As far as Laveranues Coles is concerned, WR should be an abbreviation for “warrior.” For reasons beyond his control, many Jets fans take issue with his attitude, behavior, and shrewd approach to contract negotiations.
He is likened to the worst of team cancers, criticized for drops in production, and has been given the nickname “Anonymous Coles” as it’s assumed that he’s always responsible for complaints and leaks to the media.
It has to stop.
All of Coles rational emotions are twisted, taken out of context, and used to fuel non-existent flames in favor of creating drama that isn’t a reality.
Coles knows this—which is why he held his silence after Chad Pennington was released in 2008. He learned his lesson after his words were misinterpreted over the last few training camps.
If Coles says it’s hot outside and he’s tired, the headline reads, “Coles Tired of Coach, Heat, and Training Camp.” If Coles comments on the velocity of footballs thrown his way, it’s misconstrued as a slam on Brett Favre (right, San Francisco Chronicle?).
The Jets’ truest warrior since the days of Wayne Chrebet, taking bumps while crossing the middle of the field, and making a career out of making Pennington look good, Coles is the most tried and true receiver on the team.
But with all that said, is Coles still compatible with the New York Jets future?
Not a Primary Receiver
The 2008 season sparked some necessary questions about the Jets’ strategy for the passing game. Were the problems the fault of Pennington and his lack of arm strength, the lack of creativity in the playbook, or the absence of a true primary receiver?
The receivers inability to gain separation on their routes brought New York right back to where they were in 2007: blocking against eight men in the box.
A vertical threat stopped being threatening when defenses realized that Coles and Jerricho Cotchery weren’t going to burn them down the field. Both men excel at quick timing routes where there’s an opportunity to gain yards after the catch.
And when Coles had opportunities downfield, he couldn’t haul the pass in.
A perfectly placed strike from Favre in snowy Seattle fell to the cold turf when the Jets needed a first down to salvage some dignity on the west coast. The defense was right on top of him, and it became clear that New York needed a bigger, faster receiver to be the first look in such situations.
Is the Future on the Roster?
When the Jets were going into the season, the number of receivers they carried on the roster raised some eyebrows. While it’s not unusual to hold a lot of receivers, it was unusual to hold so many who were unproven in the NFL.
Cotchery is practically a mirror image of Coles, and should hold the no. two receiver spot for his entire career. But aside from him, the starting quality on the team is unknown.
Wallace Wright is regarded as a receiver, but his strength is on special-teams. Brad Smith is a multi-purpose player with questionable purpose. And Chansi Stuckey—despite his great hands—doesn’t look like he could be a primary target.
This leaves David Clowney, who shot to everyone’s heart as an exceptional player in two preseason contests. Despite playing against other backups, Clowney made plays in situations where a players only job is to make plays.
Sprinting downfield, catching passes and taking them to the end zone should force some to wonder if he can translate those qualities to a primary position. But making any such assumptions would be premature.
Rock and a Hard Place
Upgrading the WR position should be a priority for the Jets this offseason, but it might not be a reality. GM Mike Tannenbaum already guaranteed Coles’ contract for this season, so releasing him would be an exercise in futility.
There is a sense of loyalty to Coles on this fan’s behalf. But the fact that his numbers have dropped over the last two years is a cause for concern. Whether or not he’s hit a wall remains to be seen.
The fact that Jerricho Cotchery has better hands than Coles, and may even be faster places Coles on the expendable side.
But expendable for whom? The free agent pool is shallow as far as primary receivers go. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is at the top of most wish lists, but the Bengals are likely to place the franchise tag on him.
Anquan Boldin may also be free to test the waters, but after the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run, it would be in the Bidwill’s best interest to keep their roster in tact if they hope to make a return trip in 2010.
The NFL Draft boasts Michael Crabtree, but he’s likely to be gone long before the Jets pick at no. 17. Maybe there’s a Marques Colston floating around in the later rounds.
None are even likely as possibilities. It’d be useless to dig into the wallet for marginal talent in this situation. Change for the sake of change and all that, right?
Not only are the Jets going to have to eat Coles’ contract, but there really isn’t an option anywhere on the horizon as an adequate replacement.
But if Coles is as money-motivated as those who hate him would say, this being a contract year could result in some top-notch production from him as he seeks out one final payday for the last four-to-five years of his career.