The Jets may have a budding star at wide receiver, which should be an encouraging development for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in his bid to end Gang Green's seemingly eternal search for a franchise signal-caller.
Rookie wideout Elijah Moore, not Wilson, was the buzz of the team's first offseason workouts this week, impressing many of the coaches, teammates, and journalists in attendance. Moore, for his part, seemed modest about the early success, and said he was developing chemistry with his new quarterback.
“We’re both out there learning, we’re both out there trying to critique ourselves and it’s always something we have to work on better that we could have done,” Moore said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s just constantly critiquing each other, whether he could have put the ball here, if I could have run flatter there. We’re just out there working, getting better.”
It goes without saying that Moore's strong start can only bode well for Wilson if he is to establish himself as a viable starter. After all, every quarterback needs good receivers to target in the passing game.
But it feels especially important for the the Jets, who have long been a defensive-oriented franchise, and opted to go that route again with the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh, a former defensive coordinator. The Jets have lagged in just about every regard over the past decade, but even before that they struggled to develop or acquire explosive skill players despite the league's long evolution in favor of offense. The Jets' last 1,000-yard receiver was Brandon Marshall, in 2015. Before that, it was Jerricho Cotchery, in 2007.
Moore feels like a different player, a potential standout player. No disrespect to 2020 second-rounder Denzel Mims, who showed a few flashes as a downfield threat last season, but the Jets never drafted an elite receiver prospect during Sam Darnold's ill-fated tenure. The one receiver with whom Darnold did have a strong rapport, Robby Anderson, was allowed to walk in free agency in what was supposed to be Darnold's make-or-break year with the franchise.
This time, though, there seems to be a conscious effort to set up Wilson for success. Moore was by many accounts the top talent available when the Jets nabbed him first overall in Round 2, so his selection made sense in at least a couple regards -- an explosive player, at a position of need, who could grow alongside the newly drafted rookie QB.
And it appears Wilson will be the beneficiary of this apparent value pick. So far, the former BYU star has had something of an awkward indoctrination to life in the New York spotlight, as well as the perils of driving in New Jersey. As a lifelong Jets fan, I think I can say there's justifiably cautious optimism as well as a healthy dose of skepticism about how things will turn out for him. If nothing else, he will be measured against the quarterbacks taken soon after him, none of whom seemed to interest the Jets very much.
Wilson seems to be cognizant of this burden, saying during post-draft media calls that he embraced the challenge of leading a turnaround. The turnaround is bigger than just Wilson, and Moore looks to be another key part of it. Now Wilson will have to be sure to get Moore the damn ball.