HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) _ Jets coach Herman Edwards calls Justin McCareins ``Gumby'' for a good reason.
The 6-foot-2 receiver has long arms that help make big plays. It happened again last week in a 10-7 victory over Cleveland.
The Jets went into the fourth quarter trailing 7-3. They started driving early in the period, but faced third-and-11 from the Browns 35. McCareins tried to get past the first-down marker but saw Quincy Carter getting pressured, so he came back for the ball.
Despite having a player glued to him, McCareins made the catch, then stretched for the first down. He got it. That play ended up being the turning point. McCareins scored two plays later on an 11-yard reception.
I knew I didn't get my depth and Quincy had to step up in the pocket, so I was coming back for the ball either way,'' McCareins said.I was aware that I was going to be short and it was going to take an effort down the field to get that first down. I just reached out for it.''
McCareins has made plenty of big plays lately, and seems to be hitting his stride in the offense. The Jets traded a second-round pick to Tennessee for McCareins in the offseason to complement Santana Moss. While Moss provides the speed, McCareins provides the size and strength.
He's big and strong,'' coach Herman Edwards said.He has arms as long as this room. I said that when we first got the guy: 'The guy got long arms. Stretches out, makes the first down.'''
McCareins leads the team in catches with 32 for 444 yards. He has three touchdown receptions, tops among Jets wide receivers, and they have come in the last four games.
It all started in a 13-7 loss to New England, when he had six catches for 83 yards, his largest output of the season. Then in a 41-14 victory over Miami, McCareins had three catches for 56 yards, including a dazzling 27-yard scoring pass from Chad Pennington.
On the play, McCareins caught the ball at the 2 and extended it into the end zone before he stepped out of bounds.
He was showing off on that one,'' Edwards said.I told him he was showing off. He knew he touched the pylon. I don't know how he did that. He did it, though. He's made some big plays for us, he really has. He's done a good job.''
Moss remembers McCareins was quiet and unassuming when he first came to the team. But he warmed up once the receivers made him feel welcome.
Now he fits right in.
What you have to do is make him feel at home,'' Moss said.You could tell when he first came over he didn't know what to expect so he was kind of quiet. Once he saw how cool we were to him, he knew he was in the right place and he knew he was at home.''
Is he surprised McCareins is playing so well?
When you're rolling like that, there's nothing you can do to stop that guy,'' Moss said.That's something we all know. If you get a chance to make plays like that, like he's been making, I know he feels no doubt in what he can do. Once they get a chance to do that, every week they're looking forward to it themselves.''
McCareins just wants to make improvements each week. After every game, he looks at film and runs through a checklist: Am I open? Am I in the spot where Quincy or Chad expects me to be?
Then when the season ends, he will be able to evaluate how he did in his first year here. So far, things are looking good.
My confidence is up there,'' McCareins said.I still have a ways to go and I'm still going to keep improving, but I'm very happy with where I'm at.''