After a two-week hiatus, our New York Jets mailbag is back, focusing on the suddenly crowded receiving corps and the future of Eric Decker.
@RichCimini: Bill Parcells used to have a name for the kind of player you just described, Brian. He called him a progress-stopper, a past-his-prime veteran whose presence on the roster robs young, ascending players of playing time.
I don't think Decker is a progress-stopper. Yes, he just turned 30 and he's coming off hip and shoulder surgeries, which can't be taken lightly, but it sounds as though he'll be ready for training camp. Decker said he's back to running routes at full speed in the offseason program, which steps up May 23 when the Jets begin organized team activities.
Now he has to prove to the Jets he can be as good as the 2015 Decker. They apparently have some doubts because they drafted not one, but two wide receivers, ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. The Jets believe they will compete for playing time, particularly Stewart, whom one opposing scout projected as an immediate starter for New York. This is a full-blown youth movement, so no older veteran should feel safe.
The upcoming OTAs could be an audition for Decker, if he's cleared to participate. If he can chip off the rust, he'll be effective in John Morton's offense because he's an excellent route-runner -- an absolute must in a West Coast scheme, which is predicated on timing. He's a crafty veteran who can be the go-to receiver for Josh McCown, who will love Decker's reliability. You need a seasoned vet in the room; it can't be all first- and second-year players.
I can see Decker, Quincy Enunwa and Stewart as the top three receivers, with Robby Anderson playing in four-wide packages. Stewart is a more polished route-runner than Anderson, and the coaches like that he's a physical blocker. Hansen will need time to develop because he played in an "Air Raid" offense at Cal, nothing like a pro-style attack.
The Jets' receivers played a total of 3,072 offensive snaps last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and that includes 864 from the departed Brandon Marshall. I suspect the 2017 total will dip under 3,000 because Morton probably won't use as many four-wide packages as Chan Gailey, whose offense led the league in four-wide usage. Still, there should be enough work for everyone.
If the Jets determine at some point that Decker is holding back one (or more) of the kid receivers, they can shop him before the mid-season trading deadline. In my opinion, it would be foolish to cut Decker before knowing exactly what you have in Stewart and Hansen. Bottom line: The "old" man, as you call him, still has value, assuming he returns to what he was.
Put it this way: It's third-and-5 in the fourth quarter, you're down by four points, driving for the go-ahead touchdown. Me? I'd like my chances better if Decker were on the field.