Palladino: Enunwa’s Injury Could Push Jets Closer To No. 1 Pick

Receiver Is Team's Best Offensive Player, So Without Him An Already Sad Looking Season Could Get A Lot Worse

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The Jets didn’t need Quincy Enunwa’s face-plant Saturday to drive home the thinned nature of their receiving corps.

They went into training camp like that, which is odd only in that the front office and coach claim they’re not pop-gunning for the top overall draft pick come April.

MOREQuincy Enunwa: ‘Hard To Argue’ Jets Aren’t Tanking

It sure looks otherwise, though. And if Enunwa’s neck injury — a non-contact job incurred when he left his feet for a Christian Hackenberg pass during seven-on-seven drills in Saturday night’s Green and White scrimmage — is serious, it will leave Todd Bowles with exactly zippo downfield firepower.

Enunwa, you see, is the nominal star of the current corps now that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are gone. While his 58 catches, 857 yards and four touchdowns from last year don’t exactly qualify as star stats, he clearly stood at the top of what remained after the offseason roster clearing.

So the Jets had better hope that this boo-boo is only a temporary setback.

quincy Palladino: Enunwa’s Injury Could Push Jets Closer To No. 1 Pick

Quincy Enunwa of the New York Jets, left, runs from Jalil Brown of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For one thing, Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan can wish all they want about fortifying the corps through the waiver wire. But, in a pass-first league, it’s unlikely any team is going to slice talent better than the Robby Andersons and Marquess Wilsons that populate Gang Green’s depth chart right now.

For another, they still have to figure out who’s going to throw whoever is out there the ball. With Bryce Petty taking a minimum of snaps in practice, the competition seems to have whittled down to Hackenberg and journeyman Josh McCown. Neither presents a particularly satisfying option.

Still, Bowles will have to pick one. The best move might be to give McCown the ball for the first month, see how it goes, and then switch over to Hackenberg once the season points itself toward Antarctica. Sort of a poor man’s Kurt Warner/Eli Manning arrangement in 2004 minus any hope of two Super Bowl trophies and a potential Hall of Fame career.

To be fair, it’s hard to think either McCown or Hackenberg could do much in the air game without Enunwa. Anderson can get downfield all right, but he caught only a little more than half the passes thrown to him in a 42-reception, 587-yard, two-touchdown season.

The 24-year-old Wilson, who spent four seasons with the Bears, didn’t start more than the six games in 2014 and 2015. He only played three games last year, with nine catches for 160 yards and a touchdown.

Not the kind of stats that cause one to tingle with anticipation.

Basically, the Jets have a bunch of guys. Enunwa stands as the only potential star. And if this injury lingers like the shoulder and neck problems that cost him all three days of the June minicamp, any hope of effective offense will disappear.

It was a good sign that the receiver walked off the field after the trainers worked him over for several minutes.

Bowles had better hope his top receiver gets back soon, and that this doesn’t become something that lingers. Otherwise, the young corps will proceed leaderless, with little hope of pulling in one from the outside.

If that becomes the case, then the Jets will truly have taken another significant step toward landing that No. 1 overall draft pick.

Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

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