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NY Jets Wednesday Spotlight: Eric Decker

Can Eric Decker get the better of Darrelle Revis?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a special Wednesday edition of the Friday Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Eric Decker.

Decker, a 6' 3", 206 pound, 27 year old wide receiver out of the University of Minnesota, was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 87th overall pick in the third round of the 2010 draft.  Decker had a quiet first year playing with the Broncos, amassing only 6 catches for 106 yards as he learned the pro game.  In year two he broke out a bit, but was held back by the Broncos' QBs, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.  Beginning in year three Decker had the great good fortune of playing with Peyton Manning.  Decker's career took off with back to back 1000 yard, double digit TD years.  Eric Decker became an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season and the Broncos chose not to pursue re-signing him.  The Jets targeted Decker as their top priority in free agency and signed him to a five year, $36.25 Million contract on March 13, 2014.

In his short time with the Jets Eric Decker has struggled with a nagging hamstring  injury that has had him in and out of the lineup.  As a result Decker's numbers and impact on the offense six games into the 2014 season are not quite what the Jets had hoped.

Here are Decker's NFL statistics:






































Eric Decker has proven to be adept at getting into the end zone, scoring three of the Jets six passing touchdowns.  Decker is a gifted and technically superb route runner.  He also has excellent size and effectively fights for contested balls.  While his touchdown scoring prowess has been as good as advertised and he is clearly the best Jets wide receiver by a wide margin, Decker's numbers have been a tad disappointing, as a bad quarterback and a compromised hamstring have held him back. Last Sunday Decker finally looked healthy and he responded with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.  A nice game, but the Jets need more from Decker when Jeremy Kerley disappears for large swaths of time and no other target not named Amaro has shown anything this season.

Thursday night under the lights in prime time against bitter rival New England would be an ideal time for Decker to break out with a big performance.   The challenge is a formidable one.  Lining up opposite Decker most of the night is likely to be former All World Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, now doing his best Sith Lord impersonation playing for the Evil Empire.  While Revis has never quite regained his best in the NFL status after his 2012 knee injury, he is still a very good cornerback.  Revis is still fully capable of shutting down a #1 wide receiver on any given day.  What the Jets and Eric Decker need to do is make sure this Thursday is not one of those given days.  Easier said than done.

Decker is technically precise and superb at the nuances of footwork, using leverage to his advantage and setting up routes.  Revis has  at times had more trouble defending the great technicians of the NFL than the great physical talents like Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson.  If Decker can manage to get the edge on Revis it opens up the whole offense for the Jets.  The Patriots will either have to allow Decker to have a big game or devote more resources than they planned to stop him, thereby opening up the middle of the field for newly emerging tight end Jace Amaro and perhaps Jeremy Kerley.  On the other hand if Revis can shut down Decker like he's done to countless others then the Jets passing attack is reduced to a very stoppable combination of Kerley, Amaro and Cumberland.  In an AFC East showdown against a bitter rival the Jets absolutely must win to have any hope of saving the season, a Decker breakout would be huge.

On paper the Patriots have a tough pass defense, led by Revis.  They have held opponents to an 84.3 passer rating on the year, and they have done their usual great job of generating turnovers.  However, that 84.3 passer rating may be a bit less stellar than it looks.   The Patriots have faced a parade of mediocre passers who have generated an aggregate 83 passer rating this year.  Holding opponents to a passer rating higher than their rating on the year is not exactly a badge of honor for the Patriots defense.  Revis has at time struggled this year.  He is still quite good, but he is no longer invulnerable.  Now would be a really great time for Eric Decker to make Revis look quite vulnerable.  Decker is finally healthy.  His quarterback desperately needs him to break out.   The Jets offense desperately needs him to break out.

If the Jets are to have any chance in this game, they are going to need to get the passing attack going.  They can't continue to produce scores in  the teens on offense and expect to beat competent NFL opponents.  Getting the passing game going will not only lead to more scoring, it will free up some running lanes when the Patriots can no longer sell out to stop the run.  Then Chris Ivory can do his thing and the Jets can trample the Patriots' mediocre run defense.   It all starts with making the opponent pay for selling out against the run.  And that starts with the precision work only Decker can give the Jets in the passing game.

This game on paper looks like it could be yet another blowout loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.  On a short week after an emotional loss to the Broncos the game is set up for the Jets to fail.  If the Jets are to surprise everyone and halt the losing streak Eric Decker will likely be an integral part of the equation.  Eric Decker is the closest thing the Jets have to a dominant receiver.  He is the best chance the Jets have of making the Patriots pay if they go all out to stop the run.    It's time for Decker to earn his millions.  It's time for him to break out in the national spotlight.   If Decker can get the best of Revis the Jets passing attack stands a chance of making the Patriots pay.  The Jets can then pound the ball with Ivory against a suspect run defense.   It's not the greatest chance for a win, but it's the best the Jets have right now.   This is Eric Decker's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope he shines come Thursday night.