The Jets won on Sunday, but second year wide receiver Elijah Moore generated a bit of negative attention after the game and in the week that followed. Moore was held catchless and did not have an official target.
After the game, Elijah complained about his lack of a role in the offensive gameplan in a since deleted tweet captured below.
Elijah Moore isn’t too happy about his target share pic.twitter.com/80F8HDpo4o— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 17, 2022
The irony, of course, in a tweet like that is Moore wasn’t “staying quiet.”
That took us down the road to the drama that exploded yesterday.
I will leave it to others to figure out what comes next.
My focus was figuring out why Moore played no role for the Jets on offense Sunday.
Did he not play well? Did his number just never come up? Was Zach Wilson not getting him the ball? Does his role need to change if he ever suits up for the Jets again? Is it some combination of these?
Let’s take a look.
Now one thing worth noting is Moore actually did have one target in this game. It was taken off the board because the Jets were called for a penalty unrelated to anything that happened to Moore.
On the play, Moore makes Eric Stocks whiff on a jam attempt.
However, Stokes recovers, and is all over Moore. It might in part because Elijah released inside off the line of scrimmage and needed to get outside on his route.
I don’t get the feeling this play was designed to go to Elijah. It just seems like Zach Wilson liked the matchup and decided to take a shot. Given where Moore and Stokes are at the point he is beginning his throwing motion, it probably wasn’t the best decision.
That was a clear loss for Moore. Stokes blanketed him on this play.
That said, I do not believe this play was indicative of Moore’s overall performance.
His biggest issue might just have been that the Jets did not involve him in the game plan. I looked at every passing play the Jets called in the game against Green Bay. I did not find a single instance where Moore was the primary target in Zach Wilson’s progression. Even though the ball didn’t come to him in those situations, he still did his job reasonably well.
Let’s take a look at this third down play. Moore appears to be the third receiver in the progression.
One of the concerns that pops up from time to time about Moore is his size. At 5’10” and 178 pounds, some openly ask whether he is too small to hold up as an outside receiver. Would he be better served in the slot?
I don’t think this is purely a question of Moore’s size. I think it’s a question of whether Moore’s size precludes him from playing outside effectively. Are defensive backs able to push him around with physical coverage?
The answer seems to me to be a resounding no.
On this play Moore gets off the line of scrimmage before Stokes can even attempt a jam.
On this play it isn’t Moore who has an issue with physicality. Instead Garrett Wilson and Tyler Conklin, the first two receivers in the progression get pushed around. This throws off the timing of the play.
Being chased by Stokes to his outside with a defender robbing in the middle of the field on the inside, Elijah curls his route into the hole and ends up open.
The Jets ended up with a bit of a protection issue, and Zach Wilson saw daylight so he took off and ran before he got to his third read.
On this third down play Moore runs a deep comeback and shakes Stokes. From the view of the play, it seems like he might not even be in the progression, but he runs his route hard and creates a passing window anyway.
The play is over by the time he creates the separation, but neither he nor Stokes are in a position to realize this. This was a play where he won.
I know watching this you might be thinking these plays don’t look like a ton of separation, but this is open in the NFL. Plays need to be executed with top precision. Defenders are too good to consistently allow guys to bust completely open. Two to three yards of separation like we are seeing here is a ton. Moore’s average separation on receptions this year is 2.9 yards per NextGen Stats. (This accounts for only successful plays where he makes a catch, mind you.)
Had Elijah been the primary option on these plays, a well-timed, well-thrown pass would have resulted in a completion.
Let’s more on. Early in the second half the Packers disguise their look a bit presnap. They show Cover 6 (a zone coverage where the deep responsibility is divided between two safeties and one corner).
Instead the Packers roll into a version of man coverage with Stokes (red) again picking up Moore and safety Rudy Ford (blue) robbing the middle of the field at the sticks.
Moore again properly sits the route down between the two defenders and is open. Zach Wilson, however, had decided presnap he wanted to go to Garrett Wilson so that is where the pass went.
Here the Jets were in the red zone. Moore is lined up again against Stokes who is playing tight man coverage.
Stokes is physical early in the route.
Moore is able to shake him, though, and get open. Again, however, the progression just seemed to be on the other side of the field and didn’t include Moore.
However, Zach Wilson breaks from the pocket. Moore accordingly breaks his route and finds a soft spot in the defense.
Wilson ends up making a rather ill-advised throw across his body to the end zone. He had Moore open right in front of him.
Nonetheless, it was a nice job by Moore both winning early in the route and finding a soft to give his quarterback an easy outlet after the play broke down.
So what can we say about Elijah Moore on the field? What was really happening here? Why wasn’t he taking a more prominent role in the offense?
There are a few answers. First, the Jets just aren’t passing the ball that much. Wilson had only 18 passing attempts against Green Bay, and Moore wasn’t even on the field for three of them. There are a limited number of targets, and the Jets have a lot of pass catching skill players. With so few opportunities, there will be games where a specific player might not be featured at all. This has become a run first and run second type of offense. And it’s tough to complain. The Jets are winning games with this approach. Maybe you would expect Moore to be featured on a handful of plays per game going forward (should he return), but he isn’t likely to be the go to guy.
This leads me to my next point. I think expectations were probably too high for Elijah entering the season. It is understandable why they were as high as they were. Just prior to suffering the injury that ended his rookie year, Moore was playing some of his best football. Let’s face it. The Jets fanbase has been starved for star level performers. A good six game stretch doesn’t necessarily guarantee a rookie is destined for certain stardom, but it is easy enough to dream. When the Jets didn’t add a proven top end veteran receiver in the offseason, a Moore breakout became the best bet the Jets had to get top end receiver play.
I don’t think Elijah Moore has been anywhere near as ineffective as the numbers from the Green Bay game would suggest. With that said, I don’t think he has been playing well enough to be a go to guy. (And it certainly is difficult to justify his recent trade demand.) He seems more like a credible third or maybe even second option in what has become a low volume passing game. It does stand to reason his numbers would eventually improve once he returns because his route running has been solid.
Now whether that is enough for Elijah to be happy is something only he knows. We don’t know what the future holds. Will he swallow his pride and return to the team? Will the Jets take him back? Is the drama over?
Time will tell. I’m just here to tell you why he had such a small role against the Packers. Everything from this week seemed to stem from what happened there.