Camp preview: Wide receiver

July, 17, 2013
7/17/13
6:00
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Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:

Position: Wide receiver

Projected starters: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill.

Projected reserves: Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Ben Obomanu.

[+] EnlargeStephen Hill
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsStephen Hill caught 21 passes as a rookie. The Jets need a significant improvement this season.
New faces: Obomanu.

The departed: Braylon Edwards, Chaz Schilens.

Player to watch: Hill -- a no-brainer. The Jets are depending heavily on his ability to rebound from a disappointing rookie year. The physical talent is there, but aside from Week 1 against the Bills, Hill never played like a first-round talent. (He was drafted in the second round, but received a first-round grade on the Jets' draft board.)

Hill must improve in all areas -- beating press coverage, sharpening his route running and, you know, catching the ball. He also has to do a better job with the ball in his hands, as he gained only 38 yards after catch on 21 receptions, per ESPN Stats & Information. In addition, his surgically repaired knee bears watching. He said last week that his reps will be monitored in camp.

Potential strength: Well, they're young. That can be a positive, right? Except for Holmes, every receiver is an ascending talent -- in theory, anyway. The question is, how much untapped potential are we talking about? Kerley, a good slot receiver with deceptive, big-play ability (14.8 yards per catch), is entering the prime of his career in Year 3. Beyond Kerley, there are question marks. Hill and Gates are young and fast, but it's time turn those assets into production.

Potential weakness: The depth is a major concern, especially with Holmes coming off foot surgery. Consider: Holmes has 358 career receptions; the rest of the unit has a combined 212, including 87 from Obomanu, a Seahawks castoff plucked off the scrap heap in May. This is their thinnest receiving corps since 2009, when they opened with Chansi Stuckey as a starter. (They traded for Edwards a month into the season.) GM John Idzik finds himself in a similar situation: He must acquire a proven talent. Even if this current cast stays healthy -- unlikely, considering its penchant for hamstring injuries -- it won't be good enough.

Wild card: Holmes and his surgically repaired foot. He's expected to begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. The big question is, will he be ready by Week 1? That's the goal, but he's recovering from a Grade 4 (the most severe) LisFranc injury. There are no guarantees. You can bet Holmes won't take any unnecessary risks because he knows he probably will be a cap casualty after the season, and he doesn't want to hit free agency with a bad wheel. Without Holmes, a borderline No. 1 receiver when healthy, the Jets won't scare anyone with their perimeter passing attack.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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