With the 2018 season officially over, it’s time to break down the performances of each of the New York Jets positional units. This time, we look at the team’s wide receivers.
The New York Jets were set to play an instrumental role in 2018 as the team looked to develop their prized first-round draft pick, quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets appear to have a solid foundation in place but lack the depth needed to consider the position an actual strength.
Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are solid starting options but neither plays the part of a number one target. Moreover, the team’s lack of depth was exposed when each of them suffered injuries forcing them to miss portions of the season.
The team will likely look to upgrade the position in the offseason to give Darnold more targets to work with. But for now, let’s take a look at how each of the team’s receivers played in 2018 to see who may be worth keeping around.
Robby Anderson didn’t have quite the explosive year that some thought he might have after his breakout 2017 season but still proved his worth as an integral part of the Jets offense.
It was a rough start for Anderson who caught just three or fewer receptions over the first seven games of the season and topped just 50 receiving yards once over the first 13 weeks. The speedy wideout was mostly mitigated as teams were able to shut him down in the deep passing game.
The struggles of the offense likely played a role as did offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates‘ propensity to misuse him. Anderson was limited to fly routes and underneath crossing patterns, as the team failed to use the talented receiver to the best of his ability.
Once Darnold returned from injury in Week 14, however, the Temple product was able to show just what he could do when used properly. Anderson exploded for 336 yards and three touchdowns over the final four weeks nearly matching his total in yards and reaching his touchdown total from his previous 10 games.
The Jets utilized Anderson more in the intermediate passing game, particularly to the boundaries which maximized his strengths. Anderson doesn’t have the body weight to make contested catches over the middle of the field but excels on deep out routes, comeback routes, and of course vertical routes.
If the Jets continue to deploy their weapon in these ways, Anderson could fit the field-stretcher role in this offense perfectly. Despite a disastrous start to the season, Anderson managed to change the tone of his year over the final few games. This ultimately saved his final grade, which would have been higher if he had been used correctly earlier.
Final Grade: B-
Next: Quincy Enunwa
Quincy Enunwa returned in 2018 from an injury that cost him the entirety of the previous season and he did so by reminding the Jets just how talented he is.
Enunwa wasted no time getting acquainted with new quarterback Sam Darnold as the Nebraska product saw an incredible 20 targets over his first two games hauling in 13 receptions for 155 yards during that span. Unfortunately for Enunwa, he failed to see that level of production for the remainder of the season.
The 2014 sixth-round pick battled through multiple injuries and struggled with poor offensive play limiting his total production on the year. Much like Anderson, Enunwa was misused by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates as the team seemed to pigeonhole him into a one-trick pony “yards-after-catch” receiver.
The Jets used him in screens and short passes allowing Enunwa to make plays with the ball in his hands. That is one of the major strengths of Enunwa’s game, but limiting him to mostly those routes didn’t allow him to play to the best of his ability.
Enunwa shined in 2016 in the intermediate passing game making grabs on dig routes over the middle of the field. The Jets intermediate passing game was mostly non-existent in the team’s west coast style offense in 2018 halting his production.
The 26-year old still serves as a very capable number two or three receiving option and with the right scheming could push for an 800-900 yard season in 2019, assuming he could stay healthy.
But as it stands, 2018 was a solid comeback year, albeit with a disappointing finish.
Final Grade: C+
Next: Jermaine Kearse
Jermaine Kearse failed to follow up on his excellent career year in 2017 and instead put together a dud of a 2018 season. Kearse recorded his lowest totals in both receptions and receiving yards since his second NFL season back in 2013.
The former Seattle Seahawk managed only 37 catches for 371 yards despite seeing a hefty 76 targets in 14 games played. With injuries to the Jets top two receivers, Kearse was given ample opportunity to show up and prove his worth but consistently fell short of expectations.
In eight of his 14 games played, Kearse managed just two receptions or fewer failing to be the steady, reliable target that he was last season. Perhaps the team was using him incorrectly, but that shouldn’t take much of the blame away from Kearse.
The former undrafted free agent looked disinterested at times running lazy routes in many games. Kearse just didn’t look like the player he did last season.
There were a few notable high points like his nine-catch, 94-yard performance in Week 6 or his six-catch, 66-yard day with a touchdown in Week 12. But more often than not, Kearse was a non-factor in most games.
His healthy scratch in Week 17 doesn’t bode well for his future with the team and given his expired contract, it would be stunning to see Kearse back with the team next season. His final grade should be a solid indicator of his status with the team as well.
Final Grade: D
Next: Deontay Burnett
Deontay Burnett earns his own slide because of his ability to maximize his playing time and because he may, in fact, have a future with the team’s offense.
Burnett only saw the field late in the season after spending a good portion of the year on the practice squad, but the USC product made the most of his snaps. The undrafted free agent saw significant action in two games and in both he posted pretty impressive numbers.
In Week 8, Burnett hauled in all four of his targets for 61 yards including a fantastic catch in which he lept over Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to come down with the catch. Then in Week 17, Burnett once again brought in all five of his targets, this time for 73 yards.
Given their history together at USC, Darnold and Burnett appear to have developed quite the rapport with each other. With Burnett being just 21-years old, he could very well find a future on the team as a slot receiver down the line.
For now, his rookie campaign was a solid glimpse of what he’s capable of as a receiver.
Final Grade: B-
Next: Everyone Else
The remainder of the Jets receivers failed to make a significant impact for a variety of reasons. However, we can still take a look at the rest of the pack nonetheless. Given that this isn’t just one player there will be no individual grade made for this slide, simply the overall team grade.
Terrelle Pryor played in six games but still managed to haul in 14 grabs for 235 yards. Pryor suffered a groin injury midway through the year and instead of keeping him on the roster, the Jets opted to just release him outright.
The move was a bit surprising at the time given the barren wasteland that was the Jets receiving core, but not all too surprising given his lack of serious impact. Pryor was later picked up by the Buffalo Bills and only played two games there before being released.
Andre Roberts got in on the offensive action a little as well catching 10 passes for 79 yards. The veteran saw a bit of action late in the season due to injuries but is better served on special teams. The same could be said for Charone Peake whose 2018 will be best remembered for dropping a pass on a slant route that led to a Sam Darnold interception.
Other than that, former Tennessee Titan Rishard Matthews was signed to be a veteran presence at receiver after injuries in the middle of the season. Despite having multiple solid seasons under his belt, Matthews failed to provide much of an impact as he received very limited snaps.
Finally, 26-year old J.J. Jones was signed from the Los Angeles Chargers late in the season and was active for the final game of the year. He saw one pass come his way and he hauled it in for a three-yard grab. You will be forgiven if you don’t remember this at all or don’t know who this is.
Altogether, the Jets have a couple of solid players at the position but it’s safe to say that none of them lived up to their potential in 2018. Here’s to hoping that new head coach Adam Gase can maximize the receivers on the roster better in 2019.