Braxton Berrios showed up for training camp with more muscle on his frame, but that wasn’t the most noticeable difference in his appearance.
Berrios went blond during the offseason — bleached blond, to be more accurate. He’s been razzed by his teammates for looking like rapper Eminem. Berrios said that’s all he’s been hearing from his teammates. They’re calling him “Slim” for Slim Shady.
“I wanted something different,” Berrios said. “It was like a fun camp thing at first. I actually grew to like it. I think I’m going to keep it. I think it’s the new thing — at least for the new season.”
Last season the real Braxton Berrios stood up — and the Jets are glad he’s back.
There is plenty of optimism and excitement around the Jets, who held their annual Green & White practice at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night. Much of the positive vibes come from their free-agent signings and their draft class, which featured cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson.
Re-signing the versatile Berrios was a very important move, though.
He is close friends with Zach Wilson and one of his most trusted receivers. Berrios also has the trust of all of his coaches. That made re-signing him a priority. The Jets gave him a two-year, $12 million contract after he had the best season of his career.
The 5-9 Berrios, who joined the Jets as a waiver claim in 2019, was All-Pro as a kick returner last season. He also proved his worth as a slot receiver who can do a little of everything.
Berrios’ five total touchdowns last season ranked second on the team behind receiver Elijah Moore. Berrios had two receiving touchdowns, two rushing and a 102-yard kickoff return for a score against the Jaguars.
“He’s a bulldog,” coach Robert Saleh said. “He works his absolute tail off. He knows all spots on the offense. He can help people get lined up. He’s very versatile. He’s sure- handed in the return game. Just love everything about him and the way he goes about his business. Just thankful that he’s here.”
It’s been all about opportunity for him, but he’s worked hard to make sure he was ready when his chance came. That won’t change for Berrios, who was the valedictorian of Miami’s School of Business when he graduated with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship.
A sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2018, Berrios spent his rookie season on injured reserve and had a hamstring issue the following year. New England cut him. Former Jets coach Adam Gase, whose system is big on slot receiver usage, wanted Berrios, and they claimed him.
Berrios played only 85 offensive snaps his first season as a Jet but was their primary punt returner. He finished second in the NFL with an 11.4 return average.
Injuries to former slot receiver Jamison Crowder created opportunities for Berrios to show what he can do on offense, and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer started giving him more kick-return responsibilities.
Berrios led the NFL last year, averaging 30.4 yards per return, and ranked second with 852 yards. He also lined up everywhere for offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and was a playmaker.
He became the only Jets wideout with a rushing and receiving TD in the same game. Berrios caught 46 passes for 431 yards and added another 40 rushing yards on seven carries. He was extremely productive, considering he appeared in only 38% of the team’s overall offensive snaps.
“I found it extremely valuable to be able to know all the positions and to do all these different things because football happens, injuries happen,” Berrios said. “The more you can do, the more valuable you can become. I want my teammates to trust me and have that faith in whatever I’m tasked to do.”
The Jets will continue to find ways to utilize Berrios in an offense that has more talent and depth than a year ago, and not just at wide receiver. The Jets drafted running back Breece Hall in the second round and signed proven tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin.
In the receiver room, Moore, Berrios, Corey Davis and Garrett Wilson make up a solid core. They’re all playmakers. How good can they be? Berrios says just wait and see.
“I’m not going to put a ceiling on it at all, or a floor,” he said. “We can do whatever we want to do as a group. But it starts out here [in practice]. It starts with everybody understanding the playbook left and right. It starts with executing and we have to go out there and make the plays.
“To say we have a top 5, top 10, top 15 ceiling, it’s almost irrelevant to say it. Luckily, we have 18 weeks in a season where we get to go out there and show what we can be.”