Davante Adams was a screen machine. Could the New York Jets do the same with Garrett Wilson?
Interestingly, Wilson did not receive many screen-pass opportunities relative to his massive target volume. Wilson was targeted on 13 screens, which ranked 15th among wide receivers. He was 55th out of 88 qualified wide receivers with 9.0% of his targets being screens.
With Nathaniel Hackett coming in as the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, there is a chance this will change for Wilson in 2023. Wilson is expected to follow in Davante Adams’ footsteps as Aaron Rodgers‘ new No. 1 wide receiver, and during Hackett’s three years as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator (2019-21), Rodgers threw a ton of screens to Adams.
Adams saw 63 screen targets from 2019-21, ranking second among wide receivers over that span behind only Chris Godwin (66). In each of his three seasons under Hackett, Adams had the third-most screen targets at his position, seeing 19 in 2019, 19 in 2020, and 25 in 2021.
Overall, 14.2% of Adams’ targets were screens from 2019-21. That is a significant step up from Wilson’s 9.0% rate. In the 2022 season, a 14.2% screen rate would have ranked 32nd out of 88 qualified wide receivers – 23 spots higher than Wilson.
Adams was largely successful on those screen plays. Seen below is a look at his production on those 63 screen targets from 2019-21. For reference, I also listed the 2022 league averages for wide receivers on screens.
- Targets: 63
- Receptions: 61
- Yards: 396
- Touchdowns: 2
- First downs: 23
- Yards per target: 6.3 (2022 WR average: 5.3)
- First down rate: 36.5% (2022 WR average: 22.4%)
On a high volume of opportunities, Adams averaged 1.0 more yard per target than the average wide receiver, and he picked up a first down 14.0% more often than the average wide receiver.
Clearly, Hackett and Rodgers have proven that not only do they love throwing a lot of screens to their star receiver, but they excel at setting them up and executing them, too.
Adams’ success on a high volume of screens is enough on its own to believe Hackett might boost Wilson’s screen volume to Adams’ previous levels. But the exciting thing for New York is that Wilson might have the potential to be even better than Adams on screens.
As a rookie, Wilson displayed incredible elusiveness with the football in his hands. He ranked second among wide receivers with 22 missed tackles forced, trailing only Deebo Samuel (32).
Comparatively, Adams’ career-high in this category is 16. Wilson averaged 0.265 missed tackles forced per reception in 2022 – Adams’ career average is 0.107, less than half of Wilson’s.
Wilson will also get to run behind two excellent blocking receivers in Allen Lazard and Corey Davis. Lazard was instrumental in facilitating Adams’ screen success in Green Bay. The added presence of Davis gives the Jets two highly regarded blockers on the outside, which is a unique luxury.
There are plenty of reasons to like Wilson’s potential in the screen game under Hackett. But increasing Wilson’s volume of screen opportunities can make a positive impact on the offense beyond just the screen plays themselves.
Establishing Wilson as a frequent screen threat will lull defenders into cheating downhill, creating a higher likelihood of getting them to bite on fakes. This can allow the Jets to build productive plays off fake screens to Wilson. Green Bay did this successfully with Adams.
The Packers used my favorite take on this concept: the fake WR screen release to Adams to try to get the defense crashing, then hitting them over the top.
Steelers cap this well so Rodgers goes with the backside option, which still picks up a little chunk of yardage. pic.twitter.com/XBerJoFaPS
— Dusty (@DustyEvely) October 7, 2021
the fake bubble screen slant here from davante adams 🤌 pic.twitter.com/b8zA5HFqXx
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 29, 2021
The counterargument to using Wilson on more screens is the fact that screens are simply not a very productive play.
In 2022, the average WR screen yielded only 5.3 yards and resulted in a first down just 22.4% of the time. Those are brutal numbers relative to the average passing play overall. The average pass attempt in 2022 yielded 7.0 yards and resulted in a first down 33.7% of the time.
Is this really the type of play that you want to ask your best receiver to do more of?
It’s a fair argument, and because of it, I would fully understand if the Jets choose not to mimic Adams’ screen volume with Wilson.
However, I view the screen pass as a similar type of weapon to the mid-range jumper in basketball. Overall, the mid-range jumper is not a good shot from an analytical perspective. Three-pointers and shots under the basket are objectively more efficient. But that’s when you look at the sport as a whole. For the select few players who are elite at the mid-range jumper, it is an effective shot.
And the players who sink the mid-range shot at an elite level are often among the best scorers in the game. This is because it gives them an extra weapon in their toolbox that most players do not have – making them tougher to guard. As a defender, you have to respect their mid-range jumper, so they use that threat to become even more effective in other areas.
The screen pass is an ineffective play for most teams, but it is a dangerous weapon for the select few teams who have the right coach and the right players. Hackett and Wilson seem like the rare combo of coach and receiver that is capable of yielding worthwhile results on screens. And if they pull that off, the offense becomes more versatile and unpredictable, making Wilson and the entire offense more dangerous in other areas due to the respect commanded on screens.
I am looking forward to seeing how the Jets handle this aspect of Wilson’s role. While I will understand the logic if they decide not to boost Wilson’s volume of screen targets, I think there is a lot of intriguing potential for him in that area.