The New York Jets were 4-13 last season under first-year coach Robert Saleh. They were equally deficient on each side of the ball. But some players did manage to rise above the mess and have breakout seasons.
Braxton Berrios was named First Team All-Pro as a return specialist. He led the NFL with an average of 30.4 yards per kick return. The wide receiver also was second on the Jets with 46 catches and scored five touchdowns (two receiving, two rushing and one on a kickoff return).
Linebacker Quincy Williams was claimed off waivers right before the season started, played 16 games and finished second on the Jets with 110 tackles, including a team-high nine for a loss.
Their unexpected breakouts were each feel-good subplots to a disappointing 2021.
This season, the Jets are hopeful that their breakout players come from a talented group of youngsters on the roster. That would greatly help accelerate the Jets drive back to respectability.
Jets Breakout Players for 2022 NFL Season
1. Zach Wilson
The Jets are trying to put Zach Wilson in the absolute best possible situation to succeed after the quarterback’s up and down rookie season.
ZACH WILSON SCRAMBLES FOR A 52-YARD TOUCHDOWN! #TakeFlight
– NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
They’ve improved the line in front of Wilson by signing Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson as a free agent. They provided him a pair of explosive threats by selecting wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall in the 2022 NFL Draft. And they’ve massively upgraded the tight end position by signing veterans CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, and drafting Jeremy Ruckert.
So, the Jets have done right by their QB1. And the 22-year-old seems to be doing his part as well, bulking up physically, showing better command of the playbook and emerging as a team leader.
And it’s not like the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft lacks for natural ability. Even in a disappointing rookie season, Wilson flashed jaw-dropping skills at times.
Well lookie here…
Zach Wilson is slinging it. This time he finds Corey Davis on the chunk touchdown.
– Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) October 3, 2021
His numbers from 2021 leave much room for improvement (nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 55.6 percent completion percentage, 69.7 QB rating). It appears Wilson, though, is in a good place to not only improve, but to break out, in 2022.
2. Elijah Moore
After opening eyes during an impressive training camp, Moore didn’t quite live up to the hype as a rookie last season. Missing six games with a concussion, COVID-19 and a quadriceps injury certainly played a factor in that.
But like Wilson, Moore provided some glimpses into the stud playmaker the Jets believe he will be. The wide receiver caught 43 passes in 11 games and led the Jets with 538 receiving yards, 24 first downs and five touchdowns through the air.
He showed his big-play ability on this 62-yard catch and run TD against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10:
Elijah Moore has hit a stride these last four weeks.
336 yards & 84 ypg
-Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) November 24, 2021
Moore, a second-round pick in 2021, runs solid routes, has good hands and is a home-run threat every time he’s on the field. The Jets will look to move him around in the slot and out wide to confuse defenses. And having a healthy Corey Davis and rookie Garrett Wilson out there with him should free Moore up in favorable one-on-one coverages.
If the 22-year-old can stay healthy, Moore should break out in big way this season.
3. Mekhi Becton
Those with short memories perhaps have forgotten what a freakish athlete Mekhi Becton is. It was only two years ago that Becton was lighting up social media as his punishing pancake blocks went viral during his rookie season.
6’7 “and 364 pounds with a 5.11 40-yard dash.
🤯 Mekhi Becton 🤯
– New York Jets (@nyjets) February 28, 2020
The fact that the 23-year-old changed his Twitter handle to Big Bust should let you know how he’s viewed on social media these days.
That’s what happens when your stud left tackle sustains a fractured kneecap in the 2021 season opener, is expected to return in 6-8 weeks and misses the rest of the season. Then, he doesn’t show up for voluntary offseason team activities. It is a bit of a mystery heading into mandatory mini camp this week. But one that will hopefully be answered in a positive way.
By all accounts, Becton is in good shape and in a good frame of mind. He’s been working out with his personal trainer in Texas. He was also recently was blessed with the birth of his first child.
That’s a solid starting point. Because if he can stay healthy and keep his weight in check (he was rumored to be up over 400 pounds last winter) the sky is the limit for Becton.
The offensive lineman clearly has all of the tools to separate himself. He has strong hands, good balance and is strong as an ox. Fueled by a torrent of social media criticism, Becton very well could break out in a big way for the Jets in 2022.