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New York Jets: The Eric Decker Difference

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

I think it is clear the Jets really missed Eric Decker in the passing game on Sunday. I'd like to take a look at how the passing offense was constructed against the Eagles opposed to the first two games when Decker was in the lineup. Interestingly enough, the Jets threw 58 times on Sunday and 58 times combined in the two games Decker did play. Let's look at how the 58 throws were distributed under the Decker was playing scenario and the Decker wasn't playing scenario.

Games Decker Played

Targets Percentage
Marshall 19 32.75862069
Decker 14 24.13793103
Owusu 9 15.51724138
Powell 9 15.51724138
Ivory 3 5.172413793
Enunwa 3 5.172413793
Davis 1 1.724137931

Game Decker Didn't Play

Targets Percentage
Marshall 14 24.13793103
Kerley 11 18.96551724
Enunwa 10 17.24137931
Smith 9 15.51724138
Powell 8 13.79310345
Cumberland 4 6.896551724
Stacy 2 3.448275862

One thing to keep in mind is how small of a sample size three games are. Sometimes the data from a stretch that short is a fluke. With that in mind, two things really stick out to me.

The first one is obvious. Without Decker, lesser skilled players like Jeremy Kerley, Quincy Enunwa, and Devin Smith saw their targets go way up to replace Decker.

There is a second effect. The Jets targeted Brandon Marshall less frequently. Is this just a coincidence? I'm not sure. The Eagles really focused on making it tough for the Jets to get the ball to Marshall. One thing I saw them keep doing in coverage was shading a linebacker to Marshall's side to try and jam him but also to clog passing lanes in his direction.

It is a credit to how good Marshall is that he still went over 100 yards. The Eagles really made the Jets work to get him the ball, though, and were able to reduce Marshall's targets. This is a game where a guy like Decker would have come in really handy. Shading a linebacker on an outside receiver opens things up in the middle. We have seen Decker play the slot in the early going. He could make the defense pay in a way Enunwa and Kerley were not able to do and perhaps get the Eagles to pay less attention to Marshall, opening things up more for the number one receiver.

So what you ended up with was a second effect. Not only were Decker's targets going to Kerley, Smith, and Enunwa. Because the defense could key on Marshall, the Jets could not go to him as much. Some of his targets were also going to Kerley, Smith, and Enunwa.

We talked a few days ago about how top heavy the Jets' targets were in the first two weeks. Marshall and Decker had one of the three heaviest loads in the NFL for top two receivers. This week things were more spread out. Instead of the top two guys getting over 55% of the targets, they got less than 45%. Instead of four players getting at least 13% of the targets, five did. In many situations, spreading the ball around more would be a good thing. I'm not convinced the Jets have one such situation.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a limited quarterback prone to making mistakes. The Jets need to limit him scanning the field. He needs his top guys winning so he can get them the ball. The more he goes through progressions, the more danger there is for something bad to happen. He's going to have to spread it around more when his top options are open less.

The Jets need Decker back in the lineup.