The Jets arguably have the best trio of wideouts in the NFL, but with a tough game against the Kansas City Chiefs, they may not have theirfull arsenal.
All three of their top targets -Brandon Marshall (knee), Eric Decker (shoulder), and Quincy Enunwa (ribs) are banged up heading into this pivotal road test. But if healthy, all three offer different dilemmas for the Chiefs (1-1).
Marshall is coming off a six-catch, 101-yard performance in Buffalo, last week, despite dealing with a knee ailment. Depending on who is asked, Marshall is either dealing with a non-threatening knee sprain and will be ready for Sunday, or the jury is still out on his status and no one knows for sure if there’s any “lingering, structural damage,” as head coach Todd Bowles noted.
The status of the Jets’ ace wideout is big, as Marshall can be a difference maker against the Chiefs’ young secondary. This is the same Kansas City unit that had fits containing San Diego Chargers wideout Keenan Allen (six catches for 63 yards) before he blew out his knee in the opener. And last week wasn’t any better, as the Houston Texans’ duo of DeAndre Hopkins (seven catches, 113 yards, and a touchdown) and rookie Will Fuller (four for 104) each went over 100 yards receiving.
Bowles said whatever is decided on Marshall, the next man up still needs to be ready. And that man would likely be Enunwa.
“If Brandon can play, he will play. You don’t worry about the reoccurrence and the lingering. If everybody is healthy, everybody’s going to play. Quincy’s making good strides and coming along, but you want all of your guys healthy,” Bowles said, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if Marshall plays mainly because he’s an intense competitor, but also because Enunwa is hungry for more reps. “That’s why he [Marshall] is who he is. He’s played for a long time and he fights. When you get to that level, you try not to let anyone take your spot, so you try not to miss anything.”
Decker has already said he’ll be a full-go by Sunday. The wideout tallied six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo and said he isn't concerned about his Week 3 status.
“I’m fine. I’m definitely playing,” said Decker, who has scored a touchdown in each of the first two games this season.
If all three are healthy enough to play, it’ll be a great problem for Bowles to have deciding on how many three-wideout sets he’ll use. He said he liked what he saw in the passing game from Week 1 to Week 2, as gelling has improved.
“It’s been a natural progression. I saw a little more continuity in game two, which you hope to see going forward,” Bowles noted, adding there’s plenty of threats in the receivers’ room if a man or two aren’t able. “Somebody’s got to step up and make plays. Quincy’s stepped up this year. Last year, it was just two guys. This year so far we have three, with [running back] Matt [Forte] four. [Rookie wideouts] Jalin [Marshall], Robby [Anderson], and Charone [Peake] are also coming along.”
The rookies flashed a lot in the preseason, but for regular season prowess, Enunwa is the next threat behind the two vets. The sixth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2015, he’s rapidly developed into a reliable third option. Enunwa has become a nice bridge between the present go-to guys, and what could be the future of the Jets’ receiving corps once the veterans move on. His opening game performance raised some eyebrows (seven catches, 54 yards, and a touchdown), as he was the most targeted Jets wideout. And the 24-year old followed that up by possibly having his breakout game with 92 receiving yards. He’s also averaging 15.4 yards per reception, showing he can also provide Ryan Fitzpatrick with intermediate and deep-route potential.
This is the best receiving corps the Jets have had in recent memory. And if healthy, it contends with any unit in the league. They’ll need to get healthy in a hurry, though, because their next four games are against teams that made the playoffs last season – the Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals -- and all boast playmakers in the secondary.
Gang Green notes:
-Fitzpatrick earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors following his 374-yard, one touchdown performance. It was the fifth time in his career, and the third during his Jets tenure.