<
>

Jets WR Eric Decker excited about possibility of new role

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Eric Decker was deployed last season in a fairly predictable manner. He almost always lined up as an outside wide receiver, making 67 of his 74 catches in that role and only seven in the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Don't be surprised if you see a different Decker in 2015, meaning he could show up more often as a slot receiver.

Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is working his receivers in multiple roles at training camp, trying to get a feel for what they do best. As a result, Decker -- the Jets' leading receiver last season -- has been practicing "a lot on the inside," he said.

This certainly creates more flexibility in the passing game, and it also could explain why Quincy Enunwa -- not Jeremy Kerley -- is the third receiver, joining Decker and Brandon Marshall in three-wide packages. Kerley is a prototypical slot receiver, which limits him somewhat.

This is the time for experimenting.

"I like the versatility," Decker said. "You're not always on the outside, running the same routes. Inside, it's a different game. There are a lot of zone coverages, finding the holes. Against man coverage, you've got more space to work. It's a different mentality as far as the releases, spacing and leverage. Conceptually, it's just different, but it's an advantage. You are interchangeable, depending on what the defense does."

Decker isn't a neophyte in the slot. His former team, the Denver Broncos, used him there a lot, especially in 2013 -- 33 of his 87 receptions came out of the slot. At 6-foot-3, he's not your typical slot receiver, but he's an excellent route runner with a feel for coverages, which are important traits when you're running routes in the middle of the field.

With Decker, Marshall (6-foot-4) and Enunwa (6-foot-2) on the field, the Jets will have one of the bigger receiving corps in the league. That could help in the running game -- better blocking -- but let's not lose sight of what's important: Receivers are paid to catch. Right now, the Jets are figuring out different ways to get their best catchers on the field.

It'll be interesting to see Decker now that he's healthy and has a No. 1-type receiver on the opposite side. His only two 100-yard games last season came in December, when his cranky hamstring had healed. (In fact, he closed with a 221-yard effort against the Miami Dolphins.) Some might say he benefited from having Percy Harvin on the opposite side, but Harvin -- hampered by a severe ankle injury -- was a non-factor and didn't play in those two games.

Decker did it on his own. Now he has Marshall, and perhaps a new role.