Jets tight end C.J. Uzomah is ready for the 2022 NFL season. No, not the 17-game marathon that officially begins in September. He's ready now ... tomorrow, whenever.
"I'm juiced to be here," Uzomah said. "This is a young, hungry team. I come into the locker room and I see the boys and they're like 'let's go.' They're ready to get to work and get after it."
Uzomah's enthusiasm is impressive coming from a 29-year-old about to begin his eighth season in the NFL, the first seven of which were spent in Cincinnati with a Bengals team many have compared the Jets to -- a young team that was quickly transformed and went to the Super Bowl last season.
"There are some similarities, there are some differences," he said. "But it's a different team. From what I see here, the sky's the limit as long as we mentally stay the course. The thing is this team is hungry, the young guys, I've not seen a work ethic like that in a while."
Uzomah (6-6, 260) is a big part of the revamped tight ends room. He and Tyler Conklin were both signed in free agency and Jeremy Ruckert, a Long Island native, was drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The new tight ends will complement a strong offensive line that will include Laken Tomlinson, signed in free agency, George Fant, Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Connor McGovern. The beefed-up tight ends room will also give second-year QB Zach Wilson additional options in the passing game, provide the running game with tenacious blockers, and protection for Wilson.
He called Wilson "talented as hell."
"I've watched a lot of film watching him and I'm expecting him to make huge strides this season," Uzomah said. "We've been asking each other questions. He's a smart kid, he's young, he's an unbelievable player with an unbelievable football mind."
As he watched the draft, Uzomah said that his excitement level rose off the charts.
"In my mind, I'm like, 'We won. We won the draft,' " Uzomah said. "Then we just kept doing things, kept adding pieces and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh.' We got some ballers. Being in Cincinnati the last couple of years I was able to watch Sauce [Ahmad Gardner]. He's a monster. We're going to have a nice little tandem back there [when Gardner is expected to team with D.J. Reed, signed in free agency]. And there was another Ohio guy [WR Garrett Wilson] who I've been watching. Those two, in my mind we won already."
Uzomah said that he's also excited (so much excitement!) to be reunited with DE Carl Lawson, who is returning from an Achilles tendon injury that ended his 2021 season before it really got started.
"Carl and I joke ... he said I keep following him, but it's him who's followed me ... to Auburn, to Cincinnati and now here," Uzomah said. "Carl is a monster. He's built like an action figure. If you go on 'Madden' to build a the perfect player that is player is Carl. I've been playing with him 6-7 years. He's just a freak. His get-off is unbelievable, his strength is his biggest strength. A monster. To get him back on the field ... our D-line is going to be freaking good."
See the Jets on the field working out during the second week of Phase 2 during the offseason program in Florham Park.
Five-Man Jets UDFA Class
The Jets' crew overseeing the 2022 NFL Draft might have had an unusually early conclusion on Day 3 with only two picks -- OL Max Mitchell (No. 111 overall) and DL Micheal Clemons (No. 117) -- in Round 4, but the work of the personnel staff was not done. GM Joe Douglas, who earned universal praise for his savvy moves in landing three picks in the first round -- CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (No. 4), WR Garrett Wilson (No. 10) and DE Jermaine Johnson (No. 26) -- and then trading up in the second round to grab running back Breece Hall (No. 36), immediately began to add depth to the current roster by signing five undrafted free agents.
"It's a five-man class," Hogan said. "Smaller than usual because we have more players on the roster currently than in the past. It speaks to the depth that we've added in free agency and players we re-signed."
Hogan added: "It's important to mitigate risk [injuries]. It's awesome to have guys here. Everyone is trying to prove themselves. It's an opportunity to get acclimated to the building and get in our locker room around the guys and get back on the field."
To add to their seven draft picks, the Jets signed five UFAs: RB Zonovan Knight (North Carolina State), WR Irvin Charles (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), S Tony Adams (Illinois), WR Keshunn Abram (Kent State) and LB D.Q. Thomas (Middle Tennessee State).
"Knight led the country in kick returns." Hogan said. "He's physical and durable. Tony Adams can play safety and cornerback and is versatile. Thomas is another guy who could add competition to the back end of the roster."
Knight led the Wolfpack with 753 rushing yards and earned first-team All-ACC honors at kick returner. He had two returns for TDs in 2021. Adams began his college career at cornerback before switching to safety. He finished the 2021 season with 63 tackles (second on team with 47 solo stops), 3.5 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 INT and 5 PDs. Thomas is an intriguing addition who ended his college career as the school's all-time leader in tackles for loss (53) and third all-time in sacks (20.5).