Why the NY Jets should trade Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson
A role reversal is in order for Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson of the New York Jets
The New York Jets are rolling. They’re tied for the second-best record in the AFC at 4-2 and are 3-0 since the return of quarterback Zach Wilson.
But that doesn’t mean they should rest on their laurels. They should keep looking for ways to improve.
When looking for areas where the Jets can perform better, no part of the team stands out more than the wide receiver duo of Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson. Moore and Wilson are two of the most talented players on the Jets’ roster, but the results haven’t been there.
After catching a pass for 11 yards in his last two games (with just 4 targets in that span), Moore is officially in the midst of a disappointing second season. He’s averaging 2.7 receptions for 33.8 yards and hasn’t scored a touchdown. He’s the same guy who averaged 5.6 catches for 76.5 yards with five touchdowns in his last six games as a rookie.
Wilson’s rookie year started well. In three games, he averaged 6.0 receptions for 71.3 yards. Since then, he’s been quiet, averaging 2.0 catches for 25.3 yards. It was also extremely ineffective during this time, catching only 6 of 15 targets (40.0%).
What’s up with these guys?
Well, earlier in the year I thought Moore was quietly playing really good football. His split over the first four games has been solid. It looked like he was just unlucky the ball wasn’t coming his way and a breakout was bound to happen soon.
After the Jets’ Week 4 win over Pittsburgh, I posted an article showing a plethora of plays in which Moore opened up but didn’t get the ball. Moore’s main obstacle was that the Jets required him to go many long development routes, but lacked the pass blocking to get the ball to him on those plays.
However, in the past two games, the Jets’ pass blocking was much better, but Moore was somehow targeted even less frequently. That’s because Moore hasn’t opened up as often. I haven’t seen a play in the last two games where Moore was open but didn’t win the ball.
In turn, Moore has found himself with a hold over the past two games. His first four-game streak (3.8 catches for 48.0 yards) looked disappointing at the time, but now even that disappointing stat line feels like it’s out of Moore’s reach.
It’s starting to look like Moore’s meltdown is something more than just bad luck.
As for Wilson, his separation has also worsened.
Three games into the year, I thought Wilson was playing even better than his stated 71.3 yards per game average. As many takes as he did, he opened up for countless more, but Joe Flacco kept missing him.
Since then, however, Wilson has been less effective at creating separation. That’s a big reason why he’s only caught 40% of his targets in the last three games: corners are starting to cover him.
How can the Jets get these young studs back on track?
I think the solution is relatively simple: switch roles. Put Wilson in Moore’s place and vice versa.
Here’s a comparison of each receiver’s role this season, with data courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats.
Note: Route data includes all routes run by the receiver, not just the reads they were targeted on.
I strongly believe each of these guys would be better off if their numbers in the table above were swapped — or if the Jets at least found some kind of middle ground between where they each are right now.
Let’s start with Moore. He mainly lines up outside (80% of his shots) and spends most of his time running deep vertical lanes. Moore was asked to run a “go” route on 33% of his passing plays, which is tied for 11th among qualified wide receivers. Its aDOT (Average Depth of Target) is a whopping 14.4, ranking 14th.
This role does not work for Moore. That leaves him as a non-factor on most passing plays.
Moore is not the guy I would want as the main deep threat in position X. His small frame limits his catching radius in contested situations and also leads to a lack of separation against physical cover. Moore should definitely hit some roads once in a while, but having it done on a third of his shots is a complete mismanagement of his skills.
In this game against Green Bay, Moore (top) fails to find a well-placed deep ball from Zach Wilson as he struggles to fight through the physics of the midfield cornerback.
Here, Moore (top) loses a fairly winnable 50-50 situation on a one-way drive.
Plays like these cause the quarterback to distrust Moore on those roads, which is a big reason why he’s not often targeted on the go roads even though he sometimes wins them (see the Pittsburgh movie). If the quarterback doesn’t trust him, they’re not going to look his way. Confidence is crucial on deep balls. The quarterback must believe that his receiver can help him if the ball is not perfect.
Now imagine Garrett Wilson as Moore on the two games above. It’s much easier to imagine Wilson making the catch in these situations – and more importantly, it’s much easier to imagine the quarterback confident Wilson to do the crochet. He has a slightly better height, much longer arms, considerably better jumping ability, and a much better knack for winning contested holds.
Garrett Wilson did this unreal take as a REAL freshman 🤯 pic.twitter.com/x0hh5l7l4F
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) May 27, 2020
Garrett Wilson flashes ball jumping ability in #Jets training camp.
— Brandon Carr (@bcarr_13) August 20, 2022
I think Wilson would do a lot of damage as Moore. He could unlock the vertical play that the Jets’ passing offense lacked.
Not only do I think Wilson would split more frequently, but I think the quarterback would have more confidence to win 50-50 balls which would lead to more shots on the field even when not “open”. And knowing how talented Wilson is in these situations, I think he’ll catch a lot of those 50-50 balls (and shoot a few penalties in the process – an underrated plus of throwing deep passes that are contested).
For the Jets to get the most out of Moore, they need to give him the ball in situations where he can grab it and make a play after the catch. He has a speed of 4.35 and incredible elusiveness. Currently, Moore ranks third among wide receivers with .313 forced missed tackles per reception (5 of 16 catches), and that’s with most of his receptions in situations that aren’t conducive to producing YAC. He’s a YAC monster, and that’s his most reliable trait right now.
Remember the time Moore cooked off highly paid Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones for a 62-yard touchdown last season, including 48 yards after the catch. The Jets need to give Moore more quick throws like this — throws that maximize his quickness off the line and then allow him to get the ball into space.
Moore hit a top speed of 20.48 miles per hour on that play, according to NFL Next Gen stats. His career top speed is 20.52 miles per hour. Wilson, on the other hand, has only reached a top speed of 19.70 miles per hour in his rookie season so far.
That’s why Moore has to play the role of Wilson.
Wilson is used both inside and out, but he leans towards the slot machine at 62%. His road diet consists mostly of short stuff as he ranks 70th out of 93 qualified wide receivers with an aDOT of just 9.1 yards. Two of the most common routes used by Wilson relative to the league average are slants (10% vs. 7% average) and crossers (14% vs. 10% average): two breaking routes that place the receiver in a position to gain yards after the catch.
Obviously, Wilson is also an outstanding YAC player (he’s fifth among WR with eight forced missed tackles), so it’s not as if Wilson was the wrong choice in this role. It’s just that Moore can probably produce similar results in this role whereas Wilson would be a much better fit for the role Moore is playing.
Despite Wilson’s seemingly excellent fit in the slot, some questions are starting to emerge for Wilson as a slot receiver, which makes me wonder if perhaps Moore is better than Wilson in the slot. /in his role.
Wilson has a bad habit of not knowing where the first marker is. It’s been happening all season and is only getting more common. This is a troubling trait for a slot receiver, which is supposed to be your most reliable string engine.
Wilson too often cuts his course short of the sticks on third down. Here are examples from the Steelers and Packers games. Wilson is flush left on both plays.
I didn’t notice this tendency from Moore in his first two years in the league. It’s a smart cover reader that knows where the sticks are and knows how to find the weak spot in the area. These traits were essential parts of his breakout to close out the 2021 season. See here as Moore (top) flattens his way about two yards past the first marker.
So I would say that not only would Wilson probably be better than Moore in his role, but Moore might also be better than Wilson in his role.
I know it’s easier said than done to just switch player roles as if we were dragging pieces across a chessboard. This is real life, not Madden.
That being said, I think Moore and Wilson are each ready to handle such a change. They each have extensive experience switching between inside and outside throughout their college and NFL careers. Wilson went from a primary pitch as a sophomore to a primary outside receiver as a junior. Moore went from a primary location in college to a primary outside receiver in the NFL.
Elijah Moore is too talented to continue being an invisible decoy who’s on the court doing nothing but cardio. His current role does not suit him. Turn it on. Garrett Wilson is more than equipped to successfully take on the role of Moore, and all signs point to Moore thriving in the role Wilson is playing.