Publish date:

Why Hasn't Elijah Moore Broken Out Yet?

After training camp, Elijah Moore looked like he was poised for a monster rookie season. Why haven't we seen the results through the first five weeks of the year?

Coming out of training camp, Elijah Moore was destined for a breakout season.

Players and coaches routinely praised the wideout's abilities and work ethic, fans drafted the stud in fantasy football and Moore spoke confidently about his transition to the next level. 

The expectation for the second-round pick was nothing short of greatness.

Through five games, however, Moore has been an afterthought, an often nonexistent part of an offense that's ranked among the league's worst in almost every statistical category.

Moore has just eight catches for 66 receiving yards so far. In his debut, he had one grab for negative yardage. Last week in a loss to the Falcons in London, Moore was held without a single catch for the first time in his young career. 

The only game New York has won this season came with Moore on the sidelines, inactive with a concussion.

It's not like quarterback Zach Wilson isn't looking his way. Moore has been targeted 20 times, more than every Jets receiver except Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios. The results just haven't shown yet.

Asked to diagnose the lack of production from his rookie playmaker, head coach Robert Saleh mentioned the fact that New York hasn't been able to stay on the field throughout the first five games of the year.

"You get off to a slow start, you fall behind, you’re limited in plays," Saleh told reporters on Monday. "You’re trying to run the ball, you’re trying to get [Corey Davis] involved, you’re trying to get [Jamison] Crowder involved, you’re trying to get Elijah Moore involved and there’s only so many plays to go around."

READ: Jets Leave London with First-Half Nightmares in Tow

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

Starting slow has been New York's kryptonite all year long. If the Jets were able to avoid those early three-and-outs, extending drives by moving the football in the first half, then Moore would automatically have more opportunities.

"There’s a lot of guys who’d love to touch the football but it’s really hard to touch a football when we’re not getting plays, we’re not converting third downs, and we’re not staying on the football field," Saleh added. "On the flip side, defensively, getting off the field, creating some three-and-outs, getting the ball to our offense as quickly as possible. This is a collective thing and there’s always going to be a player who wants more of the ball, but there’s one ball."

Moore excelled out of the slot in college. So, why hasn't he been getting reps at that spot on the line? Saleh singled out both Crowder and Braxton Berrios, seasoned veterans at the position.

Berrios has been productive this year, especially early on in Crowder's absence. Once Crowder returned from his groin injury, he picked up where he left off last year, racking up 85 receiving yards on 11 receptions in two games.

At the end of the day, it comes down to coverage as well. Plays might be designed for Moore to get the football, but if Wilson doesn't have a window (or he's pressured in the pocket and has to look elsewhere), then there isn't too much those two can do on that individual rep.

Take one play from Sunday's loss in London for example. Cutting back toward the far sideline, Moore was open with plenty of room for Wilson to fire in his direction. Wilson never saw the break in coverage, though, because he was forced to scramble out of the pocket, turning his back to the line of scrimmage.

By the time the quarterback tried to fit a pass in Moore's direction, it was too late. Moore was already out of bounds with two Falcons defenders fast approaching.

"He got a couple big shots designed for him, but the coverage dictated the ball going somewhere else," Saleh said. "So, he’s got an opportunity, these opportunities are trying to be created for him, but obviously the coverage dictates a lot of that too."

Entering their bye week, it behooves Saleh and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to keep working on plays that put the football in Moore's hands in space, allowing him to make plays. Wilson admitted that it's up to him to feed Moore the ball as well.

"Elijah Moore is a baller. His time is coming," Wilson said on Tuesday. "I know he is a dominant player and I need to get him the ball more. It's just buying into the process and understand it's going to take time. He's going to keep his head down and keep doing his thing."

Follow Max Goodman on Twitter (@MaxTGoodman), be sure to bookmark Jets Country and check back daily for news, analysis and more.