FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If the first day of the New York Jets minicamp is any indication, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Mike Sims-Walker chose the right team with which to attempt an NFL comeback.
While much of the chatter about the Jets has been about who will win the starting quarterback job, the truth is it won't matter who lines up behind center if the wide receivers can't catch the ball.
While neither first-team quarterback Mark Sanchez (4-for-8 with a sack) nor second-teamer Geno Smith (4-for-7 with three sacks) was impressive Tuesday during the first practice of this week's minicamp, they were done no favors by a wide receiving corps that combined for four drops.
Jeremy Kerley, the closest thing the Jets have to a No. 1 receiver, dropped two passes, while Stephen Hill and Thomas Mayo were each charged with a drop.
Kerley's breakout season last year (56 catches for 827 yards and two touchdowns) buys him some room for error, but the drops by Hill and Mayo could be particularly costly for a pair of players who probably don't have much margin for error under the John Idzik regime.
Hill, a second-round pick of former general manager Mike Tannenbaum in 2012, struggled badly as a rookie last year. Mayo is at least an Idzik acquisition, but his next regular-season NFL game will be his first, so he can't afford to make a bad first impression.
The struggles aside Tuesday, Kerley said he felt good about how the Jets' receivers were performing this spring as they begin implementing the West Coast offense.
"The guys that are out there right now are working hard, trying to get better, trying to stay healthy," Kerley said. "We like the pace, we like the offense. I love the offense. All we can do is try to build each other up and stay injury-free."
The Jets are still weeks away, at best, from seeing their optimal receiving corps on the field. Clyde Gates (hamstring) remained out Tuesday, and Santonio Holmes (recovery from Lisfranc foot surgery) likely will open training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
"We have some guys banged up," Kerley said. "It will be good to get Santonio back. He has to do his thing, take his time and get healed up. You don't want to bring him back too early and then (he) re-injures his foot again. He'll be a big part of the offense."
Might the perpetually banged-up Winslow or Sims-Walker -- each of whom is at the minicamp on a tryout basis -- give Sanchez or Smith a reliable target? Winslow had two catches Tuesday, while Sims-Walker didn't have a reception.
Winslow, who turns 30 in July, is a tight end, but he was a pass-catching machine in the five seasons in which he managed to play 16 games. Winslow's average line in those five years was 78 catches for 872 yards and four touchdowns.
However, Winslow was traded by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Seattle Seahawks last summer when it became clear the notoriously feisty Winslow would not fit in with hard-line Tampa Bay rookie coach Greg Schiano. Seattle cut him prior to the season opener, and Winslow ended up signing with the New England Patriots in September, but he played just one game and made one catch before receiving his release.
"I have years left," Winslow said Tuesday. "My last year was 2011, I caught 75 balls. I've been productive. It's just the NFL -- that's how it goes sometimes. You get cut, you get traded and you can't do anything about it. It's out of my control."
Sims-Walker, 28, was out of the league last year and played just 20 total games in 2010 and 2011 due to knee problems, but he had 63 catches for 869 yards and seven touchdowns with the Jaguars in 2009.
"Man, I hope both of them are like they used to be," coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday morning.
The odds are long that both players will rediscover their past form and prime, but the Jets have nothing to lose by bringing them in for the minicamp. And getting a look at them over three consecutive days, as opposed to a one-time tryout, will give Ryan and Idzik a better idea if Winslow and/or Sims-Walker can handle the day-to-day rigors of the NFL and if one or both can help out a barren receiving corps.
"A lot of times in this league, the skill set isn't what gets you out of the league," Ryan said. "It's the fact that it's hard to recover. I've been around a lot of great veteran players (where) really that's sometimes a sign that it's time to retire or move on. You just can't get ready.
"We'll see. Hopefully, these young men will be fine and ready to go."