Corey Davis and Elijah Moore are set to battle for the New York Jets’ WR1 role
Take a look at the star wide receiver’s effect on a young quarterback. Patrick Mahomes has Tyreek Hill. Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs. Justin Herbert has Keenan Allen. Kyler Murray has DeAndre Hopkins. The list goes on.
As rookie signal-caller Zach Wilson looks to come out of the gates strong in his first season with the New York Jets, it’s clear that somebody in his receiving corps will have to step up and earn the responsibility of being his top target this year.
Judging from a combination of what has been displayed so far at training camp and what members of the coaching staff have been telling reporters, it would appear that Wilson has two frontrunner candidates to be his number one target: Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.
Both are newcomers to the team with plenty to prove.
Will Wilson’s go-to guy be Davis, the former number five overall draft pick from 2017? He’s certainly improved drastically each of the past few years and he has the experience, skillset, and physical traits to seize the role as the Jets’ top dog.
But the rookie Moore sure isn’t making it easy for him thus far. The 21-year-old seems to have genuinely taken it personally that five receivers were taken ahead of him in the draft. His outstanding play has been the talk of Jets training camp so far.
As electrifying as Moore has been in camp, we can’t forget that Davis is entering his fifth year in the league. While it may be more fun to envision Moore stepping onto an NFL field and immediately outplaying everyone, the more likely outcome is Davis’ experience giving him the edge early on. After all, the guy is 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, making him a prototype number-one NFL target.
After inking a three-year, $37.5 million contract with Gang Green, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to have relatively high expectations for Davis. Sure, he’s never reached 1,000 yards receiving in any of his four NFL seasons, but he was just 16 yards short last year despite missing two games.
“I do consider myself a wide receiver one, in my ability to get open, my speed, separation, releases,” Davis told SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. “I feel like I can do it all. I feel like I’m a 1,000-yard receiver.”
Mike LaFleur’s offensive scheme would also seem to bode well for Davis. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, San Francisco called play-action passes on 27 percent of their dropbacks from 2017-2020 while LaFleur was passing game coordinator. Davis, meanwhile, gained 544 of his 984 receiving yards (55 percent) off play-action last season. He also led the NFL in yards per route on play-action passes with 5.2.
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When asked who he sees running with the first team, head coach Robert Saleh said, “These guys are in rotation. The only players who roll with the ones unconditionally are Corey Davis, Keelan (Cole), and Jamison (Crowder). Otherwise, everyone at every position is rotating and getting the reps.”
It should go without saying that this quote is very telling. Davis is seen as a player who rolls with the first team “unconditionally,” making him, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff, a lock to see massive playing time.
Additionally, Davis has been seriously heating up in practice the past few days, repeatedly making big catches and evidently building a rapport with Wilson.
Zach Wilson with a nice throw to Corey Davis in the front corner of the end zone for a TD. #Jets
— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) August 11, 2021
A few Wilson-Davis hook ups today. Definitely better chemistry over the last few days. #Jets
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) August 11, 2021
This week of camp has reminded me that Corey Davis is still the number 1. #Jets
— DJ Bien-Aime (@Djbienaime) August 11, 2021
So in terms of measurables, experience, and comments from the coaching staff, it would appear that Davis has the best shot at being Wilson’s WR1.
Why then, does it feel like Moore could very well end up being the guy?
He has been positively electric over the course of training camp thus far. It seems like every other tweet from a Jets beat reporter is an update on Moore making another huge play. And it’s even better to get it in video form, like the clip of Moore completely embarrassing Lamarcus Joyner with some ultra-sharp cuts after catching a pretty pass from Wilson.
Zach Wilson throws a gorgeous dime to Elijah Moore for a touchdown#Jets pic.twitter.com/l7eF7ixPF3
— Optimistic Jets (@OptimisticJets) July 31, 2021
Moore’s prowess in gaining yards after the catch is visibly evident every time he takes the field. He had 18 forced missed tackles last season, per PFF, sixth-most in all of college football despite playing only eight games.
With his performance in camp so far, Moore is making Joe Douglas look great. Douglas took the promising young wideout in the second round after he was widely projected to go in the first.
“I thought the route-running reminded me of Antonio Brown,” said NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein while giving his thoughts on Moore post-draft. “You’ve got a smaller guy who’s able to just snap you off in a phone booth and he’s getting separation. I thought it was amazing watching how polished his route-running is … I don’t see a lot of weaknesses.”
It isn’t just analysts who are showering the young wideout with praise before he’s taken his first NFL snap. Tennessee Titans receiver A.J. Brown, one of Moore’s closest friends, essentially called him a lock for offensive rookie of the year on a recent episode of the Raw Room podcast.
“I’d put my money on him for offensive rookie of the year. Like, without a doubt. Over anybody.”
Brown then doubled down on his comment by responding to a clip of it on Twitter.
I’ll Bet my all my game checks on @e_moore03 winning ROY! I’ll live and die with my brother! https://t.co/sbYwYAEmNc
— AJ Brown (@1kalwaysopen_) August 11, 2021
But maybe you think Brown is biased, and don’t want to take his word for it. Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recently commented on an Instagram post concerning Moore, saying that the Ole Miss product is “the one” and that he may be an All-Pro as a rookie.
.@obj sees greatness in @e_moore03 👀 pic.twitter.com/dpS79z62Ey
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) August 10, 2021
New York’s wide receiver position has not been a strength in so many years, but it would seem that the team finally has not one, but two players at the position to be legitimately excited about this season.
The likely bet is that because of his experience, Davis will start the season as the team’s clear-cut number one. Just how long he’ll be able to fend off Moore, however, remains to be seen. It’s not a bold take to say that Moore will be the top dog come season’s end.