One of the new trends that is in vogue in the NFL is having two top wide receivers. We see it with the Philadelphia Eagles with A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. We see it with the Miami Dolphins with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. We see it with the San Francisco 49ers with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. We even see it with the Dallas Cowboys now that Brandin Cooks has rounded into form opposite Ceedee Lamb. One could argue that those are the four best offenses in the league this season, so this trend is probably one worth paying attention to.
For the New York Jets, they obviously have a problem on offense. Perhaps the largest culprit in those struggles has been the offensive line, which is why many hope/expect that they will take an offense tackle with their first round pick.
However, I’d like to make an alternative argument. The Jets should learn from what other teams are doing and to copy it, even at the cost of a first round pick. Beyond that, data suggests that the Jets might be one of the best teams to adopt this ‘two dominant receivers’ approach because of the play of wide receiver Garrett Wilson when he faces single coverage.
How often a WR faces single coverage and their separation on those plays. pic.twitter.com/RQWCDmNHve— Jrfortgang (@throwthedamball) December 5, 2023
Looking at this chart, placement further right means that the player does a better job of separating against single coverage, while placement further up means that the player faces more single coverage. Of note, Garrett Wilson is located in the top-right corner, meaning he faces a lot of single coverage and thrives against it.
Importantly, the reason that Wilson is probably receiving so much single coverage despite his separation numbers is because of how ineffective the QB play has been. This is unlikely to remain the case next season when quarterback Aaron Rodgers (presumably) returns to the field and can (hopefully) throw the ball to a wide open receiver.
What that means is defenses will likely scale back on the degree to which they sell out against the run against the Jets, which could minimize the opportunities when Garrett faces single coverage. For the Jets this would be unfortunate, because separation numbers like this suggest that Garrett could be among the league’s most dominant players if he was able to continue to regularly face single coverage while playing with a more competent quarterback.
So how can the Jets go about keeping the rate of single coverage that Wilson faces high? Well, probably the best way would be to give them a second player to be fearful of. “You can’t double everyone” as the expression goes. Within the current construction of the wide receiver group, a team can 100% afford to double Garrett though. While the method through which the Jets add a player who makes that calculation a riskier gamble for the defense can present itself in a number of ways, finding someone to do it should be near the tippy top of the Jets’ NFL draft wish list this offseason. Doing so seems imperative to unlocking the full potential of Garrett Wilson in 2024, and that potential appears sky high based on this data.