Mecole Hardman

Saleh: Jets’ Hardman working hard to turn “Elite” traits into more snaps

When New York Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh reviewed Mecole Hardman’s 2022 game tape, two things stood out.

Explosive athletic ability.

And untapped opportunity.

Under offensive mastermind Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offense, Hardman has been the “gadget guy” – someone the team relied on to make a big play in crucial situations but then head back to the sidelines.

Saleh said the Jets certainly plan to use Hardman for a menu of trick plays.  But they were straightforward about the role they seeing him handle as a Jets weapon.

“When he has the ball in his hands, it’s elite. His vision is elite, his field presence is elite, his ability to find lanes and gain yards is elite, but the thing we’re committed to is helping him evolve his route running and get him away from just being a high-cross guy and a go-ball guy and see if we can help him in the intermediate game and help him strengthen that part of his game,” Saleh said. “He’s working at it, and it’s going to take more deliberate work from everybody, but he’s off to a good start.”

Hardman possesses 4.3 speed a natural kick-return ability that made him a second team All-Pro as a rookie.

And simply put, he’s a master of the Jet Sweep, a play featured in the West Coast scheme Paul Hackett operates.

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Hardman caught 34 passes for 297 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran in another pair in 2022.  The season was shortened by injury and Hardman’s worst statistically.

Still, just 10 other wide receivers posted a higher Pro Football Focus run grade (70.6) on the year.  Hardman’s overall grade was 68.2.

He topped 500 yards over each of his first three years as a Chief, including just under 700 in 2021.

Hardman is embracing the opportunity to expand his role.

“(As a Kansas City Chief), I knew I could do those things. But in my last situation, I wasn’t required to do those things,” he said. “We had people to do it. I was doing the things that people couldn’t do. When you got Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, they are doing most of those things.”

Still, Hardman recognizes he can become a better player.  

And he’s embracing the opportunity, he said.

“Coach (Nathaniel) Hackett is doing a good job moving me around and putting me in different spots on the field,” Hardman said. “But also letting me do the things that I am good at, which are the gadget stuff and the jet sweeps and all the deep balls. [Hackett] is implementing it very well.”

“I am enjoying it,” he told media this week.

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