Florham Park N.J. - The effectiveness and record-setting seasons of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in their first year together showcased the offensive talent the New York Jets have from their wide receivers. The return of the two mainstays lined up on the outside mean a third receiver spot is open for one of the Jets younger projects to take the next step and blossom.
Quincy Enunwa is one of several candidates for that roster spot but his sizable frame, noticable speed, and progression in minicamp give coaches no other reason to all but declare him a frontrunner for the job.
"He has looked really good this spring," said wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell. "He has cleaned up his route running, he's getting in and out of breaks and is catching better. I'm very happy with the progress he has made."
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Enunwa was a non-factor in his rookie season. He appeared in just one game, and spent the majority of the season on the practice squad, and was merely used as a blocker. Even last year under rookie head coach Todd Bowles, Enunwa was considered a project with plenty of upside. That upside was shown in his senior season, as the Moreno Valley, CA native played in 12 games, catching 51 passes for 753 yards and 12 touchdowns at Nebraska.
After a quiet rookie campaign, Enunwa gained more trust from his coaches and peers. It showed. One appearance slowly became two and three. By the time the Jets were in the playoff race, Enunwa was considered a threat in certain packages for opposing defenses.
"He is a very valuable aspect to our offense and really made some clutch catches that gave us some big wins [last season]," said Dorrell.
Those clutch catches showed flashes of what Jets scouts saw in Enunwa while he was at Nebraska. His 22 catches for 315 yards in 12 games hardly mean he lit up the box score on a weekly basis. But, it showed managment his potential for success and will to win was evident. As the receiver became a consistent option for Ryan Fitzpatrick, more of his skills were displayed.
"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," said Enunwa. "We didn't even reach our full potential and we know what we have to do to get better."
One play sticks with Jets fans. On a 2nd and 8 from the Jets' 22-yard line on December 27, Fitzpatrick took the shotgun snap with Enunwa lined up on the inside, a place he will most certainly be familiar with this year, facing Patriots linebacker Chandler Jones. Once the ball was hiked, Enunwa ran a simple out route towards the sideline, catching the ball, and showing his speed for a 48 yard gain setting up Decker's game winning score in the extra session.
That play was a minor glimpse of Enunwa's full potential. He is a hybrid receiver that can be lined up on the outside or inside. But, it also would not be surprising if Enunwa lines up as a tight end in certain packages, especially if Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld, or Kellen Davis struggle to establish themselves as primary targets for either Geno Smith or Fitzpatrick.
Each day is a new challenge for Enunwa as he continues to work hard to improve. It also helps since Brandon Marshall joined the team, Marshall took Enunwa under his wing to correct mistakes and learn together. Both are "built, rocked up, and sturdier types of players," said Dorrell.
"I think he is Martellus Bennett at the wide receiver position," said Marshall. "He is fast and he's explosive. I think he is an asset for this team. It's been great to see him develop."
Enunwa is taking this time at minicamp to progressively grow and tighten up his game before the fun begins in training camp next month. Aside from Marshall and Decker, Enunwa and young Jalin Marshall have arguably been the Jets most consistent receivers this spring.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)