Jets WRs tired of catching flak, ready to surprise critics

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Six years ago, the New York Jets' receiving corps was so bad that cornerback Antonio Cromartie volunteered to help out as a two-way player -- a not-so-grand gesture that insulted some of the receivers.

The current cast of characters is better than that ragtag group -- any Chaz Schilens fans out there? -- but it's certainly not getting any love from the so-called experts. Surely you're aware of the narrative:

They don't have a true No. 1 receiver. ... There aren't enough weapons to help Sam Darnold develop.

There's some truth to the chatter, but this receiving corps, if healthy, is better than you think. A lot better, according to the players, who seem to be taking notes on the perceived slights.

"It's the tags, man," Jermaine Kearse said. "We don't have anybody with a tag that says 'elite receiver.' We don't have any first-rounders or anything like that. No Pro Bowls. But that doesn't mean we can't get the job done. At the end of the day, we're playmakers and that's what we're going to do. I mean, watch the film and you'll find out. You'll just see."

Kearse is right about one thing: The Jets have no receivers with a blue blood pedigree. He and Robby Anderson were undrafted out of college. Quincy Enunwa was a sixth-round pick. Terrelle Pryor was a supplementary draft pick ... as a quarterback. Chad Hansen, climbing the depth chart with a terrific spring, was a fourth-round pick.

You might say it's a group of misfits and castoffs, but the Jets have something on every other receiving corps in the NFL. They're the only team with four wide receivers on its current roster who have produced at least one 800-yard season in their careers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Pryor, Anderson, Kearse and Enunwa are members of the 800 club.

"And we have no talent," Enunwa said sarcastically upon learning of that factoid.

He shook his head.

"Everybody says, 'Oh, the Jets don't have the weapons' or whatever," Enunwa said. "I'm excited to show them we have the guys who can make plays. I think it'll be a good season for us if we're all healthy and doing what we're supposed to do."

There are a couple of health concerns. The biggest is Pryor, who underwent recent arthroscopic surgery on his surgically repaired right ankle. He's sitting out the spring, and there's a real chance he won't be ready for training camp in late July. Enunwa is recovering from 2017 neck surgery, but he's trending toward being cleared for training camp. He just started practicing with his helmet in noncontact positional drills, an encouraging sign.

The Jets have enough depth to withstand an injury; it's not like they have to run out and sign Dez Bryant if someone goes down. The real question is whether they have enough firepower to affect defensive coverage. Without a true star, it'll be up to offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates to deploy them in a way that creates favorable matchups. Instead of feeding one mouth -- see: the Brandon Marshall years -- they can spread it around to three or four players on a weekly basis. A balanced attack can cause problems, too.

"We all can do a lot of things, and that's what makes us tough -- or what I believe will be tough to deal with," Kearse said. "We're going to get the ball to our playmakers. We've got a couple of them. A lot of them."