Figuring out how to use Braxton Berrios will be an interesting task for New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur
The former Patriots sixth-round pick earned first-team All-Pro honors as a returner in 2021. He led the league in kickoff return average at 30.4 yards per return, posted an elite 13.4 yards per punt return (albeit in a small sample size), and took a kickoff 102 yards to the house to help the Jets knock off the Jaguars.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) December 27, 2021
Berrios also contributed to the offense after injuries and ineffectiveness held the other Jets receivers back. He had 46 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Nearly half of his catches (46%) went for first downs. This is impressive considering that his average depth of target was only 5.1 yards. He was able to move the chains so effectively thanks to his average of 5.6 yards-after-catch per reception, which ranked 16th out of 101 qualified wide receivers.
Securing 46 of his 65 targets, Berrios posted a 70.8% catch rate and dropped just one pass all year. While these rates are somewhat expected at such shallow depths of target, it’s more than other Jets’ receivers can say.
Berrios added seven carries for 40 yards and two rushing TDs last season, making him at least a marginal threat to run from the receiving position.
In my opinion, this is one of Berrios’s most underutilized abilities. His 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash is just the first metric to measure Berrios’s speed. The eye test tells the rest of the story. His kickoff-return TD vs. the Jaguars showcases that speed (he hit 20.99 MPH on the play), as do several other plays he has made in a Jets uniform (including his TD reception from Jamison Crowder vs. Cleveland in 2020).
Braxton Berrios 103-yard kick return touchdown dots!
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 26, 2021
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) December 27, 2020
The Jets may have used Berrios somewhat in the jet sweep role, but 2022 is the time to fully embrace it. With Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, and Garrett Wilson ahead of Berrios on the depth chart, there is no limit to the creativity that Mike LaFleur can use to maximize Berrios’s speed and shiftiness. He is the ideal kick and punt returner, but he’s also a key cog in the Jets’ offense on all levels.
The Patriots have a history of taking undersized, speedy, shifty receivers and turning them into stars. This is one they let get away. Now it’s up to LaFleur to carve out a unique role for Berrios to thrive.