FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Quincy Enunwa was on the receiving end of some hard hits Monday night in Detroit, but he also delivered some.
The Jets wide receiver was sore the next day, but he didn’t mind. He missed that feeling while sitting out all of last season after neck surgery.
“I definitely missed it and it felt good to go back out there,” Enunwa said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m excited to keep going on through the year. It’s just Game One. I’m hoping to go out there, play some more, take some more hits, give some more hits. Just do everything that’s involved in playing the game.”
Enunwa and his first regular-season game in 20 months essentially was a footnote in the Jets’ 31-point victory over the Lions. Sam Darnold’s debut, the defense totaling five interceptions and the special teams garnered most of the attention.
But Enunwa’s presence and performance were significant.
He was their leading receiver with six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Enunwa made a terrific grab on a low throw by Darnold, snagging it before he or the ball hit the ground on a critical third down on a scoring drive.
Enunwa enjoyed a happy return. He wasn’t satisfied, though. He wants more and knows he can do better. He's looking forward to another opportunity Sunday when the Jets play their home opener against the division rival Miami Dolphins.
“I was excited, but I felt like I could have done a lot more,” Enunwa said. “This week I’m hoping to increase on that, get better. I’m always happy about what I’ve done, especially when you come off a win. At the same time, I always want to get better.”
Enunwa was developing into a reliable receiver and target for the Jets two seasons ago before getting hurt. He caught 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.
After Enunwa had surgery, the Jets acquired Jermaine Kearse from Seattle for Sheldon Richardson. Robby Anderson led the Jets in receiving yards and touchdowns and Kearse topped the team in catches last year.
The three could be all together for the first time this week as Kearse is trending toward playing after missing the opener. This will only give Darnold and the Jets more options and weapons.
But one of the most impressive things to come out of Monday’s game was how quickly Enunwa and Darnold seem to have built some chemistry.
Enunwa missed a part of training camp and the preseason with a thumb injury. But they got reps together toward the end of camp and in the week leading up to the first game, and they looked to be in sync.
“Q is a great dude, so it's easy to develop a rapport in that way,” Darnold said. “With how smooth he is route running, he’s smooth but he is also physical. He is very sudden, a very quick dude. It's awesome to be able to throw to him.
“The routes that he runs are very crisp, but very violent at the same time. It's cool to be able to throw to him and just see how much separation he creates for himself. It's fun when you're throwing to receivers like that.”
Enunwa says he’s just doing his job.
“I just try to make sure I’m doing what I need to do, even when I know the ball’s not coming to me,” he said. “Those are always going to show up on film. When I can do what I’m supposed to do he’s going to see that and he can know that even when his number one is not open he can come back to me.”
The Jets are excited to have Enunwa back. Coach Todd Bowles said Enunwa “worked his tail off” to get back on the field. Now he can’t wait for Sunday.
“That will be exciting,” Enunwa said. “My family is coming to that, too. I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
He probably won’t mind if he’s a little sore the next day, either.