The loss of Santonio Holmes to a season-ending foot injury was supposed to be a crushing blow for the Jets’ offense. Instead, second-year wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has stepped up to not only equal the production of Holmes but better it.

Coming off Sunday’s performance in a loss at New England where he had a career-high seven receptions for a career-high 120 yards, Kerley is suddenly beginning to look like a marquee wide receiver.

“Jeremy’s his own style of player. I don’t think anybody really replaces Santonio Holmes. I think Holmes is a top-five receiver in the league. When you look at Jeremy he’s tremendous in the slot, he’s doing more though as an every down receiver; he’s got a lot of ability,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “His game is going to be different than Santonio Holmes’s, but when you look at it — and we talked about the weapons we had — this is what we wanted in Jeremy Kerley. ... When you look at it in the slot, he’s tough to handle like a Wes Welker is.”

Kerley was criticized by his head coach during training camp while battling a hamstring injury, but now Ryan is singing his praises.


He says that this year, his communication with quarterback Mark Sanchez is better and that he’s learned to attack the ball rather than wait on it. Over the past three games he’s had 15 catches for 238 yards.

“I’d say [I’m] more engaged than last year. I’d definitely feel like my role is a little bit bigger; I’m being ask to do a little bit more,” Kerley said. “I’m definitely stepping up a little bit more in that aspect. Like I said, I’m just doing what’s asked of me.”

Stacking the production from Kerley against Holmes through the first seven games is a tricky task but the second-year wide receiver is putting together the kind of year that Holmes, considered one of the league’s playmakers, has rarely done.

He enters this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with 25 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns, already topping his receiving yardage from last year. He is just four catches shy of equaling his number of receptions from all of 2011. He is on pace to hit 1,003 receiving yards this season, a number Holmes has only reached once in his seven-year career (2009). He is also currently averaging 17.4 yards per catch — again a number Holmes has only topped once in his career.

“When it’s your time, it’s your time. I’m grateful that I can help this team at a time when Santonio went down,” Kerley said. “I wish the best for him, all our receivers do, but it’s our time to step up and that’s what we’re trying to do.

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