New York Jets: Can Jeremy Kerley bounce back in 2015?


The Jets are looking to start fresh in 2015, and so is wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Entering a new regime as well as his 5th season in New York, the bar has been raised a bit higher for the veteran. As a player who has been in the organization for several years, general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles view Kerley as a guy who can carry his own while being a leader in the locker room for the younger guys. His role on the field is no different.

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Ever since he joined Gang Green in 2011, Kerley has been the true definition of a slot receiver whether he was the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on the roster. He also has developed into one of the most trustworthy punt returners in football.

From muffing numerous punts in 2012 to being reliable on special teams nowadays, the Jets have gotten very lucky with how Kerley has progressed. However, on the offensive side of the ball, 2014 was a shaky year for the former Horned Frog. New York can save money if they were to cut him following this season, so now is the time for him to step up.

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) rushes against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at LP Field. Jets won 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, Kerley finished with just 409 yards on 38 catches. He also only concluded the season with only one touchdown which came in the Week 3 matchup vs. the Bears. On, he ranked 49th out of 67 wideouts who received at least 60% of snaps during the season. That ranking earned him a -4.6 overall grade on the year. The most embarrassing stat was his grade as a pass catcher (-9.7) that ranked him 64th out of the 67 receivers in that department. Although, Kerley is considered to be one of the best blocking receivers in the league with his +3.0 grade that put him tied for 6th with Riley Cooper and Jarvis Landry. He stayed disciplined too, yielding only one penalty throughout all 16 games.

This past season was a disappointing one for Kerley simply because of what he has accomplished in previous years. In 2012, despite his issues as a punt returner, he caught 56 passes for 827 yards and 2 TDs to aid a team that was struggling mightily on offense. That stat line adds up to an average yards per catch of 14.8, which ranked him just outside the top 20 in that category amongst wideouts who received 50% of snaps. His overall grade on ProFootballFocus (-1.4) was a lot less harsh than the grade he posted in 2014 as a result.

In 2013, Kerley had 523 yards and 3 TDs to chip into the development of quarterback Geno Smith in his rookie year. Over the course of both seasons, his ex-teammate Santonio Holmes proved he was not a viable long-term option for the Jets, which put a lot of weight on Kerley’s shoulders to fill the void he had left. Outside of those two, Gang Green’s receiving core consisted of; David Nelson, Stephen Hill, Chaz Schilens, and Clyde Gates in that two-year span. It was very tough for Kerley to succeed with minimal talent around him. Thankfully, the former 2011 fifth-round pick will not have that issue in 2015 after New York’s offseason overhaul.

Dec 7, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kerley is now surrounded with a skilled yet deep offense to relieve some of the pressure he faced in previous seasons. Brandon Marshall and Devin Smith are two huge additions that will take targets away from him in order to spread the ball around and make sure no one gets overworked. On top of that, the Jets now have a loaded backfield as well. This will allow new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to balance out the play-calling in his spread scheme.

Most importantly, the unit that will help Kerley significantly is the offensive line. The newly-acquired James Carpenter fills a hole at left guard while All-Pro center Nick Mangold is coming off of arguably the best season in his 9-year career. The experienced line will allow Smith to deliver the ball with more comfort and confidence to his receivers. A new offense and improved roster around Kerley can only do him wonders from here on out.

If there is anything for him to improve on, it would be building more chemistry with Geno. Kerley was able to help guide Mark Sanchez through an abysmal 2012 season, so he should be able to continue to assist in Smith’s progression as well. Given the fact that he’s the No. 3 receiver, the TCU graduate will still receive his fair share of targets even with the talent he is surrounded by. He is by no means on the roster bubble, but there sure are guys breathing down his neck for that spot on the depth chart. Overall, if Kerley is able to get on the same page as his quarterback, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will step up for the Jets in 2015.

Next: New York Jets: Is Bryce Petty a dark horse?

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