Eric Decker spent some time on the Jets practice fields back in January, when the Broncos used the Jets’ training center to practice for the Super Bowl.
Now, he’s out there as a Jet, and beside the change of uniform, there is one more obvious difference — Peyton Manning is no longer throwing him the football.
Decker, the Jets’ big free-agent acquisition this offseason, has to adjust to life with Geno Smith and Michael Vick throwing him the ball instead of Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.
“There’s only so many greats that do play the game. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We all know that,” Decker said of Manning. “My opportunity to play with him was tremendous. I took so much away from having that experience.
“I see a lot of talent in this quarterback room. I’m excited about growing with them. I still feel like I’ve got a lot of football to play.”
The Jets hope so. They gave him a five-year, $36.25 million contract in March, hoping he will be the go-to receiver this team has been searching for. Decker had 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, his second season posting huge numbers. That also happens to be how long he had Manning as his quarterback.
When the Jets evaluated Decker, they weighed the Peyton factor into the decision. How much was he a product of Manning? The Jets came away convinced Decker’s numbers might be slightly inflated, but they were getting a top receiver.
“Clearly, he’s going to be a go-to guy,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “This is going to be a guy that you can get him the ball in critical situations. You can get him the ball in the red zone. I think you can see that. Obviously, the numbers everybody can say are skewed a little bit. You had Peyton Manning. That might be true, but I do think he had eight touchdowns when [Tim] Tebow was the quarterback [in 2011]. I think that’s pretty impressive.”
Decker actually only caught four touchdowns from Tebow. The other four that season were from Kyle Orton.
Playing without Manning is not the only adjustment for Decker. The 27-year-old also must get used to being the No. 1 receiver after being a complementary piece in Denver.
“I don’t see [it as] ‘I’m No. 1, he’s No. 2, he’s No. 3,’ ” Decker said. “All of us have to be on the field to make plays. It takes all 11 guys to have a successful offense I came here knowing I could help out in different facets whether it’s on the field or off the field. I’m just excited about this opportunity. This is honestly the best I’ve felt any offseason coming in. I’ve been telling people I feel like a rookie all over again, which is nice because I’ve got to prove myself.”
Edited by F.Chowds, 29 May 2014 - 07:15 AM.