These three NY Jets wide receivers are being given a golden opportunity.
The NY Jets were already set to enter the 2020 season with an extremely thin and inexperienced wide receiver group. But after multiple injuries, it might be time to press the panic button.
Second-round pick Denzel Mims, who was expected to be counted on as a starter, remains sidelined with a hamstring injury he suffered prior to Friday’s practice.
And to make matters worse, Vyncint Smith — the player who took Mims’ place in the first-team offense — was held out of Sunday’s practice with a core muscle injury. Smith will be seeing a specialist to determine the severity of the injury.
It’s safe to say the Jets are in trouble. And even with the addition of veteran Chris Hogan, the team is going to need some of its more inexperienced players to step up and exceed expectations.
Their inexperience is evident, but these players are now being given a golden opportunity that none of them have received before.
Injuries breed opportunities and the rest of the Jets’ healthy receivers are finding that out with each passing practice.
But which players are set to benefit the most? We take a look at three wide receivers who are being given golden opportunities this summer.
Next: 3. Lawrence Cager
3. Lawrence Cager, WR, NY Jets
After doing extensive pre-draft work on him, the Jets offered Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager a contract shortly following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The big-bodied wideout was already expected to have a decent shot at making the final roster given the thinness of the Jets’ wide receiver corps. And now following multiple injuries, he should have every opportunity to make a strong impression.
At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Cager is a physical jump-ball receiver who struggles to separate efficiently. However, his massive frame makes him an ideal red-zone threat who could continue to learn the nuances of the position.
While making the 53-man roster is always a challenge for any undrafted rookie, Cager is being placed in an ideal scenario. The Jets already had a thin receiver depth chart before these injuries.
But now, Cager will competing with the likes of Jeff Smith, Josh Malone, and Jehu Chesson. Not exactly a trio of All-Pro talents.
If Cager can prove that he can contribute not only on offense but on special teams as well, the former Georgia standout could be in-line for a roster spot when all is said and done.
At the very least, he should be given ample opportunities to make an impact on offense. Whether working with the first, second, or third-team offense, Cager will certainly get his fair share of looks.
And if he could impress, a spot on the final roster could be in his future.
Next: 2. Jeff Smith
2. Jeff Smith, WR, NY Jets
Who predicted that Jeff Smith would be starting at wide receiver by the Jets’ second actual practice of training camp? The short answer to that question should be, not a damn soul.
Smith entered the league as an undrafted free agent last season signing on with the Jets shortly after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft. While he was a part of final roster cuts, the team would ultimately sign him to their practice squad.
After spending the majority of the season there, the Jets promoted Smith to the active roster in the middle of December where he would play in one game hauling in one catch for 12 yards before being placed on the injured reserve.
And that is the extent of Jeff Smith’s NFL experience. Two targets, one catch, 12 yards. Yet, at the moment, Smith is projected as the team’s starting outside receiver opposite Perriman.
Of course, Mims and Vyncint Smith may very well return before the start of the regular season, but in the meantime, Jeff Smith will be given every opportunity to show that he can impress with the first-team offense.
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A virtual unknown heading into training camp, Smith now has an opportunity to not only earn a roster spot, but a regular role in the offense.
Few will probably remember, but Smith was making some noise in last year’s training camp with his quick feet and 4.34 speed.
And if he could do the same thing again this year, expect to see more of Jeff Smith in 2020.
Next: 1. Breshad Perriman
1. Breshad Perriman, WR, NY Jets
The Jets opted not to re-sign No. 1 wideout Robby Anderson in the offseason and mere hours after he signed with the Carolina Panthers, the Jets inked a deal with his virtual replacement in Breshad Perriman.
Seen as a glorified first-round bust going into 2019, Perriman had a relatively uneventful season until Mike Evans went down late in the year. Now asked to play Evans’ role in Tampa Bay’s offense, the former UCF star flourished playing the best football of his career.
Perriman managed to turn that incredible five-game stretch into a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Jets this offseason and the expectation was that he would fill a starting role in the offense.
But now, he’s going to be asked to do much more than just start.
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Following injuries to Mims and Vyncint Smith, Perriman is the lone outsider receiver with any sort of experience as even a role player on offense. All of a sudden, Perriman is being asked to be the feature receiver in the Jets’ offense.
Sure Jamison Crowder will continue to man the slot and the likes of Chris Herndon and Le’Veon Bell will also help out in the passing game, but Perriman is the guy on the outside.
And after suffering through multiple seasons marred by injuries and inconsistencies, it’s a role that few expected Perriman to be in going into 2020.
But here we are. The Jets’ top outside receiver is a guy who many thought would be out of the league by this point. Perriman, however, is ready to make the most of this golden opportunity to revitalize his career.
And if early indications are anything to go off of, he might just find a way to flourish after all.