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Jets' Eric Decker is OK with not being No. 1 receiver

New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker practices

New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker practices during the second day of training camp at the team's practice facility in Florham Park, N.J. on Friday, July 31, 2015. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Eric Decker believes he's a "great" receiver.

But even he realizes that Brandon Marshall is more talented.

Decker, the former Denver Bronco who signed a five-year, $36.25-million deal with the Jets last offseason, has no problem admitting it. Nor is he upset that he no longer is "the man" in the Jets' receiving corps.

In Denver, there was Demaryius Thomas, his best friend and big-time playmaker. Decker now finds himself playing opposite Marshall.

"Guys like a Brandon Marshall, guys like a Demaryius Thomas, they're rare in the league," Decker said in a one-on-one interview after Monday's practice. "So it's an honor to play with a Brandon Marshall. The guy's been to [five] Pro Bowls. He's an elite receiver.

"I feel like I'm a great receiver. But when you get a receiver of that caliber, it's obvious that he is The Guy.''

In 2012 and 2013 with Denver, Decker caught a total of 172 passes for 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns. But he was just one of several Broncos putting up big numbers. Their 2013 team became the first in NFL history to have five players score at least 10 touchdowns.

In 2014, his first season with the Jets, Decker caught 74 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns. But when the Jets traded for the 6-4, 230-pound Marshall in March, Decker realized he wouldn't be the focal point.

"Oh yeah, I did. For sure," Decker said. "It's not like I'm not used to it," he added, referring to his friendly rivalry with Thomas. "As long as you're winning, it's fine. Would I love to have 100 catches, 1,000-plus yards and 10 touchdowns every year? Yeah, of course. But realistically, sometimes, that's not what makes you the best football player."

Decker said he's being asked to block more than in the past, but he's happy to do so if "that's going to spring more runs."

"I'm not expecting to get max touches every game but I'm still going to get my chances," he said. "So will Devin [Smith] when he's back, Chris [Owusu], Quincy [Enunwa]."

Unlike Marshall, Decker (6-3, 214) isn't a burner, nor does he play particularly big. But he's a precise route runner who fights for the ball. He's also versatile. That's why he's amenable to playing anywhere coordinator Chan Gailey likes -- even if it means sliding to the slot position in the not-so-distant future.

Before Smith (ribs) went down with an injury in practice July 31, the coaches had been using him on the outside, with Marshall at his customary "X" spot and Decker in the slot. But with the rookie speedster sidelined four to six weeks, Decker is back outside primarily.

"I guess we'll see when he gets back," Decker said of their deployment. "I don't know, but I think they wanna work [Smith] outside because he's got effective speed."

Asked where he feels most dangerous on the field, Decker smiled.

"Obviously, my game is route running and just working zones and holes in certain coverages. So maybe inside, I guess, in that case," he said. "I'm fine, honestly, being inside because they're still going to game-plan to get you open."

L.I.'s Johnson signed: The Jets signed linebacker and Bellport product Bryan Johnson and waived tight end Steve Maneri.


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