FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One of the New York Jets' objectives this season is to evaluate and develop (they hope) Christian Hackenberg. But instead of giving him the best chance to succeed, they put him in a tough spot by dismantling the receiving corps in the offseason.
The degree of difficulty spiked again on Monday, when the Jets announced No. 1 receiver Quincy Enunwa will have season-ending neck surgery.
Rotten luck and questionable personnel moves have created an almost impossible situation for Hackenberg and the other quarterbacks, Josh McCown (the likely starter) and Bryce Petty. The Jets have no proven weapons -- none! -- which will invite opponents to overplay their running game.
They will be suffocated.
Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall were victims of The Great Purge, an offseason roster gutting that left the Jets vulnerable at many positions, especially wide receiver. The team had gotten old and complacent, so you can't blame the brain trust for trying a rebuild, but the Jets didn't do their young quarterbacks any favors by firing Decker in June -- a stunner that elevated Enunwa to the No. 1 role.
Enunwa is a solid, ascending player, but he'd be a No. 3 receiver -- maybe a No. 2 -- on most teams. Suddenly, he was thrust into the lead role, he and his 1,172 career receiving yards. In other words, the Jets were stretched thin with him; now they're left with Robby Anderson (587 yards), Jalin Marshall (162), Charone Peake (186), Myles White (154), Chris Harper (139) and Lucky Whitehead (64).
Oh, wait, we forgot Marquess Wilson. How could we forget their most accomplished receiver? He has a team-high 777 career yards. Former second-round pick Devin Smith was expected to contribute, but he blew out a knee on the first day of the offseason program. They drafted a couple of receivers, ArDarius Stewart (third round) and Chad Hansen (fourth), neither of whom has stood out in early practices.
Coach Todd Bowles claimed the dire situation at receiver will have no impact on the team's ability to evaluate the quarterbacks, saying, "They still get judged the same way. It has nothing to do with the receivers."
Somehow, he managed to keep a straight face.
The receivers' job is to get open so the quarterback can throw them the ball. If they can't get open, it's a problem. If they don't run the proper routes and don't know how to make post-snap adjustments, it's a bigger problem. The Jets are installing the West Coast offense, a system predicated on timing and precision. They're fooling themselves if they believe the young receivers and the young quarterback will create instant harmony.
The spotlight shifts to general manager Mike Maccagnan, who must add a veteran receiver to this roster. It doesn't have to be today or tomorrow, but it would help to have an experienced player by the third preseason game. There's not much in the free-agent market, but what about a trade? Maccagnan needs to do something even if it's adding an older player with a significant salary. That might not fit the youth movement, but it will help his quarterbacks.
And that's a big part of what this season is all about.