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Backing Elijah in Year 3
Welcome to another week where we will inevitably talk about the QB a whole lot. But today is not that day, today we’re going to shift focus away from the signal caller and the heralded 2022 draft class and talk about Elijah Moore.
Although of course, we'll touch on the big news from the weekend 😉
I remember going into the off-season last year with so much excitement around the development of Elijah Moore. Then the 2022 season happened. But heading into the 2023 season, the optimism for #8 has returned and that optimism starts with the idea that #2 won’t be throwing him the ball next year, or at least we hope not.
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✈️ Derek Carr flew into NY this weekend for an official visit with the Jets. Carr had already visited the Saints and now he takes a visit to the only other team who inquired about his availability before his release. NFL insiders are still saying that the Jets prefer Aaron Rodgers, but getting Carr in for a visit gives them a backup plan. The main issue here is that it's likely Carr will sign before we know if Rodgers is really a possibility. I'm in the camp of going all out to get Carr signed. The expectation remains that Carr will take his time and possibly visit Carolina, but sign before free agency, which starts on March 15th, although he’ll want to sign by March 13th which is the start of the most pointless period of free agency, the legal tampering period.
Here's what we know about that visit. He flew in on Friday and had dinner with the Jets brass. He then took a tour of the facility on Saturday and then headed into Jersey for some lunch with Saleh and Hackett. He then returned to the facility and that's where it goes dark. However according to a Source the visit went extremely well and there is real interest on both sides.
🗻 Mike Westhoff has signed a deal to become the assistant head coach for the Denver Broncos, and he will also oversee the special teams unit alongside Ben Kotwica, who was hired as special teams coordinator.
The Washington Commanders hired Chiefs SB winning offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be their assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. It's a shame that Bieniemy has to make this move before moving to head coach, we've seen coordinators get that call historically without calling plays. But this is a great opportunity for Bieniemy to show that the success in KC wasn't all down to Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
Over the last five games of his rookie season, Elijah Moore posted 392 yards and 5 touchdowns on 28 receptions, he was explosive and dynamic.
Fast-forward to 2022 and he posted 37 catches for 446 yards and 1 touchdown in 16 games. I don’t care who you are, that’s professional malpractice to not develop a talent like Moore.
2022 was a frustrating year for everyone, but arguably nobody was more frustrated than Moore. So frustrated that in just his second season out of college he requested a trade, something that just doesn’t really happen…unless you’re the Jets. Moore became the 2nd wide receiver to request a trade within the year with Mims requesting a trade at the end of the pre-season.
Why did Moore request that trade?
Simply he wasn’t being used. At the point of his trade request, he had just 16 receptions. The Jets had found a system that worked, and it largely relied on giving the ball to Breece Hall. Zach Wilson said as much the day after the trade request was made:
"It's not a thing where I'm trying to avoid him or whatever it is, because he's a great player," Wilson said. "I'm just going through my progressions. We're always talking about routes, how we can clean things up every week. It's being patient and trusting the process. I only had 10 completions last week, but we won the game, so it's awesome. I love him, and I hope he understands he's special to our team."
There is one point in here that seems to contradict what we now know and that’s the progressions part. According to an Athletic article posted earlier this off-season, part of the issue stemmed from the Jets simplifying the offensive for a struggling Zach Wilson, telling him if his first and second read weren’t there, to take off.
Having a two progression system is tough when you’re competing with the likes of Garrett Wilson, Tyler Conklin and Corey Davis. With Moore often finding himself the 3rd or even 4th read on any given play, the targets inevitably dried up and the frustration simmered.
But that was 2022, and now’s the time to look ahead to the new season with a new system and hopefully a new QB calling the shots.
I believe that the guy who finished the 2021 season with a five-game streak of 78.4 receiving yards and a touchdown per game is set for a breakout campaign.
There were only 13 receivers in the NFL last year to receive at least 30 targets and not register a single drop, and Elijah Moore was one of them. If you rate it by targets received, Moore (59 targets) was the 6th best receiver in the NFL falling behind Keenan Allen (94), K.J Osborn (88), Dortch (64), Collins (64), Raymond (62).
They also found a more permanent home for him as the season progressed. Over the course of the first five games, Moore spent just 23.9% of his snaps in the slot. Over the last five games that number has shot up to 73.06%. I still think he can win on the outside, but getting him the ball in space is a priority.
Moore only had 96 yards after the catch last year which worked out at 2.6 yards after the catch per reception. Both numbers were the lowest on the Jets, behind the likes of Jeff Smith and Denzel Mims. Now obviously the player has to take some responsibility, but a scheme alone should be able to generate better numbers than that, especially when the player in question had 0 drops.
I combined all the receivers for the Jets, Packers, Raiders and 49ers to see where that would rank, and of 17 qualified receivers (min 15 targets), Moore would be 16th in terms of YAC/reception and 13/17 in just YAC. Moore is better than that. We saw it in 2021 when despite missing significant time his YAC and YAC/Reception were significantly higher.
Good QBs who can work through their progressions tend to find their slot receivers at the right time. Aaron Rodgers favoured receivers Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard last year and Cobb spent 80% of his time in the slot and Lazard nearly 40%. Hunter Renfrow spent 65% of his time in the slot for Las Vegas back in 2021 and Carr helped him on his way to a 111 reception, 1,096 yard and, 9 touchdown season.
I’ve seen some suggestions that the Jets should trade Moore away, or at least consider it. That to me would be a huge error.
Moore is a highly talented receiver and outside of Garrett Wilson, the Jets don’t have a lot at the position. We have Corey Davis who may be a cap casualty, Braxton Berrios who will likely get cut if he doesn’t restructure and Denzel Mims.
Not to mention that Moore is still on his rookie deal making him extremely cap friendly. Even if he were to repeat his 2022 performance, which he won’t, because he’s significantly better than those statistics, he’d still be good value at $2.4 million.
His struggles in 2022 came down to poor QB play and a system which had to be simplified to accommodate that poor QB play. Even if the Jets strike out on Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr, they quite literally can’t get worse QB play than they received from Zach Wilson last year, he was basically bottom in every major category. Behind Brissett, Minshew, Baker and all those 2nd and 3rd tier QBs.
It’s up to Nathaniel Hackett to design an offense that gets Moore involved, because I can confidently say that Garrett Wilson is going to be getting a lot of attention next year.
Name: Hendon Hooker
Team: Tennessee Volunteers
Projection: 1st-3rd round
2022 Stats: 69.2% completion, 27 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 3135 yards, 123.9 passer rating
Height/Weight: 6’4, 218lbs
Strengths: One of the best deep ball throwers in college with arm strength to spare. Is a rhythm passer who’s improved his accuracy from the pocket every single year. Looks after the football throwing just 2 interceptions this year and having a 1.1% turnover worthy rate, which shows it’s not fluke. Gets the ball out quickly and on time. Had over 2000 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns in college, big physical runner who’s very difficult to bring down. Regarded as a student of the game and seen as a leader by his teammates and yes, he was voted as a team captain.
Weaknesses: There are three main weaknesses that you’ll hear when people talk about Hooker and all three are out of his control. He’s 25 years of age, he’s coming off a torn ACL and he played in the Josh Heupal’s system at Tennessee. A system that at its core is a spread offense, which isn’t uncommon. It’s a vertical wide-split spread, which makes it very difficult to defend the run. It’s also a hurry up no-huddle offense which relies heavily on the run. It’s quite gimmicky and a lot of people don’t like that when analysing a QB, I don’t mind it (more on that below).
Final View: If we want to take a developmental QB then I love the idea of grabbing Hooker. Especially if he falls to the top of the third (I don’t expect that). I know he’s 25 but if he can sit for a year or two and get comfortable, then start from age 27, you’re still getting a fair few years out of him. He’s a leader, he’s smart and he’s becoming more and more accurate.