Coming into the season, the expectation was that 2nd round rookie Elijah Moore would be Zach Wilson’s favourite target, along with highly prized free-agent Corey Davis.
With the addition of Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder returning and the excitement around the expected development of Denzel Mims, very few paid attention to 4th-year man and former 6th round draft pick Braxton Berrios.
Through the first two games of the season, it’s Braxton Berrios who has become Zach’s go to guy. He leads the team in targets (18), receptions (12) and receiving yards (124).
With Jamison Crowder missing time due to being placed on the COVID list, Berrios has taken his opportunity. He’s not had a single drop, not had a single penalty and Zach has a 101 passer rating when targeting Braxton. In short, he’s been reliable.
So what happens once Jamison returns as he is expected to this weekend against Denver. Saleh was asked that question at his press conference yesterday and here was his response:
So, Braxton, he does a lot of things. First, obviously, the slot. Second, he is our punt returner and kick returner, so he’s got tremendous teams value for Brant (Boyer). But in the slot, just that veteran presence to know where he is, I know you guys aren’t privy to practice, but he’s out there on Wednesday, which is a heavy install day, and helping the other receivers get lined up, he’s helping the quarterback out of the huddle, he’s helping everybody. You know that veteran presence who’s reliable, who can get separation, win one-on-ones, and those guys, they just naturally draw to the quarterback in terms of, “I know you’re going to be exactly where you need to be.” And so they can deliver the ball on time and not take a hit. So, just that veteran presence has been awesome.
I think it’s safe to suggest that Crowder is the better player. Jamison has over 350 career receptions, over 4,000 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. Last year he showed his immense value in a failing offensive system, in time he could become one of Zach’s most reliable targets. However, Braxton isn’t going anywhere and it’s that reliability which will ensure he gets game-time, even in a jammed wide receiver room.
So far this season Braxton has run 81.3% of his routes from the slot, due to his size and his style, that’s going to be where he makes his money. Last year he brought in just one of his 6 contested catches, not something he will ever be renowned for, but this year he’s 1-1 in that category.
According to NFL Next Gen stats, Berrios is the 5th fastest ball-carrier this year reaching a top speed of 21.03 mph and his 28-yard reception on Sunday had a completion probability rate of just 14.1%, that’s the 4th lowest in the league this year, despite that he brought it in.
When asked if the slot is a position where you can rotate two players, Saleh’s response was:
“It depends. That’d be a great question for Mike (LaFleur) also, but Jamison coming back from a groin, and if he’s rolling, obviously he may or may not be ready for a 60-rep game. That’s going to be something that we just got to figure out over the course of the week”
There are some players that don’t appear to earn their reps based on their in-game performance, I’m sure a few players come to mind for all Jets fans. Braxton is the complete opposite, he has earned every single rep and if he keeps performing, it’s going to be hard to sit him.