The Jets have one of the NFL's secret receiving weapons the first half of this season, if you define such a weapon as having the greatest percentage of your receptions go for 20 yards or more.
"It's just keeping the course, doing what I'm asked to do," the soft-spoken, flowing-maned Eric Tomlinson told me, "and when the time comes, just trying to make the play for the team."
ET wasn't phoning it in on the eighth scrimmage play of the Jets' game against the Falcons, running unchecked down the right seam and putting his big mitts on Josh McCown's spiral for a 20-yard touchdown reception to get the game off to a promising Green & White start.
"It was just all 'verts' and the the safety played over to Austin's side, so it just left me wide open," Tomlinson explained to Jets 360's Olivia Landis. "Josh made a good read, the O-line blocked it perfectly. All I had to do was catch it."
It's kind of what Tomlinson does. He's the blocking tight end to Austin Seferian-Jenkins' receiving TE, but once a game or so now, coordinator John Morton has discovered he can dial up a Tomlinson play to big effect. The 20-yard TD, the first score of Tomlinson's two-year NFL career, was his fourth chunk play of the season, following a 25-yarder at Buffalo, a 34-yarder at Cleveland and a 26-yard screen at Miami.
If we were to divide his four 20-plus plays into his five receptions, his big-play catch rate is 80%. Among the 278 players with four or more catches through Sunday's games, that's the best rate in the NFL.
Want to divide his four chunk plays into his seven targets? That 57.1% rate is also No. 1 in the league.
"Man, if there's ever somebody who could lobby for more balls, it's Eric," McCown said today. "Every time we throw him the ball, he's there, he makes plays. That's encouraging because Austin's playing well, and having another tight end step in as this thing unfolds, you see more weapons you have at your disposal. And the more you can create mismatches and put guys in different spots to make plays, the better you can be."
"From an offensive lineman's standpoint, it's great to have him at tight end," added C Wes Johnson.
That fun ranking will disappear the more passes are directed toward the 6'6", 263-pound Oklahoman and UTEP product, but he's not worried about maintaining his lofty perch, as long as things continue to evolve for the young, currently struggling but still growing Jets.
"We've just got to stay pushing. We've got to put one foot forward, put this one behind us quick, and move on to Buffalo," he said of the rainy loss to the Falcons. "We've just got to keep pushing through it, come together, stay together, and we'll be fine."