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The best single season QB/WR Combos
Good morning ☕
Thousands of fans descended on Florham Park this weekend for two days of public practice, and the man of the moment didn’t disappoint.
There were a number of outstanding throws by Aaron Rodgers, a lot of great catches, some good defence and a few scuffles as well, everything you’d want to see.
Seeing that Aaron Rodgers to Garrett Wilson connection got me thinking about the best-ever single-season QB/WR combos for the Jets.
🙌 “Yeah, it’s fun because sometimes the ball’s not even thrown and they’re out there competing because they find each other all the time,” coach Robert Saleh said on the competition between Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson. “It’s cliché — iron sharpens iron, an offensive and defensive rookie of the year — but it’s a pretty cool dynamic to watch those two go at it. It’s fun to watch those two.”
🏈 “That’s what makes Sauce so special,” Saleh said on his 2nd-year corner “Every play is personal and he is trying to do his absolute best. There is no plays off, he’s not getting bored, he’s challenging himself every day. And because of that, I am excited to see what he does next. He’s just that type of guy that no mountain is high enough. He’s just going to keep trying to climb.”
🏆 Richi Cimini had this quick tidbit which I hadn’t seen before: “What the defense did last season was historic. It slashed its points per game by 11.0 from the previous season, the second-largest turnaround in the NFL in the past 45 years”
📈 “I want to get better every day,” Wilson said. “And I feel like he’s (Rodgers) helping me get there. I mean, he doesn’t slouch on any details. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He’s straightforward. He’s going to tell you what we’ve got to work on, what we’ve got to do better. And, you know, that’s how I want it.”
💪 “I want to be the best version of me,” Gardner said of what he expects in 2023 “I was the best version of myself last year, but I had a whole offseason of working and making my weaknesses my strengths. This year, I’ll be a whole different version of myself.”
🧤 Jason Brownlee continues to make plays. The UDFA wide receiver caught a long one from Zach Wilson, with Brandin Echos competing he brought it down for a big gain. That’s the second big catch this weekend, he also made one from Rodgers which got him a helmet tap. He looks to be the clear leader for that WR6 role right now, admittedly it’s still very early.
✈️ One of the more pleasing things at camp is we’re seeing both the offence and defence make plays, on one play Garrett Wilson will get a big gain, on the next Jordan Whitehead is getting a PBU, and then you have a Kenny Yeboah touchdown, followed by a Sauce PBU. Because of how good we know this defence is, that tells me that both units are heading in the right direction. On Sunday the offense won the red-zone period, and the defense won the competition period.
🚨 Saleh was asked about how good it is to see that red-zone offence performing well: “Yeah, redzone offense is always so hard because you either have to run it in or you have to put that ball in a place where only one person in the world can catch it, because windows are really, really tight, it’s got to get in there quick, you’ve got to be decisive, you’ve got to have precision, so it’s been really good for the offense, obviously. Aaron does a great job threading needles and getting the ball in there, Zach (Wilson) had a couple of really good throws today in the redzone, so it’s been encouraging, but defensively, we’ve got to figure out how to close up those small windows.”
🤕 Duane Brown was back at practice over the weekend after attending to some ‘personal matters’, but he wasn’t ready to take part. Instead, he was placed on the PUP list. It’s too early to worry, but it’s well worth keeping an eye on this. Fortunately, Mekhi Becton is moving extremely well out there, I tweeted out a video of one of his drills and it showed his footwork hasn’t suffered.
2️⃣ Aaron Rodgers said that just playing one year would be a disservice to the Jets, and while the Jets said they want him to have fun and not worry about 2024, it would be a huge shock if Rodgers doesn’t play at least 2 years. The thing is, if he’s having fun and physically still able, why would he not play for 2, 3 or even 4 years?
✅ Corey Davis is in camp and he made a statement catch off Rodgers at the weekend, diving to bring in a 2-point conversion of a beauty of a sidearm throw. Could Davis be the underrated player who has a career year on offence? I’m not sure about that, but I love having him as part of the rotation.
🆙 Michael Carter II doesn’t get the headlines playing with Reed and Sauce, but his contributions don’t go unnoticed by coaches, teammates or fans. "Michael is probably underappreciated because he doesn’t have the splash name," Saleh said on Saturday. "He doesn’t make the splash plays, but if you go back and watch, you’re like, 'damn, that guy's pretty freaking good,' and he’s only going to get better," said Saleh. "If you remember he’s going into Year 3, and he’s learning the nuances. He’s getting better and he’s physical, he’s smart, he communicates really well, and he’s fearless, so we’re really excited about having him” he continued. Back in OTA Rodgers said "I remember last year when we played the Jets, felt like we wanted to get after MC, and then after the game, I think everybody was like, ‘He’s a pretty damn good player,’ but also a good person,"
🥊 As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there were skirmishes at camp this weekend, and that’s to be expected, as Saleh explains: "It's training camp, these guys are fighting for their livelihood, right?" Saleh said. "They're trying to get on teams, they're trying to compete their tail off to get into a starting lineup, a spot on the roster, to earn a role. So fights are gonna happen.". He also offered some pretty good advice: “I tell them—when you fight as a family, you’ve got a rule as a family, I tell my seven kids, ‘Keep it below the neck and above the waist,’”
👍 Watch out for Tyler Conklin, he’s had several big catches to start camp and he seems to be developing a strong connection with Aaron Rodgers. Robert Tonyan had 11 touchdowns back in 2020 with Rodgers and Hackett calling the shots, and I’d say that Conklin is more talented than Tonyan. Could be a huge year for Conklin, especially in the red zone where he was underutilized last year.
When it was announced that the Jets had agreed to a trade with Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers, one of my first thoughts was about Garrett Wilson.
Wilson had just put up an 83-catch, 1,103-yard, 4-touchdown season with Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco throwing him the ball…as a rookie no less.
What could he possibly do with a seasoned play-caller and a 4-time MVP quarterback?
If the early indications from camp are anything to go by, this connection is going to be huge.
This got me thinking about the best single-season performances from a quarterback/receiver combo in Jet’s history.
Best Touchdown Combinations
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Brandon Marshall - 14 TD (2015)
Al Dorow/Art Powell - 14 TD (1960)
Joe Namath/Don Maynard - 14 TD (1965)
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Eric Decker - 12 TD (2015)
Ken O’Brien/Wesley Walker - 12 TD (1986)
Outside of that highly frustrating but magical 2015 season, we really haven’t seen a lot of elite QB/WR connections in NY in decades.
Could Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson get onto this list in 2023? Easily. Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns as recently as 2020 and 37 as recently as 2021.
If he throws 30+ touchdowns this year, I’m almost certain that at least 12 will be to Wilson. If he throws more then maybe Wilson takes home the outright lead in this category.
Best Reception Combinations
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Brandon Marshall - 109 receptions (2015)
Ken O’Brien/Al Toon - 93 receptions (1988)
Chad Pennington/Laverenues Coles - 91 receptions (2006)
Chad Pennington/Laverenues Coles - 89 receptions (2002)
Ray Lucas & Rick Mirer/Keyshawn Johnson - 89 receptions (1999)
The Ken O’Brien one is a little cheeky as Pat Ryan started 4 games in that 1988 season and Vinny T played some of that 2002 season, but in both years it was O’Brien and Chad doing the majority of the damage.
I still find it remarkable that the Jets have only ever had one 100+ reception season and that came in a year where he failed to make the playoffs.
Wilson had 83 catches last year which was good for the 10th-highest in Jets history, but he was the out-and-out number one target, and it’s going to be interesting to see if having a better overall receiving unit will eat into his targets.
My guess is it won’t and we’ll throw the ball more, despite us hopefully playing with the lead more.
Best Yardage Combinations
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Brandon Marshall - 1502 yards (2015)
Joe Namath/Don Maynard - 1434 (1967)
Joe Namath/Don Maynard - 1297 (1968)
Al Dorrow/ Don Maynard - 1265 (1960)
Chad Pennington/Laveranues Coles - 1264 (2002)
It should come as no surprise to see the Joe Namath and Don Maynard connection dominate this list, if you give context to the era they played, the number of games, and the style of play, it’s even more remarkable.
It also gives you a firm appreciation of that Fitzpatrick/Marshall connection to see the top of the list in every single category.
Wilson and Rodgers should get on here relatively comfortably, but can they hit the top of the charts? That may be a tough ask.
Devante Adams's stat line of 115 receptions, 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2020 should be the aim, at least in terms of personal goals, because I believe that’s the kind of talent that Wilson possesses.
But at the end of the day, as long as the Jets are experiencing a deep playoff run, the personal accolades really don’t matter.
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