The Jets have an abundance of talent at most every position, which makes for spirited daily competition. But to fully maximize their sneaky-good passing attack, they’ll need someone to step out of the shadows and become their true No. 3 receiving threat.
Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have the starting gigs locked down, but they need someone in that receivers’ room to take the reins and be that missing piece when the team goes to its three-wideout sets.
Metro takes a look at the top candidates in a very tight race.
Third Wide Receiver
Quincy Enunwa: A former sixth-round pick of the old regime, Enunwa’s time to shine could be now. Spending most of his 2014 rookie season on the practice squad, the Nebraska product could have been looking at finding a new home when the Jets hired new general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles. Former general manager John Idzik saw something special in the raw physical gifts that the 6-foot-2, 225-pound wideout. But he went his rookie season without a reception and made a mild impact, last season, when he snared 22 catches for 315 yards in 12 games. His size could make him be placed in a hybrid role, much like the way the Washington Redskins use Jordan Reed. Enunwa has the size and the most experience of the candidates, so it’s up to him to see if he can finally put it all together.
Jalin Marshall: Yes, nobody thought he was draft worthy – even the Jets – but Marshall’s perseverance is paying off now. The former Ohio State product went three days to hear his name called during this spring’s draft, yet no one did. He’s getting attention now, though, with a very strong camp. As a Buckeye, he was a hybrid of sorts, splitting time as a wideout and running back. He was a jack of all trades (think a slower Percy Harvin with 4.68 speed in the 40-yard dash) in 2014, tallying 148 rushing yards on 25 carries, while catching 38 passes for 499 yards, and six touchdowns. The following season saw him more in the role of a wideout, as he only carried the ball twice, but snared 36 receptions for 477 yards, and three scores. He’s a compact 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, so he’s perfect for playing in the slot and mingling with linebackers and safeties. He’s already shown he can be an ace return man, as his 84-yard kickoff return against Jacksonville in the preseason can attest. But now’s the time to show Bowles and Co. that he can be more than a specialist.
Charone Peake: He almost went the route of Marshall by going undrafted, but he was saved when he was selected in the seventh-round, No. 241 out of 253. The Clemson product has also shown great perseverance in latching on and will likely get a spot on the final 53-man roster. Peake has been a practice warrior during camp, stringing along multiple good days in a row. He put a stamp on his early camp success by snagging a pretty toe-tapping 17-yard touchdown from Geno Smith in the waning seconds of the first half against Jacksonville. While saying he’s “honestly just happy to be here,” and not acting as if there’s a chip on his shoulder for the low draft slot, Peake’s play shows otherwise. It’s as if he’s determined to show the scouts that were scared off by his two early knee surgeries in college that they really missed on a gem. If anything, he’s definitely caught the eye of another teammate who truly understands what it’s like to be overlooked – quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has gushed over the rookie’s “wide catch radius.”
Devin Smith: This is the guy that the Jets’ brass had thought/wished would take over the No. 3 receiver spot since being a second-round pick in 2015. But Smith’s career has been derailed by injuries and all great expectations have been curtailed for now. His 4.42 speed in the 40-yard dash helped him garner a per-reception average of over 20 yards at Ohio State, but he’s yet to showcase that big-play ability in the NFL. His rookie season barely got off the ground, as he suffered a cracked rib and a punctured lung in the preseason and fell behind the pace. He later tore his ACL in December, leaving his maiden season with just 115 yards on nine catches, with one touchdown. There are whispers that Smith will begin the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP), and if he does that, he won’t be eligible to return until Week 6 – essentially ending any thoughts and hopes of being the team’s No. 3 wideout.
Gang Green notes:
– The team placed running back Bernard Pierce on season-ending injured reserve (hamstring) and signed street free-agent running back Antone Smith.
– Defensive end Mo Wilkerson was seen participating in team drills for the first time this camp.
– Running back Matt Forte (hamstring) was in pads on Tuesday, but did not participate in team drills. He instead worked on an adjacent field with the strength and conditioning coaches.
– Marshall was not present at practice on Tuesday. Center Nick Mangold was, but not in pads.