After the disappointing loss Week 1 at home to the Cincinnati Bengals, it was pretty easy to assume the “Gang Green” would be the same old New York Jets. New York led much of the first half in Week 1, but a blocked field goal, missed an extra point and various other late miscues led to a one-point defeat.
However, this isn’t your father’s Jets. Todd Bowles’ roster appears to be one of the most talented in recent franchise history with lots of playmakers on both sides of the ball. One of those emerging playmakers on offense is 24-year-old Quincy Enunwa.
There was talk of a bigger role for Enunwa over the summer, but as NFL fans know, that is meaningless when the games begin to count. In 12 games last season, including six starts, he caught 22 passes for 315 yards. He’s already halfway to those totals in just two weeks this year.
Enunwa has developed into quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third passing option, which is a necessary commodity with the commonplace of NFL injuries. All-Pro wideout Brandon Marshall had an injury scare Thursday night when he twisted his knee and had to leave the field. Initially, it looked like a torn ACL, and Marshall even admitted after the game he thought his season was over. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and he returned.
The 24-year-old appears ready to step in for Marshall or Decker if either go down, but he is bringing so much more to the table than just depth.
“He’s (Enunwa) our unsung hero,” Marshall said after the Jets 37-31 victory over the Bills Thursday night according to NJ.com. “You would think it would be myself, Matt Forte or Decker that open up the offense, but it’s really No. 81.”
In some cases through the first two games, Fitzpatrick has favored Enunwa over Marshall and Eric Decker. The 24-year-old received a team-high eight targets in Week 1 and then six more Thursday versus Buffalo. He leads the team with 13 catches on just 14 targets, 146 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Last season, defenses could take away Marshall and Decker then have some success stopping the Jets defense. That’s not the case anymore. Marshall wasn’t even targeted in the first quarter, yet the Jets had 140 yards of offense in large part because Enunwa had three catches for 55 yards.
Once the Jets established Enunwa as a target on the first two drives, New York had its way with Buffalo’s defense the rest of the night. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey deployed three or more wide receivers on an incredible 53 plays Thursday, which made up nearly 75 percent of the Jets’ offensive formations. Rookie wideout Jalen Marshall occasionally replaced Enunwa, but the vast majority of those 3-plus wide receiver formations included Fitzpatrick’s three favorite targets.
Having to worry about all three receivers, the Bills couldn’t double team anybody, so Brandon Marshall and Decker dominated the second half. Decker led the team with 126 receiving yards and a touchdown while Brandon Marshall had 101 yards. The Jets nearly had a third receiver hit the century mark, as Enunwa finished with 92 yards. All three wideouts caught six passes.
Fitzpatrick had the game of his life, throwing for 374 yards, averaging 11.0 yards per attempt, and a score. And running back Matt Forte appears to love running in these spread formations. He earned his first 100-yard game in New York and scored three times.
The Jets have a very difficult early schedule, but if New York can get through Week 6 at least .500, a playoff spot and even a division title could be within reach. There’s no telling what this offense can do in 2016 with three quality receivers and a Pro Bowl level back on the field almost all the time.