It looked like Joe Douglas made a shrewd move when he signed Corey Davis to be the Jets’ No. 1 wide receiver over the offseason.
Davis received a three-year, $27 million deal fresh off a career year with the Titans. He was one of football’s best play-action receivers in 2020 — making him, in theory, an ideal fit in Mike LaFleur’s west coast offense. Even if he had never worked as a true top wideout, the Jets were confident in his ability to thrive in the role.
That has not happened so far, as Davis hasn’t adjusted to life as the go-to target. The 26-year-old has caught just 29 passes for 442 yards and three touchdowns in seven games, hauling in only 57.1% of passes thrown his way entering New York’s Week 10 matchup with the Bills.
Davis’ struggles continued in the 45-17 loss to Buffalo on Sunday. His five-catch, 93-yard stat line looks pretty, but Davis made a key mistake late in the second quarter, fumbling with the Jets driving downfield. New York did not venture deep into Bills territory again until late in the fourth quarter with the game far out of reach.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Davis said after the game. “Obviously, I gotta hold onto the ball.”
Davis has now dropped five passes and fumbled twice this season — numbers unbecoming of a No. 1 wide receiver. What the Jets failed to realize when they signed him is that Davis really doesn’t have the proven skillset to work unimpeded as a top receiver. In Tennessee, Davis benefitted from lining up opposite of Pro Bowler A.J. Brown and had a much tougher time getting open whenever Brown was not on the field — a telltale sign of his ability to beat an opponent’s top cornerback.
Davis’ deficiencies were also masked by the Titans’ run-heavy offense. Ryan Tannehill has said that Davis was a favorite target of his, but he was third in the pecking order with Brown on the outside and Derrick Henry eating up a chunk of touches on the ground. That allowed Davis to work in the shadows of offense loaded with weapons.
The Jets don’t have the same kind of skill-position talent as the Titans, so not all of this is necessarily the Western Michigan product’s fault. How is he supposed to thrive as a top-end play-action wide receiver when there is not much of a running game to make play-action a viable threat? Likewise, Elijah Moore is still coming into his own as a rookie and isn’t at the point where he is going to take attention away from Davis.
Either way, the Jets need more out of the player they signed to be Zach Wilson’s favorite target. No matter the reason he is struggling right now, New York did not go all-in on Davis in free agency just to receive middling production it could have gotten at a much cheaper price.