Karl Dorrell knows what’s coming next.
Every so often on the practice field, the Jets’ receivers coach will receive a reminder from Eric Decker — a playful nudge that signals that he feels somewhat forgotten.
Decker, the No. 1 option in the Jets’ passing game two years ago, is as crisp a route-runner as you’ll find in the NFL. He “can get deep” and on occasion “sneak by you,” Dorrell pointed out. But through a combination of Chan Gailey’s offensive play-calling and the arrival of the freakishly talented Brandon Marshall last season, Decker largely served as the team’s slot receiver. The role was one he happily accepted and he finished the season with 80 catches, 12 touchdowns and 1,027 yards.
But this year, Decker is angling to go vertical a lot more. And, according to Dorrell, the coaching staff expects him to “surprise a lot of people.”
Decker recently talked about how he hopes to see his role expand and why Ryan Fitzpatrick’s arm looks different from last year.
Newsday: Why’d you feel the need to remind Dorrell that you’re capable of going downfield too?
Decker: “I was in the slot last year and I just don’t think I ran a lot of deep patterns last year, something I did in Denver. And I just want to be able to complement my game by running deep patterns, intermediate patterns, short patterns. Defenses, they study and there are smart defensive backs. They know, ‘This is the tendency this guy runs. This is what he does.’ So it opens up my game by being able to go downfield and open that can of worms up.”
Newsday: Have you been itching to show off that part of your game?
Decker: “You get certain opportunities and certain looks. And I feel like there are times playing more outside where — maybe a post route or go route — just mixing it up. Because sometimes defenses expect a curl route or a shorter route. So to be able to push them, it just opens up that much more room to run routes intermediately.
“It’s just that I didn’t do that a lot last year and it’d be nice to add that to my game this year.”
Newsday: Think we’ll get to see more of that this year?
Decker: “Every game plan is different. But I think they’re on board and the biggest thing is just the connection with Fitz; being able to run it, be comfortable with it, hit a few where the coaches see, ‘OK, this is something that we can put in.’ Because they formulate a game plan with X amount of ‘shots,’ we call them, downfield. ‘This is how we’re going to move the ball, these are the situations,’ whatever. So I want to have a couple plays where they get dialed up.”
Newsday: Fitzpatrick threw quite a few deep balls to you and Brandon in training camp. Does Fitz have a better arm than people think? Or does he just know how to get the job done with the arm strength he has?
Decker: “I think it’s gotten stronger, honestly. He’s been throwing it further than I’ve seen him throw . . . I just think of Peyton Manning. People questioned his arm strength and how far he could throw, but the guy broke records four years ago. If you can throw it 50, 55, 60 yards, sometimes you don’t need to throw 70 yards. You can throw a go-ball at 30, 40 yards. So he’s capable of doing that. It’s just fitting it in the system. That’s the thing. Chan’s offense, he’s got it formulated a certain way. It’s just being able to dial up some of those plays when the time’s right, when the opportunity’s right.”
Newsday: Dorrell also said you tend to “sneak up” on opponents. Do you take that as a compliment? Or a sign that opponents are paying more attention to Brandon?
Decker: “That’s kind of always been my MO. I think it’s a compliment just because sometimes people, probably, have an assumption, they perceive you in a certain way. Like, this guy works hard, runs good routes. I mean, I actually do that. That’s what it is. But to be able to deceptively run routes or get behind people, it’s a compliment that he sees it and that he thinks it can be a tool in my game.”