Replacing a 15-year veteran with 937 receptions and over 12,000 receiving yards now falls to a rookie fifth-round pick with three career catches to his name.
Welcome to the NFL, Jeremy Kerley.
With the trade of Derrick Mason to Houston on Tuesday night, Kerley has now emerged as the Jets’ third wide receiver. Mason, who was signed by the Jets in August after being cut in Baltimore, was critical of the offense following a Week 4 loss to the Ravens and was on the sidelines in New England this past Sunday until the third quarter. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan said that Mason’s remarks had nothing to do with him being shipped off to the Texans.
“I thought I answered it back then, whether people want to believe it or not,” Ryan said. “He was not benched because of comments he made in the media. That’s not true.”
Whether it is a case that the Jets are sending a message to Mason’s old teammates with the roster decision or if it is indeed an issue of the team accepting an offer from the Texans for a player who hasn’t performed, it is now Kerley’s job to lose. With his first-ever reception in the league last Sunday in the loss at New England, Kerley has to quickly establish himself on a team with Super Bowl ambitions.
And replace a player in Mason who, someday, could be Canton-bound.
Mason never lived up to those expectations in green and white with just 13 receptions for 115 yards this season, but still leaves big shoes for Kerley to fill. The rookie, taken in the fifth round out of Texas Christian University, feels that August’s training camp helped establish him as a player in the NFL.
“Camp was tough and I got through that and I felt like it helped me out,” Kerley said. “So I’m definitely ready.”
While Kerley is a better pure athlete than Mason and boasts certain intangibles that make him ideal for that third receiver role — Ryan likened him to the versatile Brad Smith who was on the Jets last year — it is still a tough spot for a rookie to come in and fill the void. Kerley’s breakout game last Sunday in New England was three catches for 35 yards, including a touchdown.
“What we saw on the practice field, one of those things we saw was that Jeremy Kerley has a lot of ability,” Ryan said. “He can run reverses, you can do a lot of things with Jeremy. At the end of the day, Houston gave us a call and we said let’s go with Jeremy.”
The impetus now falls on Kerley and little-used Patrick Turner to step up and join established players Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes in contributing to a passing offense that is ranked No. 21 in the league.
“We’re going to be just fine. We got guys that can go out and make plays. It’s a business, those kinds of things happen. I want Derrick around as a teammate because I love him as a person, his personality — different things like that,” Burress said. “He’s a playmaker. He goes out and competes, week in, week out. He’s been one of the most consistent players over the last 15 years. But as far as us as receivers, we’ll be just fine.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.