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NY Jets Spotlight: Eric Decker

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The Jets need Decker to break out for the first time this year.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Jets 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, 28 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' quarterbacks, 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 first season with the Jets Decker struggled with a nagging hamstring  injury that had him in and out of the lineup.  Nonetheless, Decker still finished the 2014 season with 962 yards receiving and a team leading five touchdowns, despite playing in a conservative Rex Ryan offense and with a bad quarterback in Geno Smith.  This year Decker has benefited from better quarterback play and a major weapon opposite him in Brandon Marshall.  Decker has played in nine of the ten games so far this year and has amassed 638 yards and a team leading seven touchdowns, on track for a 1000+ yards and double digit touchdowns for the season.

Here are Decker's NFL statistics:

Year

Games

Receptions

Yards

Yards/Reception

TDs

.

2010

14

6

106

17.7

1

2011

16

44

612

13.9

8

2012

16

85

1064

12.5

13

2013

16

87

1288

14.8

11

2014

15

74

962

13.0

5

2015

9

46

638

13.9

7

Eric Decker has proven to be adept at getting into the end zone, scoring seven of the Jets 18 passing touchdowns, sharing the team lead with Marshall.  Decker is a gifted and technically superb route runner.  He also has excellent size and effectively fights for contested balls.  With Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling in the passing game recently, and the Dolphins struggling against big receivers like Decker, today's game would be a very opportune time for Decker to break out.

While the Dolphins' run defense has begun to improve since these two teams last met, holding four out of six opponents to 95 yards or less, the pass defense is a different matter.  The Dolphins have really struggled against the pass in the last six games, averaging 256 yards and two passing touchdowns given up per game.  On the year the Dolphins are the tenth worst passing defense in the NFL in terms of passer rating allowed at 95.  Given that the Dolphins have only faced two teams, the Patriots and the Bills, with above average passer ratings, and have faced the 28th, 27th, 26th, 25th and 23rd rated passing offenses in the NFL, the 95 passer rating allowed is indicative of some very serious struggles in their pass defense.

So we have a Jets offense that has struggled mightily for some time in the running game facing a suddenly pretty good run defense. And we have a Jets passing offense that has struggled over the last two games but has otherwise proven fairly competent and efficient this year, facing a Dolphins' pass defense that has just been awful.  That sounds like the recipe for a Ryan Fitzpatrick revival this afternoon.  And Decker should be a big part of it.

Decker got off to a bit of a slow start this year, but with 399 yards over his last five games he has really become a consistent and productive part of the passing game.  However, Decker has yet to really break out this year, with zero 100 yard games so far.  The last year Eric Decker went a full season without a single 100 yard receiving game was his rookie year of 2010.  Today would be a very opportune time to notch his first breakout effort of the 2015 season.

If the Jets are to win this game, they are likely going to need to get the passing attack going after a couple of rough days the last few weeks.   Getting the passing game going will not only lead to more scoring, it will free up some running lanes when the Dolphins can no longer sell out to stop the run.  Then Ivory and company can do their thing and the Jets can trample the Dolphin's run defense.   It all starts with making the opponent pay for selling out against the run.  And that starts with the precision work of  Decker in the passing game.

This is a crucial game for the Jets' dwindling playoff hopes.  Win and the Jets will be back on track, setting up for a stretch run that may culminate in post season play.  Lose and the Jets are looking at a losing record for the first time this year, and a dismal fifth loss in the last six games. At that point the playoffs would begin to look like a pretty dim possibility.    If the Jets are to halt their recent losing ways Eric Decker will likely be an integral part of the equation.  Decker, along with Marshall, form a formidable receiving tandem when they are on. They should be able to make the Dolphins pay if the men of teal 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 what is a crucial game for the Jets' playoff chances.  If Decker can explode in this game the Jets should be well positioned for a victory.   This is Eric Decker's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope he shines this afternoon.