New York Jets are overusing Braxton Berrios
Give credit to Robert Saleh and the New York Jets‘ coaching staff: They are holding every single player accountable this season, showing a willingness to throw pedigree out the window for the good of the team.
It does not matter if a player is a recent draft pick of the current regime or even an in-season trade acquisition. The Jets have proven they will bench players who are struggling. Zach Wilson, James Robinson, Max Mitchell, and Bryce Hall are a few prime examples.
One more player needs to join that list: Braxton Berrios.
Berrios was a fun story over the last few weeks of 2021. But the honeymoon is long over with.
After signing a two-year, $12 million contract with $7 million guaranteed, Berrios has been a massive disappointment for the Jets this season. He had a couple of nice rushing touchdowns early in the season, but other than that, he has not provided much of anything. His returning production has fallen off a cliff and his offensive contributions are exceedingly minimal.
Berrios deserves to stay in the returner role for the rest of this year. However, the Jets need to start phasing him out of the offense.
On the year, Berrios is one of the least efficient wide receivers in football. With 107 receiving yards on 155 routes run, he is averaging 0.69 yards per route run, which ranks 118th out of 120 qualified wide receivers (min. 20 targets).
Berrios ranks that low despite the luxury of having a relatively large percentage of his plays being screen passes that were dialed up for him (meaning he did not have to earn the opportunity to make a play). Take out Berrios’s screen plays and he is averaging an even more putrid 0.55 yards per route run.
The reasons for Berrios’s extremely low yards-per-route run average are simple: He is not a good separator (cannot win routes to create his own opportunities) and is not a reliable pass-catcher when targeted. These deficiencies are why he could not fetch a large contract in a booming wide receiver market this past offseason. His skills as a pure wide receiver are lackluster.
Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson, and Mike White have a combined 56.6 passer rating when targeting Berrios this season. All three quarterbacks have struggled to build chemistry with him, as each of them has no better than a 72.3 passer rating when throwing his way.
Berrios has racked up a total of -9.5 Expected Points Added (EPA) on his targets this season, which is the costliest total of any player on the Jets and ranks as the seventh-worst mark in the league among wide receivers. His average of -0.38 EPA per target is the worst of any Jets wide receiver.
New York has continuously fed snaps to Berrios all year despite his woeful production. He is averaging 19.9 snaps per game and has played 30% of the Jets’ offensive snaps this season.
That’s way too much for a player with Berrios’s production.
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Worse than Berrios’s snap counts is the fact that it seems like the Jets love going to him in crucial situations. Berrios received a gotta-have-it red-zone target in the final two minutes of the Jets’ past two games and dropped both of them.
In the Vikings game, Berrios also appeared to be primarily at fault for causing a killer George Fant penalty in the red zone by going off-script and running away from the designed lane on a screen, putting Fant in a bad position.
Berrios has caught 2-of-5 passes in the red zone this season for 7 yards, no first downs, and no touchdowns. If you throw in the Fant play and its penalty yardage, the numbers drop to 3-of-6 passes for a net of -3 yards.
Out of seven Jets players with at least four targets in the red zone, Berrios is the only one who has not recorded at least one first down. Yet, he only has one fewer red-zone target than Elijah Moore and two fewer targets than Corey Davis. He also has more red-zone targets than Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah combined (Conklin has four and Uzomah has zero).
Berrios’s struggles as a pure wide receiver would be bearable if he was doing damage on gadget plays, which is supposed to be his primary appeal. But he isn’t doing anything with those plays, either.
Berrios has 8 receptions on screens this season and those have translated into only 26 yards and two first downs (0 TDs). His average of 3.3 yards per reception on screens is the fifth-worst mark out of 54 wide receivers who have gotten at least five screen plays.
It’s time to take away the majority of Berrios’s snaps and touches. Give them to Elijah Moore.
Explaining why Moore should take away Berrios’s red-zone targets is an easy task. It goes without saying that Moore is a better and more versatile route-runner than Berrios. Additionally, Moore offers a much more reliable pair of hands. Moore has a 3.3% career drop rate on passes that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage while Berrios has a 9.1% drop rate on those throws.
As for the gadget game, it’s Moore’s elusiveness that makes him a more appealing option than Berrios.
While I understand that Berrios’s natural kick-returning vision is a useful skill for gadget plays, Berrios is nowhere close to as elusive as Moore. The ceiling on a given play is much higher with the ball in Moore’s hands than Berrios’s.
For his career, Berrios has forced 8 missed tackles on 122 offensive touches, giving him an average of 0.066 per touch. Moore, on the other hand, has forced 16 missed tackles on 80 offensive touches. That’s an average of 0.200 per touch – more than triple Berrios’s number.
Generally, all Berrios will do is take what is presented to him. Moore is capable of exceeding the expectations laid by the situation.
Sure, Berrios’s vision is good and probably a tad better than Moore’s, but if we are being honest, Berrios has often gotten lucky to be the recipient of great blocking and great play-calling. Look at some of the touchdowns Berrios has scored in his career. Do we really think Moore could not score in the same situations?
The Jets (+14) break out the Wildcat formation and take an early lead over the Bucs! 😼
— TwinSpires Sportsbook 💵 (@TS_Sportsbook) January 2, 2022
It is time to phase Berrios out of the offense. Sure, if they want to, the Jets can give him a single-digit number of snaps and mix in one play for him every couple of weeks. I’m not saying he should play zero snaps. But I am saying that all of Berrios’s red-zone opportunities and the majority of his gadget plays need to start going to the significantly more talented player. Based on the results we have seen this year, every play that goes to Berrios instead of Moore is a waste of potential.
The Jets have fallen all the way to the ninth seed in the AFC. They are facing the most crucial stretch of games that the franchise has seen in seven years. Now is the time to start making decisions based on results. Berrios is one of the worst producers in the NFL at his position and the Jets must adjust accordingly.
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