Drop minimization is not the only skill the New York Jets must emphasize at wide receiver
Yesterday, I wrote about the abundance of drops that New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson dealt with in his rookie year. Wilson had 12.7% of his catchable passes dropped by the intended target, which was by far the highest rate among qualified quarterbacks in the 2021 regular season.
When building their roster this offseason, the Jets need to make sure they find pass-catchers with low drop rates – guys who they can rely upon to not squander the easy catches.
But it’s not just the easy catches that the Jets need to think about. New York needs guys who can make the difficult catches, too.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets’ wide receivers caught 24 of their 57 targets that were deemed “contested” in 2021. That’s a rate of 42.1%, which ranked 24th out of the league’s 32 wide receiver units. The league average was 46.8%.
Surprisingly, the Jets’ most effective contested-catch wide receiver in 2021 was 5-foot-9 slot man Braxton Berrios, who was credited with snagging five of his six contested targets (83.3%). That was remarkable progress for Berrios, who caught only one of six contested targets in 2020 (16.7%).
Outside of Berrios, though, every other wide receiver on the Jets roster had a contested-catch rate below the positional average of 46.8%.
Clearly, the Jets should emphasize contested-catch ability when scouting potential new additions to the roster. With that being said, they do already have players on the team who could help turn these numbers around.
Davis entered 2021 with a contested-catch rate of 62.5% over his previous three seasons, which ranked fifth-best among qualified wide receivers over that span. In 2021, however, Davis only caught six of his 13 contested targets (46.2%). A return to the mean in this category from Davis would work wonders for the Jets’ offense.
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Moore caught 11 of his 15 contested targets in his final college season at Ole Miss. That’s a 73.3% rate, which ranked at the 92nd percentile among qualified FBS wide receivers. He wasn’t quite as dynamic in 50-50 situations during his rookie year, though, catching four of 10 contested targets (40.0%).
Whether New York’s contested-catch improvement comes from within the roster or through outside additions, it just has to come in one way or another. It’s an essential skill in facilitating the development of a young quarterback.
Having receivers who come up victorious more often than not in coin-toss situations can be a huge confidence booster for a young quarterback. When the quarterback trusts his receivers to come down with the ball even when covered, he can play freely, believing he is capable of completing any throw.
When a young quarterback’s receivers are losing more often than not in coin-toss situations, it can be harmful to his confidence. Without the trust in his receivers to make plays against tight coverage, the quarterback could become tentative and start to second-guess whether some throws are worth trying. That leads to overthinking, which only leads to disaster.
New York is missing a lot of important abilities at the skill positions. In addition to drops and contested catches, you could also throw in things like red-zone prowess and route-running against man coverage as holes that need to be addressed.
Short of pulling off a miracle and adding Davante Adams, plugging every single one of their holes at the offensive skill positions will be difficult for the Jets to accomplish. With that in mind, it is going to be interesting to see which abilities Joe Douglas and company place the greatest emphasis upon when building the skill position unit around Zach Wilson.