Wide receivers are, arguably, the most exciting players on the field at any given time. When a good wide receiver takes off down field, all eyes are immediately averted in his direction as fans stop breathing in anticipation of something marvelous.
Is he going to leave the defender behind in his dust? Will he make a spectacular one-handed, diving catch? Whatever it is he’s about to do, everyone is watching because there’s no other player on the field with the ability or potential to break a game wide-open. A receiver’s opportunities to accumulate massive chunks of yardage in rapid succession are thrilling for any fan.
But that excitement doesn’t come without a price.
Stereotypically, wide receivers are viewed as the most egotistical and self-centered players in the game. Perhaps it’s an unfair assessment for an entire class of athlete, but Keyshawn Johnson’s infamous phrase, “Give me the damn ball,” still resonates soundly in the ears of Jets’ fans.
Over the years, open disputes between players and teams–Terrell Owens’ spat with the Eagles, and Chad Johnson’s current dilemma in Cincinnati–aren’t doing much for fan and player relations.
And then Jerricho Cotchery comes along, and completely obliterates such beliefs. At this point in his career, it’s probably unfair to mention Cotchery in the same thought as a T.O. or Ocho Cinco. But that doesn’t mean the potential is non-existent, nor does it mean Cotchery’s contributions to the organization are less valuable. The 2007 season saw Cotchery achieve the thousand yards in a single season mark for the first time in his career with 82 receptions for 1,130 yards.
Selected out of North Carolina State in the 3rd Round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Cotchery has emerged as one of the few intelligent picks the Herman Edwards/Terry Bradway era made. Naturally, Cotchery’s talents went unappreciated until Eric Mangini’s arrival in 2006, declaring every position be made available to the best possible player. Mangini rewarded Cotchery with the number two receiver position after an excellent showing in training camp and preseason, spelling the beginning of Justin McCareins’ end.
Throughout the 2006 season, fans got to see everything Cotchery was capable of. Lining up opposite Laveraneus Coles, Cotchery made the most of his opportunities while defenses focused on the other side of the field. His toughness, resilience, and on-field instincts were on display early in the season when he took a hit from two New England Patriots, only to remain on his feet and sprint 71 yards to the end zone before anyone knew what happened.
That performance helped cement his place in the New York Jets locker room, as the front office rewarded him with a contract extension at the end of the season. Rather than take the greedy route after a breakout season, Cotchery declared his allegiance to the team that drafted him. Such quality is non-existent as most players in a league dominated by free agency and franchise tags, are motivated by their individual performances as opposed to the accomplishments of a team.
Fortunately, Cotchery has two more years to learn all the nuances of being a number one receiver from an athlete like Laveraneus Coles. He showed flashes of being a capable number one receiver last season as Coles’ recovered from injuries he sustained putting his body on the line for the good of the organization. In the meantime, Jets’ fans can benefit from having two excellent receivers that opposing defenses will have difficulty covering.