Jets Must Boldly Go to the Stars for a Big Time Receiver
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello once had a famous skit titled, "Who's on First?" in which the comic duo struggled to identify the name of a first baseman on a baseball team lineup.
Flash forward a half century and more, and it just so happens that Jets fans are finding themselves imitating this famous skit when it comes to the wide receiver position on their own team.
With the departure of Laveranues Coles shortly after the season in a salary cap saving move, the team has struggled to fill the vacancy. There have been constant rumblings that the team was either interested in signing former Giant Plaxico Burress, or trade running back Thomas Jones to Cleveland for Braylon Edwards, but—so far, it is all rumors with nothing looking imminent.
Looking at the Jets wide receiver corps can cause agitation in even the most placid personality. In a division where the New England Patriots will be fully healed, in a conference that is loaded with good football teams and offensive talent, the Jets have little to show that inspires confidence in their ability to put points on the board in a big way.
Jerricho Cotchery returns as the lone ranger of this inexperienced group.
Last season, Cotchery proved to be a versatile receiver, possessing a great ability to stretch the field into big game-changing catches. Yet, Cotchery had only 71 catches for 858 yards and five touchdowns by season's end. So what appeared to be a breakout season for him in the opening weeks of the 2008 season, went for naught.
Cotchery will play a huge role in the Jets' offense this season, especially if Jets management can't snag a top flight receiver to complement him. He will be the team's No. 1 target this year, and if Mark Sanchez should win the starting quarterback job late this summer, then Cotchery's presence will be manifold since his hands will be the pair that Sanchez will trust most.
Therefore, Cotchery will likely be double teamed. Opposing teams will play bump and run coverage on him with a corner and bring in the free safety to block off any possible throwing lanes.
That leaves Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with a huge question: Who can catch the ball?
David Clowney enjoyed a great preseason last year highlighted by a 75 yard touchdown against the Browns, but that came against Cleveland's third string secondary. No one really knows how good Clowney can be; he has played in only two career games with one catch for 26 yards.
Before that, Clowney was a practice squad player for the Green Bay Packers for a year. If the preseason can tell anything, it is that Clowney commands very good speed and his height, 6'0", are pluses, especially if he can execute plays down the middle on slants and crossing routes.
Chansi Stuckey, whom the Jets drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, is expected to become a legitimate No. 2 receiver.
In 2008, Stuckey staked a claim on 32 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He proved to be great down the middle or on the left, making 17 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown. The best that can be said about Stuckey is that he is a nice third down receiver.
On the other hand, Stuckey might become the next Santana Moss. In 2003, Moss redeemed his terrible rookie season, snatching in 74 balls for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns in his second year.
Will Stuckey become this good? Only time will tell.
Finally, for your consideration: Brad Smith and Dustin Keller.
Ever since being drafted in 2006, Smith, a slash player who plays both quarterback and receiver, caused the Jets to hope that Smith would be their version of Antwaan Randle El, a solid third receiver famous for throwing a touchdown to Pittsburgh's Hienes Ward in Super Bowl XL in 2005.
Nonetheless, Smith failed to develop into that kind of player. Last year, Smith hauled in only 12 catches for 64 yards, coming off a breakout year in 2007, when he caught 32 balls for 325 yards and two touchdowns.
As a quarterback, Smith, given fewer opportunities, never took to the deep water.
Keller is the Jets' second best option after Cotchery. He broke onto the scene at midseason as a tight end, making 48 catches for 535 yards and three touchdowns.
Once last year, Keller became Brett Favre's go-to-guy down the middle of the field in coverage with a linebacker or nickel-corner. Keller won most of those battles but was thrown into Eric Mangini's dog house at the end of the year because of key dropped passes.
If Keller develops into a solid pass catching tight end, then the Jets will possess something that is very difficult for defenses to guard against. Many compare Keller to Colts tight end Dallas Clark; so far, Keller is not only bigger than Clark, he is possessed of a stronger ability to get down field as a wide receiver.
Still, with so much uncertainty at this important skill position, the Jets must make a move and quickly. The team failed to recruit a big receiver in April's draft; with training camp on the horizon, the dawn of the 2009 season looms near, leaving the Jets without a quality receiver.
Ever since the departure of Keyshawn Johnson before the 2000 season, Gang Green struggles to find a tall, powerful receiver who can stretch the field and make the tough catches in the corner of the end zone.
Coles and Moss were okay, but neither had the size required to be a top flight wide receiver in the NFL.
Thus, the Jets must boldly strike a deal with either the Arizona Cardinals for Anquan Boldin or the Cleveland Browns for Braylon Edwards, subjects of many journalistic and fan speculation for months.
Forget Plaxico Burress. His future hangs under a cloud of legal uncertainty. Even though adding Burress is the easy call since he is a free agent, Burress' off field antics might prove to be a poison pill.
Edwards or Boldin are the real deal.
In 2007, Edwards had a career with 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those stats eclipse the entire Jets' receiving corps of last season. Edwards' height is not an issue; at 6'3" the Jets would possess a legitimate threat to move deeply down the sidelines or jump for a ball in the back of the end zone.
Of the receivers that are potentially available, Edwards would be the best addition the Jets could make at this position. And, if all it takes is Thomas Jones and maybe a draft pick or two in the 2010 draft, then so be it.
The Jets must get it done.
As for Boldin, some worry about his personality...and for good reason.
First, he demands over $8 million a year from the Cardinals, a franchise not known for paying anybody well; furthermore, he screams at his coaches on the sidelines.
Remember the verbal spat he had with then offensive coordinator Todd Haley? Apparently, Boldin, upset over his removal for a few plays from the NFC title game against the Eagles, skipped out on the team's party afterwards.
Not exactly sterling team temperament.
If the Jets refuse to risk too much to get a guy with that kind of attitude, no one can blame them. But the stats are there: 89 catches for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Boldin is one of the more dynamic receivers in the league. Against the Falcons in the wild card game last January, Boldin snared an 81 yard catch and ran for a touchdown to help Arizona triumph. Consequently, some argue that a deal with the devil could be worth it.
In the end, the Jets have a choice: stick with the group on the roster, which is not a terrible decision, especially if they want young Mark Sanchez to grow with a collection of young receivers with potential. Or to be bold; to bring in a guy who can give the offense instant credibility.
The choice is obvious.
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