In 2015, the New York Jets got some of the best production out of the wide receiver position in all of football. Injuries and poor quarterback play contributed to a lot less production in 2016, however. While Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker could not repeat their outstanding seasons from 2015, some younger receivers performed well and rose where they fell.
New York Jets Wide Receivers End of Season Review
Decker had one of his best seasons in 2015 as he caught 80 passes for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games (13 starts). He fell drastically short of this in 2016 to no fault of his own. After Week Three he learned that he had a torn rotator cuff that would require surgery and eight months recovery. His season ended after only three games. He was limited to only 194 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.
His future is a little murky as well. He later found out he would need hip surgery. At first it was speculated that this second surgery would be done after he fully recovered from the first. That would have meant a 14-month recovery time, causing him to miss a large chunk of 2017. Luckily, that was not true and he is currently recovering from both. Decker should be ready before training camp in July, but it is hard to have high expectations for him going into the 2017 season after both surgeries and without current knowledge of who will be starting under center.
Just like Decker, Marshall had an excellent season in 2015. His 2015 season included a career-high in touchdowns with 14 and his second best mark in both receptions (109) and receiving yards (1,502). In one less game for 2016, his numbers were all-around lower. He only caught 59 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns.
Part of the reason why, was certainly due to the quarterback situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty weren’t exactly lighting up the opposing defenses. However, blame does fall on Marshall. He had some important drops in 2016. Overall he was targeted 128 times and only caught 59 passes. That means he only caught 46.1% of the passes targeted to him. Obviously not every target is catchable, but that is still a low mark. Last season he caught 109 of the 173 balls targeted to him which was good for a 63.0% catch rate on targets. His 46.1% rate in 2016 was actually the lowest of his career by 8.0%.
Enunwa was a few things in 2016. He was a breakout player, he was one of the few lone bright spots on the whole team, and he was the Jets best wideout.
In terms of breaking out, he had 36 more receptions, 542 more receiving yards, and four more touchdowns than he did in 2015. On a team that went 5-11 in 2016, there weren’t many bright spots. If there were, the Jets would most likely have a better record. While he wasn’t the best on the team, he was definitely one of the best. Among the group of wide receivers, he was statistically the best though. He led the receivers in yards with 857 and touchdowns with four. He was tied for the second most receptions with 58; the same as Bilal Powell and one less than Marshall.
Anderson was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent. He participated in preseason with little-to-no-hope of making the team. He wasn’t eye-opening in the Jets first preseason game either as he only caught one pass for seven yards.
However, during the next three weeks he forced his way into the conversation by putting on spectacular performances. In the next three games he combined for 12 receptions, 257 yards, and three touchdowns. It’s hard to pass on the NFL preseason leader in yards and touchdowns when you have 53 spots on your team. Therefore the Jets made the easy decision to keep him and it paid off.
He contributed 42 receptions, 587 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Of course that might not be anything special for most teams, but it was for the Jets. He had the third most receiving yards, tied for he third most reception touchdowns, and had the fourth most receptions. That all came from a player that had very little chance of making a roster spot in the first place.
Other wide receivers who made much less of an impact in 2016 include Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall, and Devin Smith. The three combined for 368 yards and two touchdowns on 34 receptions. While none made any huge impact, they all seem to have a future.
Peake and Marshall were rookies. Peake was the Jets seventh-round pick in 2016 and Marshall was one of the most coveted undrafted free agents. Aside from seeing time at the wide receiver position, Marshall also saw time as a kick returner and punt returner.
Smith had a bigger upside than both of them when he was drafted out of Ohio State in 2015 with the Jets second-round pick. However, his future with the Jets may currently be the most in question among the three of them.
Injuries have limited Smith to 14 games and three starts these last two years. Even in the games he has played, he hasn’t done much as he has 10 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown in them. It would be surprising to see him off the team in 2017, but if he has another unhealthy or unproductive season, his fate might be similar to that of Dee Milliner.
These wideouts clearly fell short of the numbers put up by the previous group the year before them. Marshall and Decker dominated defenses in 2015, but in 2016 one was injured and the other underperformed.
The only thing better at this position in 2016 than in 2015 is hope for the future. Marshall and Decker looked to be the best chance that the Jets had at a potential Super Bowl. Of course time was ticking off their careers and the Jets had a weaker team around them. After a very disappointing season, at least the Jets got a glimmer at hope for the future at wide receiver. Among Anderson, Enunwa, Peake, Smith, and Jalin Marshall, there seems to be some good replacements for the dynamic duo when their time with Gang Green is over.