New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder activated from COVID-19 list

The New York Jets’ most potent offensive weapon from the last two seasons will be available for the team’s home opener against New England.

The New York Jets announced the activation of receiver Jamison Crowder from the COVID-19 list on Thursday. Crowder will be available to partake in the Jets’ Week 2 contest, their home opener against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Former of Washington, Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets. In that span, he has developed into one of the league’s most reliable slot receivers. He has been the team’s most consistent offensive producer over the last two seasons, earning 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, 12 of which went for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for a team-high over the last two seasons.

Crowder inked a three-year, $28.5 million deal in March 2019. He restructured his deal over this offseason, one centered around a $4.5 million guaranteed salary. The Duke alum was on the reserve list after testing positive on September 3.

The Jets (0-1) were without two of their top receivers during their season opener on Sunday, a 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Keelan Cole, who was acquired from Jacksonville over the most recent offseason, missed the contest with a knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. Zach Wilson threw for 258 yards in Sunday’s defeat, while Corey Davis paced the team with 97 yards on seven receptions. Braxton Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards) took over Crowder’s duties in the slot.

“Those guys do things the right way,” Saleh said of Cole and Crowder, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “They’re where they’re supposed to be. They’re all gas 100% of the time. They’re reliable. For a quarterback, you can’t ask for much more than that. To have two more options on the field for the quarterback is priceless.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets continue to deal with the curious case of Denzel Mims

Mims, the New York Jets’ second-round pick from the 2020 draft, played only three snaps in Sunday’s loss in Charlotte.

The best thing you can say about Denzel Mims’ sophomore season opener is that he made the most of his limited opportunities.

Conversation around Mims has reopened after the New York Jets’ 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 action. Mims partook in only three snaps of the defeat, but featured heavily in one of the game’s most impactful plays: with three minutes remaining in the final frame, Mims’ 40-yard reception situated the Jets at Carolina’s 10-year-line. Corey Davis put in six points on a eight-yard pass from Zach Wilson to create what became the final margin.

Making the most out of limited opportunities has defined Mims’ infantile NFL career: the second-round pick from the 2020 draft tallied 357 yards over the final eleven weeks of last season, 10th amongst rookie receivers in that span. Hamstring woes ate away at his training camp and sidelined him for the first six weekends. Mims’ drafting was part of the Jets’ efforts to find the best of both offensive worlds. They chose blocker Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice, passing on several elite receiving talents. Mims, an aerial energizer out of Baylor, was chosen 59th overall.

Despite Mims appeared to be an odd man out of sorts after the Jets revamped their receiving corps this offseason, a relic of a prior coaching regime after the arrivals of Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keeland Cole. That idea gained further traction through Sunday’s snap counts: Mims’ trio ranked well behind reserves like Braxton Berrios (37) and Jeff Smith (9) on a day where both Cole and Jamison Crowder were each unavailable. Despite his late entry, Mims’ 40 yards earned on the aforementioned reception was third amongst New York receivers behind Davis (5 receptions, 97 yards) and Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards).

(Photo: Getty Images)

Head coach Robert Saleh partly blamed the “sequence of the game” for Mims’ lack of reps, per notes from the Jets. He labeled Davis, Moore, and Berrios as his top three receivers in Carolina. Saleh also said that the Jets’ late offensive pace afforded the comfort to give Mims an offensive opportunity. The Jets’ final drive went 93 yards in 10 plays, doing so in 2:31 as they tried to erase a late two-possession deficit.

“(Mims) has been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said. “If the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

“(Sunday) was more of a timing thing where offense really didn’t get rolling until that fourth quarter, which is where you started seeing him show up on the football field,” Saleh continued. “We had those extended drives, I think we had a 10-play, 93-yard drive where the receivers needed a break, and it gave them that opportunity to step in and get action.”

Saleh also mentioned that Cole and Crowder “both have a shot to come back this week” as the Jets prepare for their home opener against the New England Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their potential reinseration could create an awkward situation for Mims, whose big-play potential and ability to gain yards after the catch made him attractive to a Jets offense in desperate need of big-yardage situations. Sunday opponent Jeremy Chinn and and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the next ten selections.

Finding a place for Mims could be a way for incoming offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to leave an impact on the New York offense. LaFleur previously worked with the receivers in San Francisco and guided names like Kendrick Bourne, Maquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to breakout seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

Should the New York Jets look into WR N’Keal Harry?

n'keal harry, jets, patriots

Would the embattled first-round pick from New England fit into the New York Jets’ receiver evolution? ESM investigates.

Could an enemy of the New York Jets’ greatest enemy become their friend?

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry entered the NFL with a fair amount of hype as a 2019 first-round pick (32nd overall) of the New England Patriots. Fresh off three dominant seasons at Arizona State, the 6-foot-4 Harry was set to pick up where the (temporarily) retired Rob Gronkowski left off, serving as a big downfield target for Tom Brady. Alas, injuries ate away at his rookie season and he struggled to find a role in the post-Brady era.

Through two seasons, Harry has tallied 414 yards on 45 receptions, the latter tally being worst amongst first-round skill players. Those are tough numbers for the final pick of the 2019 first round, chosen before second-round standouts like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.

It appears that Harry is looking to hit the reset button before his third season gets underway. His agent Jamal Tooson released a statement detailing their desires for a trade.

“Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college,” Tooson’s statement, released on Tuesday, reads in part, per ESPN. “Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client.”

With Harry on the block, should the New York Jets inquire? ESM investigates…

The Case For Harry

What Harry could use right now is a stable situation where there’s relatively little to lose.

A change of scenery to such a locale helped fellow first-round receiver Sammy Watkins (Buffalo, 2014) reclaim the narrative on his NFL career. Watkins was in a bit of a different situation, as injuries derailed his career in Orchard Park. After a tough third season marred by injury, Watkins was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams and later caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs. Through those destinations, Watkins rediscovered his spark as a supporting piece on a contender. By the 2019-20 postseason, he was a vital contributor to a Super Bowl run. He recently earned himself a new contract in Baltimore (one-year, $6 million)

Alas for fans of green New York football, their “nothing to lose” situation stems from no one expecting anything out of them as they prepare to write the next chapter of their rebuild anthology. But they provide what Harry appears to be looking for: opportunities and relative peace.

The Jets’ offensive revolution this offseason yielded receiving building blocks of both the rookie (Elijah Moore) and veteran (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) variety. While, on paper, Zach Wilson has a better arsenal to work with than anything granted to Sam Darnold, there is no clear-cut No. 1 receiver in this group yet. Adding Harry, a receiver with something to prove, could intensify an already-firey and potentially high-octane receiver situation in New York.

Additionally, the Jets have some day three draft pieces to work around if they were to inquire about Harry. A deal for the receiver likely wouldn’t cost, say, the 2022 second-rounder gleaned from the Darnold deal with Carolina. The Jets currently own three picks in the next spring’s sixth round, the extra pair stemming from trades of Steve McLendon (from Tampa Bay) and Jordan Willis (San Francisco).

The Case Against Harry

An arsenal of receivers with something to prove sounds delightful in a relative gap year. No one expects the Jets to do much in 2021, but the year can serve as an explosive coming attraction for what’s on the horizon for the Wilson/Robert Saleh era. Davis, Moore, Cole, as well as returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, have a chance to prove their mettle as top targets.

At what point, however, does one have too much of a good, yet uncertain, thing?

The Jets did a solid job of avoiding co-authorship on redemption stories this offseason. Attempting to ghostwrite such a tome was one (of many) reasons the Le’Veon Bell gambit didn’t work out. Sure, they brought in some potential comeback stories…such as former San Francisco rusher Tevin Coleman…but those are ones they can not only afford (Coleman’s deal is a $2 million single season) but can stage with relatively little fanfare.

The Jets have enough things to worry about as they get to work in trying to snap a playoff drought that’s by far the longest in pro football. Adding a rare Bill Belichick washout just adds unwanted attention to what they’re trying to build.

The Verdict

Trades between the Jets and Patriots are rare, but there is precedent…the recently retired Demaryius Thomas began the final stages of his NFL journey through a 2019 deal and the teams swapped picks during the 2020 proceedings. Those picks have thus far netted James Morgan, Cameron Clark, and current rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen.

That alone should probably scare the Jets off in terms of bartering with New England. But even if you’re not superstitious, the Jets’ receiver room is fine as it is. Sure, if Harry emerged as a superstar in New York…succeeding where the almighty Belichick failed…it’d be fun to leave that lingering over the heads of Patriots fans. But, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, the Jets aren’t in any position to make moves out of spite.

If the Jets were in a further position of need when it came to receiver…i.e. the early stage of last season when Braxton Berrios and Jeff Smith were their top targets…it would’ve been understandable for them to rise to the occasion and send a pick or two over before Harry potentially hit the free agent market after final training camp cuts. But, frankly, Harry isn’t the Patriot they should have their eyes on. If anything, the team would be better served to try and land one of the New England backups (preferably Brian Hoyer) to serve as Wilson’s understudy and/or mentor.

Harry should find some takers, but it doesn’t make sense for the Jets to expedite the process right now.

Verdict: Pass

Should the Jets keep an eye on Harry? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets select Elijah Moore with 34th overall pick

New York Jets

With the second overall pick on Friday, the New York Jets chose Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, a consensus All-American.

If the 34th overall pick is the New York Jets’ only selection on Friday, they made the most of it in the form of Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, the 34th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Moore, 21, is coming off an illustrious career in Oxford, earning 2,441 yards on 189 catches (good for fourth in each respective category in school history), scoring 16 touchdowns. He earned consensus All-American honors and first-team All-SEC honors in his senior year.

Moore was welcomed in by former Laveranues Coles, who announced his selection to the crowd gathered in Cleveland. Before revealing his name, Coles called him a “future Pro Bowler”, predicting he would follow in his 2003 footsteps.

Despite playing in only eight games, Moore earned 1,193 yards on 86 receptions in his junior season before opting to join the 2021 draft class. Though his size (5’9) scared some teams off, he earned positive reviews for his separation and route-running.

“He’s not very big, but he’s stronger than his measurables might suggest and he’s shown a fearlessness to make the catch despite impending punishment,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said of the former Rebel, comparing him to Antonio Brown. “Moore has the short-area quickness to snap off crisp routes underneath for separation and the play speed to challenge over the top as well as work the deep middle. He has soft, sure hands and above-average ball skills with a great feel for spatial awareness to hit the sweet spots when working against zone.”

Moore joins a talented and young receiver class that includes incumbents Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder and veteran free agent newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole.

Barring any trades, the Jets’ next pick will come in the fourth round, the second selection, and 108th overall.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: The best point to draft each offensive position

The New York Jets will definitely take a quarterback second overall, but where could they take some other offensive roles? 

The New York Jets know what they have to do when it comes to the NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Questions, however, still linger. Who will they pick? When will they address each position and need?

ESM attempts to answer the latter question, starting with the offensive end…

Quarterback

It’s more or less a foregone conclusion that the Jets are taking a quarterback with the second overall pick, and John Beck has all but confirmed that it’s going to be his pupil and fellow BYU legend Zach Wilson. Whether it’s Wilson or a non-Provo surprise, the Jets have no other choice. The Deshaun Watson sweepstakes are over and their current options are James Morgan and Mike White, they of a combined zero NFL passes. Everything they’ve done this offseason has led to this: it’s quarterback or bust with their highest choice since 1996.

The Jets are in desperate need of a backup, but the draft is definitely not the place to get that, a la the Washington draft in 2012 (Robert Griffin III at No. 2, Kirk Cousins in the fourth round). Besides, they’re already burdened with one unnecessary quarterback, inexplicably draft Morgan in the fourth round before instant contributors like Gabriel Davis and DeeJay Dallas. There’s no need to add another after Wilson.

The Perfect Spot: No. 2 pick

Running Back

No matter who the Jets draft at second overall, his job can be made a whole lot easier if they have a serviceable run game to help him out. They had a trio of young projects (La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams) but enjoyed a sizable veteran upgrade capable of making an impact through the addition of Tevin Coleman. While Coleman is only in town on a one-year deal, the addition allows the Jets to bide their time in finding a long-term solution at running back. Adding another young rusher to the mix sounds fair, but Coleman and a deep rushing class allow the Jets to address other needs with their early picks.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Wide Receiver

The receiver spot was one of the most drastically upgraded areas on the Jets’ roster through free agency. While the Jets might still lack a true No. 1 target, they now have four guys who can realistically fill and compete for that role (newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole join incumbents Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder). Much like Coleman, the free agency haul allows them to be patient, though they could still be inspired to take a receiver after they fulfill their early needs.

The Perfect Spots: Round 3 and beyond

Tight End

The last survivor from their ill-fated fashion show, Chris Herndon is perhaps the most prominent face left over from the Todd Bowles era. Though he has struggled to maintain his rookie year production thanks to a suspension and injuries, last season ended on a promising note (11 receptions, 97 yards, 2 touchdowns over the last couple of games). That might be enough for them to wait a little bit before they add a potential replacement.

Beyond the brief Herndon resurgence, there’s a drastic talent drop in this position class after the highly coveted Kyle Pitts, who will likely be long gone by the time the Jets make their second pick in the 23rd slot. The addition of Tyler Kroft and re-signing of Daniel Brown also ensures that the Jets can wait to add another tight end. It’s not an elite group on the current roster by any stretch, but there’s enough solid personnel here that the Jets can worry about more desperate areas come Thursday and Friday.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Offensive Line

When it comes to their blocking, the Jets should draft early and draft often.

Had the Jets kept Sam Darnold, the second overall pick could’ve well been used on a blocker (i.e. Penei Sewell). While the Jets made some improvements throughout the roster, the blocking went mostly unaddressed as they added only Dan Feeney and Corey Levin, who likely won’t provide the blocking revolution the Jets need when making the transition to a new franchise quarterback. They have the capital to make up for lost time in the draft to put some heat on the incumbent blocking group and give the thrower, Wilson or otherwise, a solid foundation to work with.

Drafting Mekhi Becton and passing on elite receiving talent with the 11th overall pick was last season was a necessary move that paid big dividends. But more work is needed. Any pick used on a blocker after the inevitable quarterback at No. 2 can be a wise investment that continues Joe Douglas’ quest to make amends for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era.

The Perfect Spots: Any pick beyond No. 2

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills star acquisition Stefon Diggs: “I could be a lot better”

Stefon Diggs has reached heights few Buffalo Bills have seen before. Yet, the Orchard Park newcomer is anything but satisfied.

In the history of the Buffalo Bills, 49 men have earned at least 100 receptions. Only two have reached that landmark in a single season. Eric Moulds first set the record in 2002, adding intrigue to an otherwise meaningless season finale against a two-win squad from Cincinnati. It took Stefon Diggs 13 games with a charging buffalo on his helmet to get to triple digits.

Diggs, one of the newest players to enjoy the Western New York experience, has wasted no time in leaving a lasting impression on the Bills’ history books. Moulds may be trending over the next few weeks, if only because Diggs is set to break his single-season franchise marks. The pair are currently tied at the century-mark for the most receptions in franchise history (good enough for Diggs to lead the league entering Week 15), and Diggs will have three weeks to earn the 201 yards necessary to pass Moulds in that department.

It also helps that Diggs has saved his best performances for the Bills’ most crucial contests. When NBC’s football cameras descended upon Orchard Park for the first time since 2007, Diggs earned 130 yards on 10 receptions, one of which went for a score in the Bills’ 26-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Six days prior, he had 10 other receptions in a visit to Glendale, Arizona to battle the displaced San Francisco 49ers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. 

But after the former performance, Diggs said perhaps the scariest thing an NFL defender could hear going into the postseason.

“I could be a lot better so I don’t think too much of it. I’m just trying to chase these wins,” Diggs said after his latest showing against the Steelers, per Cameron Hogwood of Sky Sports. He was keener to give credit to his offensive comrades, namely quarterback Josh Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“I give a lot of credit to the people around me, especially Josh Allen. Young quarterback, he put his faith and his trust in me to make plays with the ball in my hands and catching the ball. And coach Daboll, he calls the right stuff, he draws it up upstairs and puts me in the best position to make plays. Then my wide receivers coach Chad Hall, we put in a lot of work in practice. We rep a lot of stuff that is more game-like than anything.”

With Diggs in tow, the franchise quarterback Allen has taken several steps forward in his development, and Buffalo (10-3) has gone from mere playoff contender to potential division champion, one that would be a quarter-century in the making. The NFL has taken notice, as each of the Bills’ four December games will be broadcast on national airwaves. That division title can arrive when the Bills travel to Denver for the league’s traditional late-season Saturday showcase (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network).

A talented roster has been assembled in Orchard Park, one that many see in the postseason on a consistent basis moving forward. But many Buffalo representatives have yet to taste how sweet the playoffs can be, much of their experienced limited to cameos on the road in the wild-card rounds of 2018 (Jacksonville) and 2020 (Houston).

Who better to bring in than the star of one of the most renowned highlights in recent January memory?

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Diggs’ time as a Minnesota Viking came to an end after five seasons in March, but his time in purple was immortalized through the “Minneapolis Miracle”, the jaw-dropping 61-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the 2018 NFC divisional playoff tilt against New Orleans. Some place the video on the same playlist as the Immaculate Reception or The Catch.

With Diggs disgruntled in purple, the Bills reached out and sent over four draft picks to obtain him. One of those choices has since become Justin Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in April’s selection meeting who is well on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.

But in a year filled with uncertainty and a team on the cusp of true contention, Bills general manager Brandon Beane wanted a surefire veteran to work with when it came to molding the offense into a fearsome unit. He knew he had that player in Diggs.

“Yes, the draft is stacked with receivers,” Beane said during the offseason, per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. “But I think it became evident with what’s going on around us now, that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have. I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I traded up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in, day one, August 1st, and be ready to roll.”

“Obviously, time will tell if this move for Stefon was right. Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t always translate, but we’re confident and that’s why we swung with a first-round pick. You know I love draft picks and that was not easy for me to part with a first-round pick, but at the same time I view (Stefon) as our first-round pick and I thought it was good for the value of getting a guy like Stefon.”

So far, the translation is crystal clear.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets claim WR D.J. Montgomery off waivers

New York Jets

The former Clevelander didn’t have to wait long for another NFL call, as the New York Jets seek to rework their depleted receiving corps.

The New York Jets have turned to the waiver wire to restock their dwindling receiving unit, claiming D.J. Montgomery. This move comes after the trade for  Kalen Ballage was voided after the Miami Dolphins running back failed his physical.

Montgomery, 23, entered the league last season as an undrafted free agent out of Austin Peay. In his final year with the Governors, Montgomery led the Ohio Valley Conference with 18.9 yards per reception. Notable APSU alumni to make it to the NFL include linebacker Jeff Gooch, defensive lineman Bonnie Sloan (the first deaf player in league history), and Percy Howard (whose one career reception was a 34-yard touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X).

He got off to a strong start during the NFL preseason, earning 124 yards on five receptions over Cleveland’s first two games and even scored a touchdown in their 30-10 win over Washington. However, a hamstring injury sidelined Montgomery for the rest of the season, and he did not appear in any regular season games. The Browns waived him on Saturday, but the Jets came calling after losing Jeff Smith to a shoulder injury.

New York’s early struggles with injuries have been well-documented. Smith had an opportunity with the Jets’ premier units after ailments befell top targets Breshad Perriman (knee) and Denzel Mims (hamstring). The newly acquired pair has been unable to partake in most of the training camp proceedings thus far. Another knee injury befell undrafted standout Lawrence Cager. Experienced veteran help has been called upon to pacify the issue, with the Jets signing Chris Hogan and Donte Moncrief.

The Jets’ regular season opens on September 13 against the Buffalo Bills.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Injuries pile up in the receiving corps (Report)

The New York Jets’ revamped receiver group is taking a beating. There’s a timetable on Breshard Perriman, but none so for a first-year pair.

The NFL season is still weeks away from its start, but the New York Jets are already dealing with injuries, particularly with their developing wide receiver group.

Per a report from Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Adam Gase revealed that Breshard Perriman is dealing with a swollen knee. Perriman, a free agent newcomer, is one of the more experienced receivers on the New York depth chart after the departures of Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas.

While Gase did say that he expects Perriman back on Saturday, there’s no timetable for two rookies in the group. The wait for Denzel Mims (hamstring) continues, while undrafted standout Lawrence Cager hurt his knee during Tuesday’s camp proceedings in Florham Park. Cager, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, has earned strong reviews at One Jets Drive. ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that he made a strong catch while lined up against fellow rookie free agent Javelin Guidry.

Though there is hope in the case of Perriman to return by the weekend, the Jets receiving corps continues to look thin on experience and proven weaponry. Perriman and Mims were expected to be the top targets for quarterback Sam Darnold this season, but Mims has dealt with the hamstring issue for a majority of camp.

Veteran help through the free agency wire is not out of the question. After signing two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan and working out former first-round pick Kevin White, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that the Jets are set to bring another veteran catcher, Donte Moncrief, for a test run. Moncrief spent last season between Carolina and Pittsburgh.

In other injury news, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that defensive lineman Tarell Basham injured his ankle during Tuesday’s practice and will undergo a precautionary MRI. Basham is set to enter his third season in green and earned his first career interception last season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Opportunity knocks for WR Jeff Smith

New York Jets

Injuries have already attacked the New York Jets’ receiving corps, but it leads to a big opportunity for second-year man Jeff Smith.

In the midst of every tough situation, opportunity seems to knock in an attempt to provide a silver lining. Jeff Smith is on his way to the door.

Training camp has only just begun across the NFL, but injuries have already taken their toll on the New York Jets. A receiving corps that’s already reeling from the loss of Robby Anderson has been particularly affected. Heralded second-round choice Denzel Mims has been held out of early practices due to a hamstring issue and Vyncint Smith (no relation) reportedly needs surgery to repair a damaged core muscle. Minor reinforcement is on the way in the form of two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan, but he’s some times away from clearing the quarantine protocols necessitated by the ongoing health crisis.

Behind veteran newcomer Breshad Perriman and slot staple Jamison Crowder, experience is at a premium on the depth chart. Jeff Smith, for example, is among the remainders with the most experience…and he has one NFL game under his belt.

But now set to work with the top units as training camp continues, Smith knows a major opportunity awaits, one that could shape the next stage of his NFL career.

“Next man up,” Smith said simply in a report from Randy Lange of NYJets.com. “I think my main thing is just to know the whole offense and wherever my chance comes, to be able to go in there, not think too much, and be able to play fast.”

It was Smith, 23, who fell victim to the injury bug during last year’s training camp activities. A hamstring injury of his own relegated him to the practice squad for a majority of the year, but he received a promotion to the active roster in time for the Jets’ December visit to Baltimore. Smith earned his first NFL reception, good for a 12-yard gain and a New York first down, but another injury, this one being an ankle sprain, prevented him from building on the momentum.

Though it was cut short, Smith’s professional debut was the culmination of an offensive transition that began upon his sophomore season at Chestnut Hill. Smith began his career as a quarterback but made the switch to receiver, a move that eventually paid off in the form of a rookie free agent contract from the Jets.

Smith hopes his former skills as a quarterback will help him out in this new, green endeavor.

“I played quarterback my whole life, so I’ve been able to learn things quickly and kind of retain that,” he said. “I kind of see things differently learning the whole concept, just kind of knowing what to do.”

“It’s like learning the offense through a QB’s mind but being able to go run the routes and things like that.”

Additionally, Smith is known for his speed, which was on display during his Boston College adventure. He is, in fact, no stranger to high-speed antics in New York-branded facilities. During his freshman season, Smith’s tough final stand as a quarterback was somewhat soothed by a career-best 117 rushing yards in a visit to Syracuse. Two years later, he returned to the Carrier Dome and torched the Orange for a 64-yard scoring run, one that permanently shifted a 42-14 victory in the Eagles’ favor.

“Us Florida guys just have that natural speed. My dad ran track and my mom played volleyball and ran track, so I’ve just always had that kind of speed,” the St. Petersburg native said in Lange’s report. “That’s just a positive side to my game, being able to use that speed at the right time.”

Overall, Smith has described his position shift as “smooth”. The Jets certainly hope his transition from camp hopeful to first-unit man goes the exact same way as an topsy-turvy season deals yet another curveball.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags