New York Jets' Wide Receiver Breakdown
Starters: Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery
Backups: David Clowney, Brad Smith, Danny Woodhead, Aundrae Allison
Key Losses: Chansi Stuckey
Edwards came to the Jets via a trade with the Cleveland Browns in the beginning of the 2009 regular season. His first start with the Jets was against the Miami Dolphins in Week Five, only a few days after the Jets acquired him. This was arguably his best game so far as a Jet, catching five passes for 64 yards and a score.
Braylon obviously has all the tools to be a top WR in the game but has struggled with dropping passes. His drops usually come on routine catches, ones in which he is wide open. If the pass is thrown a yard over his head or three feet behind him, Edwards usually makes the catch.
In my opinion, this is entirely a mental thing and is not as easy to fix as many people think.
For those Yankees fans, I’m sure you remember second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. He won several Gold Gloves in Minnesota, but as soon as Knoblauch joined the Yankees, he could no longer make the 60 to 70 foot throw to first base.
On the tough outs, where Knoblauch had little time to think, he was usually able to make the throw and record the out. However, it was the routine plays, the ones where Knoblauch had a few seconds to think about the throw, that plagued him. There was one instance where Knoblauch overthrew the first baseman so badly that the ball actually hit an elderly lady in the stands.
Now, we all know there was nothing physically wrong with Knoblauch that prevented him from making the throw, since most Little Leaguers can make this throw with incredible ease. So what was the problem? It was all in his head. When Knoblauch had a few seconds to think about the throw, he would overthink it, and that would cause him to botch an easy play.
The same thing that went through Knoblauch’s head is now happening to Braylon. When Edwards is wide open and has several seconds to think about the catch, more times than not, he drops it. But those hard catches, when Edwards has little time to think and just has time to react, is where he excels.
You may ask, how do you fix this problem? Well, the answer is kind of tricky. I think the best thing for Braylon to do is exactly what Rex Ryan has suggested to him—don’t worry about the drops and just play football. That, or we can have Mark Sanchez throw the ball over his head every time he targets him.
Now many people consider Braylon Edwards to be the Jets’ “No. 1 wideout,” but I think Jerricho Cotchery is just as much of a threat as Edwards. Now, J-Co does not have blazing speed, but he does run excellent routes and can catch those tough passes over the middle. In the first four games last season, before Edwards was traded to the Jets, Cotchery was actually leading the NFL in reception yards.
Cotchery’s production dropped off towards the middle of the year due to a hamstring injury and the fact that Sanchez started to struggle. He came on strong in the playoffs, though, especially when it came to catching those tough passes on the sidelines. Look for J-Co to be Mark’s go-to guy in the 2010 season.
Now after Edwards and J-Co, the Jets’ WR production drops off considerably. Each preseason, David Clowney likes to put on a big show. He led the league in receiving during each of the last two preseasons but has failed to make much noise in the regular season. Clowney has 15 career receptions for 217 yards and one TD in two seasons with the gang green.
Now I go to Virginia Tech, so I am a big fan of Clowney, and I truly believe he does have the talent to be an effective WR in the league. Clowney has blazing speed and a solid set of hands, but his main problem is that he fails to get separation from defenders.
The Jets like to run a lot of two WR sets, so Clowney doesn’t get much playing time, and when he is on the field he seems to be Sanchez’s third or fourth read. There were several times when Clowney was wide open down the field, but Sanchez never looked his direction.
Clowney was inactive for several games this season for no particular reason, but I wouldn’t look too much into that since we have learned that Ryan likes to shuffle around the roster depending on the opponent. Next year will certainly be Clowney’s make or break year, and I may be one of the few that think he’ll have a decent season for us.
The Brad Smith experiment at WR appears to be finished. Smith is an incredible athlete that is valuable to the Jets in many ways, but catching the football is not one of them. Brad Smith is much better suited as a situational wildcat/seminole quarterback and kick returner.
Another area in which Smith excels is kickoff and punt coverage. It seemed that Brad Smith and Wallace Wright were the first people downfield to make the tackle on nearly every special teams play last season.
Smith has received a second-round tender from the Jets, so he most likely will remain here for at least the 2010 season. In his career, Smith has 60 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.
Since the Jets were pretty stacked at the running back position last season, many people have been suggesting the use of Danny Woodhead at wide receiver. It is unclear whether Woodhead has a future with the Jets, and if he does, whether he will be a RB or a WR.
With the success of New England’s slot WR Wes Welker, many Jet fans think that Woodhead can be best utilized in the slot. I think this comparison mainly comes from the fact that both players are short, white guys.
However, there is a possibility that Woodhead can be effective in the slot. Last year, Woodhead played the slot WR on the scout team in practice, trying his best to imitate Welker during the weeks in which the Jets played the Patriots.
If Woodhead stays at WR, don’t expect to see results right away. Woodhead has played running back his entire career, so he would be learning a completely new position, and it would likely take a few years for him to develop fully.
The Jets have two great “No. 1″ targets in Edwards and Cotchery, who complement each other perfectly. However, there is a big drop-off after that. The Jets were reported to be interested in Anquan Boldin before he was traded to the Ravens, so this tells me that they are looking to improve the position.
There is a possibility that Laveranues Coles could return to the Jets as a one-year stopgap, but his history of concussions will concern the Jets about his ability to play a full season. The biggest need is a slot WR, which can be had in the later rounds of the draft or signed in free agency. I don’t think the Jets' 2010 slot WR is on the roster right now, so expect them to bring in someone through the draft.
It will be interesting to see David Clowney, Danny Woodhead, and Aundrae Allison fight for that third WR spot if the Jets don’t make an addition before opening day. Notre Dame's Golden Tate is an interesting prospect in the first, but chances are he will be picked up before the Jets are on the clock.
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