Elijah Moore, NY Jets, Mike LaFleur, OC
Elijah Moore, New York Jets, Getty Images

Amidst all the Elijah Moore drama, how the Jets got to this point needs to be revisited

By this time tomorrow, Elijah Moore could very well no longer be a New York Jet.

After using Moore on just 10 snaps vs. the Patriots (1 target), the Jets are signaling that they are clearly still unhappy with him. Moore, for his part, made some disparaging comments about his connection with Zach Wilson and his lack of targets.

How did the Jets get to this point? How did we get from hailing Elijah Moore as the Jets’ next true No. 1 receiver to clearly phasing him out of the offense?

It’s easy to blame Moore for this situation, and he definitely deserves blame for how he’s handled things. But there’s no way to overlook the fact that the Jets had criminally underutilized and misused him in the early part of the season before his erratic behavior and trade request went down.

As detailed multiple times on this site, 33% of Moore’s routes were go routes through six games. What other team is running a 5’9″, 180-pound receiver on go routes a third of the time?

As it is, the Jets had insisted on using Moore on the outside between 75-80% of the time over his first two seasons. Ironically, Moore likely fell to the second round of the draft despite being recognized as a first-round talent due to his small size, which led to the perception that he was going to be a slot receiver. Michael Nania detailed how Moore might benefit from playing in the slot and running horizontal routes rather than vertical ones.

This strange usage of Moore leads to questions about the Jets’ other disgruntled former second-round pick. Denzel Mims came out of Baylor with tantalizing size, speed, and contested-catch ability. The Jets presumably drafted him to be a vertical threat on the outside. Then, they buried him on the depth chart prior to the 2021 season because he couldn’t play all the receiver positions or on special teams.

Sounds like a recurring theme in a way: take a wide receiver high in the draft, put him in a position that doesn’t utilize his skillset, and then blame him for not rising to the occasion. Though the Jets hadn’t outright said anything about Moore’s play in the offense, they essentially let Garrett Wilson replace his primary usage, the same way they signed Corey Davis to essentially replace Mims.

These questions start to make me wonder about Mike LaFleur. In the offseason, I wrote multiple articles about how players’ skillset should take precedence over scheme and conventional NFL wisdom. Look at how Andy Reid utilizes his players. He could’ve easily called Mecole Hardman a first-round bust, but instead, he schemes plays for his particular skillset into the offense. The Chiefs clearly didn’t trade for Kadarius Toney to keep him on the bench considering what they gave up for him.

However, once again, the Jets seem married to their scheme. This time, it’s not on the defensive side of the football, where they have actually adapted to suit the skills of their players (the defensive line rotation notwithstanding). On offense, the Jets have two receivers with skills that they could use in this offense: contested-catch ability and the combination of route-running and sure hands over the middle. Instead, they’ve phased both players out.

I’m not a Denzel Mims truther. I watched the film last season, and I saw how crippling he can be to the offense. But I also watched his block on Breece Hall’s 62-yard touchdown last week and his 63-yard catch-and-run this week. I see a guy who could bring value at the Z position. I know the Jets love Corey Davis, but they can move Davis to the slot at times to give Mims some reps.

Elijah Moore’s demotion within this offense makes absolutely no sense. Every single Jet X writer predicted that he’d lead the team in receiving yards this season, and several of us even picked him for team MVP. It’s not to say that we can’t be wrong, but we’ve still seen flashes of the Elijah from last season on the rare occasions that the Jets deign to run him on intermediate routes over the middle.

It might be strange to write this article now, after the Jets played a game in which the receivers got open. But we saw what happened last week against Denver, where the Jets could have sorely used a receiver to win underneath or down the middle of the Broncos’ two-high coverages.

With the trade deadline approaching, it’s easy to see the Jets moving on from Moore. It remains to be seen what they’d get in return, but yesterday’s offensive gameplan showcased what the Jets’ plan would be without Moore: open up Garrett Wilson and utilize Tyler Conklin over the middle. It’s not a bad plan, but having Braxton Berrios on the field over Elijah Moore significantly limits the Jets’ depth.

After having written an article defending Mike LaFleur’s play-calling last week, I’m wondering if he deserves a strong share of criticism in a different area. Knowing how to utilize the skillset that your players have is one of the most crucial responsibilities of a coach. LaFleur has shown flashes of that at times, but it appears he’s failing with his receivers.

Robbie Anderson made a career out of running go routes. Although that limited his potential to ever develop into a true top receiver, his top-end speed made him hard to cover even if the defense knew what was coming. There are countless NFL receivers with route-running and blocking limitations, whether due to their physical or mental skills. Good coaches find a way to utilize those players.

The Jets still need a true vertical threat. Mims could be that guy, at least from a contested-catch perspective. Yes, he wasn’t great at it (or at anything) last season, but with the injuries along the Jets’ offense, he’s worth at least a chance. He has far more talent in his pinky than Jeff Smith has as a receiver, not to mention the fact that Smith’s size and speed mirror Elijah Moore’s far more than Mims’s.

Regardless of what the Jets do with Moore and Mims, the question will linger. The Jets have a long history of failed second-round receivers, but these two, especially Moore, should not be among them. Zach Wilson is the biggest problem with the Jets’ offense right now (with their offensive line definitely taking a fair share of the blame). But going forward, you wonder if the Jets will ever be able to succeed offensively, regardless of who the QB is, if they can’t utilize the talent that they have on the team.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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Jim G
Jim G
29 days ago

Funny you should write this article. Yesterday I posted on a Jets fan website “Does anyone see a problem with the Jets drafting Mims in the second round, heap him with praise and the next year they draft Moore in the second round, then bury Mims on the depth chart, then draft Wilson and bury Moore on the depth chart?”

Last year we were all quick to blame Mims for not doing what the coaches wanted. Now, we should all be wondering whether the coaches are part of the problem. They should have used Moore for more than 1 target Sunday.

AnthonyWilliams
AnthonyWilliams
28 days ago
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mlesko73
mlesko73
29 days ago

Thank you Rivka, another great piece.

One cannot help but wonder how we arrived at the same place w/ two talented receivers.
LaFleur says all the right things, but saying and doing are not the same.
I know every barstool genius and video game nerd can second-guess the guys getting paid to make these decisions, but at some point what is abundantly clear to the masses should also be to the power brokers.
Moore is a precise route runner w/ over the middle, slant, YAC skills. Mims is a tall outside threat.
Moore > Berrios
Mims > Smith
I feel like Rod Serling should be narrating

On another note, my fear of NE using their RB’s against us was realized 9 cathches for 87 yds (Stevenson 7/72). I think the way to attack our D is on the perimeter.

Last edited 29 days ago by mlesko73
J L
J L
29 days ago

I love how the jets are ok with losing as long as they think they are proving a point or 1 upping a disgruntled player.

Nadine Williams
Nadine Williams
29 days ago

Great on point honest article. Would love to hear the conversations between Douglas and the coaching staff on the issues discussed in this article.

MrJet
MrJet
29 days ago

FIRST AND FOREMOST I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE THE HAIRS ON MY BACK STOOD AS I READ THIS..WORD FOR WORD THIS IS WHAT I BEEN SAYING AND FEELING AND AT LEAST TRYING TO GET JET FANS TO TAKE A LOOK AT..YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH..THIS IS A CONVERSATION THAT NEEDS TO BE HAD!! I WATCH ALMOST ALL THE JET CONTENT CREATORS AND NOT ONE IS BRINGING UP THIS VERY POINT OMG I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ON THIS TOPIC I WOULDNT BE ABLE TO WRITE IT ALL DOWN BUT AGAIN THANK YOU THIS ARTICLE SHOULD BE ON ALL SPORTS OUTLETS TO GET THE CONVERSATION GOING GREAT ARTICLE WELL SAID