NY Jets: Second Year Leap on the Horizon for Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore

Zach Wilson, NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Wilson, NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets front office had a superb offseason. Now, all eyes are on Zach Wilson to put everything together. Find out how Elijah Moore will play a key role in Wilson’s efforts to bring the franchise to the promised land.

Zach Wilson did not enter the college football scene with much fanfare. He ultimately earned three-stars as a recruit, barely placing inside the top-1000 in the national rankings. This led to Wilson enrolling as a member of the BYU Cougars football program. While there were flashes of his supreme talent early on, the first couple seasons behind center were less than spectacular as a whole. This all changed during the 2020 season.

Wilson and BYU broke out in 2020, with the former becoming one of the most highly talked about signal callers in the country, while the latter parlayed their quarterbacks’ success into a Boca Raton Bowl victory. Following his life-altering campaign, Wilson began hearing his name in the same breath as arguably the best amateur quarterback ever — Trevor Lawrence. In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Lawrence No. 1 overall, but that is the only player in the entire draft to come off the board before Wilson.

The New York Jets were enamored with Wilson’s potential and game-changing abilities early on in the process. Knowing that the Jags were likely to take Lawrence allowed the Jets to zero in on Wilson and not leave any stone unturned. The new coaching staff, led by head coach Robert Saleh, was in attendance at Wilson’s pro-day. They fell head over heels for the kid after an insane off-platform throw of 60+ yards during the workout. They chose him No. 2 overall, making Wilson the franchise cornerstone of their current rebuild. The Broadway Zach era officially began.

NY Jets: Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore are Ready to Make the Leap in 2022

Let’s jump to Elijah Moore real quick. Moore showed potential in limited playing time as a freshman at Ole Miss, but didn’t see full-time snaps until 2019. It is hard to blame the Rebels too much for not playing Elijah more as a freshman, because the wide receiver room also featured NFL stars AJ Brown and DK Metcalf at the time. Similar to Wilson, Moore’s true breakout came during the 2020 campaign.

After catching passes from two different quarterbacks as a sophomore, Moore put up some insane numbers with Matt Corral inserted as the unquestioned QB1. Moore caught 86 passes, good for 1193 yards and eight touchdowns. He accomplished such numbers in only eight games. This led evaluators across the country to perk their ears up a bit.

Due to lingering COVID issues, the annual NFL Draft Scouting Combine was not held in its regular manner in 2021. Not to worry, Elijah Moore did plenty at his pro-day to show talent evaluators that he was ready for the league. No bigger impression was made on a franchise than the New York Jets. General manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh pride themselves on creating a culture full of stand up individuals. Moore is not only talented, he is a great dude. The Jets went on to select Moore No. 34 overall in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The pair arrived in New York together and quickly got to work during the training camp and preseason portions of the offseason. It took Moore a handful of games to get a feel for things, but he ended the season on a charge. Over the final six games that he played — prior to a season-ending quad injury — Moore hauled in 34 catches, 459 yards, and five touchdowns. A clear sign that he was on an upward trajectory.

Zach Wilson, on the other hand, was much more of a mixed bag. He faced an injury of his own, missing weeks eight through eleven with a PCL injury. When Wilson was on the field, there were times where he made throws that would put your jaw on the floor. Then there were plays that had you picking your jaw back up from the floor and laughing. I went back to watch some games from Wilson’s rookie season, and the reasons for his inconsistency as a passer were glaringly obvious.

Wilson moves around very well, but this can be a detriment sometimes. Yes, his offensive line was not great, sometimes it was even flat out terrible. However, there were a number of instances where Wilson had a clean pocket if he simply would have stepped up rather than bailed early. We can chalk this up to inexperience as a rookie, but he’s not going to make any friends on the offensive line if he doesn’t get a better feel for the pocket.

The next factor — and arguably most important — is that he throws off his back foot rather frequently. This was an issue I had with him coming out of BYU and it has seemingly followed him to the league. Wilson has such a strong arm that he could get away with it for the most part in college, but NFL defenses will eat those throws up consistently. He must keep better balance on his drop backs in order to improve his ball placement and timing with wide receivers. A more consistent, repeatable motion after the snap could change things drastically.

So, how will Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore fare in 2022?

The aforementioned Joe Douglas did an exceptional job of adding premier talent to a roster that was largely devoid of it. Bringing in the likes of Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Jermaine Johnson, Breece Hall, and Jeremy Ruckert in one draft class is unheard of. He also signed veteran cornerback DJ Reed away from the Seahawks and veteran safety Jordan Whitehead from the Buccaneers, providing a major facelift for the secondary and defense altogether. Carl Lawson, the major free agent signing from the 2021 offseason, is expected to be fully healthy for the start of the season too, giving the Jets a strong pass rush tandem on paper.

What does the defense have to do with Wilson? A lot. Too often, even dating back to BYU, Wilson has been forced to play hero ball in order to keep his team in games. It is nice knowing that Wilson can carry the load when he has to, but to put together a full 17 game season, he must learn to trust the defense. On 3rd and 11 he has to be okay with a throw away and punt, rather than potentially forcing a throw downfield that ends up in a defender’s hands. With the added talent on that side of the ball, it should be easier to do that this season.

The best signing of the offseason was getting Laken Tomlinson to come over from the San Francisco 49ers to man a starting guard spot on the offensive line. This will also allow Wilson to lean on the running game, another way to cut down on the mind-numbing plays that hamper him. Breece Hall and Michael Carter are a terrifying duo to game plan for, as they both are insanely quick and both are willing to barrel through arm tackles for extra yards.

With the offense becoming more well-balanced, it is going to create openings for their trio of wide receivers. Corey Davis has had a productive career, but never has lived up to the expectations that come with being a top-five pick in the NFL Draft. That being said, he is more than capable of assuming the WR3 role in an NFL offense. Garrett Wilson hasn’t logged a snap yet in the league, but given his proficiency as a route runner, I see no reason to believe his ability to consistently separate won’t follow him to Sundays.

Assuming that Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis are able to fill their roles, Elijah Moore has a clear path to being the top wide receiver on the depth chart for the 2022 season. As stated before, he was beginning to really break out last season. Zach Wilson targeted Moore an average of eight times in the final three games they played together in 2021. Now with the extra talent at wide receiver, running back, and tight end, Moore should be free of getting double teamed.

You tell me, will Zach Wilson be able to put it all together this season? Can Elijah Moore be a true No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL?