Patriots

Jets lose top receiver Quincy Enunwa for season

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Jets lose top receiver Quincy Enunwa for season

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets will be without their top wide receiver for the season.

Quincy Enunwa will be placed on injured reserve with a bulging disk in his neck that will likely require surgery, with a recovery time of 6 to 9 months. Coach Todd Bowles said Monday that Enunwa will seek a second opinion, and the injury is not considered career-threatening.

"They said it wasn't, but going forward, we'll see," Bowles said. "They said he should come out OK."

Enunwa, projected as the Jets' No. 1 receiver, was hurt Saturday night during practice at MetLife Stadium. Bowles said the injury initially appeared similar to the one that held Enunwa out during spring workouts.

With Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker cut during the offseason, it appeared Enunwa would be given the opportunity to lead an inexperienced receiving corps. He has 80 career catches for 1,172 yards and four touchdowns over two seasons.

"He was a big part of it," Bowles said of Enunwa's role on offense. "Our young guys are just going to have to grow up fast."

After Enunwa, the Jets' most-experienced receiver is Marquess Wilson, who had 56 career catches for 777 yards and three touchdowns in four seasons in Chicago. Next is second-year receiver Robby Anderson, who made the team last summer after being an undrafted free agent and finished with 42 catches for 587 yards and two scores.

There's a significant dropoff in career production after that with Charone Peake (19 catches), Myles White (16), Chris Harper (14), Jalin Marshall (14), Lucky Whitehead (nine) and Frankie Hammond (four). New York also has four rookie receivers on the roster: third-rounder ArDarius Stewart, fourth-rounder Chad Hansen and undrafted Deshon Foxx and Gabe Marks.

That could prompt the Jets to scour the waiver wire or look into some unemployed veterans to help fill what might be the biggest void on the team - other than having yet to determine a starting quarterback.

"We'll look into it and see how our young guys develop, but we'll have our eyes open and see what's out there," Bowles said, later adding that "all options are open."

Enunwa was drafted in the sixth round out of Nebraska in 2014 and steadily improved to become a key part of the Jets' passing game. Last year was a breakthrough season, when he finished tied for second on the team with 58 receptions - one fewer than Marshall - and led the Jets with 857 yards receiving and four TD catches.

Bowles said Enunwa had tests in the spring while dealing with the initial injury, but was healthy and everything appeared fine until Saturday night.

"When he fell, it just flared up again," the coach said.

Bowles is uncertain as to how Enunwa was hurt in the offseason, but said it wasn't a bulging disk at that time.

"It's something that comes and goes," Bowles said. "It was just a tingling feeling and he didn't feel well. We rested him in the spring, and he came back and he fell down and I guess it reoccurred."

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

Giardi: After getting schooled, Butler's got to be better

When the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore in the offseason and then managed to keep Malcolm Butler around, the consensus was not only might this be the best 1-2 punch at cornerback the team has ever had, but maybe, just maybe, it was the best duo in the NFL this season. 

Newsflash: it hasn’t been. Not even close. 

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The latest example comes from Sunday night in Denver. Gilmore returned from a three-game absence (concussion) to play well against Demaryius Thomas in that 41-16 win. The same can’t be said of Butler. He spent much of his day playing man-to-man versus Emmanuel Sanders and struggled mightily.

Butler’s issues started on the very first play. He got lost along the sidelines and surrendered a 31-yard catch. Butler initially had Sanders blanketed. The two were lined up outside the numbers along the left sideline. Based on the formation, and the alignment of safety Devin McCourty, it was pretty clear Butler was alone on an island. Sanders initially drove inside before straightening out his route. Then he cut sharply, working speedily to the flat. Butler had a good beat on the play but unwisely peeked into the backfield. That’s when Sanders turned up and found nothing but green grass.

“I would just say I’d just tip my hat to him,” said Butler. “It was a great route. He steered me in. Then he went up then went out then went back up so I thought that was it. It was a little more than I expected. You gotta learn from it and play it better next time.”

On the same drive, he was beaten again by Sanders, this time for 13 yards. The Pats defense tightened up and held Denver to a field goal but a pattern had already been established between the Patriots' 27-year-old cornerback and Sanders.

The next big play Butler coughed up came with 4:13 to play in the second quarter. Broncos QB Brock Osweiler summoned Sanders to come across the formation via motion but then sent him back as the wideout approached the tackle box. Butler overreacted, trying to jump out ahead of the motion while simultaneously looking into the backfield. It was then he realized Sanders had done an about-face. To his credit, Butler recovered and jumped on Sanders shortly after the snap of the ball, actually shoving the receivers’ right shoulder in an attempt to disrupt the pattern. 

As Sanders turned upfield, he appeared well-covered by Butler. But then another old habit that’s been hard for Butler to break appeared. He lost track of the ball once it took flight. Sanders slapped on the brakes and high-pointed the football while Butler watched, helplessly flat-footed. Chalk up another 23-yard gain.

“I would just say he underthrew it and I got pushed by,” said Butler. “I probably burst because I was expected the ball to come too. You just got to play it the best way you can. Things happen. He just made a great play. I was in good position but not good enough.”

Sanders caught one more pass on the drive, and should have had a touchdown in the second quarter, streaking past Butler toward the end zone. But Osweiler made a terrible throw, unable to even keep it in the field of play. Hence another field goal instead of a touchdown. Bullet dodged - and there were a few.

“You can’t win with three all day,” said Butler of the defense’s red-zone efficiency. “They’re very hard on us on protecting the red area and not giving up touchdowns in the red area. Bend but don’t break. That’s been the motto.”

The Patriots would break later and Sanders beating Butler was a part of it. The play coming about five minutes into the third quarter on Denver's only TD-scoring drive. The Broncos came out in trips, employing a bunch formation that had plagued the Patriots so often the first month of the season. Unlike then, the Pats handled communication perfectly and as Sanders worked toward the seam, Butler had good position and help toward the post, with safety Duron Harmon eyeballing Sanders the entire way. So did Butler do? He gave up outside leverage, with Sanders breaking hard to the flag. Butler’s footwork was a mess - he got spun around like he was auditioning for "Dancing With the Stars" - and was unable to recover until Sanders had picked up another 23 yards.

“Another good route,” said Butler. “He got me thinking inside and broke out. He’s a good player. A great receiver.”

There’s no denying Sanders’ talent, but Butler has got to be better and more consistent. He’s too often been lost in coverage or gotten caught gambling, eyeballing a big play that’s rarely come in 2017. With their issues up front, it’s the Pats secondary that’s going to have to lead the way. The corners have only occasionally played to the level expected of them. The clock is ticking. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: this is when the Patriots want to be playing their best football. About time Butler answered the call.