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Rex to Kerley: "Step it up"

Jeremy Kerley of the Jets flips over Antrel

Jeremy Kerley of the Jets flips over Antrel Rolle in the second quarter. (Dec. 24, 2011) (Credit: David Pokress)

CORTLAND -- A few days before the draft, Jeremy Kerley voiced his desire to be the Jets’ No. 2 receiver behind Santonio Holmes.

Well, it turns out the wideout could end up losing his slot receiver spot if he doesn’t improve.

Rex Ryan – a coach well-known for pumping up his players, even when they don’t deserve it – sent a clear message to Kerley through the media Saturday afternoon.

“Jeremy needs to step it up. Cause quite honestly, I was a little disappointed in Jeremy in the offseason,” Ryan said. “He’s got to pick up this new system. You’ve got to put the time in it.”

As today’s open practice began, Kerley was near one of the end zones, stretching out alongside tackle Jeff Otah, guard Terrence Campbell and safety LaRon Landry. The slot receiver wasn’t wearing a uniform and didn’t come close to any of the action.

Ryan confirmed Kerley’s got “a little bit of a hamstring” issue – the same injury that hobbled the former TCU wide receiver during minicamp. The Jets’ trainers don’t think it’s a serious injury, but Ryan said Kerley likely will miss a week of practice.

The coach said physical effort has never been an issue for the wideout. But he’s anxious to see his focus return.

“Jeremy’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “Last year, I remember (general manager) Mike (Tannenbaum) challenged him to catch 250 balls a day. He does. And he’ll go back and catch 100 punts. …We’ve got to make sure we dial in and make sure the mental part of it’s there.”

“And it’s unfortunate. He had a setback. We’ve got to be careful with it. We don’t need this to be a reoccurring thing.”

Asked who would be Kerley's replacement in the slot, the coach replied: "Well, Santonio clearly can be a slot receiver. You can put Tone anywhere. He can do it. And we've got guys pushing for those things. If that was the case you could put Chaz (Schilens) outside, you could put Patrick Turner outside. So there's different things.

"But clearly, you want Jeremy to be that guy. He did a good job for us last year as a slot receiver. He's got the makeup of a good slot receiver: a guy who's tough, a guy that can catch the football and obviously has unusual change of direction."

As the April draft approached, Kerley had a feeling the Jets would target another deep threat opposite Holmes. But in his heart, he believed he could be that complement. “I hope I get it,” Kerley said of the No. 2 spot left open by Plaxico Burress’ departure. “Who wouldn’t want to be the No. 2 receiver? But No. 3’s all right, too. No. 3 catches the ball just as much.”

Tags: jets , jeremy kerley , rex ryan

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