Is Jeremy Kerley the Jets' next great third-down receiver?
One game does not a career make, but Kerley's last game was one of the best in our history, with his six third-down conversion receptions against New England the most by any Jets receiver in a game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. And his 17 third-down receptions on the season (12 for first downs) are tied for second in the NFL.
Kerley said his approach to making clutch catches against the Patriots was as simple as taking care of business during the week.
"It's stuff that we had practiced over and over again, so it wasn't like it was a surprise," he said. "Every third down I feel like the ball's coming to me, as with every play, but more emphasis on third down. So I just made sure I made the catch, secured the position, and got the yards."
It's not always the case that something happens during a game just as it was scripted in practice, but head coach Rex Ryan said in the case of Kerley's conversions, that was true.
"I think going into it, that was something that Marty [Mornhinweg] talked about and we featured all through the week in practice," Ryan said at this afternoon's news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "Kerley was a huge part of what we were going to do on offense. He made a lot of great plays during practice, then when we got to the game it was no different."
Naturally it takes at least two to play this third-down game, and JK says his chemistry with QB Geno Smith has become very organic.
"I think me and Geno, we've got a real good feel for each other," Kerley said. "We've been making sure that the reps have been consistent, over and over again. We make sure we capitalize on every opportunity we have. If we don't capitalize on it right there, we try to get it again, if not on the field then in the film room. So I think as long as we stay consistent, we'll have success with it."
"Jeremy and I, we've been doing a lot off the field," Smith confirmed. "That goes for all of the receivers and all of the quarterbacks. It has really helped us out because we're now beginning to see the same things and get on the same page. It helps us out on the field because it's kind of like a symbiotic relationship, he's thinking one thing and I'm thinking the same. When we're on the same page it's kind of hard for defenses to stop us."
And if that's the case, the outcome would again be of historic proportions. Assuming Jeremy Kerley stays healthy, he's on pace for 27 conversions on third-down receptions this year. That would equal the most by a Jets receiver in a season since '70, Keyshawn Johnson's 27 in 1998, most of them coming on passes from Vinny Testaverde.
As efficient as Kerley and our receiving corps, maligned by some experts in the preseason, have become lately, they're not made men yet. The drop problem that was evident at New England in Game 2 evaporated since then with only one WR drop in the past five games. Yet during a brisk and windy practice today, the dropsies returned.
"I'm not making excuses," Ryan said. "We have to catch the ball anyway, but there were too many drops for us and we've been getting away from it. Our guys work extremely hard. They hit the JUGS after every practice. Obviously, we have to catch the football."
As he was saying that, the eight Jets wideouts were indeed working on the ball machine on the other side of the building well after practice had concluded.
"Practice was a little lackadaisical today," Kerley acknowledged. "We've got to pick it up. We know what's ahead of us. We've got Cincinnati and they've got a great defense. We've got to catch the ball, snatch it down every chance we get, beginning with practice tomorrow."
Then, just as last week, maybe that will carry over to another top-notch receiving day by Kerley and all our wideouts on all downs at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
Here are the Jets' leaders for most third-down conversions by reception in a season since 1970 that Kerley could be trying to catch and pass later this season (*total based on pace in first seven games):
Ryan said he already knew Chris Ivory was a hard runner when we acquired him in the offseason. But the one thing he's learned since is that Ivory is also excellent without the ball in his hands. "The thing I didn't really know was his pass protection," Rex said. "He really attacks guys. That was fun to watch." Ryan has also praised Bilal Powell for his blitz pickup and attributes both backs' knack in that area at least partly to RBs coach Anthony Lynn.
WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) is the only Jet who didn't practice today. TE Jeff Cumberland (hamstring) moved up to limited activity. One new addition to the Jets' limited list today was Kerley, but Jeremy said it was only a precaution. "It was just a little cold outside," said the Texan. "I'm not used to this weather."