Aaron Rodgers, Xavier Gipson, NY Jets
Aaron Rodgers, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, New York Jets, Getty Images

Xavier Gipson stole the spotlight in New York Jets’ preseason finale

Once the Aaron Rodgers Show was over, it was the Xavier Gipson Show.

The New York Jets‘ undrafted rookie wide receiver finished the team’s preseason finale with team-highs of seven catches and 79 yards – both being the best single-game totals of any Jet this preseason. Four his catches went for first downs, including two third-and-long conversions. Gipson also added a 20-yard punt return.

Going into the game, the Jets’ wide receiver competition had become wide-open due to the retirement of Corey Davis. It became a virtual guarantee that New York would keep at least one of its bubble wide receivers, and the opportunity existed that two of them could be kept.

In his last chance to make an impression, Gipson made sure to leave no doubt to the Jets coaching staff that he deserves to have one of the two spots.

The most impressive aspect of Gipson’s performance was his elusiveness. While none of his catches required him to do much from a route-running standpoint, Gipson consistently gained bonus yardage after the catch.

Gipson forced four missed tackles and gained a total of 70 YAC (10.0 per reception). According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Gipson accumulated 13 YAC Over Expectation, which means he gained 13 more yards after the catch than the league-average wide receiver would be expected to gain in the same situations. On a per-catch basis, Gipson averaged 1.9 YACOE.

New York’s coaching staff is going to have a blast watching Gipson’s film from this game. Take note of not only Gipson’s shiftiness with the ball in his hands but also his spatial awareness. Gipson showed a good feel for his surroundings, knowing which lane to take to maximize YAC.

Gipson’s YAC skills will go a long way in helping him make this particular roster because Aaron Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett love receivers who can rack up YAC. In his two MVP seasons under Hackett, Rodgers relied heavily on YAC.

Rodgers led the NFL with 6.0 YAC per completion in 2020 and was fourth with 5.9 YAC per completion in 2021. Conversely, Rodgers ranked 24th in air yards per completion in 2020 (5.5) and 26th in 2021 (5.3). What this shows is that Rodgers favors shorter throws that put his receivers in ideal positions to make plays after the catch. Gipson’s play style fits into this philosophy.

Rodgers shouted out Gipson after the game, saying the rookie took a “big step forward” toward making the roster.

In addition to the potential he has shown as a receiver, Gipson added to his roster case by showing flashes on special teams throughout the preseason. Gipson had a 45-yard kickoff return, a 31-yard punt return, and a 20-yard punt return with only eight total return opportunities in four games. Overall, he averaged 13.4 yards per punt return and 28.0 yards per kickoff return.

All of a sudden, it feels like Gipson is in the driver’s seat of the Jets’ wide receiver competition.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
28 days ago

I like what I have seen from him. I think he’s played better than Hardman. That dropped ball from Zach last night could have been a great gain. Hardman has not impressed me at all this preseason.

28 days ago
Reply to  Mike Palazzo

I agree with you about Mecole, although to be fair he hasn’t had the same number of snaps as Gipson. I also think the expectations of Hardman need to be tempered a bit. He’s not a full time player, and even though much was made of the Jets increasing his role, I don’t see it happening. He’s a speed guy, with questionable hands and doesn’t particularly run great routs. He will help for sure, and he’ll make some big plays, but in a role.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
28 days ago

If only he hadn’t stepped out of bounds on that punt return. It could have been huge.

28 days ago

Gipson reminded me in this game of those elusive little receivers for the Patriots who helped Brady earn the title of GOAT, guys like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. They always seemed to be open when needed, nothing spectacular, but always there for that first down when needed.

28 days ago

I had him ahead of the group trying to make the team from the beginning. I think that one dropped punt vs. Cle sort of put him in the back of people’s minds but he’s been good. It was his first NFL game, things like that happen. If those were mostly “starters” out there last night then is it safe to assume he’s the starting return man? He fielded the punts, and I like his juice on kickoffs. He many get 10 snaps all season at WR but he seems to have some room to improve.