In the 2013 regular season, the Jets finished a mediocre 8-8. Out of 32 NFL teams, they ranked No. 25 in offensive yardage with 318.1 yards per game, and they ranked No. 31 in passing yards with 183.2 passing yards per game. Clearly,Gang Green had some problems on the offensive side of the ball.
The solution for general manager John Idzik was signing Eric Decker to a five-year deal. Decker was a member of a historically great Denver Broncos offense last season. This was a team that broke the all-time NFL record for points in a single season and touchdowns in a single season. Decker was the 12th best receiver in the NFL with 1,288 yards receiving in 2013. Clearly Decker knows how to put points on the board and create yards after the catch (something that the Jets desperately need). Decker will be playing for a new coach, a new offensive system, and a new team. Thus, he can’t rely on his previous success to carry him through this season.
“You get a little anxious, nervous you don’t know what to expect,” the Jets’ top receiver told reporters during training camp. “Once you get out here ball is ball, it might be a different jersey, it might be a different team, but you figure it out”.
It will be crucial for Decker to form a strong relationship with his head coach and quarterback in the first few weeks. While in Denver, Decker could always depend on the highly intelligent and savvy quarterback, Peyton Manning. However, Geno Smith is only a second year player, who is still very unproven. Decker will have to show much more patience this year and some veteran leadership if the Jets want to succeed.
Decker had a plethora of success while playing for the University of Minneapolis and the city of Denver, but playing in the Big Apple is a whole new challenge. Every play and every down will be analyzed under a microscope by the New York media. Also, the fans will not hesitate to cheer with joy or heckle with displeasure during the game. It is the type of pressure that can either make diamonds or coal.
“What New York brings to the table, it’s a lot of culture, and it’s a lot of passion," said Decker. "I understand that the fans are very excited about this season. We have a job to do to perform on the field and give them our best. On top of that just the good food, the opportunities, Broadway shows, and different things we can access”.
Unfortunately these “opportunities” can translate into distractions off the field. 8.3 million people in a 469 square mile area produces a highly animated environment. The city that never sleeps will test Decker’s diligence, concentration, and resolve. He will need to ignore all the noise around him so that he can focus on football.
Not only is New York City a haven for sports media, but also Rex Ryan, coach of the Jets, who is no stranger to media frenzies. His audacious Super Bowl predictions and brazen personality attracts a lot of attention. Nevertheless, players seem to love him as a coach. Decker hasn’t even played a single game and already approves of Rex Ryan.
“He’s the ultimate player’s coach, he is going to take care of us and get us fired up and ready to play,” Decker said. “That’s a good balance. You want to play for that coach, because he takes care of you and he respects you”.
Decker will also be working with second year offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Will Decker be able to adjust to Mornhinweg’s offensive system? Will Decker and Geno Smith be able to connect consistently and effectively? Can Decker handle the pressure of playing in the big apple? Only time will tell. One thing is clear, the Jets have long been searching for a No. 1 receiver and they may have finally found one in Decker.