There were plenty of unknowns surrounding Quincy Enunwa entering the 2018 campaign. But by the end of it, there were plenty of answers.
Enunwa missed the 2017 season following a procedure to repair a bulging disk in his neck. The Jets worked him back slowly during the spring and the summer, but Enunwa exploded in his first two games of regular-season action. He combined for 13 catches and 155 yards against the Lions and the Dolphins in Weeks 1-2, with his 21-scoring yard reception on Monday Night in Detroit signifying an emphatic return.
The 6’2”, 225-pound Enunwa, who excelled in the screen game throughout the season, led the offense in receiving yards on five occasions. Totaling 38 receptions for 449 yards, Enunwa was limited to 11 games while battling a nagging ankle sprain.
Like Enunwa, Robby Anderson got on the scoreboard in Week 1 as rookie Sam Darnold hit the burner for a 41-yard TD in the Green & White’s 48-17 rout of the Lions. But Anderson was held in check for most of the season’s first quarter before a magnificent 126-yard effort in a dismantling of the Broncos in Week 5, which included a pair of long scores as he averaged 41 yards a grab. His production dipped midway through the campaign and a lot of that had to do with an ankle ailment.
But paired with an emerging Darnold late, a healthy Anderson hit the burners when the temperatures dipped in December. In contests against the Bills, the Texans and the Packers in Weeks 14-16, Anderson averaged 20.8 yards on 20 receptions and he had a touchdown in each matchup. Anderson’s 752 receiving yards and six touchdowns paced the receiving group.
After setting career highs across the board with Josh McCown at quarterback in 2017, veteran Jermaine Kearse finished with 37 catches while averaging 10 yards a pop. Kearse, who is an unrestricted free agent, did tie a career high with nine catches in the Jets’ 42-24 win over the Colts in Week 6.
The Green & White released Terrelle Pryor (14-235-2TD) in October, promoting undrafted free agent Deontay Burnett to the active roster in the process. The rookie, one of Darnold’s favorite targets at USC, had 10 catches in six contests. Special teams stalwarts Andre Roberts, known for his return prowess, and Charone Peake, a core performer on all four of Brant Boyer’s units, combined for 12 catches, 104 yards and a score.
The Jets made a critical move months prior to free agency, keeping the 26-year-old Enunwa off the market by inking him to a long-term extension in December. It will be interesting to see how new head coach Adam Gase uses Enunwa because the latter believes he has more to offer down the field.
"I'm excited for the future and for some more big plays," said Enunwa. "And I think there is a lot in store for us as a team."
Anderson, a restricted free agent, blossomed when Darnold came into his own. The athletic Darnold was accurate on designed runs and also displayed instinctive movement to elude pressure and then find open targets down the field.
“It's a lot of fun because you can't never expect the play to die,” Anderson said. “Expect the unexpected with him.”
Why was everything clicking down the stretch for Darnold and Anderson?
“Communication, repetition and connecting,” said the 25-year-old Anderson this winter.
The Jets clearly want to build around Darnold and that means they could be active at wideout in free agency and the draft. The team’s three unrestricted free agents at the position will be 29 (Kearse and Rishard Matthews) and 31 (Andre Roberts) when the 2019 season commences. Roberts, though, will be viewed as a return man first and he was the NFL’s best in 2018.
On the Roster in 2018
(Off—offensive snaps; ST—special teams snaps)
Stacy Coley, Tim White, DeAngelo Yancey.
Potential Free Agents in 2019
Unrestricted: Jermaine Kearse, Andre Roberts, Rishard Matthews. Restricted: Robby Anderson. Exclusive Rights: Deontay Burnett, J.J. Jones.