Who will lead the New York Jets in targets in 2022?
With plenty of pass-catching talent at the wide receiver, tight end, and running back positions, the New York Jets have a difficult (but good) problem on their hands. How do they spread the football around with so many mouths to feed?
I wanted to take a stab at guessing how the Jets will spread their target opportunities in the 2022 season.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s say the Jets attempt 35 passes per game in 2022. That’s a smidgen above the 2021 NFL average of 34.4 and a tad below the Jets’ 2021 average of 35.5. Arguments can be made that the Jets will either surpass or fall short of that 35.5 mark in 2022, but, again, this is just to give us a number to work off of.
Here are my current predictions for how many targets the Jets will give to each of their top weapons in 2022.
1. Elijah Moore: 8.0 targets per game
- Pace for 136 targets per 17 games
- 22.9% target share out of 35 passes
It’s becoming clearer by the day that Elijah Moore is going to be “The Guy” for the Jets offense in 2022. Moore continues to dominate in training camp on a daily basis, just as he did in camp last year. He’s got the hands, after-the-catch skills, and three-level route-running prowess to be a true No. 1 receiver despite his small frame.
Related Article: Elijah Moore’s rookie game film proves NY Jets have a serious weapon
Moore averaged 76.5 receiving yards per game over his final six games of the 2021 season. During that span, Moore received 8.5 targets per game.
I think we’ll see Moore stay right around that number in 2022. I lean toward the lower end due to the influx of new weapons, so for now, I’m going with 8.0 targets per game for Elijah Moore. That should make him the team’s favorite target by a sizable margin.
2. Corey Davis: 6.0 targets per game
- Pace for 102 targets per 17 games
- 17.1% target share out of 35 passes
The 2021 season confirmed it: Corey Davis is a Robin, not a Batman.
And that’s perfectly fine for the Jets, as they seem to have their Batman in Elijah Moore. If Moore can fulfill his potential and establish himself as the Jets’ top gun, then it will allow Davis to slide back into the complementary role that suits him best.
In 2020, Davis was outstanding for Tennessee as the Robin to A.J. Brown’s Batman. With only 6.6 targets per game, Davis produced 4.6 receptions for 70.3 yards per game. He was uber-efficient in his role as the No. 2, averaging 15.1 yards per reception and catching 70.7% of his targets.
I no longer expect Corey Davis to be the focal point of the Jets’ passing attack as he was going into 2021. But I do not think he is going to fade into the background, either. Look for him to find his niche as the Jets’ No. 2 target.
3. Tyler Conklin: 5.5 targets per game
- Pace for 94 targets per 17 games
- 15.7% target share out of 35 passes
This might be my hottest take in this ranking.
I truly believe that Tyler Conklin is going to surprise a lot of people. He’s flying under the radar since C.J. Uzomah is earning a larger contract and is a bigger name due to his presence in last year’s playoffs, but when watching Conklin’s film, I cannot help but fall in love.
Conklin’s route-running is smooth as butter. He is a master at separating in the underneath range, consistently proving himself to be a mismatch for linebackers. Even safeties have trouble sticking with him at times. Zach Wilson is going to quickly begin trusting Conklin as his go-to guy when he needs an easy short completion.
I foresee Conklin attracting plenty of targets as a safety blanket in first-and-10 situations, picking up healthy chunks of 5-to-8 yards when deeper targets do not break open. I think he will also be featured in third-and-short situations when the Jets need a quick completion to move the chains. Conklin is capable of beating the man coverage that defenses will throw at the Jets on third down.
I just have a hard time picturing Conklin not producing good numbers this year. His route-running is too good for him to be buried. He creates so many opportunities beyond what the average tight end would create in the same situations.
Conklin averaged 5.1 targets per game with the Vikings last year. I see him taking a small leap this year. While Conklin does have to compete with another tight end, which he did not have to do last year, he also does not have to compete with a top-five wideout, which he did have to do in Minnesota with Justin Jefferson collecting the NFL’s 4th-most targets (167).
4. Garrett Wilson: 4.5 targets per game
- Pace for 77 targets per 17 games
- 12.9% target share out of 35 passes
Some might disagree with this one. For me, I think the Jets are going to take it slow with Garrett Wilson. They have enough reliable weapons to where they do not have to put too much pressure on the rookie right away. To start out, I see Wilson being a complementary weapon who primarily operates out of the slot.
If he starts out hot, I can see Wilson soaring well beyond this number by the end of the season. But for the time being, I expect the Jets to allow him to develop at his own pace. They will wait to place him in a featured role until he proves he is ready.
5. C.J. Uzomah: 4.0 targets per game
- Pace for 68 targets per 17 games
- 11.4% target share out of 35 passes
I believe Conklin is going to waste no time establishing himself as the team’s best tight end. That’s not to say C.J. Uzomah is a slouch or that he won’t play, but I do think we are going to have a clear one-two hierarchy by midseason.
Uzomah is a very serviceable player who does not have many glaring weaknesses. He can do a competent job at just about anything you could ask a tight end to do. This makes him a useful piece, and he’ll play a lot because of his well-roundedness.
With that being said, I do not see Uzomah demanding a ton of targets. Uzomah isn’t the greatest route-runner. He’s not going to create many opportunities for himself in the way that Conklin will, so most of his targets will be a product of the circumstances.
I think most of Uzomah’s targets will come on checkdowns when he is left open; either in the flat or on short sit/curl routes. Uzomah does do a nice job of finding soft spots in zone coverage, so he will earn some targets that way.
The Jets will also likely try to maximize Uzomah’s speed and YAC ability by dialing up some screen plays and deep shots for him. Those deep shots could come either up the seam or on post routes.
Uzomah received 3.9 targets per game for the Bengals last year. I think he will stay in that ballpark this year.
6. Breece Hall: 3.0 targets per game
- Pace for 51 targets per 17 games
- 8.6% target share out of 35 passes
When it comes to the Jets’ running backs in the passing game, I think the story will be their efficiency rather than their volume. It’s tough to picture these guys getting too many targets with all of the competition at WR and TE, but I think they will make the most of the targets they do get.
Three targets per game seems fair for Breece Hall. That would put him on pace for 51 targets over a full season, which would have ranked 21st among running backs last season. While he could certainly end up exceeding this number, I want to wait and see how the Jets manage their backfield rotation before I start setting high expectations for Hall’s production. A middle-ground feels safe for now.
T7. Michael Carter: 2.0 targets per game
- Pace for 34 targets per 17 games
- 5.7% target share out of 35 passes
Michael Carter averaged 3.9 targets per game as a rookie with 55 in 14 games. However, that number is skewed by Carter’s games with the checkdown-loving Mike White.
Carter had 29 targets in three games that were primarily quarterbacked by White (9.7 per game). Outside of that, Carter had 26 targets 11 games (2.4 per game).
Considering that Carter will now have to share the wealth with Hall, I think he is going to take a step down from that 2.4 mark.
As you can see, I gave Hall the edge over Carter when it comes to passing-game opportunities. I think the Jets will favor Hall in passing situations for a few reasons.
Firstly, Hall’s size advantage should allow him to be more trusty as a blocker than Carter. Hall’s size advantage also gives him a larger catch radius.
Hall was also less drop-prone than Carter last season, and appears to have more potential as a route-runner.
Despite all of that, I absolutely expect Carter to get his share of receptions this season. Carter has his shortcomings in this phase, but when it comes to elusiveness after the catch, there were very few RBs in the NFL who were better than him last year. He needs to get chances to catch the ball in space and the Jets know it.
T7. Braxton Berrios: 1.5 targets per game
- Pace for 34 targets per 17 games
- 5.7% target share out of 35 passes
As the fourth receiver in an offense that also has two tight ends and two running backs to get involved, Braxton Berrios is not going to see many touches when everyone is healthy.
However, I do think the Jets will try to make sure Berrios gets at least one or two designed touches in each game. They had so much success with him at the end of 2021.
A decent number of Berrios’s targets might be quasi-rush attempts – you know, those end-around type plays where the QB pops the ball to the receiver, making it a “pass attempt” even though it’s essentially a run play. In addition to that, Berrios will probably get some true rush attempts as well.
Outside of plays that are specifically designed for him, I’m not sure Berrios will be getting many other types of targets when everyone is healthy.
Using a basis of 35 pass attempts per game, here is how I see the Jets dispersing their targets as of today:
- WR Elijah Moore (8.0) – 136 pace / 23% share
- WR Corey Davis (6.0) – 102 pace / 17% share
- TE Tyler Conklin (5.5) – 94 pace / 16% share
- WR Garrett Wilson (4.5) – 77 pace / 13% share
- TE C.J. Uzomah (4.0) – 68 pace / 11% share
- RB Breece Hall (3.0) – 51 pace / 9% share
- RB Michael Carter (2.0) – 34 pace / 6% share
- WR Braxton Berrios (2.0) – 34 pace / 6% share
How do you think the Jets will spread the football around?
I wanted to believe that 8 targets per game for Moore was too low, so I looked up targets per game in 2021. You know who was within half a target of 8 per game last season? AJ Brown, Mike Williams, DJ Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, CeeCee Lamb, Lamarr Chase…some pretty good company. I would like to see Moore’s name up there with them.
But the guy I would love to see Moore become, Stefan Diggs, is at 9.6. Guys I dream Moore will surpass as a threat (even this year!) include Dionte Johnson (10.6), Calvin Ridley (10.4), Keenan Allen (9.8) and DJ Moore (9.6).
Now I think targets are mostly a function of being open when the QB expects you to be, and Moore absolutely showed he can get open at all three levels. He’ll torch any defense that tries to play him straight-up, so the question really becomes, “To what extent will Wilson be looking for Moore?” and “What will defenses commit to stopping Moore?”
I think the Jets feature Moore a ton, defenses won’t do too much about it because of all the other Jets’ weapons, and Moore ends up in the 9.6 area where Stefan Diggs resides. At least I hope so. The more the ball heads toward Moore, the better the Jets’ offense is working, probably.
I think Moore is absolutely capable of soaring up into that 9-10 range, and as you said, if that happens, things are probably going really well for the Jets.
I do think as G. Wilson becomes more acclimated Davis’ touches and snaps will lower. They can’t all be out there and if they are thinking more “12” that means only 2 WR’s. I have to believe Wilson and Moore, plus, if Davis had trouble separating, they may like Moore, Wilson, Berrios in the slot as a group. This is not to bash Davis, I just think they believe both Moore and Wilson are better players (or will be) and there is no way they aren’t thinking about the contract. Saleh will play the best guys but I have to believe they WANT it to be Wilson and Moore, with Berrios, maybe Mims, and if they love Jeff Smith as much as all the reporters would like you to believe they may mix him in too.