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New York Jets OTA notes: Decisive Zach Wilson, Explosive Elijah Moore

Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, New York Jets
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A New York Jets’ Tuesday OTA session featured quarterback Zach Wilson’s decisive decision-making and Elijah Moore’s intelligent explosiveness.

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—It shouldn’t be this easy.

Forget the fact that these are just OTAs. Don’t worry that the New York Jets are practicing without full pads. Rookie quarterbacks that haven’t even reached day No. 40 of an NFL career should be stumbling much more than Zach Wilson currently is.

The rookie BYU product enjoyed his finest day Tuesday afternoon in Florham Park.

Zach Wilson to Elijah Moore

Teams (11 on 11) started with a bang when Wilson found fellow rookie Elijah Moore down the right sideline for a huge chunk. With Bryce Hall in a one-on-one look down the right sideline, Wilson delivered a bomb that was nicely placed ahead and somewhat on the outside shoulder of Moore.

The throw-and-catch alone was impressive, but Hall’s decent coverage made it that much more stunning to watch live. No. 37 maintained solid coverage most of the way—while understanding he didn’t have two-deep help—and even kept that right hand on Moore’s hip. It just wasn’t enough.

Wilson’s placement was spot on and Moore’s route-running savvy in understanding when to burst for that late separation was the key. Shall we call it “intelligent explosiveness?”

Wilson the non-overthinker

From day No. 1, Wilson’s traits stood out. It’s true that his arm strength isn’t Jeff George or Josh Allen-like; but luckily, in this league, a rocket for an arm isn’t required.

Wilson showcases a special release, special feet, and a special way he goes about decision-making at the position. Everything is fast. Everything is naturally quick.

Instead of thinking, Wilson’s reacting. Instead of pondering and/or lamenting over a recent play, he’s attacking.

Yes, this kid will experience ups and downs over the course of his first 17 NFL games. He’ll look like a rookie at times, perhaps even most of the time in the early going. But the fact that he’s so prepared that he reacts instead of thinks is a tremendous sign.

The best way I can compare the current quarterback to Sam Darnold is this: one reacts while the other thinks. To play sports at a high level (no less the NFL) means to react naturally. The overthinker makes the boneheaded play or misses the three-point shot to win the game.

While others might wonder what it would feel like to score the winning touchdown with no time left on the clock, Wilson will head into that celebration without having thought of it prior to the winning score. He doesn’t need to imagine that feeling; he knows he’s about to experience it.

A non-overthinker in sports is a well-prepared athlete whose natural reactions come easier and much more fluid. By no means does that mentality safeguard him from mistakes—he nearly threw an interception to Jarrad Davis on one particular rep—but it surely helps eliminate many of the fear-driven mistakes quarterbacks make at this level.

The stud rookie weapon

In getting back to No. 8, one of Wilson’s favorite targets, yeah … he’s the real deal.

Moore can play inside and out, venture over the middle where the big boys play, or even dart down the sideline. Sure, Moore is incredibly fast, but it’s his short-area explosiveness combined with too-good-to-be-true route-running at his age that’ll allow him to enjoy a fine rookie season. On top of it all, the kid is a smart football player.

While the first Wilson-to-Moore hookup was impressive, the play that really took things to the next level happened in the red zone.

Wilson, understanding that time in the pocket was limited, was forced to release the ball much more quickly than he wanted to. Moore, who was working the back-end of the end zone, wasn’t quite in the right spot for a target yet.

More time was needed.

But instead of forcing it in the middle of the end zone or throwing it in the cheap seats, Wilson released the ball earlier than he wanted to while also changing the velocity on the throw. What this did was buy Moore enough time to get from the middle of the end zone to the left side of the end zone where the football was awaiting him.

At the same time, Moore didn’t give up on the route. He knew Wilson needed more time and acted accordingly, continuing that back-end-zone path in a smart way.

It wasn’t a flailing pass, either; the ball had enough zip with the right amount of touch to make it clear that Wilson’s already adjusting velocities in his first NFL OTA.

Remember, the NFL in 2021 is a much different brand of football than was witnessed two decades ago (even 15 years ago). A Randy Moss-type body isn’t needed to assume No. 1 receiving duties in this league. The rules make it such that a Tyreek Hill can get it done more spectacularly than anybody else.

Interestingly, much like Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets offense is sort of taking on that shifty-type wideout look.

Braxton Berrios continues to stand out

Along with the rookie, Braxton Berrios continues to make plays. He’s become an early favorite of Wilson’s and continues to do damage over the middle.

New York routinely sports two slot-type receivers on the field at once. Yes, Corey Davis is still missing in action. And yes, although Denzel Mims returned recently, and saw some action on Tuesday (including a nice three-step play near the sideline via Wilson), Moore, Berrios and Keelan Cole are the current top dogs.

It’s become quite clear that Cole is a guy the Jets like a lot. He saw more first-team reps than Mims on Tuesday, one of which was on the receiving end of a Wilson dime.

Dropping it over the curl-flat defender and in front of a deep zone, Wilson put it right on Cole.

Despite a clear trio at the top, Mike LaFleur did rotate his first-team weapons. The previously-mentioned Mims saw some time with Wilson, as did Manasseh Bailey and others.

Defensive notes

Blessuan Austin, injured and watching on from the sideline most of the day, saw rookie Jason Pinnock receive a lot of love from Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. He enjoyed some first-team reps opposite Hall on the outside.

Rookie Michael Carter II continues to play well while pushing Javelin Guidry for the starting slot job.

J.T. Hassell took some first-team reps at safety opposite Lamarcus Joyner. Defensive back Zane Lewis, who’s been listed as a cornerback for much of his short career, also saw some time at safety.

After an impressive showing late last week, the defense did not have a good day.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

News and notes

Mekhi Becton was on the field with his teammates, but he didn’t participate. He watched on as his teammates took part in teams and positionals (individual drills).

The aforementioned Mims was back in a limited capacity. It looks as though the Jets are easing him back into action.

Second-year safety Ashtyn Davis continues to be missing in action. Davis did finish his rookie campaign injured, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Everybody’s best guess is that the workmanlike kid wouldn’t miss OTAs if he had a choice. Remember, this is the same guy who didn’t own a car last year and rode his bike from home to the Atlantic Health Training Facility every day.

Edge defender Carl Lawson recently made his presence felt at OTAs, much to the delight of Jets fans. Similar to Mims, the Jets seem to be easing Lawson into the mix as well.

Those missing from Tuesday’s festivities include Marcus Maye, Corey Davis (injury), Quinnen Williams (injury) and Jamison Crowder.

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2 years ago

The Crowder drama unfolds, with Berrios staking a claim for a roster spot. Restructure maybe changing to cutting Jamison and saving 10 million. Adding additional FA’s , Moses, Nelson and or Mullins could happen before Mini Camp June 15 . Advantageous by giving the player orientation and a playbook before the break.