We’re learning important things about Elijah Moore
Rookie wideout Elijah Moore is beginning to showcase the tantalizing potential that prompted the New York Jets to take him with the 34th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Moore has scored four touchdowns in his past four games after failing to find the end zone in his first four contests. He is the Jets’ first rookie wide receiver to score four touchdowns in his first eight career games since Wayne Chrebet in 1995.
The Ole Miss product has also racked up 195 receiving yards on only 20 targets over his past three games (65.0 yards per game, 9.8 yards per target).
Throughout this surge from Moore, we have learned two important things about how the Jets should utilize him going forward.
1. Elijah Moore is primarily an outside receiver
During Moore’s quiet start to the season, many Jets fans were calling for the team to switch him into a slot-heavy role, hoping it would be a better fit for his abilities.
But that’s not what the Jets drafted Moore in the top-40 to be. They selected him to be a complete wide receiver that can do everything – not just a slot-tethered gadget guy.
Despite his slight frame (5-foot-10, 178 pounds), Moore has all of the tools necessary to become a dangerous weapon on the outside. When Moore was putting up gruesome numbers earlier in the season, it wasn’t his fault. He was consistently separating on downfield routes from outside alignments. Zach Wilson was missing him.
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Recently, the Jets’ quarterbacks have been rewarding Moore for winning his routes more frequently than Wilson was, so his production is finally starting to match up with his performance as a route-runner.
It is Moore’s prowess from the outside that has powered his hot streak. Below is a comparison of his production based on alignment from Weeks 8-10.
- Slot: 20 routes run, 6 targets, 34 yards, 2 conversions (1 TD + 1 first down)
- Outside: 60 routes run, 13 targets, 161 yards, 8 conversions (2 TD + 6 first downs)
Moore has run 75.0% of his routes from the outside over the past three weeks. He has been more efficient from out there, gaining 82.6% of his yards and 80.0% of his conversions when lined up on the outside.
- Slot: 5.7 yards per target, 1.70 yards per route run, conversion on 10.0% of routes run
- Outside: 12.4 yards per target, 2.68 yards per route run, conversion on 13.3% of routes run
The outside should be Moore’s primary home going forward. There are situations when he can be slid inside, but making him play the role of a pure slot receiver (like Jamison Crowder) would be a waste of his abilities.
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2. Elijah Moore needs more snaps
You would think Moore is playing a lot of snaps based on the numbers he is putting up, but he’s actually not. Moore has played exactly 50% of the Jets’ offensive snaps over the past three weeks. He has no business putting up the numbers he is putting up with such a small diet of snaps.
Since Week 8, Moore ranks 14th among wide receivers in receiving yards (195) despite placing 41st in routes run (80).
Among the 41 wide receivers with at least 80 routes run over that span, Moore ranks seventh in yards per route run:
- Deebo Samuel (3.89)
- Cooper Kupp (2.59)
- Stefon Diggs (2.52)
- Justin Jefferson (2.51)
- CeeDee Lamb (2.49)
- Keenan Allen (2.47)
- Elijah Moore (2.44)
At his current level of efficiency, Moore could be putting up tremendous numbers if he received the playing time of a top receiver.
For example, Corey Davis ran a team-high 43 routes against the Bills in Week 10 while Moore ran only 25. If Moore maintained his recent average of 2.44 yards per route run over Davis’ diet of 43 routes run, Moore would post about 105 receiving yards.
It is hard to understand why Moore is playing so little. He was the Jets’ third-most-used wide receiver against Buffalo in Week 10 with his total of 43 snaps (56%) trailing Jamison Crowder’s 64 snaps (83%) and Davis’ 65 snaps (84%).
Moore started the season with a high level of usage. He played 86% of the team’s snaps in Week 1 and 78% in Week 2. Since then, he has gone no higher than 60% in a game, playing 50% on average.
Mike LaFleur has done a better job recently, but he has to get this issue fixed. Moore has done his part to earn a significant boost in playing time. The team’s most dynamic wide receiver cannot be on the field for only half of the game.