Jets put new slant on expectations for receivers: 'The sky is the limit'

New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) during NFL football training camp in Cortland, N.Y., Sunday, July 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Hans Pennink / Hans Pennink

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CORTLAND, N.Y. - Last season, the Jets receivers were considered the weakest link in a weak offense. This year, coach Rex Ryan said that "top to bottom" they could be the best receiving corps he's had since he's been here.

So what happened?

Beyond adding free agent Eric Decker -- which, granted, is a huge add -- nothing.

The Jets are hoping that with Decker at the No. 1 spot, either Stephen Hill or David Nelson can grab the No. 2 job, and Jeremy Kerley can stay healthy for an entire season in the slot. Mix in rookie Jace Amaro, the pass-catching tight end drafted in the second round, and they could have a respectable passing attack.

"The sky is the limit," wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. "We don't look back at last year and what could be. Each guy is looking to improve as much as he can improve."

The Jets have 12 receivers in camp and you probably can expect seven to make the team. Lal calls it an eclectic group, saying that each receiver brings something unique to the table. Here's Lal's breakdown of their strengths:

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Eric Decker: "Lead dog. Smart, savvy, great feel for the game. He's everything we thought."

Jeremy Kerley: "Short-area quickness. Great third-down receiver."

David Nelson: "Contested ball catcher."

Stephen Hill: "Becoming a contested ball catcher and he has the vertical speed."

Jacoby Ford: "Explosive and fast."

Jalen Saunders: "Similar [to Kerley], fast and quick."

Shaq Evans: "Very smart."

Clyde Gates: "Smooth and fast."

Greg Salas: "Good hands. Detailed route runner. If you want a 70-degree angle out of the break, it's going to be 70 degrees."

Saalim Hakim: "Extremely fast, extremely strong."

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Michael Campbell: "Aggressive. Nasty."

Quincy Enunwa: "Has been hurt, but he's a physical specimen. Once healthy and in pads, will be a physical force."

Lal would not handicap the race to make the top seven spots. Decker, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Ford, Saunders and Evans generally seem to be the leaders, though Gates is making a strong bid to get in the mix. Lal singled out Salas as someone who has been a big surprise at camp.

No matter who makes the team, it would be tough for the Jets receivers to be less productive than they were last season, when the Jets ranked second-to-last in the NFL in passing yards (183.2 per game). Kerley, who led the Jets with 43 receptions and 523 yards, says the unit has high goals.

"We definitely want to be a strength of the team," Kerley said. "That's how we look at ourselves. We want to be the best receiving corps in the NFL."

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