Nathaniel Hackett, NY Jets, OC
Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets, Getty Images

The connection between Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson looks excellent already

New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett spent three years in Green Bay enjoying the luxury of having an elite QB-WR duo at his disposal: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

He might have a replication of that duo in New York with Rodgers and Garrett Wilson.

Back in June, Hackett raved about his new star receiver.

“He’s got some amazing body control,” Hackett said of Wilson. “I think his ability to get up on defenders and move them and then even when the ball might not be perfectly placed, be able to torque his body into different positions, it’s something that’s very special. He’s talented that way.”

That sure sounds a lot like Rodgers’s old No. 17 – and we’re already seeing it translate to the field.

In Rodgers’s preseason debut against the Giants, he targeted Wilson on four of his nine pass attempts. It was already clear that Rodgers trusts Wilson enough to give him a huge volume of targets – and for good reason. Wilson caught all three of his official targets for 30 yards and also drew a pass interference penalty on his other target.

During his rookie year, Wilson produced as well as a first-year receiver possibly could without a stable quarterback situation. The former Ohio State standout had 1,103 yards and four touchdowns on 83 receptions. He recorded 14 contested catches and 56 first downs, signaling his ability to move the chains and make plays in traffic. Wilson’s play throughout the year was enough to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

As productive as his first season was, there were a lot of yards and touchdowns left on the table by Wilson’s quarterbacks. Between Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco, and Chris Streveler, Wilson never had a quarterback who could consistently get him the football. According to PFF, Wilson had 24 incomplete targets that were attributed to the quarterback, ranking as the fourth-most in the NFL.

The OROY consistently got open and lost his defenders, regardless of the coverage he was facing. According to PFF, Wilson had 448 yards when he faced man coverage and 585 against zone coverage. Those numbers ranked fifth and 18th, respectively, out of all wide receivers in the NFL.

Wilson would have easily recorded far more touchdowns, receptions, and yards if the Jets had someone who could capitalize on the plays he was consistently making. And that was as a 22-year-old rookie. Now with a year of experience under his belt and Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football, Wilson’s potential is limitless in 2023.

Throughout his career, Rodgers has been known for his lightning-quick release and his penchant for knowing precisely how to attack a defense. This continued in 2022.

Rodgers had an average time to throw of 2.68, ranking ninth-fastest out of all quarterbacks who played 50 percent of snaps. He also had 33 “big-time throws”, per PFF, with most of them coming on deep passes and some on intermediate throws. Ranking well in both of these categories shows that Rodgers is able to balance quick-game production and deep-game production.

With his ability to attack all levels of the field, Rodgers can unlock Wilson’s production on deep throws and further his production in the intermediate area of the field.

Wilson only had 169 yards receiving on deep passes (20+ yards downfield), mainly due to an inability of the Jets’ quarterbacks to push the ball down the field. He was targeted on 20 deep passes and only caught five of them despite being credited with zero drops on deep passes. With Rodgers, Wilson should be a bigger threat in that area of the field. Add in Rodgers’s precision in the intermediate area of the field, and Wilson is in a position to have a huge year.

In training camp practices and the preseason, Rodgers has consistently looked Wilson’s way whenever he can. He has hit Wilson on quick passes and on deep shots that would have gone for 40-plus yard gains. Many completions between the duo have been made well before defenders can react, signaling their strengthening connection.

After the Giants game, Rodgers said that Wilson “makes it pretty easy to throw to.” The quarterback also spoke about his building chemistry with the second-year wide receiver.

“A lot of conversations on the field, off the field, text messages, those sorts of things. It’s nice to be able to have them show up in a live situation like today,” Rodgers said.

“There are still things to work on. We held back a lot of things. I wasn’t sure what Wink (Martindale) was going to throw at us, and it was eight guys up on the first play and eight guys up on the second play, but I love that about Wink. It’s good, but it tested us, and we did some good things picking up some things in the protections and some good adjustments, and obviously Garrett made some nice plays.”

Wilson said after the game, “Every rep is important, every rep is magnified that we get as far as out on the practice field, and I know he approaches it the same way.”

Heading towards Week 1 of the regular season, the connection between Rodgers and Wilson looks like it will be a massive part of the Jets’ offense from the first snap against Buffalo. The duo has gotten better throughout the summer, and it seems they already have a good idea of what the other is thinking on most plays.

Throughout the preseason, it has looked like the veteran quarterback and second-year wide receiver are in lock-step. If Rodgers’s chemistry with Wilson carries over to the regular season, as it looks like it will, the Jets’ new duo should be able to lead the team to many victories.

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Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2023 with a Communications Degree, a concentration in Multimedia Journalism, and a minor in Broadcasting. Wrote for for two years. Hosts a Knicks podcast for Let's Talk Knicks and contributes for Inside the Iggles and Shea Hello Media.
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Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
20 days ago

While people are certain to mention the terrible quarterback play as a factor of Wilson’s season, I’ve yet to see anyone suggest that more two-high looks, as Wilson is now certain to see with his new quarterback, can work against him. With terrible quarterbacking comes a lot of stacked boxes, and as good as Wilson was he only had 4 touchdowns, which means he (and his QBs) didn’t do enough to force the defense to change.

I’m not worried for the Jets’ offense, because it’s going to be hard to stop Breece without a safety in the box, but Wilson may not find the success everyone predicts for him.

20 days ago

The question for me is do I pick Garrett with the #5 pick tomorrow night? haha

Michael Nania
20 days ago
Reply to  Jets71

That’s tough, I’m super high on him. I feel good about saying he’ll be a top 5 WR… but #5 overall? Tough call! I don’t think you’d regret it, though. The target volume is just going to be insane. He might lead the league in targets.