Fans of the Buffalo Bills know the name Jeremy Kerley pretty well. Coming into the league as a fifth round pick of the New York Jets in the 2011 NFL Draft, Kerley has played six of his seven seasons with gang green, primarily as a slot receiver and punt returner.
Jeremy Kerley has struggled to receive targets on offense most years, despite a durable and mostly reliable career. Kerley has appeared in a total of 98 games in his seven years in the NFL, with four perfect attendance awards. Despite that, Kerley has only one season with over 100 targets (yielding 667 yards on 64 catches). This came in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. His most productive season was in 2012, where he caught 56 passes for 827 yards for the Jets.
Right after the Jets victory over the Bills last year, Kerley was suspended for four games due to a PED violation which was likely a factor in his release. The signing continues a trend of acquiring players coming off PED suspensions for the 2018 Bills. This is a notable departure from the clean cut image that McDermott seemed to have looked for in his first year as head coach.
Let’s start off with his special teams ability. Jeremy Kerley was the primary punt returner for the Jets in 2017. This play captures much of the good and bad of Kerley. He has good hands, even moving. Once he makes the catch, he’s willing to take some risks and run the wrong way a bit if he thinks he sees something. This can backfire, especially as he doesn’t possess elite speed. Generally speaking, Kerley identifies the gaps correctly, with the question really surrounding his (and the team’s) ability to capitalize. Kerley is typically smart about calling fair catches if his blocking has broken down. He stands tough making catches even with a crowd around him.
With a team as run-oriented as Buffalo usually trends, blocking is a crucial WR skill. You can see Jeremy Kerley’s floor on this play. He could be a little more aggressive making this block, but to be fair he normally is. Though it’s a close call, he gets enough of his man to make sure he won’t make the tackle. The biggest drawback with Kerley is his tendency to immediately start blocking at the snap. You’ll rarely see him faking a route convincingly, which can tip off defenders to the play call right away. This exact snap was selected specifically to showcase Kerley’s speed. There’s a lot of athletes involved in this footrace. Until he slows down in celebration, Kerley is managing pretty well.
Kerley shows off his veteran presence. A solid route and timing make for a nice completion to the sideline. He uses his body well to give the QB a good angle to throw to then remembers to toe tap to make it count. There’s nothing spectacular, but there doesn’t need to be. Kerley gives a solid option for a fast chunk of yards on shorter routes.
Two closely related things stood out watching this play. Kerley’s timing is impeccable which makes this catch in traffic look quite routine. His acceleration is impressive as well, at least as it relates to using it wisely. To be more specific, Kerley hesitates for a half-step and then pushes hard to break inside around the second defender.
This catch is a great overall look at Kerley. The route is solid, but not spectacular. His speed is good, but not great. He times the jump and turn well and knows right where the sideline is. Kerley is pretty good in just about everything you want in a receiver and has experience lining up all over the field. He’s a versatile addition for a team that sorely needed playmakers on offense.
This is another play where he does a lot of things well. And it’s always good to end on a high note...