The Jets had two major holes on offense entering free agency last year. One they addressed in a bold trade during the Draft. The other they did not address, wide receiver. Just like outside linebacker, there will be a position battle among four relatively unproven youngsters. Unless at least one emerges, the Jets might have to reconsider entering the free agent market.
Chansi Stuckey is a shifty slot receiver, arguably the most proven of the quartet. He had 32 receptions for 359 yards and 3 touchdowns seeing his first pro action in 2008. He got off to a very fast start a year ago, hauling in a touchdown pass in the first three games. He faded after that as Dustin Keller's emergence started taking away opportunities. With increased chances this year over the entire season, his numbers could see a marked improvement.
Brad Smith is a converted college quarterback. The Jets took him in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft, hoping he would turn into another Antwaan Randle-El. It hasn't happened. While Smith has been excellent on special teams coverage units, his skills as a receiver have not developed. He still does not run good routes and drops too many passes. The former college quarterback's throwing on gadget plays have been brutal as well. The Jets were hoping for more than 50 receptions in three seasons. Smith can be dangerous in space, but he better have worked a lot on refining his game if he wants the job.
David Clowney became a household name among Jets fans a year ago after catching a pair of long touchdown passes from Brett Ratliff in the preseason opener at Cleveland. He was injured later in preseason and spent most of the regular season inactive. He recorded his first NFL reception in a December game against the Bills. Clowney is in the discussion for one reason, his breakaway speed.
Wallace Wright is the great unknown. For three years, the undrafted North Carolina product has provided Pro Bowl caliber special teams play but has barely seen the field on offense. He was reportedly lighting it up during offseason practices, getting his name in the mix.
Handicapping the race:
Jerricho Cotchery couldn't get off the bench in his first two seasons. For whatever reason, Herman Edwards didn't think he could help the team. When a new coach came in 2006, everybody started with a fresh slate. Eric Mangini saw Cotchery's potential and gave him a starting job. If not a star, Cotchery developed into a reliable starter. These four overlooked players now have a similar opportunity to prove themselves to a new coach with no favorites.
As with all of these position battles, there are too many variables at play to say anything for sure. I think David Clowney will get every opportunity to win the job so he's my slight favorite. He has blazing speed. What the Jets need as much as anything is a burner to stretch the field and open things up underneath for Cotchery and Keller to operate. Stuckey has the best track record, but he looks like an ideal slot receiver. Clowney winning the starting job would allow the team to keep Stuckey there.