FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jeremy Kerley has a message for all the haters.
The Jets' offense has taken a backseat to Rex Ryan's defense for some time. But this year, Kerley predicts his receiving corps will break out in a big way.
"I really just go off what the critics say," the slot receiver told Newsday after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice. "Statistically last year, it wasn't as good as we would want it to be. So when I say people are sleeping on us, it's more so to say: Watch what we put out this year. Watch what we do this year."
Last week, Kerley posted an Instagram photo of himself standing next to wideout Stephen Hill and rookies Jalen Saunders and Michael Campbell on the practice field. A portion of the caption read: "The public views us as losers..."
But that's about to change, according to Kerley.
This offseason, the Jets made it their mission to plug some of their offensive holes. They signed former Broncos receiver Eric Decker to a five-year deal, as well as veteran quarterback Michael Vick, former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson and speedster Jacoby Ford. General manager John Idzik also drafted tight end Jace Amaro in the second round, plus Saunders, Shaq Evans and fellow wideout Quincy Enunwa. David Nelson, Greg Salas and Clyde Gates round out the receiving corps.
But while the unit looks better on paper than it did last year, it's far too early to predict how these moves will pan out.
Last season, the Jets finished 25th in total offense and 31st in passing yards. Kerley, who emerged as Geno Smith's most trusted receiver in the absence of the injured Hill and Santonio Holmes, led the team in receptions (43) and finished with 523 receiving yards and three touchdowns despite missing four games because of injury.
So why should fans and football pundits believe the Jets' receiving corps will put up big numbers in 2014?
"You shouldn't. I hope you don't," Kerley said, flashing a mischievous grin. "'Cause when it happens, it's just going to be that much better. I hope nobody believes us."
And though it seems plenty of Jets fans have written off Hill, Kerley is confident the third-year receiver can be a potent weapon for coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
"I'm like his biggest fan," he said of Hill, the 43rd overall pick in 2012. "Steve is everything in a wide receiver, that I look at, to be the staple of an offense.
"Everybody has opportunities. And some people make the most of them, some people let them slip. But when he gets his second, third, whatever chance it is, I think Steve will do something nice. It'll happen. Like I said, I'm his biggest fan. I like Stephen, I love Stephen. I love his game, I love what he does, he's a good player. He puts it on film every day."
But while the speedy wideout has shown flashes, Hill has ended each of the past two seasons on injured reserve. In all, he's missed nine games since 2012 and has recorded just 594 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 45 catches.
"They didn't go as I planned, of course," Hill said Tuesday about his first two NFL seasons. "I planned to be doing more than what I did. . . . [There was] a learning curve these last few years. I definitely should be able to break that and get on to things."
He also insisted that he's not fazed by his detractors. But Kerley isn't so sure.
"I think his biggest issue is listening to the critics," he said. "Critics just criticize. They talk. I hope [it doesn't bother Hill]. Anybody can drop a pass, it just happens. Maybe Steve's [drops] are just at the wrong time. But it happens, it doesn't matter. As receivers and as players, we've got to learn how to wash stuff out of our head. I think he just has to develop that skill to just let stuff go and go out and make the next play. So once he gets that, he'll be alright."