The numbers Breshad Perriman put up over the final five games last season didn't just stand out because they were some of the best in the NFL. They stood out because they were nothing like anything else he did in his career. The former first-round pick had never shown signs of being a true, No. 1 receiver.
But those 25 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns he had for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December? "That," he said, "was just a sneak peek at what's to come."
If it is, that will be great news for the Jets and quarterback Sam Darnold, because the 26-year-old Perriman would be the big-play receiver they so desperately need. The Jets signed the 6-2, 215-pounder to a one-year, $8 million contract just hours after Robby Anderson spurned the Jets for the Carolina Panthers.
But Perriman believes he can be much more than just Anderson's replacement.
"I bring a lot of speed, a lot of big play-making ability to this team," Perriman said. "I got nothing but respect for Robby (Anderson). I know he had a great career with the Jets. But I know that what I bring to the table is going to be great as well. I'm really eager to get to work and prove the ones that have any doubt in their mind wrong."
The doubters are understandable since Perriman has never quite lived up to the potential the Baltimore Ravens thought he had when they made him the 26th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He suffered a knee injury (a strained PCL) on his first day at an NFL training camp and ended up missing his entire rookie season. After that, things were never quite the same as he had just 59 catches for 916 yards over the next three years.
He was doing more of the same last year, in his first year with the Bucs, until late in the season when Tampa's starting receivers, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, both got hurt. Their injuries opened up a huge door for Perriman, and he still had the speed to go charging through.
"It was definitely just a matter of opportunity and taking advantage of it," Perriman said. "Unfortunately, they suffered injuries and it forced me to go into a bigger role and gave more opportunities and I just really capitalized on it."
But was it a fluke, or can he capitalize on it again with the opportunity he'll have with the Jets? Right now, he's penciled in as a starter opposite Jamison Crowder, and unless the Jets take a receiver with the 11th overall pick of the draft, that's unlikely to change.
So the opportunity will be there, though chemistry could be an issue since Perriman might not be able to work out with Darnold at all this offseason thanks to the restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once he does, though, he thinks he and Darnold will mesh quickly, and he believes he will thrive in Jets coach Adam Gase's offensive scheme.
"I believe it's going to happen now because knowing Coach Gase, he's definitely an offensive-minded coach," Perriman said. "You see that the receivers that he had and the numbers they put up every time in this system, I have no doubt in my mind this is definitely going to be a season to remember for me."
As memorable, he said, as those final five games he had last season.
"I just feel like that was just a tiny glimpse," he said. "And I'm looking forward to building from that little run."