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The Growth Of Quincy Enunwa

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NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The emergence of Quincy Enunwa has been a beacon of hope in what has otherwise been a dark season for the Jets. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that Enunwa is the team’s MVP at this point in the season, mirroring his MVP senior season at Nebraska.

Through 9 games, Quincy has recorded 37 receptions for 527 yards and 3 touchdowns. His run blocking continues to improve and his combination of size, speed and strength presents a headache for defensive coordinators every weekend. If you want to look at a reason to be optimistic, Quincy is it.

However it could have been a very different story.

After being drafted by the Jets in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Nebraska, the 6’2 target man was released before the season even started. He was quickly stashed on the practice squad a day later. Following a non-eventful first year in which he didn’t record a single catch, 2015 would contain far more excitement for Quincy, although some of it would not be welcome.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

Following a 2014 arrest for simple assault, a case where the charges were dropped rather quickly, the NFL decided to suspend Quincy 4 games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. According to police reports, Quincy grabbed his girlfriend by her ankles and dragged her off the bed, causing injuries to her head and fingers. This was a lack of judgement by Quincy and you hope that he has learnt from it.

Speaking to the NY Post earlier this Month, Quincy was very thankful for his second chance, clearly finding it a very uncomfortable subject to talk about:

“It’s tough. It’s a sensitive topic,” Enunwa said. “I think you definitely have to do your homework. In certain situations, it is zero tolerance. But you really have to dig deep and see what is going on and see who that person is. I don’t know … I’m glad they gave me another chance, though. That’s not the person I am.”

With a disappointing rookie season (although you really don’t expect much from a 6th round rookie) and a suspension in 2015, it would have been easy for Quincy to be absorbed into the vortex of poor Jets draft choices, but he worked his way back into contention, playing a hybrid tight end, wide receiver role. I would argue that this year he has made himself invaluable, consider it a parting gift from much criticised GM John Idzik, who was the man responsible for drafting Quincy.

Following the Jets win against Buffalo in week 2, Brandon Marshall had this to say about #81

“That’s what we didn’t have last year. We didn’t have a No. 3 guy. We didn’t have a No. 4 guy,” Marshall said. “Quincy is our unsung hero. He was our unsung hero last year, but it was just in the running game. Now we’re getting him involved in the passing game. You would think that it would be myself or Matt Forte or Decker that opens up the offense. But it’s really 81. If he can continue to make those plays and take advantage of 1-on-1 coverage – because he’s going to get it – it’s going to make all of our jobs easier.”

The simple fact is that the Jets need Quincy to step up, not just to be that No.3 guy, but potentially to be “The” guy. Brandon isn’t getting any younger and Decker will be the wrong side of 30 when the 2017 season kicks off. With so many holes on this roster, the Jets need to focus their immediate attention on improving the offensive line, so having Quincy step up is huge, it’s monumental. Can he do it? Well confidence certainly isn’t a problem.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve never doubted myself, ever, ever, ever,” Enunwa said. “I’m super confident, like I think I’m the best player in the world. I try to keep that humble composure, but inside I think I’m the best player. I’ve never doubted myself. The minute I do, that’s when I know it’s over for me.”

In researching this article I came across an ESPN draft day cheat sheet for Nebraska, and thought it would be interesting to share what was being said about Quincy back in 2014 in relation to his pro potential:

Going for him: Enunwa is a physical specimen. His toughness and durability are top end, traits that helped him extensively as a blocker in Nebraska’s perimeter run game. He broke 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Nebraska’s pro day and measured above average in arm length and hand size. Enunwa enjoyed a breakout senior season with 51 catches for 753 yards and a school-record 12 touchdown receptions, including a 99-yarder against Georgia in the Gator Bowl. He also showed consistent ability to gain yards after the catch.

Going against him: There’s a lot here. Enunwa failed to impress many -- evidenced by his lack of All-Big Ten recognition -- because of deficiencies in route running and inconsistency with his hands. Largely unrefined as a receiver, he suffered a hand injury in practice before the East-West Shrine Game and injured a hamstring at the combine. Some organizations will steer clear, fearing he’s a project in adjusting to the NFL game, though Enunwa offers good intangibles and competitiveness as a late pick.

We’ve seen plenty of ability to gain yards after the catch and his run blocking is second to none. We’ve also seen some issues with his hands, although I persist this is an area he’s vastly improved in. He may have been a project at one point, but I don’t think he looks all that unrefined out on the field any more. His routes are becoming crisper and his reading of the game has certainly developed. He’s no complete receiver, but he’s certainly on his way.

New York Jets v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I remember clearly last year when he dropped a pass on a screen in week 17. Or the big drop he had against the Patriots in week 6 with the clock running down. These are growing pains, ones that can either make you or destroy you. Some players just don’t get over disappointments. Quincy never let the negativity effect him. As a result he continued to improve over the off-season and Bowles commented on his improvement earlier this season:

“He worked at a lot of things that he wasn’t very good at a year ago — his lateral quickness, his hands and, obviously, building up, playing faster. He’s done all of that,” coach Todd Bowles said of his hybrid receiver/tight end. “We have all the confidence in the world in him.”

I would actually like to see the Jets feature Enunwa more than they already have. He has the odd game where he sees plenty of action, the win in Cleveland comes to mind, a game in which he was targeted 11 times. However he was only targeted 4 times against Miami, 4 times against Baltimore and 5 against Arizona, and for me that needs to increase. It’s almost cliche to say it, but the game is slowing down for Quincy and in his own words, he’s starting to see things he never used to see. Speaking to omaha.com

"The biggest difference as a receiver would be you've really got to learn patience. They always say there's timing. It's kind of a cliche statement. It's better to be patient, better to work the route, work the DB that you're against. You never want to be too much in a hurry, and that's what a lot of guys are. You might not get your depth on a route, or you're looking too early on a go route. There are a lot of things you've really got to learn coming from college. In my third year, I've seen a lot of guys and I did the same thing."

Quincy played four years in the Big Ten (Well technically 3, as Nebraska were in the “Big 12” in 2010). It took him until his 4th year to really break out. Up to 2013 he had 3 touchdowns over 3 seasons. However in 2013 he put up 51 receptions for 753 yards and 12 touchdowns. 2017 will be Quincy’s 4th year as a Jet, let’s hope he takes that next step once again.