Camp Countdown '09: Wide Receivers
Everyone who follows the NFL knows how weak the Jets receiving corps is. The Jets have one proven player at the position in Jerricho Cotchery and it will be a scramble to find the rest of the grouping. The Jets have shown interest in Plaxico Burress and they could look at Matt Jones if things seem real bad, but most likely the players are coming from the current roster. The Jets will open training camp with 10 wide receivers trying out for the team. Cotchery is a given as the teams starter and is a consistent 80 reception a year type of player. When you take Cotchery out of the mix, the remaining 9 players have a grand total of 16 career starts and 92 career receptions. No player has caught more than 32 passes in a single season.
Unless the Jets make a move, the battle for number two is going to come down to either Brad Smith or Chansi Stuckey. Smith is still trying to transition himself from a QB to a Wr and needs to improve his route running. He is a good special teams player, which gives him a big advantage over some of the other players. Smith has had a strong offseason, but that seems to be his story every year and he doesnít make any impact in the regular season. If he canít get a starting job this year the WR experiment will likely have come to an end. Stuckey looks to be best suited towards playing the slot, but will be the odds on favorite to play the secondary receiver role. Stuckey was the teams third best wideout last season and could make the leap to being a 45 reception type of player in 2009.
Sitting behind Smith and Stuckey on the depth chart will be special teams standout Wallace Wright and 2008 preseason wonder David Clowney. Despite some good offseasons in the past, Wright has never been able to translate that into real playing time and he will never get a better opportunity that this one to find his way into the actual offense. Clowney is the one player who brings a real speed element to the team, but he has a terrible injury history and doesnít have great hands. While Clowney excited everyone with his 2008 sideline catches, there is a good chance that he was nothing more than a flash in the pan. He isnít a lock to make the team, by any means.
The remainder of the tryouts are basically scrap heap filler. Marcus Henry and Mario Urrutia are the potential big targets the team has been missing, with both measuring in over 6í4Ē. Both were drafted players and neither lasted on the active rosters. Henry spent the year on the Jets practice squad while Urrutia was claimed by the Jets off waivers by the Cincinnati Bengals. Speedster Paul Raymond spent some time on the Jets practice squad in 2008, but had major problems catching the football and was released. Huey Whitaker is a former Arena Leaguer who has had three chances to crack an NFL roster and failed every time. He is a longshot to say the least. Finally Britt Davis, an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois who has battled injuries for the last two seasons, will attempt to make the team.
Brian Schottenheimer likes to use four wide receiver sets to create confusion for the defense, so the Jets will most likely carry 5 at the position this year meaning almost everyone has a chance. They did carry six last season, though they were more of a passing offense, and maybe if enough guys open the eyes of the staff they could carry six again, at least for a few weeks. Smith, Stuckey and Wright all should make it so itís most likely going to come down to Clowney, Urrutia, and Henry for what should be the final spot. The Jets desperately need someone to break their norms and step up as a complement for Cotchery, much in the way Cotchery did when he came out of nowhere to record 82 receptions in 2006. If at the end of the season the Jets second leading WR is under 45 catches it will be a disaster. If Cotchery was to ever get injured it would be a nightmare for the passing game. Outside of NT Kris Jenkins, Cotchery is probably the one player the Jets simply can not replace this season. Until the team proves otherwise this is, on paper, the worst receiving group in the NFL.