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Jets vs. Eagles: The Importance of Decker

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Decker has not practiced this week for the Jets. The veteran wide receiver suffered a sprained knee in Monday's win over the Colts. Decker has been productive with 10 catches, 134 yards, and 2 touchdowns on the young season.

Decker's injury could present the Jets with a bit of a dilemma. Going into the season, many expected the Jets to heavily skew their targets in the passing game to the top two options, Decker and Brandon Marshall. It has played out that way through the first two games. ESPN keeps track of player targets, and their numbers suggest Decker and Marshall have received 33 of the Jets' 58 passing targets so far. That is 56.8%. After crunching the numbers, I found that only Denver and New England have targeted their top two receivers with a higher percentage of passes through the first two weeks.

Team % of targets
DEN 60
NE 57.1
NYJ 56.8
WAS 55.1
PIT 53.8
ARI 51.7
GB 51.7
ATL 50
KC 50
OAK 49.4
JAX 49.3
CAR 48.5
SD 48.5
CIN 48.3
DET 48.1
TB 48.1
IND 46.5
MIN 46
MIA 44.8
BAL 44.1
NYG 43.4
BUF 42.8
STL 42.3
SEA 42.2
HOU 41.9
DAL 40.5
PHI 40.4
SF 38.8
CHI 38.2
CLE 36.1
TEN 33.9
NO 32.5

We have spoken in some detail about how the Jets have been working Decker as their slot receiver to create favorable matchups. It has worked. I get the impression having Decker in the slot to pair with Marshall has helped Ryan Fitzpatrick have early success. Fitzpatrick is a limited passer, but being able to count on his top two guys being open limits the difficulty. He doesn't need to make a ton of complicated reads. He can trust his big guns.

Consider this in the context of how little the Jets spread the ball around. If you count Quincy Enunwa as a wide receiver, the Jets have not even targeted a tight end once in their first two games. PFF notes they are the only team that can say that.

What makes Decker's situation such a dilemma? You only need to go back to the early season injury he tried to play through last year. According to Eric, he didn't start feeling like himself until the end of the season, which is also when he really started to produce for this team. You don't want to have him playing through something that will linger if some rest will heal him up. Last year, the Jets didn't have Marshall to lean on. They needed to run Decker out there because they were running out receivers who didn't belong in the NFL. A compromised Decker was better than that. This year, things are better.

At the same time, he is really important to the passing game. This is the cue for folks to talk about the depth the Jets have at receiver with Devin Smith healing and Jeremy Kerley around. Decker is just more skilled than these guys. They don't create the same problems for a defense. Something else to note is unlike last year, the Jets have an early bye. It comes in two weeks. There is time built in for him to rest and heal.

Hopefully Decker gets better soon and makes this moot. The Jets rely substantially on their top two receivers. It would be a hit to not have him for this game.