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New York Jets: Can a Receiving Game Succeed Away from the Outside?

Mitchell Leff

A lot of people have a vision of the passing game being built around the two receivers on the outside. Thus people talk in terms of whether a given receiver is a "true number one, " a "high end number two," and all other types of designations. Some offenses like Chicago are built this way. Their top two players had over half the receptions last year.

Not every offense works this way. You can more evenly spread out the distribution among the lower targets. You can even make other positions such as the slot, tight end, and running back more of an emphasis.

This applies to the Jets because of their current position. On the outside they have Eric Decker and not much else. Unless Stephen Hill shows major growth or Shaquelle Evans or Quincy Enunwa is ready to contribute on day one, this team is likely looking at a fairly marginal contributor across from Decker. This is probably the most likely scenario. It's quite possible the second receiver on the outside will be the sixth leading receiver after Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Chris Johnson, Jace Amaro, and Jeff Cumberland. Can this work in the NFL?

Simply put, it can. It did with a number of the ten most productive passing teams last year. Detroit's four leading receivers last year were one outside receiver, two backs, and a tight end. New Orleans' five leading receivers featured nobody who lined up outside on more than half of their snaps on the outside. You had a tight end who lined up in the slot half the time, two backs, and two receivers who were in the slot on over 50% of their snaps. New England's four leading receivers were one who spent almost half his time in the slot, one who spent over 75% of his time there, a tight end, and a back.

This is the point where many of you say, "But, John, those teams have way more talented quarterbacks and pass catchers."  Well, guy saying that, I'm not suggesting this Jets passing game is going to be a top ten unit. I do think they have improved their weapons, however, and think they can be somewhere around average. This would be an enormous improvement and potentially enough to make the Jets a pretty good team depending on what Rex Ryan can get done on the other side of the ball. In the past few years I have felt like most of the players the team trotted out there were not good enough to be getting regular NFL snaps. Now we might be down to only the receiver lined up across from Decker. Even though some people might think of that as the "number two" receiver, it doesn't have to be.

The Jets are likely to deemphasize that place and distribute more passes to other places. One spot I watch is the slot. This is an area where you are likely to get the opponents weak link in coverage. The Jets have two players who have proven they can succeed there in Decker and Kerley. They also potentially have two more rookies in Amaro and Jalen Saunders. They might become the most heavily focused team in the league on getting the ball to the slot receiver.