When looking back at the last New York Jets playoff team, a few things stand out. Number one being elite defensive play. Number two is a strong offensive line. And number three is a deep and talented receiving corps for the young Mark Sanchez.
In his first two seasons in the league (2009-2010), Sanchez had a solid core group of receivers. They built chemistry with one another that allowed for them to be successful. Between starters Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes on the outside and Jerricho Cotchery in the slot, Sanchez was comfortable in his early Jets years.
Now, the Jets hope to do the same for Zach Wilson by giving him potentially their deepest receiving corps since those early Sanchez days. Seemingly for the first time ever, New York has legitimate options at the position who may find themselves on the bubble because of how talented the unit is. That being said, here’s a preview of the wide receivers the Jets will give Wilson in 2021…
2021 New York Jets Preview: Wide Receivers
The Starters: Corey Davis (WR1), Keelan Cole (WR2), Jamison Crowder (SLWR)
This off-season, the Jets biggest offensive addition came in Corey Davis. The former fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft enters his age 26 season, coming off a career year. In 2020, Davis had five touchdowns on 65 receptions, while totaling 984 receiving yards. The Western Michigan product has had his ups and downs, but things are certainly looking up. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s past work with the San Francisco 49ers indicates he wants guys who can pick up yards after the catch. Without a doubt, Davis is capable of doing that and being a solid number one target.
Meanwhile, in the slot, Gang Green will see the return of Jamison Crowder. For a few weeks there, it seemed he would be on his way out given a contract dispute, but that ultimately ended with him taking a pay cut. Since coming to Florham Park in 2019, Crowder has been the Jets best receiver. With the talent now at the position, that is unlikely to remain in 2021. Nevertheless, the ever-so-reliable Crowder being there for Wilson will be huge.
From a long-term outlook, playing opposite of Davis should be Denzel Mims by the end of the season. However, it appears that Keelan Cole may be the number two receiver come Week 1. Cole comes to New York on a one-year deal and has the versatility to line up anywhere LaFleur needs. A strong fit for the system, Cole is becoming more than an excellent depth piece. Chances are he will start the year in the starting lineup but expect Mims and Elijah Moore to get their fair share before taking over.
Where to begin. In four NFL seasons, Corey Davis has missed eight games and only has 2,851 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns to his name. And just like that, the Jets believe he can be their number one receiver. Yes, his 2020 season indicated he can be a high-upside starter. Yet it is worth noting that he had a beast opposite of him in A.J. Brown. And in case it is not obvious, the Jets do not have an A.J. Brown.
Additionally, where does Crowder fit in? A great slot receiver, Crowder is not a physical player with the size to push through defenders once he has the ball. Plus, there is the presence of Elijah Moore who he will need to worry about, as he profiles as the Jets version of a Deebo Samuel. It won’t be long before he takes the so-called “slot” role and runs with it.
The same can be said for Keelan Cole. How long can he hold onto the starting job? Cole is a solid all-around receiver, though not a proven game-changer. Whereas Mims, who despite the injuries and poor quarterback play, flashed his potential last season. For the Jets, there are these concerns. Although, unlike in years past, they actually have a handful of routes they can go at receiver.
The Backups: Denzel Mims, Elijah Moore
Among them is simply letting the kids play. In other words, giving Mims and Moore the playtime, they will one day get, as they are the future at the position hopefully alongside Corey Davis. Mims, as he enters year two, is going to show he can put it all together. He has the size, the speed, and the hands to start opposite of Davis. It just comes down to whether or not he is ready to contribute consistently.
As for Moore, who reportedly had been making play after play during OTAs, his role is clear. He will be the Jets Deebo Samuel, being a versatile player who seemingly makes big plays happen naturally. His potential is through the roof, and he will have an impact from day one as he has built chemistry quickly with Wilson.
The Bubble: Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Jeff Smith, Josh Malone, Lawrence Cager, D.J. Montgomery, Manasseh Bailey, Matt Cole
For the Jets, it is the fab five (Davis, Cole, Crowder, Mims, Moore) and the field. Those five are virtually locks to make the roster, as behind them there will be a dog fight to make the team. Braxton Berrios has the best shot to be the sixth guy, being Crowder’s primary backup and the Jets punt returner. Then again, Moore’s presence may kick him from the backup slot role.
Vyncint Smith and Jeff Smith are two receivers who have been on the roster the last couple of years and have made some plays. Though, neither have carved out roles bigger than being injury replacements and special team players. Similarly, Josh Malone found himself playing in four games last season because of how beaten up the Jets were at receiver. This including Lawrence Cager, who once again found himself hurt this past season. All four of these receivers have NFL experience and would be decent options to fill out the position.
Then again, if the Jets want to go a different route, D.J. Montgomery, Manasseh Bailey, and Matt Cole would all bring a fresh face to the unit. All three are former undrafted free agents who are looking to finally stick to an NFL team. Had they joined the team prior to the 2021 off-season, they may have very well stuck out in training camp and made the roster. Except, with the Jets new-look receiving corps, odds are against them.
Final Wide Receivers Analysis
At the end of the day, the Jets receiving corps is the best it’s been in years… on paper at least. The core five of Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, and Elijah Moore give rookie quarterback Zach Wilson plenty of weapons to choose from on any given down. It is only a matter of which Jets wide receivers will separate themselves from the rest long-term.
Stay tuned for the next article in the 2021 New York Jets Preview series with tight ends!
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