Jacob Peeler, as is obvious from one look at his Twitter handle, @NastyWideOuts, has coached his share of elite receivers.
Jets rookie Elijah Moore, however, still stands out from the crowd in two regards: Motivation and route-running. That’s even when two faces in Peeler’s crowd belong to the Titans’ A.J. Brown and the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf, who have combined for 16 100-yard receiving games and 36 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Both Brown and Metcalf were second-round draft picks in 2019, just as Moore was in 2021. So, can Moore make that kind of immediate impact?
“You hate to stamp any kind of expectation on something,” Peeler told The Post, “but, knowing the way he is wired, he is the most self-motivated kid I’ve ever had a chance to coach. He always wanted to be great. He will without a doubt make an impact Year 1. To what extent, a lot of factors go into that. But from a mindset and work-ethic standpoint, he’ll do everything in his power to get that accomplished.”
Viral video a few weeks ago showed an emotional Brown at Moore’s draft party recounting what a blessing it was for them to be roommates at Mississippi despite their two-year age difference. That’s no exaggeration, said the coach who had those two, plus Metcalf, in his meetings in 2018 before Peeler became Texas State’s offensive coordinator.
“Eli was never a freshman,” Peeler said. “From the moment he walked in, he had that veteran mindset. He came in and was running drills with and talking to A.J. and DK about how to do things. He was learning from them, but he was teaching them some things as well. They all took little bits and pieces here and there from each other. I think that’s why I liked seeing them sitting in a room together.”
Moore made his first college start in November 2018, two weeks after Metcalf suffered a season-ending broken bone in his neck. He finished the game with the Ole Miss freshman record of 11 receptions for 129 yards, mostly at the expense of South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn as the two battled in the slot. Horn was selected No. 8 overall this year by the Panthers — 26 spots ahead of Moore.
“You’d come in Sunday mornings to wrap up the game and introduce the next opponent,” Peeler said. “Well, one thing those three did completely on their own was they’d sit in the wide-receiver room on Sunday nights and study cut-ups and YouTube clips of all these receivers, whether it was DeAndre Hopkins, Calvin Ridley or Julio Jones. Immediately after the team deal, they put in extra work on their own.”
“Nasty Wideouts” is a motto Peeler started when he was coaching at California and has carried to various stops. He knew Moore filled the bill when he was recruiting high school powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and saw Moore’s one-on-one practice matchups with Asante Samuel Jr., who went on to be a cornerback at Florida State and a fellow 2021 second-round pick .
“We liked Eli off his junior film,” Peeler said, “but when I really loved Eli was when I went to watch him practice. He never took a day off. He is on from the moment he crosses the white stripe until the last whistle blows. I just remember him outworking every single person on the field. I liked the film, but I loved his work ethic even more.”
The three Ole Miss products don’t play receiver the same way. Brown (6-foot-1, 226 pounds) is one of the toughest to tackle after the catch. Metcalf (6-4, 235) is a home-run threat with a rare size-speed combination. Moore (5-10, 178) is a dynamo who finds creases and turns on the burners.
“It’s his ability to get in and out of routes and drop his hips and accelerate and decelerate out of cuts that’s elite,” Peeler said. “When I say elite, I can put my stamp on it: It is the best I have ever been around. He understands leverage and how to attack defenders based on how they are playing him. The kid just understands football.”
Peeler got a first-hand look at Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson last October, when Texas State played BYU. Peeler had a knowing smile during the draft.
“If you have a quarterback who is able to extend plays, Elijah is so savvy to find and operate in open space,” Peeler said. “I think that will be fun to watch those two grow together.”