NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Quincy Enunwa has taken the patient route back to the NFL.
Ahead of schedule as he works his way back from a neck injury that kept him out all of last season, Enunwa is inching closer to resuming his role as one of the Jets’ featured wide receivers. He’s been visible at the team’s organized team activities this spring, running routes and doing other non-contact work.
“I’m excited. It’s competition and every position needs that because it pushes you and makes you become a better player,” Enunwa said earlier this week. “I’m looking forward to seeing who all comes out on top. I’m going to push and I think everyone else will push, too.”
Selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Nebraska, it took a while for Enunwa to emerge as a playmaker in the NFL. In 2016, he started showing flashes of serious potential, finishing with 58 receptions, 857 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games, including 13 starts.
But little did anyone know he was hurting the entire time.
Speaking to the Daily News this week, Enunwa revealed that he injured his neck late in the 2015 season and his condition only got worse the following season. Things came to a head during an intrasquad scrimmage last August when he fell to the ground without being touched. The disc issue in his neck was not going to get better without surgery.
Enunwa explained that he did very little rehabilitation after going under the knife. He was told he simply needed to rest and that’s what he did. Now, he says he’s nearly ready to help the Jets get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“I want to be a difference maker,” Enunwa told the newspaper.
It’s hard to say at this point where he fits on the depth chart. The Jets currently have 13 receivers on the roster, including veterans Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor. Anderson, who is entering his third season, led the Jets with 941 yards and seven touchdowns. Kearse had a team-high 65 receptions and is the type of veteran leader New York had been missing for a long time. Pryor is a freak of an athlete who is looking to turn his career around following a disastrous season in Washington in 2017.
If fully healthy, Enunwa could be the Jets’ No. 1 wideout, which seems to be his goal.
“I think I can do a lot of things,” Enunwa said. “For one, what I can do with the ball in my hand (with yards after the catch). I’m different from a lot of guys. I’m a big guy, but I can move well with the ball in my hands. I think that will give us an opportunity to do some things. I’m just excited to do whatever they want me to do. Whatever role they want me to play, I want to go out there and do it.”
A strong showing in 2018 will likely be necessary if Enunwa wants to secure his financial future. He signed a one-year, $2.91 million contract after last season. Big things are expected of the Jets’ offense in the first year under offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. New York is stronger at quarterback than it has been in years, with veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater likely to vie for the starting job while presumed franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft, bides his time and learns the NFL ropes.
“You got to think about it: I had 857 yards with Brandon Marshall on the other side,” Enunwa said of his 2016 season. “On top of that, I never got the chance to be the opposite (outside) receiver. Most of the time, they put Robby in and I got 857 yards. So, imagine if I was a No. 2. Imagine if I was the No. 1. That’s a 1,000 right there. And I’m doing all types of other stuff like blocking… So that gave me a whole lot of confidence. Put me at receiver and I know what I can do. You just got to give me an opportunity.”
But before he gets to camp and attempts to show the Jets’ coaching staff and front office that he can be an impact player, Enunwa said he plans to show a bit more of the patience that has regimented his life for the last eight months.
“We’re going to be smart,” Enunwa said. “There’s no reason to go out there and stress it and do more than what I need to do. The real work comes in camp. So, we’ll keep it going. Eventually I’ll be out there with my helmet.”