By Tyson Rauch
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Eric Decker – WR – #87
Weight: 214 lbs.
Hometown: Cold Spring, MN
Experience: 5 years
When the New York Jets signed free agent wide receiver Eric Decker to a 5-year, $36 million dollar contract, there were several questions about what the pass catcher would be bringing to the table. Is Decker a true No. 1 receiver? Was the former Denver Broncos pass catcher just a beneficiary of Peyton Manning’s greatness? Could Eric Decker make a significant impact while playing with a young quarterback?
Well, after a couple of weeks of training camp, it is quite obvious that Eric Decker will be playing many roles in the New York Jets offense.
Geno’s “Go to” Guy
One of Geno Smith’s biggest issues last season was that the young signal caller did not have a receiver that he could trust. Decker will change Geno’s fortunes in 2014 as the former Bronco is an excellent route runner with reliable hands. Smith will know where the receiver is at all times and can rely on Decker to make plays for him while under duress. This quarterback/receiver relationship will give Geno a sense of security and will tremendously help the Jets as they try to open up the passing game.
Red Zone Threat
Standing at 6’3,” Eric Decker is a huge target that can be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses in the red zone. His size and athletic ability should give the New York Jets several options in the game plan, including fade passes, jump balls and quick slants. This type of ability has been a missing element in the Jets offense.
Create New Options
The New York Jets finally have a wide receiver that opposing defenses will have to account for, and this should free up space for other players. For example, if teams are rolling coverage to Decker’ side of the field, then a dynamic playmaker like Jeremy Kerley could find himself in man coverage. Or if defenses are worried about covering Decker and Kerley, then Chris Johnson, David Nelson, or one of the Jets’ big tight ends could find themselves in favorable match-ups. The trickle down for adding a legitimate receiving threat is significant and should allow for big plays within the Jets passing offense.
Another important aspect of the Eric Decker signing is that the veteran receiver can serve as mentor to the young Jets pass catchers. Gang Green is trying to rebuild their wide receiver group through the draft, and what better example to have than a hard working, reliable, route runner? Decker can teach the young players the nuances of the game and the preciseness of the route tree. In addition, Eric’s professionalism can be an asset in the locker room as the young wideouts learn how to handle themselves off of the field.
More Than Just a Big Contract
When Decker’s contract terms were announced, many instantly focused on the price tag and his career statistics. While Decker did receive a lucrative deal, he will also be providing a variety of “services” to the New York Jets. He fills a gaping hole at the wide receiver position and gives the Jets a legitimate receiving threat that the team has not had since Keyshawn Johnson. Eric Decker was a quality signing by the New York Jets and he will make a big impact on and off the field for Gang Green.
Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.