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Working Moore with Wilson
The NFL football season passes quickly, it feels as though it’s only just begun and we’re already into week 9. We’re basically down the back-9 now and then it’s basically 7 months of no football action, that’s a depressing thought.
Well, we’ve still got 9 games to and the Jets will host the Bills this week before heading off on their bye week to rest and recuperate. At worst we’re going to have a winning record going into our bye and I’m pretty sure most people would have taken that had it been offered at the start of the year.
Thursday Night Football sees the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles head to Houston to take on the 1-5-1 Texans, I think Houston is starting to realize that maybe Davis Mills isn’t the answer at QB. We still have our own questions there but today we’re going to switch our focus to the receivers.
Corey Davis didn’t practice yesterday and Coach Saleh said that it was “on the fence” as to whether he’ll be able to play on Sunday. This is a strange injury because when he injured his knee in week 7, he was actually cleared to come back into the game by the medical staff. If he ends up missing two weeks, that doesn’t look good on the medical staff.
Duane Brown, Nate Herbig, Lamarcus Joyner, and C.J Uzomah were all limited yesterday, but all are expected to play on Sunday. I’m not sure we could manage to lose two more linemen on top of what we’ve already lost.
Jermaine Johnson is healthy and will be back in the lineup for Sunday. That probably played a part in the Jets feeling comfortable about moving Jacob Martin.
Saleh also commented that the Jets absolutely have to find more opportunities for Elijah Moore which
Tyler Conklin has 32 receptions through Week 8 which is tied for 3rd-most among New York Jets tight ends since 1970. Safe to say that Conklin has found his feet quickly in New York.
Yesterday I wrote a piece for Gang Green Nation about how the Jets need to bring Elijah Moore back into the gameplan, and if you have a few minutes to spare head over and check that out, as I’m going to elaborate on that piece in today’s newsletter.
Last week when Zach Wilson needed all the help he can get, Elijah Moore ran just 7 routes on 10 total snaps. Less than Garrett Wilson, Denzel Mims, Braxton Berrios, and even Jeff Smith. After the game Coach Saleh explained that the low snap count was a result of wanting to get Garrett on the field more in the absence of Corey Davis.
It wasn’t always like this. Let’s just start by looking at the snap counts of the receivers through 8 weeks of the season, along with their overall targets:
Denzel Mims basically came in and took on the role of Corey Davis. If you look at the week five snaps which are based on 59 overall offensive snaps, Mims played almost the exact same as Davis, so the theory that Moore only played 10 snaps because they wanted to get Wilson on the field next in place of Corey doesn’t hold much water, Wilson did play a season-high snap %, but have no doubt about it, Elijah was being punished. Even if the Jets wanted to switch Wilson and Moore so that Wilson was the dominant receiver, Moore should have still had around 30 snaps in that game instead of the 10 that he saw. Whether you agree with the punishment or not, that’s a mismanagement of resources.
I’m just going to repeat a portion of the article for GGN as for me this is the basic issue with Moore and how he’s being used:
One thing the Jets aren’t doing is using Moore for his yards after the catch ability. Last year 17.6% of his targets were at or behind the line of scrimmage, but this year he hasn’t had a single target behind the line of scrimmage. Most of his targets are coming between 10-20 yards (48.1%) which is a huge jump from last year (31.1%) - Basically, all his behind-the-line targets are being filtered into the medium depth, and while there is nothing wrong with that the Jets are using him more on the boundary which doesn’t give him the desired space to work with and doesn’t allow him to maximize his best assets, route-running, and yards after the catch.
His most targeted area of the field last year was the middle of the field between 10-20 yards, which accounted for 14.9% of all targets, 3 of his 5 touchdowns came in this area. This year that area accounts for just 11.1% of all targets, doesn’t sound like a huge decline but that’s gone from his most targeted area to the 5th most targeted area. The Jets are largely using him on the boundary between 10-20 yards (18.5% on the left, 18.5% on the right).
In theory, if Wilson was taking some of Corey’s snaps on the boundary, that would have opened up the middle of the field for Elijah to go to work, yet Moore spent most of the afternoon on the sideline.
If you look at how the Jets use Garrett Wilson, he is used in the middle of the field a lot. Here is his receiving chart through 8 weeks of the season and for good reason. He has 14 catches on 18 targets over the middle of the field, better than his 7/14 on the right and 4/11 on the left.
Now let’s compare that with how the Jets are using Elijah Moore so far this season. You’ll see that Moore only has 5 targets over the middle of the field, yet he’s caught 4 of them. Outside of the deep numbers of 1/4, and the intermediate right numbers of 2/5, Moore is doing a job everywhere else.
The Jets have used Moore a lot this year to run those deep patterns and clear out safeties, a waste of his obvious route running and yards after the catch ability. Now compare that target chart above with his one from last season and you’ll see the stark differences, the main one being that he’s not getting fed the ball behind the line of scrimmage, which seems such an easy fix for Mike LaFleur.
At the moment Garrett Wilson is getting 100% of those looks if just looking at Moore/Wilson, it seems completely illogical that the Jets are not splitting that more evenly if only to get some easy completions. If things continue as they are, Moore will be on course to get half the targets over the middle of the field as he had last year.
What you don’t do is completely reverse course and stick Garrett on the boundary, he’s doing well inside, but rotating them more evenly makes sense.
This is going to be the last target chart, but I do think it helps add some context to the article. Here is Garrett’s receiving chart from his final year at Ohio State and it shows how well he worked inside and out. The numbers between the hashes are impressive but his numbers outside the hashes are also impressive, significantly more so than Moore's. It’s also worth noting that Wilson caught 61.5% of contested catches in his final year at OSU and that’s an outstanding number,
One of the most exciting aspects of drafting Wilson and pairing him with Moore was based on their ability to work inside and out. Earlier in the season, we were seeing them rotate positions, which made it hard for defenses to track. Recently we’ve seen Moore banished to the boundary, and that is likely to get under his skin because he knows he’s not being put in the position to succeed, and if he succeeds the team succeeds.
It’s not a one-or-the-other situation, Mike LaFleur absolutely has to find a way to get both on the field and get both targets, and Zach needs to actually work through his reads to find the best option. There are plenty of targets to go around they just need to be more evenly distributed.
We may not be the Bengals and we probably don’t want to throw as much as they do, but they have three different receivers who have at least 40 targets (Chase, Higgins, and Boyd). We need to make this work if we want to be a serious playoff contender.
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