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The Inexplicable Go To Guy

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It was largely lost in Zach Wilson’s ugly performance on Sunday, but the most targeted Jets receiver in the game was Braxton Berrios. Largely viewed as a depth afterthought heading into the season, Berrios also tie Corey Davis for the most targets in the season opening loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Through two games Berrios has 18 targets. The Jets have 70 passing attempts, meaning Berrios has been targeted just over one quarter (25.7%) of the time when the Jets have thrown it.

To contextualize the extent to which Berrios has been featured in the first two games, I took at look at the receivers who received the highest share of their team’s targets in the full 2020 season.

Only five receivers in the entire NFL received more than a quarter of their team’s targets. Only thirty received 20% or more.

It’s also worth noting the stature of the pass catchers on this list. There are few exceptions, but that is largely a list of some of the top receivers in the NFL. It probably goes without saying, but you don’t see many teams featuring a backup receiver to the extent the Jets have with Berrios.

Why do teams throw to these players? Getting it to your best players is presumably one of the most efficient and effective ways to move the ball. You can see here the average gain each pass targeting these players produced.

Passes targeting Berrios so far in 2021 have averaged a 6.8 yard gain. That would be near the bottom of the list.

The lack of efficiency from these plays shouldn’t come as a great shock. According to Next Gen Stats, Berrios’ average target has only been 6.4 yards down the field. That ranks 94th out of 126 qualifiers. After the catch, Berrios is only averaging 3.4 yards, which ranks 87th. There isn’t anything productive happening. Even though over half of completions go for a first down in the NFL, but only 4 of Berrios’ 12 receptions through the first two games have moved the chains.

The receiver seeing the most volume on this offense is just really inefficient.

Of course none of this is really Berrios’ fault. He is who he is. He was supposed to be a depth player on offense.

Some injuries and illnesses have given him unexpected playing time. So has the ongoing Denzel Mims situation.

You can point to any number of reasons for the Jets leaning on him so heavily from the coaching staff to Zach Wilson to defenses trying to funnel the ball to him. With Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole on the way back, it is likely both his share of the targets and his playing time will significantly decrease. This problem will likely take care of itself.

It better. Something needs to change here. It is hurting the offense.

If you want Berrios for depth as the number five or number six receiver, I can live with it.

If you want to convince me he can carve out a specialized role on offense, I’ll listen to what you have to say.

Being the passing game’s featured option with a top five type workload? That’s where I draw the line.