With the availability of Jeremy Kerley (knee) and Patrick Turner (kidney) still unknown, the Jets’ receiving corps could be at less than full strength heading into Thursday night’s game in Denver. If neither is available, the Jets will turn to recent signee and former Broncos WR Eron Riley.
Riley was a member of the Denver practice squad before being signed to the Jets’ active roster on Oct. 19. An undrafted free agent out of Duke in 2009, he has also spent time on Baltimore’s and Carolina’s practice squads. He has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game.
“Whether I play five, 10 or 50 snaps on offense — even if I’m not playing at all — I’m going to do my best, and do what I have to do to help the Jets get a win by any means possible,” said Riley.
Since arriving in the New York area, he has seen limited work with QB Mark Sanchez in practice and has played on the scout team during special teams drills.
At 6’3” and 207 pounds, Riley is a long, rangy receiver, similar in stature to Turner or a young WR Plaxico Burress. He characterizes himself as a deep threat, a stretch-the-field type of receiver.
“If it were up to me, that’s what I would do every time,” he said. “Obviously, I can’t do that. I’m trying to get better at the other things that I’m not so good at doing. I’ve been working after practice on things that need to be polished up to help me become a complete receiver.”
His propensity for “going long” has helped him in the past. He finished his collegiate career as one of Duke’s all-time leading receivers with 144 receptions for 2,413 yards (16.8-yard average) and 22 touchdowns in 40 games. And in three NFL preseasons (two with the Ravens, last year with the Broncos), he had 11 catches for 292 yards (26.5 average) and three TDs.
In a Denver preseason game this summer, Riley caught three passes for 144 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Two of those passes originated from the arm of current Broncos starting QB Tim Tebow. While Tebow has found himself squarely underneath the national media microscope for his unorthodox mechanics and nontraditional approach to the position, Riley says everyone needs to just calm down.
“He’s a fighter. He’s going to go down swinging,” said Riley. “Most people say he can’t throw the ball or whatever, but he’s going to make up for it some other way. He was a proven winner since before I met him and now that I’ve seen him.”
Last week, Tebow attempted only eight passes, completing two en route to the 17-10 victory at Kansas City. The Broncos ran the ball an astounding 55 times in the game, which surprised Riley.
“They have become a more run-oriented team,” he said. “They’re running the ball a whole lot more, especially since I was there.”
No matter what is said about the young Broncos signalcaller, Tebow has Riley’s respect.
“He’s a quarterback. He might not throw the perfect ball all the time, but what quarterback does? It’s going to get to you at the end of the day,” he said. “Receivers get paid to catch balls, whether they’re ugly balls or good balls.”
Ahead of Riley’s return trip to the Rockies, he shared his experiences of playing in the mile-high thin air.
“The altitude is a big difference,” he said. “When I first got there, it took me several days to get used to it. But with the adrenaline of the game, the guys will get used to it real quick. They’ll be OK once kickoff gets going.”
Thin air, thick air or no air, Riley won’t even notice, if he suits up for his first NFL game on Thursday night.
Kerley and RB LaDainian Tomlinson have been ruled out for Thursday night’s game, as both will stay home to rest their knees. TE Shawn Nelson (illness) and S Brodney Pool (knee) round out the group of Jets that did not make the trip.
Turner is listed as probable for Thursday after recovering from his kidney injury. In addition to Turner, 13 other Jets are listed as probable, including CB Darrelle Revis (knee). Check out the Injury Report under the Team tab at the top of your page for the fully updated list.
Looking at the injury situation for the Broncos, the running back position has been a focus all week. RB Knowshon Moreno, a Belford, NJ native, suffered an ACL tear on Sunday and is out for the season. RB Willis McGahee (hamstring) is questionable for Thursday. Six other Broncos have been listed as probable, including S Brian Dawkins (ankle), and the team’s leading tackler LB Wesley Woodyard (knee).
Tags: Denver Broncos, Eron Riley, Jeremy Kerley, Patrick Turner, Tim Tebow
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