Why isn’t Elijah Moore putting up big numbers for the New York Jets?
New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore is not recording the splashy numbers that many people expected him to post in his second year. Four games into the 2022 season, Moore has no touchdowns and is averaging 3.8 catches for 48.0 yards per game. It’s a disappointing step back compared to his final six games of 2021, when he averaged 5.7 catches for 76.5 yards with five touchdowns.
As we’ve previously discussed, Moore is actually doing a good job of getting open. His route-running has been sharp throughout all four games.
But we’ve been saying that about Moore after each game since Week 1. Yet, he continues to put up modest numbers on a weekly basis.
So… what gives? Why isn’t Moore producing to the level he’s capable of?
Here’s the recurring problem: Moore is being asked to run a lot of long-developing routes that require great pass protection to work.
Right now, the Jets are not getting the quality of pass protection that is necessary for long-developing routes to be capitalized upon. So, even though Moore is winning his routes consistently, the quarterback often cannot get to him in the progression due to the incoming pressure. This leads to a lot of plays on film where Moore beats his man, but not until after the ball is out or the QB has scrambled.
The data backs up what is shown on film. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Moore’s average route depth* this season is 14.2 yards downfield. That ranks 10th-highest out of 100 qualified wide receivers.
*- Calculated based on how deep the player is at the moment the ball is thrown or the quarterback is sacked. The NFL average for a WR this season is 11.9 yards.
To consistently get the football to a receiver who ranks top-10 in average route depth, you need a great offensive line. The Jets don’t have that right now.
Comparatively, Garrett Wilson ranks 60th out of 100 qualifiers with an average route depth of 11.4 yards. This is why Wilson is significantly out-targeting Moore (39 to 25). His routes are shorter and quicker, giving him a better chance to succeed on a team that cannot trust its offensive line to hold up for too long.
Moore caught three catches for 53 yards in the Jets’ recent win over Pittsburgh. However, he was targeted a season-low total of four times. It was another week in which the Jets’ dynamic young playmaker was mysteriously uninvolved in the passing attack.
Flip on the tape and you could see the same story that has plagued No. 8 all year. Moore was winning, but the QB just didn’t have time to find him.
Let’s take a look at some examples of this issue from the Pittsburgh game.
Long-developing Elijah Moore routes
As the No. 1 weapon to the field side, Moore runs a deep comeback route. He breaks about 17 yards downfield and starts working back toward the sideline. Moore creates good separation and is open, but Zach Wilson is pressured quickly and has no chance to get this ball to Moore in rhythm.
Moore runs a very deep curl on third-and-14, hitting the depth of his route about 22 yards downfield. He creates good separation as he successfully gets the defender to turn his hips upfield and then slams on the brakes. Unfortunately, by the time Moore turns around, Wilson is already throwing the ball elsewhere since he is about to get hit.
Moore runs a dig route that he flattens out around 20 yards downfield. Before breaking, he does a great job of selling vertical to back off the corner, giving himself plenty of room. Looking at how everything else plays out on the field, there is a shot for a big play here. The underneath defender on Moore’s side commits to following Corey Davis‘s crosser, as does the single-high safety, so Moore is all alone.
Wilson appears to possibly be loading up for a throw to Moore, but pressure arrives just in time to stop him.
Should the Jets alter Moore’s usage?
If Moore were running these routes on the Philadelphia Eagles or Cleveland Browns (teams with great offensive lines), he’d be cooking with gas. Every fantasy owner would be clamoring to get their hands on him.
Moore is on the New York Jets, though. You know, the same New York Jets who have already lost four offensive tackles due to injury.
The Jets are probably not going to reach the point where their offensive line is consistent enough for Moore to be frequently productive on his current route diet. With their current stable of injuries, this offensive line’s ceiling is capped at “respectable” for the foreseeable future.
It’s time for the Jets to adjust accordingly. Moore needs a role that allows him to stay involved in the offense regardless of how the offensive line is playing.
Have him break some of those curls and comebacks at a shallower depth. Give him more slants and crossers. Dial up some screens, end-arounds, and jet-sweeps for him. Run trick plays with him.
This isn’t to say that Moore should never run long-developing routes. He’s great at them, and every once in a while, the Jets’ offensive line will hold up long enough for him to be targeted.
But on an overall level, the Jets would be wise to steer Moore’s usage closer to the line of scrimmage. A player with his speed and elusiveness needs to have the football in the open field more often.