The job for whoever ends up being the Jets’ starting quarterback this season just got that much harder.
An already-thin receiving corps suffered another significant loss on Monday with leading returning receiver Quincy Enunwa landing on injured reserve with a bulging disc that is expected to require season-ending surgery
Jets coach Todd Bowles estimated that Enunwa, who sustained the injury in Saturday’s Green and White scrimmage at MetLIfe Stadium, will be sidelined 6-to-9 months.
“They said it wasn’t (career-threatening), but going forward we’ll see,” Bowles said after practice in Florham Park. “They said he should come out OK.
Jets WR Quincy Enunwa suffers neck injury during practice
“But he was a big part of (our offense). Our young guys are just going to have to grow up fast.”
Enunwa, who had a career-high 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns last season, is the team’s most experienced wideout following the offseason releases of veterans Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
With Enunwa injured and Jalin Marshall suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Jets’ depth chart at the position currently features second-year players Robby Anderson and Charone Peake, former Bears receiver Marquess Wilson (59 career catches), recently signed Cowboys castoff Lucky Whitehead (nine) and 2017 draft picks ArDarius Stewart (third round) and Chad Hansen (fourth).
“I wouldn’t say anybody yet,” Bowles responded when asked who has stood out so far in camp. “We’ve only been practicing for a week. We’ve got four preseason games to come. That will take care of itself and hopefully something comes up when the lights come on. But they’ve all been working hard and they’re getting better every day. They just gotta get smarter.
“Obviously, they have to get some experience and they’ve got to get some reps, but they’re talented and they just gotta learn and get caught up to speed.”
Free agent Anquan Boldin signed a one-year deal with Buffalo over the weekend, but there aren’t many experienced receivers still available for GM Mike Maccagnan to sign until teams start making cuts later in the preseason.
“We’ll look into it and we’ll see how our young guys develop, but we’ll have our eyes open,” Bowles said. “We don’t know yet. We’ve got a lot of young guys that we’re trying to develop. If something out there catches our eye, we’ll sign them, but if not, we’ll stay with what we got. All options are open.”
Bowles indicated Saturday night that Enunwa’s problem was a recurrence of the shoulder and neck issue that sidelined him during mini-camp in June. But the coach differentiated Monday that no bulging disc problems had surfaced on any previous tests Enunwa underwent earlier in the summer, adding that the player had reported no other physical ailments upon reporting to training camp.
“He underwent tests and had treatment and he was doing better and he was doing fine,” Bowles said. “Like I said the other night, it just flared up. It’s something that comes and goes. It was a tingling feeling and he didn’t feel well. We rested him in the spring and it came back. He fell down and I guess it reoccurred…What he got Saturday was a result of falling the wrong way.”
Enunwa, 25, ran a slant route and dove for a pass from quarterback Christian Hackenberg during Saturday’s scrimmage, dropping the ball as he tumbled to the ground. Enunwa attempted to get up but collapsed back to the turf and remained face-down and motionless until trainers eventually helped him back to his feet and walked him slowly off the field.
Still, the prognosis turned out to be another deflating gut punch to a team with little depth at that position and such uncertainty at quarterback — and one already projected to finish this season near the bottom of the NFL standings.
“It’s not deflating. It’s part of it, injuries,” Bowles said. “You take body blows in the league. If somebody broke a leg or sprained an ankle, if you lose a player like that, guys still have to step up.
“There’s so many body blows and injuries throughout this league…So we just gotta have guys step up and we’ve got to coach them.”
With MANISH MEHTA
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