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By: Michael Nania
Xavier Gipson stole the spotlight in New York Jets’ preseason finale
Once the Aaron Rodgers Show was over, it was the Xavier Gipson Show.
The New York Jets‘ undrafted rookie wide receiver finished the team’s preseason finale with team-highs of seven catches and 79 yards – both being the best single-game totals of any Jet this preseason. Four his catches went for first downs, including two third-and-long conversions. Gipson also added a 20-yard punt return.
Going into the game, the Jets’ wide receiver competition had become wide-open due to the retirement of Corey Davis. It became a virtual guarantee that New York would keep at least one of its bubble wide receivers, and the opportunity existed that two of them could be kept.
In his last chance to make an impression, Gipson made sure to leave no doubt to the Jets coaching staff that he deserves to have one of the two spots.
The most impressive aspect of Gipson’s performance was his elusiveness. While none of his catches required him to do much from a route-running standpoint, Gipson consistently gained bonus yardage after the catch.
Gipson forced four missed tackles and gained a total of 70 YAC (10.0 per reception). According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Gipson accumulated 13 YAC Over Expectation, which means he gained 13 more yards after the catch than the league-average wide receiver would be expected to gain in the same situations. On a per-catch basis, Gipson averaged 1.9 YACOE.
New York’s coaching staff is going to have a blast watching Gipson’s film from this game. Take note of not only Gipson’s shiftiness with the ball in his hands but also his spatial awareness. Gipson showed a good feel for his surroundings, knowing which lane to take to maximize YAC.
Gipson’s YAC skills will go a long way in helping him make this particular roster because Aaron Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett love receivers who can rack up YAC. In his two MVP seasons under Hackett, Rodgers relied heavily on YAC.
Rodgers led the NFL with 6.0 YAC per completion in 2020 and was fourth with 5.9 YAC per completion in 2021. Conversely, Rodgers ranked 24th in air yards per completion in 2020 (5.5) and 26th in 2021 (5.3). What this shows is that Rodgers favors shorter throws that put his receivers in ideal positions to make plays after the catch. Gipson’s play style fits into this philosophy.
Rodgers shouted out Gipson after the game, saying the rookie took a “big step forward” toward making the roster.
Aaron Rodgers says Xavier Gipson took a “big step forward” trying to make the roster tonight. Also shouts out Alex Erickson. #Jets pic.twitter.com/l3cYSi4P5L
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) August 27, 2023
In addition to the potential he has shown as a receiver, Gipson added to his roster case by showing flashes on special teams throughout the preseason. Gipson had a 45-yard kickoff return, a 31-yard punt return, and a 20-yard punt return with only eight total return opportunities in four games. Overall, he averaged 13.4 yards per punt return and 28.0 yards per kickoff return.
All of a sudden, it feels like Gipson is in the driver’s seat of the Jets’ wide receiver competition.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor