The Jets have a problem. OK, they have more than one problem, but let’s focus on one big one today.
Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore should be playing slot receiver, but Jamison Crowder occupies that spot. It has led to Moore playing outside on 75 percent of his snaps and logically is a factor in why Moore, a training camp star, has had very little production this season.
It is on general manager Joe Douglas to solve this problem and trade Crowder before the Nov. 2 trading deadline. Crowder is a good slot receiver. He is a professional. He has been a rose bush surrounded by weeds for his 2 ½ years with the Jets — one of the only productive players they have had. But it is time to move on.
Bill Parcells used to describe players like Crowder as “progress stoppers.” He is standing in the way of Moore’s development, and developing Moore should be the goal right now. Trading Crowder, who is in the final year of his contract, would weaken the 2021 Jets, but this team is going nowhere. The front office and coaching staff should be focused on figuring out who can be a part of turning this organization around in 2022 and beyond.
Moore most certainly has the potential to be. That was evident this spring and early in training camp when he looked unstoppable. A quad injury cost him the preseason and may have stunted his development a bit. Still, it would have seemed impossible in early August if you said that Moore would have only eight catches for 66 yards on 20 targets through his first four games (he missed one with a concussion).
Moore said Wednesday that he knows his time is coming and he needs to be “more detailed.” He was asked if he is disappointed with how his rookie season has gone.
“I wouldn’t really say disappointed,” Moore said. “I know it’s all a learning lesson. I know what’s important and that’s winning. It’s not really about me. It’s about winning.”
Moving on from Crowder and playing Moore in the slot may not instantly make him the playmaker we expected when the Jets drafted him in the second round, but I think it would help.
At Ole Miss last season, Moore had 1,193 yards in eight games. With the Rebels in 2020, 491 of Moore’s 630 snaps (77.9 percent) came from the slot, per PFF. With the Jets, he has played only 41 out of 121 snaps (25 percent) from the slot. Moore fits the bill as a slot receiver at 5-foot-10, 178 pounds and with 4.35 speed. On the outside, bigger cornerbacks are able to overpower him.
Moore refused to say that playing on the outside has held him back.
“I feel like wherever they put me I can get it done,” Moore said.
Jets coach Robert Saleh has painted a rosy picture through Moore’s lack of production. He pointed out that Moore drew a long pass interference penalty in London against the Falcons and that there have been opportunities to hit Moore than have not materialized.
That may be true, but the Jets need to ask themselves where they see Moore playing next season after Crowder will surely have departed as a free agent. Will they still be lining up outside then or sliding him inside?
It is possible the Jets don’t trust Moore to play slot yet. Crowder missed the first three games and Braxton Berrios played slot over Moore. Even so, a full-time move to the position would accelerate his learning curve.
It is not unlike what the Jets have done with Zach Wilson at quarterback. He does not look 100 percent ready to be an NFL starter, but the Jets are getting him on-the-job experience. Moore and Wilson should be teaming up for years together. It is time to give that a jump-start and get Moore playing his natural position.