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The NY Jets have assembled a WR room that is stacked with depth, versatility, and upside. How good can it become?

Michael Nania

On Oct. 28, 2018, the New York Jets made a trip to the Windy City for a battle with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Sporting a 3-4 record, the Jets had a chance to enter the halfway point of Sam Darnold’s rookie season at .500, keeping themselves in the realistic playoff picture.

Complicating matters for New York was the fact that two starting wide receivers did not make the trip to Chicago: Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. That left the Jets with the following crop of wide receivers against a Bears defense that ended up allowing the fewest points in the NFL:

  • Jermaine Kearse: 52 snaps
  • Deontay Burnett: 41 snaps
  • Andre Roberts: 32 snaps
  • Rishard Matthews: 19 snaps
  • Charone Peake: 16 snaps

Let’s not mince words. That’s an abysmal unit.

Kearse was in the midst of what would become one of the worst seasons by a wide receiver in recent NFL history. He finished the 2018 season with an average of 4.9 yards per target over 76 targets, which currently stands as the seventh-worst single-season mark by a wide receiver with at least 70 targets in a season since 2010.

Burnett was an undrafted rookie who entered the game with one catch.

Roberts is a kick returner who had four targets over 16 games the season prior to joining the Jets.

Matthews had just joined the Jets, having been cut by the Titans mid-season after posting 11 yards in six games despite getting 22.8 snaps per game.

Peake was a third-year former seventh-round pick who entered the game with career averages of 0.9 catches per game and 5.1 yards per target.

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Today, four of those five wide receivers are no longer in the NFL and have not appeared in a regular-season game in either of the last two seasons. Roberts is the only man left standing, and it’s merely for his return abilities.

The results produced by that unit were predictably terrible. Chicago’s defensive backs had more pass deflections (7) than the Jets’ wide receivers had first downs (5). The unit combined for 105 receiving yards and led the Jets to 10 points.

Long story short, just by losing two starting wide receivers, the Jets had to trot out a wide receiver group that was arguably not even NFL-caliber.

Situations like this one are where the quality of a team’s depth comes into play. Every injury is going to make a team worse on paper – there’s a reason that starters are starters and backups are backups – but it’s the size of that drop-off that often separates the great teams from the bad ones.

In the Chicago scenario, the size of the talent drop-off following injuries to the Jets’ two starting receivers was astronomical. They were left with a unit that made it nearly impossible to move the ball.

If a team with good depth faced the Chicago scenario, their fourth- and fifth-string weapons would be solid enough to at least give the team a chance to compete for a victory without the starters on the field.

The 2021 Jets can be that team.

After two offseasons at the helm, Joe Douglas has completely overhauled a wide receiver unit that was decrepit when he took it over. With Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and Braxton Berrios joining Jamison Crowder – the lone pre-Douglas receiver among this six-man group – the Jets have one of the deepest wide receiver depth charts in football.

Windy City nightmares will not occur for this squad. The Jets could lose three wide receivers and still trot out a starting trio that consists of Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, and Braxton Berrios, or Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Jamison Crowder. Few teams in the league can claim they would be able to put that solid of a three-man unit on the field after losing three receivers.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has a lot of positive dilemmas to solve as he formulates his plan for this position group. Who will be the primary starters? What will be Elijah Moore’s primary role considering he is capable of doing so many things well? Can Denzel Mims find a niche in the offense that will allow him to fulfill his potential?

On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, Ben Blessington and Michael Nania dish on all of the biggest questions surrounding the New York Jets’ wide receiver position based what they’ve seen on film and through the analytics.

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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