Braxton Berrios Carving out Role With Jets & Zach Wilson

Braxton Berrios

Getty New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios outruns the San Francisco 49ers defense for a touchdown on September 20, 2020.

While a lot of the talk at OTAs has focused on Elijah Moore and Keelan Cole, one other New York Jets wide receiver has seized the moment in training camp, Braxton Berrios.

The 5-foot-9 slot receiver arrived at Florham Park knowing that his roster spot could be in jeopardy. Joe Douglas stacked the wide receiver position this offseason, signing Corey Davis and the aforementioned Cole in free agency before drafting Moore with an early second-round pick.

When you consider that Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims are still on the roster, along with players like Vyncint Smith, Jeff Smith, D.J. Montgomery, Lawrence Cager and more, you realize this wide receiver room has gotten real crowded real fast.

Here’s a look at Berrios making a play at OTAs on June 8.

Berrios Building Chemistry With Wilson

There are no pads, no big hits, no contact, but OTAs are still very important when trying to make a roster. It’s an opportunity to learn the playbook or catch a coach’s eye. It’s also an opportunity to build some chemistry with your new rookie quarterback.

Berrios has done all this and more during the Jets 2021 OTAs, and he’s finally starting to gain some recognition for his efforts. One example was New York Post beat reporter Brian Costello after the June 8 session.

New York Daily News beat DJ Bien-Aime also highlighted Berrios in his June 8 recap, saying Wilson and the slot were “two peas in a pod” at practice. His success didn’t just begin in this round of OTAs though, it’s been going on for a while.

And here’s one more from Bien-Aime in late May.

Of course, the Jets’ fan favorite has never shied away from the moment. He first became a reliable target for Sam Darnold in 2020 when the receiving core was bruised and battered, catching 67.3% of targets for 394 yards in just two total starts and 10.9 routes per game.

Jets Slot Competition, Effect on Crowder

According to Player Profiler, here are Berrios’ main competitors in the slot according to 2020 snap metrics:

Unfortunately for Berrios, Moore and Cole have been either just as impressive in camp or even more so in the rookie’s case. Smith on the other hand has struggled at times, per The Athletic‘s Connor Hughes.

Part of the reason Berrios has seen so much action in camp is the absence of Crowder. The Jets starting slot receiver in 2020 led the team in receiving yards the past two seasons.

Douglas is attempting to restructure Crowder’s contract, which is due $11.375 million in 2021. The alternative option is to release him, which would cost only $1 million in dead cap, or attempt to find a trade partner.

Berrios’ positive play at OTAs can’t be good for Crowder’s ongoing negotiations. Every time a possible slot replacement shines in camp, Douglas controls the upper hand in contract discussions.

Moore, Berrios and Cole are all getting paid significantly less than Crowder in 2021, and the Jets may have other needs like offensive lineman Morgan Moses or a veteran cornerback like Richard Sherman. If the wide receiver isn’t willing to agree to a pay cut, the Jets may decide to part ways.

Danny Woodhead Vibes

Yes, it’s partly due to their similar appearance and physique, but Berrios’ 2021 ascension gives me Danny Woodhead déjà vu vibes.

Woodhead was turning heads during training camp in 2010, which just so happened to be the year the Jets were featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Of course, Rex Ryan famously chose to waive the Division II running back in the final round of cuts. Later, after Woodhead had plenty of success with the rival New England Patriots, Ryan admitted to his mistake.

Although you wouldn’t expect Robert Saleh to make the same error in judgment as Ryan with the way Berrios has performed both in the past and in the new system, it’ll be tough for every player to make this Jets roster in 2021.

It does help that Berrios holds a role in special teams as a trusted punt-returner, and it’s also noteworthy that Douglas was the general manager who claimed Berrios off waivers from New England in the first place. He’s not a Mike Maccagnan guy.

In a pleasant reversal of the Woodhead-to-New England turn of events in 2010, perhaps the ex-Patriot Berrios can continue to carve out a role with the Jets. It’s time NYJ finally put one over on Bill Belichick.

Do YOU believe Braxton Berrios deserves to make the Jets roster in 2021? Let us know your opinion on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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