COMMENTARY | Just a week after Santonio Holmes finally looked recovered from a foot injury and exploded for 154 yards and a touchdown against the Bills, he found himself injured again after a 1-catch, 25-yard performance in an embarrassing loss to the Titans, this time with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for multiple weeks.
Holmes missed the Jets' big Monday night victory over Atlanta and coincidentally, Geno Smith had his best game as a pro. While a healthy Holmes is good for the Jets' offense, he and Smith were never in sync as they connected on just 10 of 24 targets in the first four games. Smith attempted just 20 passes but targeted eight different receivers and only Jeremy Kerley more than four times.
It's possible that without the pressure of having to force balls to Holmes to keep him happy, Smith thrived simply reading the field and finding the open man. Newly signed David Nelson started in place of Holmes but played less snaps than fourth receiver Clyde Gates (23 to 15). Both receivers saw a slight bump in playing time as Stephen Hill played just 32 of the team's 47 offensive snaps after returning from a concussion suffered early against the Titans. Kerley led the receivers in snaps with 38.
The big adjustment the Jets seemed to make was using both of their tight ends in the passing game to give Smith additional weapons. Both Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow ran 17 pass routes and while Cumberland had the big game (3 receptions, 79 yards and a touchdown), Winslow caught his only target for a pretty 1-yard touchdown to give the Jets a 27-14 lead. The Jets ran just 27 pass plays, meaning there were numerous plays designed with both Cumberland and Winslow as options for Smith.
Holmes' absence will hurt the Jets more against good secondaries, which Atlanta's is not. Smith won't have all day in the pocket to give his less talented receivers time to get open against teams like New England and Cincinnati, who the Jets play in back-to-back weeks after Sunday's matchup against the Steelers.
Hill seems likely to return to a full snap count next week and is by far the Jets' biggest threat in the passing game. The underrated Kerley is a great slot receiver but neither Nelson nor Gates has the talent to draw coverage in their direction on the outside. That could lead to double coverage for Hill with safeties shaded to his side of the field, cutting off the Jets' lone remaining big play threat.
Marty Mornhinweg put together a great gameplan to utilize the talent that remains on the Jets' offense and hopefully Holmes can get healthy soon enough to contribute. There hasn't been an update on his status since he was declared inactive for Atlanta game, but he's likely to miss multiple weeks.
This situation bears a striking similarity to his preseason injury and while Holmes played in Week 1, his status was murky until the last few days leading up to the opener. New York shouldn't expect him back anytime soon and will have to hope more creative gameplans like the one against the Falcons will help keep Smith and the offense on track.
Chris Tripodi lives in New York and has followed the Jets just long enough to remember their 1-15 season in 1996. He contributes to multiple online outlets along with Yahoo, namely Draft Insider, Optimum Scouting and Jets 101.
Follow him on Twitter @christripodi.
Snap counts courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
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