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Unexpected player could become NY Jets’ safety blanket in 2024

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

Is this player poised to be the New York Jets’ safety blanket?

It’s no secret that New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a perfectionist. His attention to detail is second to none, promoting his astounding success in the league. With that perfectionism comes a demand for similar fastidiousness from his peers. This drives the perception that he is a bad teammate.

For any quarterback, though, a receiver dropping a well-placed ball will draw tremendous ire. Football is a hard enough game to play without unforced errors. With Rodgers’ ability to drop a dime into a tight area, the last thing he wants to deal with is a drop.

Given that reality, there’s a possibility that one sneaky player could factor into the Jets’ offense even more than expected in 2024: Mike Williams.

The only sure-handed receiver

Garrett Wilson hasn’t been a drop machine at the NFL level, but he definitely lets more easy ones go than Jets fans would like to see. His 5.9% drop rate in 2023 was a smidge better than the league average for receivers (6.1%), but his five drops were tied for the 16th-most out of 72 qualified receivers (min. 60 targets). Even with his high target volume, the ones he flubbed were noticeable.

The other returning receivers on the Jets were even worse. Allen Lazard’s 17.9% drop rate was the worst among receivers with at least 48 targets. Xavier Gipson managed to hang on to passes, dropping only one ball (4.5%), but his issues lay more in the fumbling department (5 total, mostly on returns).

Malachi Corley enters the NFL with a case of the dropsies. He dropped 7% of his passes in 2023 with an average depth of target of just 5.5. That means he was likely dropping really easy passes.

That leaves Mike Williams as the Jets’ lone truly reliable receiver when it comes to drops. He has dropped just one of his last 115 passes and had a 1.2% drop rate from 2022-23. Williams did have drop issues earlier in his career (8.4% in 2021, 10.9% in 2019) but cleaned that up in concert with a top-tier level of play.

If Rodgers has a have-to-have pass, then, he may go to Williams instead of Wilson. From 2020-21, Davante Adams dropped just 2.1% of his passes, making him an incredibly reliable target for Rodgers. Wilson hasn’t quite reached that level yet.

But maybe not

Then again, Rodgers has shown a willingness to throw to not-very-surehanded receivers in the past. Adams dropped 8.8% of his passes in 2019 but still garnered 124 targets in 12 games. Rodgers inexplicably prefers throwing to Lazard despite the latter’s 8.1% drop rate prior to joining the Jets. Randall Cobb, one of Rodgers’ go-tos in Green Bay during his prime, has a 7.9% career drop rate and dropped at least 10% of his passes from Rodgers in three separate seasons. Even Jordy Nelson had a career 6.7% drop rate.

Perhaps that won’t enter into Rodgers’ equation, then. He may treat Wilson like he did Adams. But Rodgers hasn’t had this level of a No. 2 receiver since the days that Nelson and Adams were operating together in Green Bay. Perhaps he’ll utilize the tandem more than Jets fans realize.

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