Top punt return man Jeremy Kerley, who has been slowed by a calf contusion, did not practice on Wednesday, but the team remains hopeful that Kerley, a TCU product, will play in his home state.
If Kerley can't play, Eric Decker will likely take his place returning punts.
"Well if he can't go, we'll put (Eric) Decker back there and Eric will take that spot. We worked him in there yesterday a little bit," OC Chan Gailey said. "It's kind of iffy if Jeremy will go or not, but I'm pretty optimistic he will. He seemed pretty good today, so we'll see what happens."
Kerley's value as a punt returner is a neutral to slightly positive at best. So far in 2015, Kerley (16 fair catches on 42 attempts) is only three fair catches off league-leader Ted Ginn, Jr.(19 fair catches on 24 attempts). While Kerley is willing to return a good percentage of the punts he sees, his speed doesn't seem to translate in terms of return yards as is made evident by his 8.9 YPR average.
While the thought of letting a gamer like Decker field punts is intriguing, the biggest benefit to Kerley handling punts is that his availability spares the risk of a fluke special teams injury to anyone of more significance (like Decker) to this offense. With few viable options in the passing game, losing a player like Decker would be a concern for this offense. Honestly, I would be happy if the Jets just told Decker to fair-catch every single punt to spare him getting hit by a flyer coming down the field at full speed.
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Decker does have some experience as a punt returner and has been used in an emergency capacity already a few times this season. The Jets also prepped Brandon Marshall for emergency duties earlier in the season when they were in London.
Decker is regarded as having a reliable set of hands for fielding punts and was once pressed into emergency duties for Denver in a postseason game when they lost faith in Trindon Holliday. However, Decker himself did have a bad muff in the preseason.
I'd be more concerned about the downside of a possible screw-up than any incremental upgrade or downgrade in the return game, so I'll be happy if whoever is back there just catches it cleanly. As for wide receiver duties, Kenbrell Thompkins can fill in for Kerley as the number four receiver with Devin Smith also out.