With Decker down, it's youngsters' time to step up for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. >> Brandon Marshall realizes the New York Jets took a big loss when fellow wide receiver Eric Decker went down for the season with a shoulder injury.
He also knows it's up to the youngsters on the roster to take advantage of this sudden opportunity.
Sure, guys such as Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake are rookies, but Brandon Marshall is their biggest cheerleader these days.
"We're more than confident in the younger guys we have," the veteran receiver said. "They'll make plays. Right, Robby?"
Marshall turned to his right, smiling at his locker-room neighbor, who was sitting on a stool and minding his business while his teammate addressed the media.
"Stand up!" Marshall told Anderson, who turned around and stood for a moment. "Right, Robby? Right? Make plays, right? Guys like Robby, man, they're studs and hungry, waiting for their opportunities and see what they're able to do."
The reality for the Jets is, those young guys are being counted on now. Brandon Marshall is the No. 1 receiver with 24 catches for 363 yards and two touchdowns, while Quincy Enunwa has a team-leading 27 receptions for 294 yards and a TD and emerged as a consistent playmaker.
After that, it's a handful of unproven and inexperienced receivers who'll need to create some sort of rapport with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting Monday night at Arizona.
"A lot of times, you hear, 'Next man up mentality' and 'we'll be fine,"' Brandon Marshall said. "So, out of respect to Decker, he's a big part and he's a talent in this league, but in the National Football League, it's the truth: next man up."
Here's a look at the receivers who will try to help fill the void left by Decker, who'll have surgery on his partially torn right rotator cuff:
VITALS: 23 years old, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, rookie.
CAREER STATS: 5 games, 5 catches for 56 yards, 0 TDs.
The speedy Anderson was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple, where he redshirted as a freshman, played in six games in 2012, mostly on special teams, and then worked with the second-team defense as a cornerback in 2013. He quit the following spring, but then reconsidered and was allowed to rejoin the team as a wide receiver. He was a force for the Owls as a redshirt senior in 2015, finishing with 70 catches for 939 yards — both ranking second on the school's single-season list — and seven touchdown catches. Anderson led the NFL with 264 yards receiving in the preseason, and has started the last two games for the Jets.
VITALS: 25, 6-2, 213, third NFL season.
CAREER STATS: 8 games, 31 catches for 363 yards, 0 TDs.
Butler was claimed Tuesday off waivers from Tampa Bay, which signed him to its practice squad last month. He was promoted to the active roster last week, but was waived Sunday. Butler was signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee-Martin in 2014. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, and contributed on offense last season for the Ravens. Butler finished second in the NFL this summer with 16 preseason catches.
VITALS: 21, 5-10, 200, rookie.
CAREER STATS: 3 games, 5 catches for 64 yards, 0 TDs.
Marshall has missed the last two games with a torn labrum, but could return against the Cardinals. He provided some flashes in training camp and in the preseason, but also dealt with lapses in concentration with a few drops. Marshall was also serving as the Jets' primary returner before he was injured, but could share those duties with the recently signed Nick Marshall if New York opts to have him focus more on offense. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State after playing just two years.
VITALS: 23, 6-2, 209, rookie.
CAREER STATS: 5 games, 4 catches for 36 yards, 0 TDs.
Peake was a seventh-round pick out of Clemson and faced long odds to make the Jets' roster before consistently making plays throughout the summer. He scored his first NFL touchdown not on a catch, but a fumble recovery against Seattle in Week 4. Two surgeries on his left knee early in his college career likely scared off some teams, accounting for his relatively low draft spot.
VITALS: 24, 6-1, 199, second NFL season.
CAREER STATS: 10 games, 9 catches for 115 yards, 1 TD.
Smith was a second-round selection out of Ohio State last year, but has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency. He's currently on injured reserve after having surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last December, but is eligible to begin practicing next week. Smith's status is uncertain, but he could add some much-needed speed, terrific athleticism and big-play ability when he's fully healthy.
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