FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Down one of their best playmakers for the season, the New York Jets are looking to their youngsters to help fill the void.
Wide receiver Eric Decker will have season-ending surgery after being placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
“It’s tough news,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
Decker was inactive the past two weeks after initially being injured at Buffalo in Week 2 and the shoulder worsening at Kansas City the following week.
Last week, coach Todd Bowles said it was still “too early to tell” whether Decker would be placed on IR, which would mean he would have to sit out at least eight weeks.
Bowles said Wednesday that Decker would be having surgery “soon,” and an eight-month recovery period is usually involved. That would put the receiver on pace to possibly be back by minicamp next June.
Decker, who was initially ruled as “week-to-week ” with the injury, said last Thursday that his mindset was that, “I want to get back on the field, yes,” but was uncertain as to whether that would be possible this season.
“He wasn’t recovering the way we hoped he would,” Bowles said. “He wasn’t getting any better. It was getting worse. At some point, he had to try to get surgery.”
It’s a huge blow to the Jets, who have not been the dynamic offense they were last season with Fitzpatrick, Decker and fellow receiver Brandon Marshall leading the way.
“It definitely hurts,” Marshall said. “He’s one of the great receivers in the league.”
Decker had nine catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns in three games. He had 80 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 scores — including a team-record 10 scoring grabs inside the opponents’ 20-yard line — last season as he and Marshall combined for 26 TDs.
Decker signed as a free agent with the Jets in 2014 after four seasons in Denver and has been one of the NFL’s most-productive receivers in that time with 163 receptions for 2,183 yards.
“You definitely can’t replace him with one guy,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think especially with him and the red area, on third downs and the stuff that he was tops in the league at, that’s the stuff that you really miss, but it’s going to be a collective effort. It’s going to be a couple of different guys having to step in.”
Decker’s absence has had a noticeable effect on the Jets, who have scored a total of seven points in the second half in the past three games since a 37-31 win at Buffalo in Week 2 in which New York put up 17 points after halftime.
Quincy Enunwa has served as the de facto No. 2 receiver since Decker was hurt, and leads the Jets with 27 catches. But other than Enunwa and Marshall, who has 24 receptions, New York has mostly inexperienced receivers left on its roster.
Seventh-round pick Charone Peake (four catches, 36 yards) and undrafted free agents Robby Anderson (five for 56) and Jalin Marshall (five for 64) are among the Jets’ remaining receivers — but Jalin Marshall has missed the past two games with a torn labrum.
“He’s one of the great receivers in the league,” Brandon Marshall said of Decker. “But we’re more than confident that the younger guys we have, they’ll make plays. Guys like Robby, they’re studs and hungry, waiting for their opportunities. … They’ll step in and just be OK.”
New York also claimed former Tampa Bay receiver Jeremy Butler off waivers on Tuesday, and cut Jeremy Ross. Butler had 31 catches for 363 yards last season for Baltimore, which signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee-Martin in 2014, but cut him this summer after training camp.
“Don’t panic,” Brandon Marshall said. “We’re OK. It’s the NFL. It’s not about one guy.”
The Jets signed cornerback Nick Marshall off Jacksonville’s practice squad Wednesday to fill Decker’s roster spot. The former Auburn quarterback was used on special teams and in the secondary by the Jaguars.
New York has lost three straight games to fall to 1-4 on the season, with a road game at Arizona on Monday night up next.
“A win would be huge,” Fitzpatrick said. “Winning kind of cures all, and when you think things aren’t going well and all that, then all of a sudden one win can kind of ignite a season. So that’s what we’re gunning for.”