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NY Jets: Better, Worse Or The Same?

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A series of reviews of Jets position groups.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first in a series of articles that will ask the simple question: are the 2016 New York Jets better, worse or the same as the 2015 Jets?  We'll look at this question by position groups. First position group up: wide receiver.  Are the Jets better, worse, or about the same at wide receiver in 2016?

The 2015 Jets featured Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at wide receiver, with Quincy Enunwa, Devin Smith, Kenbrell Thompkins, Jeremy Kerley, and Chris Owusu making relatively minor contributions.  Marshall had a career year, Decker had a typical performance for him, Kerley and Smith had terrible years, and Thompkins, Enunwa and Owusu all had low level contributions typical of young guys at the back of the rotation, with Enunwa emerging towards the end of the year.

The 2016 Jets again feature Marshall and Decker, who again figure to see the lion's share of targets.  Enunwa is back, as is Thompkins.  Kerley has  moved on, as has Owusu.  Smith is back, but he is recovering from a torn ACL and when he will be ready to contribute is currently unknown.  Filling out the position this year will be some combination of Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake, Robby Anderson, Jeremy Ross and Kyle Williams. Ross and Williams are veterans who figure to make the bulk of their contributions, if any, on special teams.  Marshall and Peake have reportedly looked good so far in shorts at OTAs, but both are rookies who figure to make rather minimal contributions in their first year.  Anderson is another rookie who seems likely to be either placed on the practice squad or simply cut.

Analyzing this player by player, Marshall, at age 32, seems unlikely to repeat the best year of his career.  That isn't to say I expect him to go into rapid decline; it's just always wise to expect some regression to the mean when anyone is coming off a career year.  Keep in mind for every player what we're talking about is the most likely scenario, not any kind of inevitability. Is it possible Marshall stays the same or even has a better year? Sure, but that's probably not the way to bet coming off a career year.  So I'm going to say Marshall will be a bit worse in 2016.  Decker, on the other hand, is still in the prime years of his career, and his 2015 performance was just more of the usual for him, so I'm going to say Decker remains the same.  Enunwa was playing for the first time in 2015.  Although I am somewhat skeptical he ever becomes a top flight receiver, the odds probably favor improvement for him in his second year of play, so chalk Enunwa up in the better column.  Thompkins is already 28 years old, will be entering his 4th season in the NFL, and has had progressively worse production every year he's been in the league. Not much reason to expect improvement here, and in fact some good reasons to expect continuing regression. Put Thompkins in the worse column. Smith, if he was healthy, would be a prime candidate for improvement in his second year in the NFL.  He really couldn't be a whole lot worse than his 2015 performance, and the odds probably favored him figuring some things out in year two.  However, his injury status could land him on the PUP to start the season, and he will likely miss a ton of preseason reps that could have helped him improve, so for now I'm going with stays the same for Smith in 2016.  That leaves Jalin Marshall, Peake, Anderson, Williams and Ross to work on replacing Kerley's and Owusu's combined 2015 production of 25 catches for 232 yards.  Although I think Kerley is a better NFL receiver than anyone on that list is likely to be in 2016, the way the Jets used him in 2015 did not reflect that. This is difficult to project, as rookies can vary wildly in NFL readiness, but the contributions from Kerley and Owusu were so minimal last year I'm going with slight improvement from this year's back of the roster crowd.

Overall Marshall's probable minor regression will be somewhat balanced out by improvement from Enunwa, possible improvement from Smith if he can heal quickly, and hopefully some better contributions from the back of the roster receivers.  Because Marshall is so much more important to the Jets than Enunwa, Smith and all the back of the roster guys combined this may shake out as a slightly worse group in 2016, but we're in offseason optimist mode right now, and any regression may be so slight as to be insignificant, so I'm going with stays the same for the wide receiver group.

What about you?  How do you see this year's wide receiver group compared to the 2015 Jets? Will the 2016 version be better, worse, or the same?  Let us know in your comments, and give us reasons why.