of this group, but if the Jets can add a couple of these players then their passing game will be much improved.
The Jets will also be targeting pass catchers in the draft, and if Marquise Lee, Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans is available with the Jets’ first round pick they would surely be an easy choice. If they aren’t available, look for the Jets to eye players like Devante Parker, Jordan Matthews and Donte Moncrief. At tight end, Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jace Amaro will all be players the Jets keep a close eye on.
The NFL is a passing league, and the best teams in the league are able to consistently and effectively move the ball through the air. Right now, the Jets simply do not have the talent at wide receiver to be able to do that, and they need to invest money and draft picks in their receiving corps this offseason. There is no way of knowing if Smith can be the quarterback of the future until he has some weapons around him, and John Idzik’s highest priority should be getting those types of players.