FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
It’s almost as if the John Idzik era never existed.
The ill-fated two-year run of the Jets’ former general manager ended after a 4-12 debacle in 2014, and the subsequent roster deconstruction by the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles regime has undone nearly all of Idzik’s work. Especially when it comes to the draft.
The latest evidence: This past week, the Jets dealt 2014 first-round safety Calvin Pryor to the Browns in exchange for linebacker Demario Davis, a Jets third-round pick in 2012 who returns to provide depth behind veteran David Harris and 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee.
Pryor was an obvious casualty once the Jets selected safety Jamal Adams in the first round and safety Marcus Maye in the second; it was only a matter of how the Jets would get rid of Pryor. The hard-hitting safety once was hailed as a cornerstone player, but his lack of range in pass coverage and struggles with assignments in Bowles’ system proved his undoing.
Of Idzik’s 19 draft picks in 2013-14, only five remain and only three are starters — a stunningly weak harvest that helps explain how far the Jets need to go as they to rebuild a roster bereft of talent at so many positions. Sheldon Richardson is one of those players, and he’s on the team only because the Jets couldn’t find a trading partner for the former first-round defensive tackle.
Perhaps the most unlikely survivor of the purge, and a player who figures to be a major part of the reconstruction project, is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa.
The Jets will look to Enunwa, a sixth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2014, as perhaps the most important member of the receiving corps. They have parted ways with Brandon Marshall and Jeremy Kerley in the last two seasons, leaving Eric Decker as the most experienced wideout. But with Decker coming off shoulder and hip surgeries last year, Enunwa figures to shoulder the biggest burden in the receiving game.
So if Idzik’s tenure will be known more for failed draft picks such as cornerback Dee Milliner, quarterback Geno Smith, tight end Jace Amaro and now Pryor, at least he left them with Enunwa, who hopes to become a breakout receiver after showing more than a few flashes of big-time potential last season.
He believes he is ready to handle the responsibility and understands he’ll need to be even better than last year to become a truly reliable part of the passing game.
“The consistency, that’s what I want,” said Enunwa, 25. “I want to be consistent, because that’s what the best guys are. They consistently do the best things, and that’s what I want to be able to do.”
Several moments last year made you believe the 6-2, 225-pound Enunwa at least has the physical ability to become a big-time playmaker. He had his first 100-yard receiving game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots. There was a 69-yard touchdown catch in an early-season win over the Ravens, and a 51-yarder in the regular-season finale against the Bills.
But there also were too many dropped passes, some of them in key situations. And if there is a number he has to improve upon, it’s his targets-to-receptions ratio. He was targeted 105 times but had only 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Receivers aren’t solely responsible for how many catches they end up with compared to the number of times they’re targeted; quarterback accuracy is a big variable. But to make the kind of jump he envisions, Enunwa believes he needs to become a more reliable receiver.
“My mentality is that I want to build on what I’ve done,” he said. “Every year, that’s me. I know what I can do. I know what I put out in practice. When I’m able to put certain things in the game, people know what I’m capable of.”
Enunwa doesn’t know which quarterback will be throwing passes to him, given that Bowles likely won’t decide until late in the preseason whether Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty will be the starter. But for Enunwa, it’s a moot point who gets the nod. It’s his job to make the passing game work regardless of who’s doing the passing.
“The key is working hard at what I’m doing,” he said. “Running my routes, studying, being prepared, knowing the offense. I want to keep building on that and keep showing that I can do this every game.”
Unfortunately for the Jets, Idzik didn’t leave behind more players with the kind of potential Enunwa has. With Richardson likely gone by next season — and perhaps earlier if the Jets can find a suitor before the trade deadline — only Enunwa and reliable guard Brian Winters will have passed muster as starters in the Bowles-Maccagnan era.
The Jets will need plenty more solutions, especially now that another high-round Idzik pick has been shipped out of town. With Pryor gone and Richardson likely to be next, Enunwa is almost the last man standing.