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8 Great Receivers in Jets History
Good morning! ☕
Welcome to the final week in June. Next week we can officially say the Jets are back for camp and we can also say that pre-season starts next month.
Don’t forget to send in your suggestions for topics to cover, once pre-season arrives we’ll get into our flow of content with game reviews, previews, film breakdowns and general coverage. Now is the time to look at more abstract topics.
I got into a conversation this week about Garrett Wilson, and that got me thinking about the best Jets receivers of all time, so I’m going to give a top 10 list a go.
🏈 The New York Post had a nice article about UDF wide receiver T.J. Luther, and how he’s using his mother’s sudden passing in 2019 to fuel his dreams of making an NFL roster. “She always used to tell me when I was little that I was going to be her NFL player. She spoke it into existence,” T.J. told The Post after a recent practice. “I’m honouring her. She already knew I was going to be the first generation to graduate college, and I told her I was going to make it to the league.”
📊 The Jets Press ranked every Jets QB from 1990 onwards and I probably don’t have to tell you guys it was a very depressing list. I’m not sure I agree with every single ranking on there, but putting 29 guys in some kind of order is no easy task, so I tip my cap to Justin for attempting it.
💪 Bent over at GGN took a detailed look at UDFA TE EJ Jenkins who while talented, faces an uphill battle to make the roster considering the depth the Jets have at the position. Kuntz is obviously a fantastic athlete but Jenkins played against a higher level of competition over the past few years and seems to have an edge in terms of his physicality and playmaking ability. While Jenkins’ statistical production is less impressive, that can be largely attributed to some poor quarterback play. They will both need to improve their blocking and to prove they can make special teams contributions.
📈 We have another name for the supplemental draft in former Jackson State wide receiver Malachi Wideman. Wideman was a highly touted prospect in both football and basketball and committed to Tennesee. But after just one year he packed his things and headed for Jackson State where he spent two year, catching 37 passes for 589 yards and 13 touchdowns. At 6’5 and 200lbs with plenty of athleticism, he’s likely going to hear his name called. I’d put a guess of a 4th being used on him come July’s draft.
🏈 Garrett Wilson ran a football camp this weekend for the local kids, and the NY Post caught up with him. Despite all the success in year one, Wilson still comes across as incredibly humble. He spoke about how he still had a lot to prove and how he doesn’t buy into the hype: “I expect more than all that,” Wilson said. “For me, it’s always been about the ultimate confidence in myself and putting the work behind it so you know it can happen when the season comes around. I’m not buying into all that stuff too much. No one’s expectations for me are higher than my own.” He also spoke about the potential of adding Dalvin Cook, saying he’d love to have a talent like that, but said he trusted the front office to make the right decision.
I tend to avoid lists like the plague because comparing players from different eras is a fool’s errand. But it’s also quite a fun exercise and a nice trip down memory lane, and hopefully, it encourages some good debate.
There are some players who only just missed the cut, including Art Powell, and Rob Moore. Jerome Barkum isn’t here as I consider him a TE, and the same for Micky Schuler of course.
8. Jerricho Cotchery
The first (or final place) on the list came down to two players for me, Jerricho Cothcery and Art Powell. Considering Cotchery played over 100 games for the Jets and Powell played just 42, I gave it in favour of longevity.
If you get over 100 games from a 4th-round pick, you know that’s been a good selection. But what people often forget is that Cotchery really had to work his way up, in his rookie season he only caught 6 passes for 60 yards.
In many ways, Cotchery replaced Jets legend Wayne Chrebet, not only in terms of position on the field but also in terms of the way he played the game. He was a hard-nosed receiver who had no problem going over the middle.
He finished his Jets career with over 350 catches for over 4500 yards and 18 touchdowns, but it was his ability to convert key 3rd downs in crunchtime that endeared him to fans. He also had 30 playoff receptions, not bad.
7. George Sauer Jr.
I’m always going to have a little soft spot for any Texas Longhorns, and George was one of the best. He was part of the 1963 unbeaten Longhorns and the 1964 team that beat the previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1965 Orange Bowl.
Sauer led the AFL in receptions in 1967 and caught 8 passes in the Super Bowl upset over the Baltimore Colts. On a team that had Don Maynard, Sauer Jr. is often overlooked, but he was vital to that Championship team.
Sauer was a free spirit and found the regimented nature of professional football tiring, which led to him retiring at 27. When asked why he would quit while in his peak he said: “When you get to the college and professional levels, the coaches still treat you as an adolescent. They know damn well that you were never given a chance to become responsible or self-disciplined. Even in the pros, you were told when to go to bed, when to turn your lights off, when to wake up, when to eat and what to eat. You even have to live and eat together like you were in a boys’ camp."
Despite his early retirement he still notched over 300 receptions for just shy of 5000 yards and 28 touchdowns. Like a few players on this list, it’s a case of ‘what if’ with George. After retirement, he took to writing before becoming a textbook graphics specialist in Minnesota.
6. Keyshawn Johnson
Was Keyshawn the most physically gifted Jets receiver in history? There is definitely a case to be made for that. He also happened to be the biggest Diva as well.
We’ll always have that Jacksonville game where he happened to catch nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass on defence. Oh, it also happened to be a playoff game as well.
Unfortunately for Johnson and the Jets, the break-up was messy and it was all about the money. Keyshawn also had a messy break from Tampa Bay, so there is a consistent theme there, but at least they won a Super Bowl with the marquee receiver.
He spent 4-years in New York and caught over 300 passes for over 4000 yards, and put up 31 touchdowns. He was on pace to break every single receiving record that Don Maynard help, but his ego and the Jets unwillingness to bend to it ensured that never happened.
Keyshawn was incredibly gifted, but when I think of the greatest Jets wide receivers, I think of him in passing as a great physical athlete, but it takes more than that.
5. Laveranues Coles
Coles doesn’t get the love that he deserves and yes I absolutely have him above the likes of Keyshawn Johnson. The man was pushing Chrebet for touchdowns and wasn’t a million miles from his yards in 50 fewer games.
Coles is one of my favourite names on this list, it’s just a shame that he had his 2-year detour in Washington.
He never had that dominant season in terms of touchdowns, with a career-high of 7 in 2001 and 2008, but he did have three 1000+ yard seasons and four seasons with 80+ catches. He was a reliable target for multiple Jets QBs over the years, but he did rub a lot of Jets fans up the wrong way when he left for Washington based on the (then) Redskins offering him more money.
I’ve never been one to blame any player for taking the best offer, but I’ll admit to being pretty disappointed and angry when he left.
4. Al Toon
It’s hard to not think ‘what if’ when you think of Al Toon. He was a remarkable receiver in every way, but having suffered at least 9 concussions he made the very difficult decision to retire at the age of 29. This was before we really understood concussions in the way we do now.
In his 8 years in the league, he left quite the mark:
First-team All-Pro (1986)
Second-team All-Pro (1988)
3× Pro Bowl (1986–1988)
AFC Player of the Year (1986)
NFL receptions leader (1988)
New York Jets All-Time Four-Decade Team
New York Jets Ring of Honor
He finished his Jets career with 517 receptions, 6605 yards and 31 touchdowns. Had he played out his entire career with the Jets he’d comfortably be number 2 on the list of receivers in Jets history and although I don’t think he’d pass the 88 touchdowns of Maynard, he would have certainly passed his receptions mark and pushed him for the yards mark.
Different eras I know, but concussions robbed us of potentially the greatest WR in Jets history. Just my opinion, but there we go.
3. Wayne Chrebet
Chrebet is a big reason I’m a Jets fan. You’ve got this 5’10 guy, UDFA out of tiny Hofstra. Gets a tryout in Canada and gets cut after 24 hours. On his first day with the Jets, he gets stopped by security because they think he’s a fan chancing his luck. Starts training camp buried so far on the roster his name doesn’t even appear on some depth charts.
Fast-forward 11 years and you have a Jets legend. 580 receptions, 7,365 yards, 41 touchdowns and I don’t know how many concussions.
I think a lot of people can relate to Wayne but he represented a lot of the fanbase, and still does to this day. I’ve never seen anyone go over the middle with the kind of reckless abandon that Wayne did.
He was a clutch third-down receiver and over 350 of his receptions resulted in a first-down, he was also an underrated home run hitter, with 50 receptions of 25+ yards. I loved watching Wayne.
2. Wesley Walker
Drafted by the Jets in the 2nd round of the 1977 draft, Wesley Walker was a one-team man for the entirety of his professional career. The only reason he slipped out of the first round was due to a knee operation in college.
Walker finished his career averaging 19 yards per reception, and over his 13-year career, he averaged river 20 yards a catch in a season 8 times, leading the league twice (1977, 1978).
Walker caught 438 passes despite being legally blind in his left eye. During the 1982 NFL Playoffs in just two games, he caught 15 passes for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He gave a really insightful interview to Long Island Pulse back in 2016 which I encourage you to read in its entirety.
Pulse: What has been your most severe physical problem from playing football?
Walker: I just had last April a major back fusion. I had two rods and ten screws put in. I’ve had problems with my back since ’86. There was a point where I couldn’t even bend over to touch my toes. I don’t know how I got through training camp my last year in ’89. I was taking Vicodin—it’s a big mistake taking any kind of painkillers or getting shot up for a game, which I did with my shoulder, just to play. And I continued to play. I remember I had [radiating pain] down my leg and my doctor thought it was a hamstring problem. And I didn’t know I had all this spinal stenosis in my back. The major thing that led to my retirement was I had a stenosis growing in my [spinal] canal and I would go paralyzed after getting hit sometimes.
1. Don Maynard
Some number ones are hard to choose, but this isn’t one of them. Not only was he a big reason the Jets made the Super Bowl, but he was also a big reason they won it, despite playing on one leg and acting as a decoy for the majority of the game.
The first-ever player to sign with the upstart New York Titans after being cut free from the Giants and having worked as a plumber and teacher to make ends meet.
Maynard still leads the Jets in yards with 11,732, receptions with 627 and touchdowns with 88. It’s actually not even close. No other Jets receiver has over 8500 yards, 75 touchdowns or 600 catches.
The Texas boy who took the Big Apple by storm, a favourite target of Joe Namath who was lightning quick, as physical as they come and as skilled as any receiver who’s ever played the game.
Maynard often butted heads with Weeb Ewbank towards the end of his Jets career, but most players did, Maynard often felt he was being short changes and he was absolutely right. He was unceremoniously traded to the Cardinals in 1973 and many Jets fans never really forgave Weeb for that.
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