Antonio Cromartie’s recent proclamation that he is the second best wide receiver on the Jets depth chart has caused a stir in the media, seemingly more so than in the locker room. Sensationalized reports from various media outlets have portrayed this as the beginning of the unraveling of the Jets season. Chaz Schilens, the receiver who admittedly took Cromartie’s comments as a “slight,” remarked today that he has never seen media coverage like that surrounding the Jets training camp this season. With the media ready to pounce, it is clear Jets players have to be careful about choosing their words. But were Cromartie’s words meant to prod the other receivers? Or is he really the second best receiver on the roster?
While it has been acknowledged that Cromartie may see time on offense, it is unclear how much. As far as we know, he has run one “go route” up to this point in training camp. Though he is athletic and fast, it is unlikely that he can adapt to the nuances of the position to the point where he is consistently involved in the offense. Something that Rex Ryan has mentioned all throughout the offseason when talking about Schilens and Stephen Hill is that they can block downfield, much like Braylon Edward s used to do for Gang Green. Cromartie has never proved to be the most physical player and I doubt his blocking skills will earn him regular playing time.
But in terms of the actual receivers, there is a big question mark as far as who the No. 2 receiver will be. Ideally, Schilens or Hill will be able to step up in that role. Schilens has impressed coaches throughout the summer, making some noticeable catches. Brandon Moore made a point of saying that Schilens has been working hard in practice not just receiving but blocking as well. However Schilens had a few very good training camps in Oakland and they did not translate to regular season success. Perhaps if healthy, this could be the year he puts it all together. Hill has also impressed thus far but the truth is that historically, very few rookie receivers have stepped in and made a big impact right away. However, just having his size, speed and ability to stretch the field can open things up for Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes. That might be all the impact that they need.
Ryan has also commented that Jeremy Kerley is not having a great offseason between picking up the offense and injuries. They need him to pick up where he left off last year in the slot. Jordan White, Patrick Turner, Royce Pollard and Eron Riley round out the rest of the more talked about guys at camp. White, a rookie out of Western Michigan, led college football in receiving during his senior year. He just returned from a foot injury and it will be interesting to see how he fits in. Though he doesn’t have the raw athletic abilities of someone like Stephen Hill, he is a great route runner and by all accounts is a tough kid. He’s a dark horse to win some playing time if he can put together a solid camp. Turner and Riley are both big and fast but neither has been able to prove much up to this point. Royce Pollard is a guy who has had a solid camp but may not make the cut due to roster limitations.
Ideally, I would say having Hill and Schilens on the outside with Holmes working out of the slot could be explosive. Covering the slot is hard as it is, and with Holmes’ skills it could be tough on defenses. Having the other two with size and speed on the outside would put two potential deep ball threats on the field at once, a combination the Jets haven’t had in years. Realistically however, I am expecting Holmes and Hill to be on the outside and Kerley working out of the slot. Kerley is the type of player who will be motivated by Ryan’s stated disappointment in him. They moved up to get Hill because they are expecting to utilize him so I don’t doubt that he will be starting on opening day. The receivers could make or break the year for the Jets. If they can’t get separation and get open for Sanchez, teams will be able to stack the box against the run. There is a lot of potential as Schilens, Hill and Kerley have all shown flashes of excellent play. They just need these players to be consistent and most importantly, healthy. One last thing to note is that while not a receiver, Dustin Keller should vye for a lot of catches. He has been Sanchez’s most consistent target and is in a contract year. Tony Sparano’s past offenses have not utilized the tight end in the passing game very much, however if he is smart he will try to work Keller into the gameplan.