Welcome Your Newest Jet: Eric Decker, Wide Receiver

Harry How

The Jets made a splash on the second day of free agency signing star wide receiver Eric Decker to a 5 year deal with $15 million of guaranteed money. Here we take a detailed look at the newest Jet.

After nearly 24 hours of negotiating, the Jets and Eric Decker reached an agreement to make him the newest star receiver for Gang Green. We wined and dined him and sold him on New York and the Jets organization being for him, his wife Jessie James and their soon to be newborn child. With Idzik and Rex in charge, it shouldn't have been too difficult to convince him that New Jersey is where he needs to be, and where he can be successful.

I've seen many people reference the argument regarding whether he is a #1 or #2 wide receiver, I've done it myself and personally I think that it's a mistake and irrelevant to put a tag on it. I remember a Twitter conversation not too long ago regarding Golden Tate and it was mentioned that the Jets didn't see him as a #1 or 1 #2,. they saw him as a football player that can help the franchise win football games. That argument can be transferred to Decker going forward.

Personally I've been a fan of Eric ever since his time at Minnesota. I stumbled upon the scouting report I did for him back in 2010 as part of our 'Scouting The Draft' series. You can read it HERE but I have copied some segments below. He's developed and honed his skills, bu a lot of the evaluation we did in 2010 is still valid to the player he has become today.

Year
Team
Gg
GS
Rec
Yards
AVG
LG
TD
2006 MIN 13 12 26 378 14.5 39 3
2007 MIN 12 12 68 909 13.6 59 9
2008 MIN 12 12 84 1074 12.8 75 7
2009 MIN 8 8 50 758 15.2 53 5
Career -- 45 44 228 3,119 14.0 75 24

He was targeted 354 times while at Minnesota, and he dropped 3. He produced first down's on 70.48% of passes thrown his way, with 22.03% of those on third down. 55.51% of his catches were good for at least 10 yards. 25.99% going for at least 20 yards.

He has excellent hands, his route running is top notch, can find soft spots in zone, and has the size to meet players in man coverage. A possession receiver who can work out of the slot, but also a split receiver who can line up on the outside and use his physicality. Has good instincts to know when to go up and get the ball, and would be a reliable fade option in the end zone.

He has excellent quickness off the snap, uses his hands to shed blockers. Works his routes in traffic, and catches pretty much everything thrown his way, tracks the ball over both shoulders, and will fight to come down with it. Has an ability to adjust to badly thrown balls, extending his size to bring balls in and tracks back to the QB when he is scrambling. Has good ability with the ball in his hands, has an excellent side step that he uses to avoid aggressive defenders.

He has the size to break arm tackles and bowl over some smaller defensive backs if needed. Works with a tough physical style, but there is an aspect of finesse about his game. Made a big improvement in his blocking game to the point where I would now consider him to be a good blocker, tough, physical, seeks contact and holds a defensive back down, makes it very difficult to disengage at times.

He has an excellent work ethic, plays through pain when needed, became a team leader, and understands that he will need to work hard to be successful at the next level.Versatility, and can be used on special teams because of his ability to track returners down and wrap them up. Excellent competitive nature. Natural multi sport athlete.

That's how I viewed him 4 years ago. At that point I wanted him as a Jet and when Denver selected him and a round earlier we selected Vlad, I was genuinely disappointed. he's developed into a very good all around receiver, which is why he was considered the premier free agent at the position. So I couldn't be happier to have him on board, finally as a Jet. There is little doubt that he is going to help the Jets develop their offense with a young, promising QB at the helm.

Year Team GP REC TGTS YDS AVG LNG TD FUM LST
2010 DEN 14 6 8 106 17.7 38 1 1 1
2011 DEN 16 44 95 612 13.9 56 8 1 1
2012 DEN 16 85 123 1,064 12.5 55 13 0 0
2013 DEN 16 87 137 1,288 14.8 61 11 2 1
Total 62 222 363 3,070 13.8 61 33 4 3

In Denver, Decker has always put up decent numbers. His work with Peyton Manning has of course been better than his work with other QB's. You put any receiver with Peyton, their numbers are going to take a jump. However you put receivers with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow and their numbers are likely to take a dive. It's about finding the happy medium and the players true potential.

As you can clearly see, Decker performed a lot better with Peyton Manning, shock horror! You could say that the receiving talent on the team allowed him to boost his numbers. Or you could argue that despite Peyton having several top caliber receivers he still targeted Decker 137 times last season. We will find out how Decker performs this season but I think it's both lazy and incorrect to just attribute Deckers success to the system he was in and the Quarterback throwing him the football.

There is absolutely no question in my mind that Decker has the talent to succeed in New York. If you watch him you will start to understand why he was targeted 137 times, Thomas was targeted 138 times so the faith Peyton had in his presumed #2 in Decker was almost the same as the main receiver on the team and who most people would consider a #1.

We need to remember that early in his career he was presented with challenges, and for receivers sometimes it takes a year or two to really develop. He has played four years in the NFL, two of them have been fantastic years (2013,2012), one of them has been a decent if unspectacular year (2011) and one was a more frustrating year (2010). For two of those years he had good QB play, for two of those years he had rather poor QB play.

For 2010 he missed the entire rookie mini-camp and OTA's because he was rehabbing a foot injury he suffered in college. Despite his positive pre-season performances he largely only saw the field on special teams for the majority of the season. Getting snaps are the best way to develop your skills and in 2010 he just didn't get enough. In fact he had just 140 snaps for the entire season despite coaches raving about him and him impressing on special teams.

Look at the numbers and you won't be that impressed by his 2011 season, but you really need to have seen the games to appreciate just how well he played, we have seen first hand how terrible Tebow can be throwing the football. In Decker's first career start for Denver he had over 100 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. He continued to be solid if not spectacular, but it was the position he was in. Just like a running back finds it hard to create yards with a terrible line, a receiver finds it hard to gain yards with a truly awful quarterback.He was getting open, he just wasn't being found.

So then we move to his 2012 and 2013 seasons. Both fantastic years where he continued to get open, but this time he had a quarterback who could find him. Peyton trusted him to make the tough catches and he put Decker in a position to succeed. He runs every route in the book and he can get you on the quick slants and intermediate routes over the middle. and he can get in behind defenses. He's not a burner, but he's certainly not slow either.

In short, Jets fans should be happy with the development. We needed wide receiver help and he is in my very humble opinion, a fantastic talent in his prime. It's not often you have someone like this come on to the open market. Even better than that, he cost us $15 million in guarantees which isn't a great deal for a guy with that much talent. he certainly won't be going hungry but in relation to the Jets cap situation this was a friendly contract.

The work isn't done. We still need to bring in a receiver to accompany Decker, and Jones would be a nice compliment. Even if we signed both, I would still consider a wide receiver at #18 in the draft, I'd even move back if there were several still available to get more picks in round 2/3 range. We need to fill gaps at CB, OLB, OL and S but Decker addresses what was perhaps our biggest weakness. He'll help Geno make the next step and it gives the Jets a legitimate threat inside and out.

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