Though the New York Jets finished 8-8 in the 2013 regular season, it was apparent to all NFL fans that the team was never a serious playoff contender. New York recorded two consecutive victories on only one occasion; they were simply unable to gain any type of momentum behind first-year quarterback Geno Smith.
Much of the blame for the Jets’ inconsistency fell on the shoulders of the rookie out of West Virginia and probably with good reason. Smith only had 12 touchdowns passes in 2013, throwing 21 interceptions in the process. He logged two-plus interceptions in a single game seven times; not the numbers New York expected from their starting quarterback.
But Smith isn’t the only one at fault for the Jets’ lackluster pass attack. By far the team’s most pressing need heading into 2014, it’s imperative that New York upgrade their unimpressive wide receiving corps this offseason.
In a season that saw no receiver pass the 550 yard receiving plateau, it’s clear that changes must be made. The Jets’ top receiver in 2013 was slot man Jeremy Kerley. Kerley possesses decent hands, isn’t amazingly fast and usually does little after the catch. He projects as a No. 3 receiver for most other teams in the league and is a mid-level possession receiver at best.
Kerley led the team with 43 receptions (58th in the NFL) and 523 yards (61st) while averaging 12.2 YPC. He wasn’t consistently able to find space from opposing corners with his rather slow first step and was at times completely shut down by dominant corners. No, Kerely wasn’t the ideal go-to option for a rookie quarterback.
Smith’s only other solid option, Santonio Holmes, was decent when he was on the field, but it’s debatable whether he was truly healthy at any point during the season. Holmes registered over three receptions in a game only once in 2013 and began to show signs of his age. Holmes, who turns 30 this March, is not the player he once was and should no longer be relied upon like he is.
Holmes is listed as the N0. 1 wideout on the depth chart, but anyone that followed the Jets this season realized that wasn’t the case. Even if he can get healthy for 2014, which is a stretch, his impact will be minimal as he’s simply not the receiver that he used to be.
Beyond Kerley and Holmes the New York depth chart is a collection of no-names and rejects. Stephen Hill, a second-year man from Georgia Tech, shows ample promise, but was really unable to improve on a decent rookie showing. Hill’s speed is his best weapon, and at 6-foot-4 he knows how to go after a jump ball, but at this point Hill isn’t more than unrealized potential and is set to remain that way until he can prove otherwise.
David Nelson and Greg Salas were the next most productive Jets contributing 423 yards and 143 yards respectfully. Smith finding success in his rookie season was a long shot to begin with, but having the league’s sorriest wide receiving corps ensured that he would see failure in his first season.
If New York is serious about making a run at the postseason in 2014, upgrading at receiver must be their first priority. Whether it’s through free agency or the NFL draft, the Jets need to provide Smith with a quality receiver to look to next season. A versatile pass catcher then can line up in the slot as well as run deep routes. This would be ideal for New York’s offensive scheme. Look for GM John Idzik, Jr. to attempt to sign a free agent such as Jeremy Maclin before they address any of their other needs.