New York Jets need playmakers, so why isn't Elijah Moore getting the ball?

Rookie WR Elijah Moore has just eight catches for 66 yards through four games played. Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One of the biggest disappointments in the New York Jets' 1-4 start is rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, who was so dazzling in the spring and early in training camp that team officials were giddy with the belief they had stolen him in the second round of the NFL draft.

He still might turn out to be a steal, but his slow start has tempered the buzz. The numbers: four games, 20 targets, eight catches for 66 yards.

No impact.

"Elijah Moore is a baller and his time is coming, just like the rest of us," said quarterback Zach Wilson, another rookie. "I wish I could get him the ball more; I know that's part of my job. I know he's a dominant player. I need to get him the ball more. It's just buying into the process, knowing it's going to take time."

This isn't a Denzel Mims situation. Unlike Mims, Moore is getting plenty of playing time, but it's not translating into production.

Some of the factors are obvious: No preseason action due to a quadriceps injury, inconsistent play from the quarterback position and the typical college-to-pro transition, although the latter reason doesn't carry as much weight when you consider his SEC peers are lighting it up.

Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins), DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles), Ja'Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) and Kadarius Toney (New York Giants) are producing solid numbers for their respective teams. Moore, a prolific pass-catcher who averaged 149 receiving yards per game last season at Ole Miss, has managed only two first downs.

What gives?

For one thing, they're playing him out of position. In college, 75% of Moore's production came out of the slot, but the Jets said on draft day that he's more than a slot receiver -- and they're trying to prove their point. Moore and Corey Davis are the outside receivers, with Jamison Crowder in the slot.

Moore has run more than twice as many pass routes outside (69) than from the slot (31), but he has the same number of receptions in each position (four apiece), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It's a small sample size, but maybe it tells a story.

Asked if Moore is struggling with coverages on the outside, where his size (5-foot-10) could be considered a disadvantage, coach Robert Saleh acknowledged that's "a good discussion." He quickly added that Crowder and Braxton Berrios are capable slot receivers, essentially saying there's a logjam.

"You're trying to get your best players on the football field," Saleh said.

Saleh said plays were called for Moore in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, but he was targeted only twice (zero catches) because that's what the coverage dictated.

For months, they talked about his ability as a gadget player, someone who could run a jet sweep, a la Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers. Moore got his first chance in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos, but he suffered a concussion on the play and missed a game. They didn't go back to it against the Falcons.

"There’s always going to be a player who wants more of the ball, but there’s one ball, limited plays, how do you get them all involved?" Saleh asked. "And we can start by having a 70-play game."

Coaches use that rationale when trying to explain why certain players don't get more touches, but it makes little sense. The Jets are averaging only 59 plays per game on offense, which makes it hard to spread around the ball, but maybe they'd be getting more plays if they got the ball to the right people. It's the chicken-egg argument.

The Jets could open two spots by trading Crowder, who is in the final year of his contract, by the Nov. 2 deadline. They could slide Moore into the slot, creating playing time for Mims on the outside. Crowder is a good player, but the Jets have to think about the long term, especially if they're out of contention by then.

In the meantime, the Moore Watch continues.

"I think, as time goes on, we’re just going to keep getting more comfortable with each other," Wilson said. "He’s obviously someone I’m always looking to get the ball in his hands because he’s very dominant."