PITTSBURGH -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Less for Moore: After a promising rookie season, Elijah Moore's production is down through three games. This can be traced to a number of factors, but these two loom largest: A subtle shift in his role and the emergence of rookie Garrett Wilson (32 targets, 18 catches, 214 yards).
Moore has run an NFL-high 150 pass routes but has been targeted only 21 times. That's a target/route ratio of 14%, which ranks 150th. There's another way to look at it: He has run more yardage on untargeted routes (1,882 yards) than any player in the league.
Wind Sprint Rankings for yardage run on untargeted routes through Week 3— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 27, 2022
Elijah Moore (1,882 yds)
Jahan Dotson (1,574)
Corey Davis (1,469)
Mike Williams (1,457)
Terry McLaurin (1,444)
Presented with this factoid, Moore smiled and said, "No comment." Probably a smart answer. The season is only three games old, and the last thing he wants to do is make a stink. After all, it's not like he's iced out of the offense. He still has 12 receptions on 21 targets, but he hasn't delivered any big plays or touchdowns.
He is getting open -- a lot. According to a new ESPN metric that tracks separation on untargeted routes, Moore's "open" score is tops on the Jets and tied for 15th in the NFL. His production slippage could be tied to the fact that he's running more vertical routes than he did as a rookie, as his average target has gone from 11.9 yards to 14.3. Clearly, quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't able to capitalize.
Moore's "superpower," to use an expression from the Jets' coaches, is his ability to separate quickly and make plays in space. At 5-foot-10, he's not the quintessential deep threat. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur believes Moore can do it all, explaining that he was used on deep routes last week because the Cincinnati Bengals packed the middle and "begged" them to throw outside.
LaFleur said it's a "fun challenge" to satisfy everyone in a talented receiving corps. As for Moore, LaFleur said, "His time will come."
2. Let the evaluation begin: It's unrealistic to expect quarterback Zach Wilson to be an immediate savior, considering he has no track record for that sort of thing, but let's be clear about something: His development is the key to the season. It's important for him to make gradual progress, especially over the second half of the campaign. If he does that, regardless of the record, the Jets will have something to build on. If not, it will fuel an offseason of questions and speculation.
There were some ragged moments in practice, I'm told, but Wilson is rusty after a seven-week layoff. The clock starts Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his 2022 debut.
3. Trailers: The Jets have produced some mind-boggling trends in recent years, but this might take the cake: They have trailed in 22 consecutive games. Not only is it the longest active streak in the league, but it's the longest by a country mile. The New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders are tied for second with nine straight, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
This means the Jets haven't led wire to wire since their stunning upset of the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15 of the 2020 season. Surely you remember that one. The Jets were 0-13, the leading contender for the No. 1 overall pick (who ended up being QB Trevor Lawrence), when they decided to act like a real football team in Adam Gase's third-to-last game as coach.
Coach Robert Saleh still hasn't enjoyed one of those games -- a jump-on-them-early, control-the-game kind of day. Every team deserves an occasional breather. The Jets are long overdue. In fact, they've held a lead for only 22 seconds -- the waning moments of the miracle win over the Cleveland Browns.
4. Did you know? Pittsburgh isn't a great city for the Jets, who have won only once in the 'Burgh -- 2010. Overall, they're 1-10, including a loss in the 2010 AFC Championship Game.
5. More Williams, please: Quinnen Williams might be the best player on the Jets, and yet he ranks only seventh on the team in defensive snaps (114) and 28th among defensive tackles in the league.
Yep, the coaches are married to their defensive line rotation even if it takes talent off the field.
To be sure, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has bigger issues than Williams' playing time, but it's worth noting because, well, it's a questionable tactic. The best players should play the most.
Instinctively, Ulbrich would like to use Williams more often, but he wants to keep him fresh for critical moments. The Jets allow 3.5 yards per rush when Williams is on the field, 4.0 when he's not.
6. Keep it simple: It sounds like the defense did some streamlining in an attempt to eliminate the busted coverages that stem from miscommunications. The issue, raised by CB D.J. Reed after last week's game, was addressed in meetings. It's a "do less" philosophy, which probably means fewer pre-snap options.
7. To the Max: General manager Joe Douglas passed on some talented tackles at the top of the 2022 draft, waiting until the fourth round before selecting Max Mitchell. This is only one snapshot, not a definitive picture, and a small sample size, but ESPN's pass block win rate metric says Mitchell has outperformed Ikem Ekwonu (Carolina Panthers, sixth overall) and Evan Neal (Giants, seventh).
Mitchell ranks fourth among rookie tackles, ahead of Ekwonu (sixth) and Neal (seventh). Not bad for a so-called developmental pick from Louisiana. In case you're wondering, the No. 1 is the Chicago Bears' Braxton Jones, a fifth-round pick.
Much to the Jets' surprise, Mitchell is strong enough to play the position at a starter's level, smashing the notion that he'd need a year in an NFL conditioning program. That, coupled with his mature approach, has allowed him to overachieve as an unexpected starter at right tackle.
"He’s been ascending at a rapid level, which is pretty cool," Saleh said.
8. No (extra) rest for weary: There are a lot of things not to like about the Jets' schedule, including the fact that the Steelers are coming off a mini bye. Next week's opponent, the Miami Dolphins, will be in the same situation. In other words, the Jets will face two well-rested teams. Overall, they have eight fewer rest days than their opponents, tied for the fourth-worst rest differential.
9. Hurt money: Between George Fant, Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton, the Jets have nearly $20 million in cap dollars on injured reserve -- approximately 10% of the entire team cap. For three injured tackles.
10. The last word: Former longtime Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, appearing this week on ESPN's "Flight Deck" podcast, had an interesting observation about the team. He used a baseball analogy to describe what he has seen so far, saying, "I see a lot of guys that can get base hits. I didn't see an Aaron Judge, hitting home runs. I didn't see that guy. I didn't see any home run hitters." He still believes they can be successful if they play smart, complementary football.