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Notebook | Jets T Tyron Smith: Both Monster and Mentor 

Tony Adams Likes What He Sees with the Jets Defense; Tyler Conklin Wants to Take 'Big Step'


Before Tuesday's OTA session, Jets HC Robert Saleh was asked for his early impressions of offensive lineman Tyron Smith, signed by the Jets in free agency.

"I was going through the weight room and I saw him repping out over 400 pounds on the bench like it was one of my 135 reps," the athletic Saleh said with a smile, selling himself a bit short. "He's an impressive man, he's an impressive personality and he's definitely awesome to have."

Smith has been working during the OTA periods, though he spent some of Tuesday's session working on the side of the field. Smith (6-5, 320) was a first-round pick (No. 9) in 2011 by Dallas and spent 13 seasons with the Cowboys before becoming a free agent for the first time in his career. Overall, he started 161 games for the Cowboys and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team of the 2010s. Last season Smith, 33, started 13 games at left tackle and had the fifth-highest grade among tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. The savvy and experienced Smith has also embraced the role of mentor to the Jets top draft pick, T Olu Fashanu.

"I know Olu is soaking up all the information he can get from him, which is awesome," Saleh said.

For Brian Baldinger of NFL Network, the addition of Smith to protect the blindside of quarterback Aaron Rodgers will put on display Smith's imposing talents and tenacity.

"Two things about Tyron, ever since he came out of USC, is he has no clock in his head about how long the quarterback was holding the ball," Baldinger told Eric Allen on an OTA edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "He'll block. He'll never give up. And once he gets his grip on you – he never lets go, his ability to grip, grab, he doesn't get a lot of holding calls. He doesn't lose. Once he gets his grip on you, the play's over and he'll hold that for as long as it takes the quarterback to get rid of the ball. Those are the staples in Tyron's game and always have been.

"He's always had great upper-body strength, it's been the hallmark of his career. I don't care who he's going against, pick a guy, I don't care – he's going to lock him up."

Tony Adams: 'We Definitely Think We're Special'
It would be unfair to say that Tony Adams came out of nowhere, but it's pretty close. The 2022 undrafted free agent out of Illinois muscled his way onto the 53-man roster and found himself on the field for 11 games (a pair of starts over 116 snaps) as a rookie.

Last season, after the veteran Chuck Clark sustained a season-ending ACL injury in practice, Adams became a starter in 15 games. Ahead of the 2024 season, Clark is back, Adams is back and Ashytn Davis is back. Added to the mix is free agent Isaiah Oliver who is normally a cornerback, but whom the Jets plan to convert to safety. Adams knows there's competition, and that's just fine.

"I definitely can carry over my experience, I think the best thing you can have in this game is experience and repetition," Adams said. "I played with the big dogs [last season], I went out there, I did well, I held my own and, you know, I'm taking the experience for this year and just trying to work on my game little by little."

With Clark re-signed by the Jets and expected to return to a starting role he enjoyed in six years (playing 100% of the defensive snaps in his three most-recent seasons) in Baltimore, Adams is learning from a veteran.

"Chuck is a great player, someone who's vetted in this game, someone who's stamped in this game," Adams said. "So having him back is huge. I'm learning from him, we're out there, we're flying around so we're just going to keep jelling. Let him get back into his flow and his rhythm. I know this year is going to be a great year for him."

This will be Adams' third season in a defense built and directed by coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, and the former Illini expects continued dominance.

"We definitely think we're special, I think we know that," he said. "I think we're jelling, and when the right time comes we're going to be hitting on all cylinders. We're like a big old family. This is our third year together, the fourth year this defense has been here, so I think everything is going to be hitting on the right cylinders at the right time. So I'm looking forward to it."

TE Tyler Conklin Trying to Take 'a Big Step'
TE Tyler Conklin heard the chatter before April's NFL Draft as pundits far and wide projected the Jets selecting Georgia TE Brock Bowers with the No. 10 overall pick. But GM Joe Douglas traded back a spot (swapping places with Minnesota) to select offensive lineman Olu Fashanu.

"It's not something you want to hear," Conklin said after Tuesday's OTA practice. "It's obviously motivation to go out there and make people change that thought process."

He added: "I have nothing to do with who they draft, who they want to draft, how the draft plays out. All I can control is how I work in the offseason, how I come into OTAs, how I come into camp, what I go do in a contract year in my seventh season and try to take a big step."

Conklin, who signed as a free agent in 2022 after four seasons with the Vikings, has emerged as the No. 1 tight end ahead of the 2024 season. He's joined in the room by Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah and Zack Kuntz. Conklin, 28, had a strong season in 2023, tying his NFL career high with 61 receptions and a career-best 621 yards (10.2 yards a catch), but without a TD. In his two seasons in green and white, Conklin has caught 119 passes for 1,173 yards and 3 TDs.

"I do think, just speaking for myself, that I really can take another step and a big step in my career," Conklin said. "Having Aaron [Rodgers] obviously is going to be helpful. That's the fun part about the offseason. It's my favorite part of the year besides actually playing the games.

"You go and be able to craft and become the best me possible when nobody's looking. I'm excited to do that after we go through OTAs and get that little break and come back and show you guys what's been crafted."

See all of the best photos from OTA No. 8 during the 2024 offseason program.

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