FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The wish list for the New York Jets’ offense was simple, yet ambitious.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s group finished 25th overall last season, including second-to-last in passing yards. So, playmakers — real difference makers — were needed, and general manager John Idzik went shopping during the offseason.
— No. 1-type wide receiver. Check: Eric Decker.
— Speedy, electrifying running back. Check: Chris Johnson.
— Exciting young tight end capable of creating mismatches. Check: Jace Amaro.
Now, all three are ready to make their regular-season debuts for the Jets on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
“Going into this week, we sure are asking a lot of new players,” Mornhinweg said Thursday. “That’s a challenge there for those players. We are also asking a lot of new players, young players and quite possibly even a couple of rookies. Our preparation is so important there.”
“It’s a great challenge, an exciting challenge every year,” he said.
Heading into his second season as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, Mornhinweg has a lot more to work with this year. While Idzik has been criticized by some for not better addressing the defense, specifically the cornerbacks, he added some spice on offense.
“I feel better about our receiving corps right now than at any time last year,” coach Rex Ryan said. “I think, obviously, that’s easy to say. We added Eric Decker. That’s a big get.”
Sure is, even if some argue that he’s not a true No. 1 wide receiver, say, in the mold of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall or Dez Bryant. Decker had two huge years in Denver with Peyton Manning throwing him passes, so expectations might need to be tempered a bit from those 85-catch, 1,000-yard seasons.
Still, Decker is this for quarterback Geno Smith: a guy he’ll be able to look for — and trust — down the field. Every game. Every play.
“That’s my main objective: Get the ball into the hands of the right guy,” Smith said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that can go the distance and can do some great things. So, my job is to get them the ball and see what they can do.”
Decker and Jeremy Kerley are the most experienced of the Jets’ wide receivers, a group that includes veteran David Nelson, Greg Salas, Saalim Hakim and rookies Jalen Saunders and Walt Powell.
“I think our relationship with Geno as a whole has been good,” Decker said. “We’ve been clicking. We’ve been progressing and getting better. I’m excited, really, to have an opportunity now to play some other teams and let that work speak for itself.”
Johnson is coming off a subpar season in Tennessee during which he ran for 1,077 yards, averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry. Most of that was done while playing on a balky knee that required offseason surgery.
He’s feeling good these days, looking as fast and elusive as ever. Maybe he won’t be the guy who ran for 2,006 yards in 2009, but he’ll give Smith a safety valve out of the backfield as a receiver, as well as a back who can break a long run on any handoff. And, he’s still confident he can make game-changing plays.
“Of course,” he said. “I have been my whole career. I’ve never stopped.”
Johnson will team with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell to form perhaps the NFL’s most dangerous trio of running backs. Johnson’s speed combined with Ivory’s physical style and Powell’s versatility will keep Mornhinweg busy getting them all on the field.
“All of them will help us throughout the year,” he said, “with that old-school mentality of, ‘We don’t care how we get it done, who scores, who gets the credit,’ all those things. And then, those type of things work.”
Amaro was a second-round pick out of Texas Tech, where he was more of a receiver than a tight end. Because he needed to improve his blocking skills on the line while learning the Jets’ offense, it took a while for Amaro to feel comfortable.
There were drops, lapses in concentration and concerns by some whether he’d be a good fit. Not anymore. Since starting the second preseason game against Cincinnati, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Amaro has improved dramatically — someone Smith might be able to count on across the middle who causes nightmares for linebackers trying to keep up.
“I think it was more a confidence thing,” Amaro said. “Overall, I’m feeling comfortable with the system, and I can’t really remember the last practice or anything that I had trouble with a couple of drops or anything like that. I feel really smooth out there. I feel good.”
So do the Jets, when it comes to their offense. The three new playmakers could help them become an even more-explosive and consistent offense. Just as they ordered up in the offseason.
“Those big plays come naturally,” Mornhinweg said. “It’s just our philosophy. We don’t rely on the big plays — but we expect them.”
NOTES: Rex Ryan is calling for all fans to wear white to the game. “Anything that gets our fans truly involved and engaged in the game, it’s truly a blessing,” linebacker Quinton Coples said, according to the Jets’ official website. “So I’m looking forward to it. I think the fans are going to be pumped, full of energy, and we’re going to go out and they’ll give us the edge.”
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