Xavier Gipson, NY Jets, UDFA, Punt Return
Xavier Gipson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Despite being an edge-of-the-roster player, Xavier Gipson has a chance to play a critical role in 2023

Throughout training camp, plenty of attention was placed upon the battle for the New York Jets‘ final roster spot(s) at wide receiver. The competition seemed to mainly revolve around Malik Taylor, Xavier Gipson, and Jason Brownlee. Each player had different strengths that could bring value to the team’s offense.

It originally seemed that only one spot was up for grabs, but Corey Davis’s retirement made it possible for more than one player to make the team.

As it turns out, the Jets kept not one, not two, but three young receivers at the bottom of their depth chart.

On their initial 53-man roster, the Jets elected to keep Brownlee, Gipson, and a surprise in Irvin Charles. This is subject to change in the future, especially after Brandin Echols returns from suspension in Week 2, but for now, the Jets seem comfortable with rostering three UDFA wideouts.

Among these three players, Gipson is the player with the best chance of making an instant impact in 2023.

At first glance, Gipson is not an imposing player on an NFL field. Standing at 5-foot-9 and weighing 189 pounds, he is undersized and would not fit the typical receiver mold. However, Gipson more than makes up for his shortcomings in other areas of his game.

In his four years at Stephen F. Austin, Gipson was extremely productive on offense and special teams. The Dallas, Texas native had 3,532 yards and 31 touchdowns on 199 career receptions. He also was a yards-after-catch monster, recording 2,208 of his career receiving yards after the catch. Gipson also contributed 544 punt return yards (15.5 per return) and four punt return touchdowns.

Gipson was frequently recognized for his production, being named an FCS All-American in 2021 and 2022 while also winning the Western Atheltic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. Despite this, he went undrafted and signed with the Jets this summer.

Brought in as a developmental slot receiver, Gipson showed why he was such a talent for the SFA Lumberjacks and how he could produce this year for the Jets.

As a receiver, Gipson consistently found space against defenders in practice and in preseason games. Using his shiftiness and elusiveness in the open field, Gipson was very impressive whenever the ball got into his hands.

The UDFA showed these traits in the preseason finale against the Giants, recording seven receptions for 79 yards. Gipson consistently churned out extra yards and made things happen, finishing the game with 71 yards after the catch. Four of his seven receptions went for a first down.

After the game, Garrett Wilson said that Gipson is “so fun to watch” when asked about the receivers competing for roster spots.

“Every time he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it when you put the ball in his hands. Great player, on and off the field. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him the last few months,” said Wilson.

More importantly for the Jets in 2023, Gipson has shown the potential to be an impactful returner right out of the gate. The rookie had three big returns in the preseason, recording a 45-yard kickoff return, a 31-yard punt return, and a 20-yard punt return. Overall, he averaged 28.0 yards on three kickoff returns and 13.4 yards on five punt returns.

Those numbers were nearly even better. If Gipson did not step out of bounds while toeing the sideline on his 20-yard return against the Giants, he had a chance at breaking loose for a touchdown.

The combination of Gipson’s skill in the receiving and return games has not only caught the eye of his teammates but his coaches as well.

On Wednesday, head coach Robert Saleh said that along with Jason Brownlee, Gipson “did a nice job” putting himself on the Jets’ radar and has “answered the bell since.” Saleh also elaborated on what he had seen from Gipson.

“X has shown dynamic ability in the return game, he’s a really good football player. He’s got a great feel for space in the pass game, obviously he still has a long way to go, and he’s going to get better, but the way he works, his intent, his mindset, you can tell he’s going to be a really good football player in this League,” said Saleh.

In a perfect world, Gipson will not need to be a pivotal contributor to the Jets’ offense in 2023. The team has enough weapons to allow the rookie to develop his game further and become an asset in the long term.

But in the return game, Gipson is already capable of being a dynamic weapon who can contribute to the Jets’ success in 2023. The field position battle can go a long way toward deciding games, especially when it comes to returning kicks and punts.

An effective returner can put the opposing defense at an immediate disadvantage. With the explosiveness and shiftiness he possesses as a ball carrier, Gipson is the type of returner with the potential to swing games.

Not only does Gipson help from a performance perspective, but he also helps the Jets personnel-wise. His presence can allow someone like Mecole Hardman to focus on offense entirely, maximizing the depth of the position group. It also can help clear up a roster spot on gameday, as Gipson serving as a depth receiver and returner can allow the Jets to improve their depth at another position.

Overlooked coming into the NFL, Gipson made a significant impression on the Jets with his skill in multiple aspects of the game. In all likelihood, his potential in the receiving game will not have to be utilized this season unless injuries or regression occur to the players above him on the depth chart.

On the other hand, Gipson will most likely be counted on this season. His high-end potential as a returner can flip the field for Aaron Rodgers. If the UDFA can keep up his special teams performance in the regular season, Gipson will make an instant impact in 2023 – starting as soon as next Monday night.

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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 JetsInsider.com 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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Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
18 days ago

Opportunities are short lived. Hope this kid makes the most of it come Monday night.