C.J. Uzomah said it best in his introductory press conference: it’s about to be dirty in the Jets tight end room.
In Uzomah and Tyler Conklin – both recently signed – the Jets finally have some good pass-catchers at the position.
How bad has it been for the Gang Green in recent memory? Jets tight ends have caught a league-low 489 receptions since 2012, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The last Jets tight end to eclipse 500 receiving yards in a single season was Chris Herndon in 2018. The last one to finish with more than 50 receptions in a single season was Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2017. The last to do both in one season was Dustin Keller in 2011.
Enter Uzomah and Conklin, whose solid 2021 seasons would have been among the best in recent Jets memory. Conklin’s 593 receiving yards would have tied Rich Caster’s 1973 season for the 12th-most in franchise history, and his 61 receptions would have been sixth. Those numbers are also better than the combined production of the Jets’ entire tight end group this past season.
While Uzomah’s 493 yards would have finished 19th in franchise history, his 49 receptions would have been ninth-most. He finished with 41 fewer yards than the combined Jets tight end room and also tallied 24 more yards after the catch and five more missed tackles than the entire group, per Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania.
None of those stats are position-breaking numbers by any means, but it’s a testament to the drought the Jets endured this past season and for the franchise’s entire history. The top-three tight ends in franchise history all played in the 1970s before being followed by Keller.
Joe Douglas tried to fix the position during his first two offseasons with Herndon and Ryan Griffin, but neither worked. Then he tried again by adding Tyler Kroft last offseason. That failed as well. Uzomah and Conklin aren’t Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but they are significant upgrades at the position – both in production, scheme fit and leadership. The two are already tweeting at each other and both mentioned each other by name when speaking for the first time as a Jet.
Now, the Jets can get to work on building the best version of Mike LaFleur’s offense. Not only do Uzomah and Conklin offer better pass-catching options for Zach Wilson, but the duo will also be significant blocking upgrades.
Uzomah allowed just one pressure on 41 pass-blocking snaps. The Bengals enjoyed their best rushing production on the right side outside of the tight end with 293 yards, 18 first downs and nine runs of at least 10 yards, per Nania. Cincinnati aslo averaged 2.1 more yards per play with Uzomah in the game – the largest advantage of any tight end in 2021, per Next Gen Stats.
Conklin, meanwhile, led the position with 98 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, per Nania, and put together some solid tape against top-tier pass rushers like Nick Bosa, Chandler Jones and the Bengals’ duo of Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson.
This would be a stark difference in the blocking department for New York. Jets tight ends allowed 13 pressures in pass protection this past season and a 9.9 percent pressure rate – the most in the league, per Jets X-Factor. The Jets also only averaged 0.8 yards per contact on rush attempts off the outside of the tight end.
Overall, the Jets found two tight ends who fit their system well and provide substantial upgrades as pass-catchers and blockers. They also give the Jets more veteran offensive leadership in a locker room led by a second-year quarterback, running back and wide receiver, and a young offensive line.
So while Joe Douglas didn’t go out and pay up or trade for some of the best tight ends at the position, he brought in two who should finally end the Jets’ woes at a position they’ve failed to secure in the past decade.
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