I remember offering similar observations near the end of preseason last year and being criticized for not "recognizing a good football player when I saw one." JJ certainly was a crowd pleaser in training camp last year in special teams drills (at 3/4 speed). Many had prematurely anointed him as the new Billy White Shoes. Big difference in BWS and JJ. JJ's not even an average receiver and BWS could take it to the house. But, I don't care either about a take-it-to-the-house threat as much as the consistent field position that JJ gives. JJ earned a spot on this team for that very reason.
As far as lack of breakaway speed, JJ doesn't even have stay-ahead speed. There were several examples of him getting run down from behind last year, the most notable being the LB running him down in the Jets game (yes, I know the guy had an angle but...) and the Denver preseason game when Jarious Jackson ran him down from behind, and the New Orleans game when Michael Lewis closed on JJ as if he was running in quicksand...(ok it was Michael Lewis...) But to JJ's credit, those were all very good, very exciting returns, all made possible by his quickness and shifty style. He just couldn't finish, which is what everyone wants to see.
All that said, I like JJ and his sure hands and his guts and his ability to get good field position on KRs. He rarely fumbles and even though his punt return average was terrible, he made some difficult catches in traffic last year. It's not a bad thing if JJ makes the team. I think the good far outweighs the bad in terms of special teams play, but it would be nice to have a legit WR in the 5th slot - someone like a Dugans maybe who you're not going to put on the practice squad.
To make a long story short, if Duff or anyone else can give us sure hands (first and foremost), around 23 yards per kickoff return, and anything on punt returns, JJ's days could be numbered. JJ's one dimensional and when the talent level increases on the team to a level where cuts become more and more difficult, it's very important for a player to be able to fill dual roles such as return man and legit backup CB/WR/RB.
Last edited by aj.; 05-01-2004 at 08:53 AM.