Sure-handed Decker could boost Jets in red zone
CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) Eric Decker got lost on his first day of training camp.
Yes, he had a map. And, sure, he was only going from his dorm room to the practice field – a few football fields away on the SUNY Cortland campus. Somehow, he ended up downtown taking an inadvertent tour.
”I didn’t know where I was going and I drove into the town,” Decker said with a laugh. ”I learned the hard way, but I found my way.”
The New York Jets have no concerns about whether the wide receiver will be able to find the end zone for them this season.
Decker, signed as a free agent after four years with Denver, is tied with New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham for the NFL lead with 18 touchdown catches in the red zone during the past two seasons.
The Jets have a league-low 19 scoring receptions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line – as a team – during that span.
”I think clearly he’s going to be a go-to guy in the fact that we know what we’re getting,” coach Rex Ryan said during the offseason. ”This is going to be a guy that you can get him the ball in critical situations.”
While Decker is in a new offense and no longer has Peyton Manning throwing him passes, he should serve as a big-time weapon in Marty Mornhinweg’s system after the Jets signed him to a five-year deal in March worth more than $36 million.
New York was in desperate need of a No. 1-type wide receiver this offseason and honed in on the 27-year-old Decker, who set career highs with 87 catches and 1,288 yards receiving to go along with 11 touchdowns last season. He also had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and a career-best 13 scores in 2012. All but six of those trips into the end zone happened with the Broncos inside the 20.
”Decker runs great routes,” quarterback Michael Vick said. ”I mean, the top of his routes are unbelievable. He knows how to create space. You can just tell that him working with Peyton over the last couple of years has helped him blossom as a receiver.”
Through two training camp practices, Decker has been impressive, catching nearly everything thrown his way. He even returned a few punts Friday, drawing cheers from the fans watching.
”I’m very happy,” Decker said. ”You get a little anxious, nervous because you don’t know what to expect. Once you get out here, ball is ball. It might be a different jersey, it might be a different team, but you figure it out. … I’m looking forward to building those relationships and hopefully be a factor or a piece in this organization.”
Decker comes to New York already a bit of a celebrity off the football field. He’s married to country artist Jessie James, and they starred in the E! Network reality series, ”Eric & Jessie: Game On” for two seasons.
They also welcomed their first child, daughter Vivianne, in March – six days after Decker signed with the Jets.
Oh, and there was also the whole family recently moving to the New York-New Jersey area. So, it has been a busy few months for the Deckers, and they can’t wait to explore their new city.
”I think it’s just the overall experience, what New York brings to the table,” Decker said. ”It’s a lot of culture, and it’s a lot of passion. I understand that the fans are very excited about this season. We have a job to do to perform on the field and give them our best.”
And, Decker will surely be a big part of the Jets’ plans for this season and beyond.
”I’m glad he’s on this team,” Vick said. ”He’s going to help Geno a lot. He’s going to help this offense get better week in and week out and do some good things on this football team.”
NOTES: GM John Idzik said that Geno Smith getting about 75 percent of the first-team snaps isn’t necessarily an indication that the second-year QB is the front-runner for the starting job ahead of Vick. ”I don’t think it’s tilted at all,” Idzik said. He added that the snaps could change at some point during camp. ”Reps can ebb and flow,” he said. ”You may switch up the workload from early in the week to late in the week. Let’s let this thing transpire. Let’s see what happens.” … Idzik revealed that the players created a ”veterans steering committee,” which includes at least representative from each position group and players-only meetings. … TE Jeff Cumberland practiced for the first time after missing the first day following a death in his family. … Rookie WR Quincy Enunwa (hip) sat out, while LB Tim Fugger (ankle) and DE Zach Thompson (shoulder) didn’t finish practice after being injured.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL