Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets‘ sputtering passing attack will receive a double boost Sunday with the expected return of their most accomplished skill-position players, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Kellen Winslow.
Holmes, who has missed five games with a hamstring injury, practiced Monday as the Jets returned from a six-day break over their bye week. They face the Buffalo Bills on the road Sunday, and barring a setback, Holmes will be in the lineup.
“I think he’ll play,” coach Rex Ryan said. “He looks good to me. I certainly hope so.”
Winslow, who returned last week from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, was reinstated to the active roster after a week on the exemption list.
This is good news for the surprising Jets (5-4), who hope to build on the momentum they created after upsetting the New Orleans Saints before the bye week.
“I don’t see why we can’t win them all,” Winslow said.
A healthier receiving corps should create more balance on offense. Since Holmes’ injury in Week 4, the Jets have become reliant on the run, as quarterback Geno Smith has averaged only 181 passing yards per game since then. In Week 3, Holmes set a career high with 154 yards against the Bills, including the game-winning touchdown (69 yards) in the fourth quarter.
“It puts a smile on my face to get these guys back,” Smith said.
Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who missed the previous game with a concussion, also is expected to play. On the downside, the Jets will be without leading receiver Jeremy Kerley, who suffered a dislocated elbow against the Saints.
Kerley is expected to miss at least a few weeks, according to sources. Ryan wouldn’t give a specific timetable, but he basically ruled him out for Sunday, saying, “It doesn’t look good.”
Kerley is a key contributor on offense, but there will be enough depth at receiver with Holmes, Stephen Hill and David Nelson, an ex-Bill who will face his former team for the first time. Nelson was stung this past April when he found out on Twitter that the Bills had no plans to make him a qualifying tender.
“I’m out to prove this week they made a mistake,” said Nelson, who revealed Monday that he won his appeal for the $7,875 fine he received last month for an unnecessary-roughness penalty on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.
There was an upbeat mood in the locker room as the Jets returned from the long break. No one expected them to be in contention at this point in the season, but they’re already one win shy of last season’s total.
“Teams peak at certain times in the season, and we’re kind of at the point where you want to make a decision, how good you really want to be,” said Winslow, the leading receiver at the time of his suspension. “We’re a real good team defensively and we’re a good running team. That’s what you want in the playoffs. That’s what goes far in the playoffs. We’re right there.”
Ryan, once known for his bold predictions, refused to look past the Bills (3-7), although he described the Jets as “a dangerous team” because of their balance between offense, defense and special teams.
Guard Willie Colon said it “would be foolish to start thinking playoffs.” On paper, the schedule looks favorable, but he added: “I’m never big into looking into neighbors’ houses. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can get into trouble.”
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate