The real reason why NY Jets WR Mecole Hardman can't find a role

What's going on with Mecole Hardman?
NY Jets, Mecole Hardman
NY Jets, Mecole Hardman / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The NY Jets had big plans for Mecole Hardman when they signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason. At least, that's what they told him.

The Jets reportedly promised Hardman, who had played over 50 percent of snaps for arguably the NFL's best offense over the last two seasons, an expanded role in New York.

The hope was that Hardman's game-breaking speed and field-stretching abilities could provide a new element to the Jets' offense — one that would be led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Aaron Rodgers.

Evidently, a lot has changed since that promise was made. Rodgers tore his Achilles four games into the season. Hardman is fresh off being a healthy scratch in the team's 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos.

So, what happened? How did we get here?

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Why aren't the NY Jets using Mecole Hardman?

Hardman was used sparingly over the first four weeks of the season. The former Pro Bowler played just 22 offensive snaps — the vast majority of which came during garbage time in Week 2. He was a complete afterthought in the Jets' offensive game plan.

Instead, it's been veteran Randall Cobb who has emerged as the team's WR3, despite the fact that he has just three catches for 20 yards on a whopping 137 offensive snaps.

Even undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson has carved out a role on offense, playing 31 offensive snaps over the last two weeks. He's essentially been used in the role that Hardman was signed to play.

That's where the issue arises. Gipson, an undrafted rookie out of Stephen F. Austin, essentially stole Hardman's job this summer.

The Jets signed Hardman to be their pre-snap motion, speedy field-stretcher who also doubles as a returner. That's exactly what Gipson's role is now. The rookie wideout simply beat out Hardman for that job this summer.

In Gipson, the Jets believe they have a younger/cheaper/better version of Hardman. That's why the latter was a healthy scratch on Sunday.

Of course, Gipson didn't play a significant role in the Jets' offense until Week 4. That's largely because offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been trying to find an identity for his offense following the Rodgers injury.

That injury changed everything. It altered the entire complexion of the Jets' offense. The team has been forced to adapt to a run-heavy team with frequent use of two/three-tight-end sets. That presents fewer opportunities for the wide receivers on the roster.

Hardman failed to impress this summer, was usurped by Cobb on the depth chart, lost his role to Gipson, and became a victim of a new offensive philosophy.

In short, that's what happened with Mecole Hardman. With trade rumors swirling, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the team move him in the near future.

He's good enough to have a role in some team's offense, evidenced by his work in Kansas City over the last four years. It just didn't work out with the Jets.