New York Jets WR Jeremy Kerley Could Be Ousted From Starting Role

By Stephen Conway
Ed Mullholland-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Mullholland-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets starting slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, with the arrival of rookie Jalen Saunders, could be in jeopardy — and no, not answering questions on the game show.

There is no doubt that over the past few years, Kerley has been the most productive receiver for New York. Since his rookie year in 2011, Kerley has 128 receptions for 1,664 yards. Over that span, he has been the most productive receiver as far as receptions go, taking in 16 percent of all receptions by receivers over that span.

That might not seem like a lot, but it leads Santonio Holmes (12 percent), Dustin Keller (11 percent), and Stephen Hill (five percent), all of whom were part of the core receiving unit during the past three years. To be fair, Hill was not part of 2011 season, and Keller did not play with the Jets in 2013, but the percentages still prove the point that Kerley has been the most productive receiver.

When you compare the Jets’ slot receiver to other receivers from the 2011 draft, notably, All-Pro receivers A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals, Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens, and Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers, the reception statistics are surprising similar.

Over the three years, there is no question that Green has been the most productive receiver, racking in 260 receptions, doubling the amount of receptions Kerley has had over that span. However, Kerley is a slot and Green is a No. 1 receiver, so no wonder Green got more touches than Kerley did.

When you look at Cobb, who is a slot receiver, he has 136 receptions during the past three seasons, only 10 more receptions than Kerley. Unfortunately, Cobb was limited to only five games last year due to an injury, but that will only support my point further. Smith has had 164 receptions over the course of his career, but he too is an outside receiver, and therefore should rightfully be getting more touches than Kerley and Cobb.

So, if Kerley is in the conversation with receivers like Green, Smith and Cobb, why would he possibly lose his starting job to newly-acquired Saunders? Here’s why.

Over these past three seasons discussed here, Kerley has only had six touchdowns, three of those coming this past year. Smith has 19 touchdowns over the course of his career, Cobb has 13 and Green has 29. Holmes has had 10 touchdowns from 2011-2013, and from 2011-2012, Keller had seven touchdowns with New York, and that’s with missing a handful of games due to injuries.

In Hill’s two years in the league, he only has four touchdowns, but that too is with missing nine games over the course of those two seasons, not to mention Kerley had another year under his belt to catch balls in the end zone.

Kerley has not been productive in the red zone — it’s been a known issue for the past few years. While he has been a productive receiver reception-wise, he has not scored much for New York and that has been a huge problem for not just Kerley, but the offense as a whole. If Kerley doesn’t prove that he can be a threat in the red zone and score for New York, than he might just be moved down in the depth chart.

At this point, with all the new weapons that New York has brought in, Rex Ryan and OC Marty Mornhinweg are looking for impact players — players who can help them score. The guys who have been on the roster, such as Kerley, have not been getting it done, so before they turn to them again, they will definitely look for the newbies such as Eric Decker, Saunders and Shaq Evans to score touchdowns.

This is especially true of Saunders, who plays Kerley’s position as a slot receiver, and who has been said to have a knack to get into the red zone and score, which is why Kerley needs to be concerned.

Kerley has been sort of a savior for New York the past few years. He was the only legitimate receiver that they have had. However, while a fan favorite, don’t be surprised if his role becomes a bit diminished.

Stephen Conway is a New York Jets writer for Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, or add him on Google.

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