Elijah Moore delivered a move during the Jets and Falcons joint training session on Friday that drew oohs and aahs from everyone who witnessed it.
It was the second game of a competition period between the Jets attack and the Falcons defense late in training. Joe Flacco drove the pass just over the outstretched hands of Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward. Moore pulled it in and then turned to the sidelines with some open space. Seeing Atlanta Safety Dean Marlowe approaching, Moore delivered a hard fake in and then bounced back out, leaving Marlowe behind.
The game went for 42 yards and showed that after years of lack of playmakers, this Jets team could be different.
Moore was just one of many wide receivers making big plays against the Falcons on Friday. Moore had five catches and was all over the field. Rookie Garrett Wilson made a nice dive catch on a comeback route down the sidelines. Braxton Berrios caught a touchdown. Corey Davis had two catches in a two minute period. Denzel Mims made a jumping catch.
“It’s a really good group,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “It’s a young group that needs to learn to play with each other in the moment of truth and really take their game to the next level. Doing their work, walking their routes, creating separation is no problem for this group. It’s going to be the moment of truth, catching the ball and making something happen, yards after catch, explosive play and what you do with the ball in your hands. That’s something they’re building towards and they’re going to get better and better.”
You have to go back to 2015 to find the most recent 1000-yard receiver for the Jets. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both did it that year. Since then, receivers such as Jermaine Kearse, Robbie Anderson and Jamison Crowder have led the team in receiving with low totals for leading receivers. They’re all great receivers, but none of them were consistent playmakers.
Crowder, who led the Jets in hosting all three years he was here, had a measly 51 catches last year to be the top pass catcher.
When Saleh was hired by the Jets for last season, he and general manager Joe Douglas talked about upgrading the position. Crowder led the team at receptions in 2020, the year before Saleh arrived here, and the observed No. 1 recipient was Breshad Perriman.
Since Saleh’s arrival, the Jets have signed Corey Davis in free agency, Moore drafted in the second round in 2021 and Garrett Wilson drafted in the first round this year. The influx of talent is clear in practice.
“They are the ones who hit the ball,” Saleh said. “The backs hit the ball, the quarterback hit the ball and the receivers hit the ball. If you don’t have explosive playmakers in those positions, guys who can take those 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-yard routes and turn them into 20 and 25 and 30 then you have to spend 10 to 15 plays and try points to score, which is very difficult in this competition. You must be able to have 5, 6, 7 play score drives. You have to be able to move the ball quickly. You should be able to get a piece of yardage. We feel like we’ve built a group of receivers that are capable of that and now they need to deliver on it.”
Moore was the star of Practice Friday and has the potential to become a No. 1 receiver in his second season with the Jets. He could be the leader of a strong receiving corps.
“He hasn’t even sniffed the surface, let alone scratched, from what we think he’ll be able to,” Saleh said.
Flacco, who has been in the NFL since 2008, compared Moore to Steve Smith, his longtime Ravens teammate.
“His ability to stop and start is really, really, really rare,” Flacco said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone who can stop as good as he can.”
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