Elijah Moore is due to explode sooner rather than later
It’s the seventh day of October and we have yet to see that translate to the field.
Moore missed all three of the Jets’ preseason games with a quad injury and has had a rough start to his first regular season. Over three appearances, Moore has snagged eight of 18 targets (44.4%) for 66 yards (3.7 per target), zero touchdowns, and two first downs. He ranks fifth on the team in receiving yards per game (16.5).
The second-round pick would then miss Zach Wilson‘s coming-out party against the Titans due to a concussion.
What gives? Why is Moore having such a sluggish start despite turning heads on the practice field all offseason?
Well, when you flip on the film, Moore does not appear to be playing nearly as poorly as his numbers indicate. He has been winning on his routes and creating separation on a fairly consistent basis. For a variety of reasons – some his fault, some not – things have not been clicking and his good route-running has gone to waste.
Moore will be back for the Jets’ overseas duel with the Atlanta Falcons this week. If he continues running routes the way he has been, he will get his numbers in due time.
Let’s dig into a few examples of plays where Moore got open but was unable to come up with any production.
Out-and-up: Zach Wilson makes a conservative decision
On third-and-19, Moore presses vertical, clears the underneath defenders, and then subtly fakes an out route just beyond the first down marker, getting the deep-third safety (Jeremy Chinn) to bite. Moore turns upfield and toasts Chinn, gaining three yards of separation.
Zach Wilson gets an excellent pocket against a four-man rush and has enough time to watch this route play out and deliver the throw. However, he decides to play it safe and check the ball down to Ty Johnson.
It’s not a bad decision by the young quarterback, especially after already throwing an interception and a blatantly dropped interception earlier in the game, but this certainly would have been a reasonable time to get aggressive.
Curl: Pressure shuts down window
Moore runs a curl route about 20 yards downfield on second-and-8, coming back toward the quarterback to catch the ball around 15 yards downfield. Moore is able to get rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn to buy the vertical route as he turns his hips upfield and starts sprinting, allowing Moore to smash on the brakes and pivot inside to create three yards of separation.
Unfortunately, Wilson does not get the opportunity to find Moore due to instant pressure allowed by George Fant at right tackle.
Wilson could possibly try to hit Moore after scrambling – Moore does a good job of recognizing Wilson’s movement and coming toward him to present himself as a target – but Wilson makes a solid decision and tries to hit Corey Davis deep.
Moore runs a deep post and is able to get by Chinn. Wilson drops the ball into Moore’s breadbasket over 50 yards downfield but Moore fails to come up with it.
This one is on Moore. Nevertheless, it is another example of his ability to create opportunities for explosive plays.
Soft spot in zone: Zach Wilson scrambles
This is not necessarily the most impressive route in world history as the Patriots play extremely soft, but Moore breaks toward the middle and finds a soft spot in the zone about 18 yards downfield, right at the marker on second-and-18.
Wilson has room to step up and make the throw to Moore but he decides to scramble and ends up with a much shorter gain of 10 yards.
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Wheel: Zach Wilson places the ball in a bad spot
Once again, Moore does not necessarily do anything remarkable, but he should have been rewarded with better production.
Moore breaks wide open on a wheel route up the sideline thanks to a pick from Braxton Berrios. This could be a touchdown if Wilson leads Moore down the field, but Wilson leads Moore into the sideline, forcing him to make an unnecessarily difficult catch that only yields 27 yards.
Out: Zach Wilson checks it down
On second-and-17, Moore wins an out route against a cornerback (Patrick Surtain) with outside leverage, creating five yards of separation to open himself up around the marker.
Wilson gets a clean pocket against the four-man rush and has enough time to see if Moore can separate. Instead, he checks the ball down to Ryan Griffin.
In fairness to Wilson, it’s not likely that Moore wins on an out route against a corner with heavy outside leverage, so it would be risky to sit back and wait for that long-developing route play out. Moore beat the odds here.
Nevertheless, the throw is open, Wilson has time to make it, and he is reading that side of the field. It is a throw that should be made.
Comeback: Zach Wilson makes a good, safe decision
Moore runs a comeback route against Kyle Fuller just over 10 yards downfield, breaking back toward the sideline in hopes of catching the ball around 10 yards deep.
As he breaks, Moore gives a shove to the hip of Fuller to send him upfield and create some separation – hey, it’s only a penalty if they call it. Being able to get away with subtle physicality like this is an important skill in the art of separation creation.
Wilson makes a fine decision here. On third-and-5, he finds Ty Johnson one-on-one with a linebacker and gives him a good chance to pick up the first down after the catch, which he does. Moore was all the way on the back side of this concept.
It’s a good route by Moore in which the quarterback just happened to find a solid option on an earlier read.
Comeback: Zach Wilson misses throw
On third-and-5, Moore runs a 10-yard comeback against Surtain. Moore separates and is open for the first down but Wilson comes up short.
Elijah Moore is doing his job fairly well
Elijah Moore has been playing his role effectively. Things just haven’t clicked yet.
Whether it be the pass protection breaking down, Wilson missing a throw, or Moore dropping the beautiful bomb against Carolina, there has always been something getting in the way of Moore turning separation into production.
It is difficult to picture these issues lasting forever, though. As long as Moore keeps separating as consistently as he has been, he will become an exciting play-maker soon enough.