With the New York Jets pre-season underway, the team looks to make progress in evaluating a stacked receiving corps. At wideout, the Jets have a solidified mix of established playmakers for their quarterback and young question marks to fill out the backend of the unit. General Manager Joe Douglas recognized changes had to be made following 2022 and accomplished revamping it for the better… at least on paper. Finally, it’s time to preview the 2023 Jets wide receivers…
Catch up on the New York Jets 2023 Preview series with Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Tight Ends
New York Jets 2023 Preview: Wide Receivers
Wide Receivers Recap from 2022 Season
The 2022 Jets receiving corps will be remembered for one thing and one thing only – the emergence of rookie Garrett Wilson. The Ohio State product went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and can only get better entering his second pro season. Except, the Jets issues lay with the rest of the unit. Even with lackluster quarterback play, all receivers not-named Garrett Wilson combined for 106 receptions and 1,447 receiving yards, with only seven touchdowns. Therefore, setting up Joe Douglas to retool for 2023.
Week 1 Starters: Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis
Following his emergence, Garrett Wilson has the makings of the Jets first number-one receiver since Brandon Marshall in 2015. The 10th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft can be something special paired with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. To the Jets, the only way that was possible was by adding the perfect compliments around him. Thus, leading to the addition of Allen Lazard in free agency.
For starters, Lazard has plenty of experience catching passes from Rodgers. After going undrafted out of Iowa State, Lazard played his first five years for the Green Bay Packers. At 6’5” and 227 pounds, Lazard is a massive size mismatch on the boundary. This will give Wilson and others even more opportunities to operate inside. The Cyclone is entering his age 28 season, coming off a career year that saw 60 receptions for 788 yards. New York does not need Lazard to be their go-to pass catcher. However, the combination of size and strength makes him the red zone threat on the boundary the Jets have been lacking.
At the same time, veteran Corey Davis remains an unknown x-factor. After being a rumored potential cut, Davis has built a strong connection with Rodgers during training camp. The 6’3” and 209-pound wideout has been underwhelming in two seasons with the Jets. The former fifth overall pick in 2017 has not been able to stay on the field, missing 12 games and playing in 22. There is no doubting Davis’ talent both as a receiver and blocker, but his medical history cannot be overlooked. Ensuring Davis is healthy will go a long way, especially as Davis enters a contract year.
Rotational/Backup Roles: Mecole Hardman Jr., Randall Cobb
Joining Lazard as the Jets free agent additions at the receiver position are Mecole Hardman and Randall Cobb. Hardman, who previously was with the Kansas City Chiefs prior, adds blazing speed to the Jets offense. Over four years with the Chiefs, Hardman has accumulated 2,213 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns, despite injuries limiting him to eight games in 2022. With value at all receiver spots and a Pro Bowl to his name as a returner, Hardman will be a key factor to the offense this upcoming season.
Randall Cobb remains a question mark, as his role for 2023 is unknown. He enters his 13th season in the NFL and will be 33 years old at the end of August. This is not prime Randall Cobb, who was a shifty do-it-all playmaker back in the early-to-mid 2010s. Rather, the Jets are getting the smooth veteran who not only offers leadership capabilities but experience in their scheme. After all, he did play for Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as recently as 2021. Don’t expect to see Cobb returning kickoffs and punts anymore, but to see him being a rotational piece in the slot role.
With Elijah Moore now gone, the top five of the Jets receiving corps is clear. New York has collected a variety of receiver prototypes, with an abundance of talent at the position. So much so that some tough decisions will be made to determine the 2023 Jets wide receivers.
On the Roster Bubble: Alex Erickson, Malik Taylor, Irvin Charles, Jason Brownlee, Xavier Gipson, T.J. Luther, Jerome Kapp
At the final wide receiver spot, the Jets know they need someone who can contribute on special teams. Veteran wideouts Alex Erickson and Malik Taylor have experience in said role, with Taylor having even played with Aaron Rodgers on the Green Bay Packers since 2019. Whereas Erickson, who enters his eighth season, has years of snaps as the primary return man for his team. Either one presents special team success or can step up at any moment to catch passes.
If the Jets opt for youth and upside, they have five players to consider. The first is Irvin Charles, who has been with the team sign signing as an undrafted free agent last off-season. At 6’4” and 219 pounds, Charles offers a similar blend of physicality and size on jump balls to Allen Lazard. His familiarity with the offense will help his case. At the same time, former Southern Mississippi wideout Jason Brownlee has caught the attention of many with his playmaking ability on contested catches. His 6’3” and 219-pound frame allows him to capitalize on his athleticism, offering a developmental player who can make an early impact on special teams.
Meanwhile, the sleepers to make the team or at least the practice squad are Xavier Gipson, T.J. Luther, and Jerome Kapp. To the Jets, Gipson offers a shifty slot receiver after the catch with fantastic change of direction skills that make up for his size. Similarly, Luther may not be the biggest wideout but he wins with his catch radius and athleticism. Lastly, Kapp has stood out ever since his rookie minicamp tryout. Offering strong hands and an NFL-ready frame, if he can prove he can contribute on special teams and refine his route tree, the Kutztown product will stick around.
Who to Watch for in Pre-Season: Jason Brownlee
Jason Brownlee has been a big winner of training camp, constantly impressing onlookers on contested catches. Brownlee does not possess the speed of a burner, nor great blocking skills. Yet his explosive vertical leap and large wingspans are that of a player who should have been drafted. In the pre-season, look for Brownlee to continue to impress with his route running and ball tracking while working on his commitment as a blocker and learning to create separation.
Pre-Season Wide Receivers Projection
For the 2023 season, there is no doubt about it Garrett Wilson is the number one receiver, with Allen Lazard as the two. Corey Davis likely begins as a starter out of his experience with the team and growing red-zone rapport with Rodgers during training camp. However, do not be surprised if Mecole Hardman’s speed overtakes Davis’ perimeter size as the team’s number three wideout. Randall Cobb will see most of his snaps out of the slot as a rotational piece.
All as Jason Brownlee finds a role on special teams to start the year, and earning reps come the end of the season. In an ideal world, all of Charles, Gipson, and Kapp make the practice squad and offer a variety of skill sets in case of injury to the 53-man roster receivers. Thus, making up the Jets 2023 wide receivers are Wilson, Lazard, Davis, Hardman, Cobb, and Jason Brownlee.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Mark Konezny – USA TODAY