Eric Decker to the New York Jets: Just Crazy Enough to Work?

To the relief of New York Jets fans, the team signed wide receiver Eric Decker after the first two days of free agency passed with barely a whisper from Florham Park.

As reported by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Decker and the team signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract with $15 million in guaranteed money.

It’s incredibly hard to get a firm grasp of what to expect from Decker for many reasons.

First, Geno Smith is an unproven quarterback who struggled much of the season, though he improved as the season went on. Any quarterback is a step down from a future Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning, but even though Smith could prove to be a very good starter, this is more akin to a stumble down a flight of stairs than a step down.

Can Decker produce? Well, while we can focus on the back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with Manning heaving the ball, we should also remember he caught eight touchdowns and had over 600 yards with Tim Tebow throwing him the ball.

So while he will definitely see a dip in production, it might not be as horrible as many think.

We also should consider that New York is not likely to be done yet. The Jets are very likely to add another free-agent receiver, which will further change his production and potentially his role. Ditto for any addition of a rookie in the upcoming draft.

So let’s talk about what we do know about him and what he can do.

Decker lacks elite speed but is a tough receiver who can come down with contested balls by outmuscling defenders. That makes him a solid red-zone target—something the Jets have lacked for several years.

With Jeremy Kerley mostly in the slot (though with all the injuries, he has shown he can do more), Decker is probably destined more for a role as the “split end” or “X” receiver—a guy normally farthest from the center on his side of the field and often on the opposite side of the field from the tight end.

That means while he will occasionally be asked to go vertical, he’s going to have to get off the jam at the line and could be asked to do some shorter routes as well.

Pro Football Focus tweeted out two charts from some of the material it provides for teams which is worth looking at.

First, it tweeted out a route breakdown for Decker. The chart shows that, out of 87 catches (and 135 targets), Decker was thrown at most on “Go” routes, followed by “Out” routes.

Next, we have Geno Smith’s numbers by route. While Smith threw the ball most on “Hitch” routes, he spread the ball pretty evenly among multiple routes.

He threw specifically to the “Out” route 39 times, completing 20 of those throws or 51.3 percent of them. The completed passes accounted for 278 yards and two touchdowns but also three interceptions.

Smith threw even more often to the receiver on a “Go” route—41 times, his second-highest total after the “Hitch” route. Unfortunately he only completed just 36.6 percent, though he totaled 418 yards (101 after the catch) and six touchdowns. He also threw six interceptions on those plays.

What does this all mean aside from Pro Football Focus teasing us with stats it won’t normally release?

Well, it means Smith and Decker could hook up for quite a few passes, as routes that Decker runs well, Smith tended to throw to.

Again, depending on who else gets pulled into this offense, Decker could see an awful lot of work come his way.

I could absolutely see him grabbing 60-70 balls, totaling somewhere between 700-800 yards and seven or eight touchdowns.

It’s a guess, though, until we see more of the offense come together.

2014 NFL Combine: Denver Broncos GM John Elway Recap

On Friday, Denver Broncos GM John Elway took the podiumto talk about the disappointing Super Bowl loss, but an exciting year for Broncos football.

Here is a bit of his press conference along with some of my thoughts on what he said.

3 Questions about: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

image via NFL.com

In the underwhelming AFC, there are an awful lot of teams still in the hunt for the second Wild Card.

At 6-7, you’d assume the San Diego Chargers weren’t one of them but here we are. Given that Baltimore and Miami both have games they can very well lose (against Detroit and against New England respectively) and with the other 6-7 team (the New York Jets) heading to Carolina, the Chargers have a great shot at getting a leg up for that spot.

They face a Denver Broncos team which, while it has secured a playoff berth, has its sights set on the division title and a bye week—and perhaps home field advantage.

In other words, this is no pushover for either team.

  • Can the Chargers protect Philip Rivers? Last time out, the Chargers offensive line allowed him to be sacked four times, hit five times total and pressured all day long. How will the Chargers avoid this? Will they go no-huddle and up-tempo early? Will they use a lot of short slants and quick passes to negate the rush by getting the ball out quickly? How they handle Von Miller and company will decide if they can keep up with Manning.
  • Without Wes Welker and with a Peyton Manning who is still wrestling with ankle issues, does the Broncos offense change at all? You can bet that the Chargers will try to hit Manning often and disrupt his timing but that’s a tough task. Manning can get the ball out quickly, so it’s a matter of keeping his receivers covered just long enough to get a hand on him. That hasn’t been easy and while Welker is a loss, Eric Decker has been on fire and the return of tight end Julius Thomas bolsters the offense up. Also, will the split between Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball continue?
  • How will the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen play into the Chargers offense? Back in Week 10, Allen wasn’t a big factor with just five targets and four catches for 41 yards. Truth be told, the entire offense played poorly once the Broncos built a 21-6 lead. But Allen was clearly not the playmaker he is now. This will be a tough test for him and the Chargers need him to perform. San Diego will want to try to get an early lead. To do that, they need to protect Rivers. But they’ll also need the rookie receiver to continue to step up.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.