Mehta: Jets’ Decker says breaking up with Broncos hard to do

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News Eric Decker sees a predictable drop in production as he trades future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning for Geno Smith and Michael Vick after joining the NY Jets in the offseason.

Eric Decker wouldn’t be human if he didn’t wonder what life would be like if he were preparing for another Super Bowl run with arguably the best quarterback in NFL history. He’d be lying if he said the thought didn’t cross his mind: What if I still played for the Denver Broncos?

One year after Decker was a statistical giant for the most prolific offense anyone has ever seen, he hopes that his new team will eventually find its way.

Life is good no matter what happens. He made the right financial decision. He landed in the marketing capital of the word to help the career of his wife, country singer Jessie James.


Does he miss playing with Peyton Manning in Denver?

“Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to watch them when they’re playing,” Decker told the Daily News in a quiet moment this week. “When they’re clicking on all cylinders, they’re a tough football team. They got the right pieces.”

Emmanuel Sanders, who replaced Decker, has been integral in the Broncos’ 7-3 start. He’s picked up where Decker left off in Denver’s explosive offense, ranking fourth in receptions (67), fifth in yards (954) and 11th in targets (92).

“Emmanuel Sanders is playing well in my spot, so to speak,” Decker said. “Sometimes, you know, it’s tough to see all the success. But that’s football. It’s going to go in swings. Who says we can’t be a great football team? We got to obviously do some right things to get there, but I’m happy for Peyton and Demaryius (Thomas). I respect them so much. They’re all good friends, so I like to see them do well, but sometimes it’s hard.”

Decker, who had 172 catches for 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns in two seasons with Manning, hasn’t found nearly the same success in his first season with the Jets. His 43 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns are a fraction of his production with the Broncos, who didn’t make him an offer before the Jets signed him to a 5-year, $36.25 million deal ($15 million guaranteed).

Sanders, meanwhile, is on track to make his first Pro Bowl.

“He was always a good receiver,” Decker said. “But you look at the type of offense. Pittsburgh didn’t throw the ball 50 times a game. Peyton throws the ball how many times a game? There’s great opportunities. You look at (Sanders). He’s got speed. He runs good routes. Obviously they got a chemistry. Demaryius Thomas is one of the best receivers in the league, so having him on the other side helps you. As far as the numbers (Sanders) is putting up, it’s all relative to how many times you throw and what kind of system you’re in.”

Manning has 407 pass attempts compared to 343 by Jets quarterbacks this season, prompting the never-ending debate about how much better he has made receivers through the years. Decker arrived with questions about whether he was a true No. 1 receiver or just a solid No. 2 with inflated numbers. “I was a product of the system,” Decker cracked with a smile.

“He made me better with the way I watched tape, the way I practiced,” Decker said of Manning. “I thought we were all good receivers, but it’s just that you get more exposed when you’re with such a great quarterback. A great quarterback can make a great receiver, but… you still got to get open.”

The drop-off from Manning to Geno Smith, and more recently Mike Vick, has been predictable. Decker’s professionalism and work ethic during this nightmarish season have been admirable. His presence has been invaluable for a team that needs as many leaders as possible.

“You wake up and you got a decision if you want to get better or if you just want to get through the day,” Decker said. “This is my job. So I’m not going to just go through the motions and be that guy. I’m going to try to get better every day. That’s what professionals do. If you’re a really good professional, you take a couple guys with you to keep chugging along and keep them progressing.”

Decker believes the Jets will get on track. He sees the promise in his new team, but it stings not being in the playoff hunt after making the postseason the past three years in Denver.

It might hurt watching his buddies on TV these days, but there’s no sense dwelling on what might have been.

He’s happy with his decision.

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