Florham Park, N.J. – As if blowing an 18 point lead to the Packers wasn’t disheartening enough, the Jets may be without one of their most important offensive weapons for their Monday night showdown against the Chicago Bears.
Late in last Sunday’s loss, Eric Decker was forced to leave the game with a hamstring injury. Not much is known about Decker’s status but if he is forced to miss time it would be a big blow to the Jets receiving corps.
Decker was brought in so quarterback Geno Smith could have a clear-cut number one receiver, and so far Decker has been that guy. He currently leads the team in both catches and receiving yards (nine for 137) and is the only receiver through two games who has caught a touchdown.
While Decker obviously wants to play Monday night, he told reporters that he wants to make “smart” decisions regarding his injury.
“Every day I am going to try and do a little bit more and see how it feels, and keep at it.” Said Decker, “Whether it’s a strengthening program, or a stretching program, whatever they have for me, and we are going to be smart with it. But, I want to get out as soon as I can for my teammate, so I am going to obviously make a smart choice but try to get out there.”
Decker did not practice Wednesday but head coach Rex Ryan is “hopeful” that Decker will be able to play.
If Decker doesn’t play however Smith doesn’t expect the offense to be negatively affected.
“(We) just got to go in with a mindset that we’re still going to do the same things.” Said Smith, “We’re pretty confident and I’m confident in the other guys around him. Every single guy has an opportunity to step up. Eric’s a key part to our offense, but we’ve got other guys that can step up and make plays for us and I look forward to seeing them do so.”
One of those other guys is wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who has emerged as Smith’s second favorite target. He has eight catches for 60 yards on the young season. In Ryan’s eyes, Kerley has become a tremendous asset for the Jets offense.
“Jeremy has been that guy. His role is getting more and more as he goes. But he’s a guy that’s shifty… he’s a versatile player but now he’s also a complete
After Decker and Kerley however the Jets are lacking at the receiver position. David Nelson is the only other wide receiver on the team with more than one reception—and he only has two.
Greg Salas who played his way onto the roster with a fantastic training camp has not been able make a significant impact so far. He has been targeted four times and only has one catch for 12 yards including a dropped touchdown pass in the home opener against the Raiders.
With a lack of depth at wide receiver, Smith has looked to running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jeff Cumberland for completions. Cumberland has bounced back from an Achilles injury to register five catches for 64 yards.
With six catches including a touchdown pass, Johnson has made a strong impact in the passing game as Ryan said he would.
“Having a guy with Chris Johnson’s talent obviously presents some different things because if he catches one he can take it to the house” said Ryan.
With the possibility of Decker not being able to play Monday, look for Smith to rely on not only Cumberland and Johnson but rookie tight end Jace Amaro.
Amaro has only three catches through the first two games but Smith is confident that he will emerge as an offensive threat.
“Jace has been doing a great job.” Said Smith, “When Jace gets in he’s always a viable option for us and he gets open. His time will come.”
The Jets should not have too much have trouble moving the ball through the air even if Decker doesn’t play. While the Bears’ secondary performed well against the San Francisco 49ers last week when they forced Collin Kaepernick into three interceptions, the same secondary allowed Buffalo Bill’s quarterback EJ Manuel to complete over 70 percent of his passes the week before.
The Bears’ also lost a key member of their secondary to injury when Charles Tillman went down with a season ending triceps injury. Tillman’s replacement Kyle Fuller played fantastic against the 49ers registering two interceptions but he is a rookie and one great performance shouldn’t be overvalued.
The bottom line is that although possibly losing Decker is obviously a big loss, he believes that even if he doesn’t play, the passing game will be just fine.
“I think we’ll be fine either way.” Said Decker, “There’s a lot of guys that can make plays in that receivers room. With the ability to run like we can, guys in the room, I think, have the potential to step up and play really well. Things will be okay.”