Jets could have dynamic X-factor with Elijah Moore

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Jets WR Elijah Moore at OTAs June 2021
Jets WR Elijah Moore at OTAs June 2021

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Zach Wilson has spent the spring showing everyone why the Jets made him their next franchise quarterback. He’s dazzled with his arm strength and accuracy and his ability to throw on the run.

But his best passes have often seemed to be the ones he threw to fellow rookie Elijah Moore.

Moore, the Jets’ second-round pick, has been just as impressive so far this spring. He is “a dynamic young man,” as head coach Robert Saleh described him on Thursday, with speed and moves that make him difficult for defenses to catch.

In fact, it’s been clear that this Jets defense often has trouble keeping up with him. Moore has shown a knack for getting open, both deep and in much tighter spaces. That makes him a potentially dangerous weapon in both the open field and the red zone.

And it sounds like Saleh intends to use him wherever and whenever he can.

“What makes those guys difficult to defend is that he can line up wherever he wants and he’s going to execute at a very high level,” Saleh said, “even though the routes might be a little bit different, the steps might be different, the releases might be a little bit different.”

That’s the kind of weapon Saleh loves, and one that fits so well into the Kyle Shanahan offense that the Jets intend to run. They see him as similar to what Deebo Samuel was with the 49ers – a receiver who can be effective regardless of where he lines up.

There are differences, though. Moore, at 5-9, is a little smaller than Samuel (5-10) and several scouts had him pegged as more of a slot receiver before the draft. That makes some sense, since the Jets have Corey Davis and Denzel Mims, both 6-4, on the outside. And they’ll need a long-term replacement for 5-9 slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who hasn’t been at spring practices yet while the Jets try to get him to accept a cut in his $10 million salary.

Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (82) carries the ball aLos Angeles Rams in the third quarter at SoFi Stadium. The Jets defeated the Rams 23-20.
Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (82) carries the ball aLos Angeles Rams in the third quarter at SoFi Stadium. The Jets defeated the Rams 23-20.

Judging by the way he’s been used this spring, though, Moore could be more than just Crowder’s replacement. He has lined up all over the field, often using his 4.3 speed to beat the Jets’ defensive backs in deep routes down the field. His shiftiness has played well whether he’s lined up outside or in the slot. He’s proven to be a mismatch wherever his routes start.

“He’s showcasing his ability to be as versatile as possible, in terms of being in different parts of the field, being in different positions, understanding what needs to get done,” Saleh said. “So when the ball gets to his hands he can still do what he does best, which is run after the catch. So that part is what makes him so difficult to defend.”

If Crowder really does still have a role in the Jets’ offense, as Saleh has promised, that versatility will be important for Moore. And it’s easy to see how he could quickly become a Wilson favorite. They already clearly have chemistry, which they’ve been working on since Moore was selected on the second day of the draft. And with so many other options in the Jets’ revamped offense, Moore could easily get lost by opposing defenses – at least at the start.

It’s early, of course. He hasn’t faced a real NFL defense yet – one that had a chance to game-plan for him and is coming at him full-speed. But Moore clearly has the skills. He had 86 catches for 1,193 yards at Ole Miss last year, leading the country with an average of 149.1 receiving yards per game.

There’s no doubt, the Jets could use a “dynamic” weapon like that.

“We’re excited to have him,” Saleh said. “His work ethic is off the charts. His mindset is off the charts. So we’re excited to continue working with him to see him get better.”