12:57 pm Aug. 31, 2012
Jordan White, the 24-year-old receiver who the Jets took in the seventh round of this year’s draft, was extraordinarily productive in college: At Western Michigan University, he led the NCAA last year in both receptions (140) and yards (1,911).
You may be tempted to dismiss those numbers somewhat because White went to a non-major program school, but don't. One of the N.F.L’s best receivers, the Packers’ Greg Jennings, also went to Western Michigan. If White makes the team, he’ll have a MetLife Stadium co-tenant, Victor Cruz, who went to Massachusetts. Other non-major program star receivers include Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, and Vincent Jackson.
So those are the positives for White, one of the players who Rex Ryan said was “on the bubble” for when the Jets trim their roster from 75 players to 53 by 9 p.m. tonight.
The negatives are twofold: One, White was very injury-prone in college, tearing both ACLs in different seasons. Two, he was almost deal-breakingly slow, having been clocked at a 4.72 40-yard dash and no faster than 4.69.
So White’s mandate after he was drafted was simple: He needed to stay healthy, and he needed to be productive during preseason games, showing that his “game speed” was better than his “timed speed.”
He did neither.
In late May, White broke a bone in his foot, and while he returned early in training camp, the injury burnished his reputation for brittleness.
Then the games started, and White succumbed to the malaise that has engulfed the entire Jets offense, which last night scored its first and only touchdown in a winless preseason.
Going into last night’s game, White had caught only four of the 10 passes thrown his way, for 40 yards. In his senior year of college, he averaged 9.4 yards for the 203 times the quarterback threw the ball in his direction. In preseason, that figure stood at 4 yards before last night.
Last night was his final chance before cuts to improve on those numbers, but he didn't do much with the chances he had.
White's night got off to a bad start: On the Jets’ first series, on 3rd and 7, he ran an out pattern from his slot position. He was open, and quarterback Greg McElroy’s throw was on target, but it clanged off White’s chest plate. White grimaced quizzically: How, exactly, did that happen? Fellow wideout Eron Riley, who was competing with White for a spot but was cut this morning, offered an encouraging helmet slap.
On the Jets’ second series, they ran a play-action pass that sent White from his slot position on a deep corner route. McElroy looked White’s way first, indicating that he was the primary target. But White was covered, and McElroy threw a short check-down pass to the running back instead.
Two series later, another corner route from the slot, but White couldn’t separate from the corner in trail coverage, and a safety from the middle of the field rendered White completely covered from both sides. McElroy nonetheless threw in his direction, but it was one of those safe passes described by announcers as being of the “either my guy’s gonna catch it, or no one’s gonna catch it” variety. Nobody caught it, or came close.
A series later, just before halftime, the lone highlight: After a holding penalty pushed the Jets to a 1st and 20, McElroy was flushed out of the pocket, but White, the receiver to that side, did what receivers are trained to do and came back toward his quarterback for a 17-yard catch. Nicely done: Here was the instinctive receiver the Jets hoped they had drafted.
But that was it for White. His night ended with one catch, one drop, six targets, 17 yards. Overall in the preseason, he caught just five of the 16 passes thrown his way, for 57 yards, and an average of 3.6 yards per target.
It was a lackluster end to a lackluster preseason, but White still has a chance of making the roster.
Because his calling card is working in space and using his savvy to get open, the Jets see him as a potential slot receiver. His competition for this job includes the workmanlike but limited Patrick Turner, second-year man Jeremy Kerley and free agent signee Chaz Schilens. But Kerley and Turner have been mostly injured during a training camp. Kerley is said to have irked coaches with a poor work ethic; Schilens is notoriously injury-prone.
Then there were Rex Ryan’s flattering comments about White just two weeks ago, during which he said his rookie wideout “has great hands and concentration and he’ll fight for contested balls. … I’m happy with the way he’s practicing and competing.”
A throwaway line to fill reporters’ notebooks? Perhaps.
Late in last night’s game, CBS flashed one of their “Getting to know player X” graphics, about White. One of the questions asked the player what his profession would be, if not football. White’s answer—garbage man—sent announcers Ian Eagle and Greg Buttle into a bit about the steady work and good pensions in that famously strong-unioned profession.
For the “childhood nickname” question, White’s answer was: “The Jet.”
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