For the time being, slot receiver Jamison Crowder is on the New York Jets.
It’s certainly possible that Gang Green could still decide to trade the veteran at some point this season, but offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur would definitely prefer to keep the dynamic slot weapon.
The more reliable targets for rookie Zach Wilson the better, and Crowder is as reliable as they come. Over the past two seasons with the Jets, the former Washington receiver led NYJ pass-catchers in both receptions and yardage.
In 28 games, Crowder totaled 1,532 receiving yards with New York on 137 catches. That included 12 touchdowns and 73 first downs, averaging out at 54.7 yards per game.
The slot receiver might remind LaFleur of a similar short-range playmaker that the OC had with the San Francisco 49ers — Deebo Samuel.
The two aren’t far apart in size or skillset, and even their statistics line up. During his first two seasons in the NFL, Samuel averaged 54.2 yards per game with 4.1 receptions per game. While the yardage is remarkably close to Crowder’s two seasons in green, the catch rate is closer to Jamison’s career average of 4.3 receptions per game.
Samuel is also credited with 2.32 first downs per game during his two-year span in the pros, while the Jets slot has 2.31 first downs per game on his career. Eerie.
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If Crowder Is Samuel, Who’s Aiyuk?
I’ve been saying it all offseason and I’m sticking to my guns, Elijah Moore can be a WR1 someday.
NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compared him to Antonio Brown during the draft process and it’s easy to see why. The polished route-running is crisp, yet explosive. The sure hands are soft, yet aggressive. Plus, the burner speed and fearlessness on deep routes are too tantalizing to pass up.
I do not see him as a receiver that can only play in the slot, that’s Crowder. He lined up there 67.8% of his snaps with the Jets in 2020.
LaFleur and head coach Robert Saleh may see a different likeness in Moore’s game, 2020 rookie Brandon Aiyuk. The body types are different but check out these two quotes from Niners HC Kyle Shanahan and Saleh.
Shanahan on Aiyuk: “You wouldn’t just peg him at one position. You know, he can do all three. He can play the X, he can play the Z, he can play the F. He’s got the speed to get on top. He’s got the quickness, to play in the slot. He’s got the toughness to go over in the middle.”
Saleh on Moore: “He’s a dynamic young man… What makes those guys difficult to defend is that he can line up a Z, F or X. He can line up wherever you want and he’s going to execute at a very high level even though the routes might be a little bit different, the stems might be different, the release might be a little bit different.”
One word, versatility. That’s what makes star-athletes like Moore and Aiyuk so lethal on the football field. Don’t think for a second that the two prospects didn’t bear similarities in the eyes of LaFleur, who had a hand in selecting both in two consecutive drafts.
Jared Dubin of CBS Sports also wrote that Moore “can work in the slot, but [he] can do a whole lot more than that.” Dubin continued: “They can get him involved in the run game on jet sweeps, as the 49ers (LaFleur and head coach Saleh’s former team) often did with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Moore had 14 carries at Ole Miss last season, showcasing strong vision and excellent escapability once he breaks through the hole.”
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Breaking Down the Jets Slot-WR Situation
I do not think Moore will be utilized as heavily in the slot as some expect. Now that’s a personal opinion based on what the coaching staff has told us, as well as performances at OTAs, so don’t take it as fact. There is plenty of evidence behind my argument though.
Not only did Moore light it up at different positions during the spring, but he also did it playing alongside Braxton Berrios and Keelan Cole for a majority of the alignments. Berrios played the slot for the most part, not Moore, and the two worked in harmony.
That display should act as a precursor to what we may see from Crowder and Moore. Until Mims proves that he can handle a starter’s workload, the top three Jets receivers in terms of snap share should be Davis, Moore and Crowder. That three-pronged blend of physicality, route-running and pure speed would be a challenging core for any secondary in the league.
Similar weapons like Samuel and Aiyuk were drafted to start together out in San Fran. If they could share the field under LaFleur and Shanahan a season ago, Crowder and Moore will be just fine in 2021.