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Jets Two New Tight Ends Always Looking for an Edge

In College, Tyler Conklin Played Against and With Bills’ QB Josh Allen


Tyler Conklin has a unique perspective on Josh Allen, the quarterback for the Jets next opponent -- the Buffalo Bills -- the second in back-to-back-to-back games against AFC East rivals.

The tight end from Central Michigan caught a touchdown pass from Allen in the 2018 Senior Bowl. That came weeks after Allen's Cowboys thrashed Conklin's Chippewas in a bowl game in December 2017.

"We played Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl," Conklin told team reporter Eric Allen and Jets former linebacker Bart Scott in this week's edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "Going into that game we thought we were going to kill them. We thought he [Allen] ain't that good. We got smoked [losing by 37-14]. He shredded us that game [11 of 19, 154 yards, 3 TDs], playing in that bowl game making us look really bad."

Conklin and Allen were teammates — albeit for a week — at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. In the third quarter of the South all-stars' 45-16 trouncing of the North squad, Conklin was on the receiving end of a 16-yard scoring pass from Allen.

"I went to play in the Senior Bowl, where you can't ever predict who becomes what," Conklin said. "He showed it and proved people, right or wrong, that he's a hell of a player. I caught a wheel route out of the backfield as a fullback for a TD."

Allen was drafted No. 7 overall by Buffalo, while Conklin was taken by the Vikings in the fifth round, No. 157 overall.

As they prepare to play the first-place Bills (6-1) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Conklin has found a comfort zone at tight end with quarterback Zach Wilson, especially in the Jets' (5-3) loss to New England last weekend. Overall, Conklin is second on the team (to rookie WR Garrett Wilson) with 32 receptions on 48 targets for 309 yards (9.7 per catch) and 3 TDs. Against New England, Conklin was Wilson's favorite target (10), making 6 catches for 79 yards and 2 TDs. He became the first Jets TE since Dustin Keller, vs. Buffalo in 2011, with 2 TD catches in a home game.

Conklin (6-3, 248) began his athletic career in college on a full basketball scholarship to Northwoods University in Midland, Mich., staying for one semester before transferring to Central Michigan and walking on to the football team.

"Antonio Gates has a basketball background, is a Michigan guy and is someone I watched when I decided to switch to football," Conklin said. "And at Michigan State, Josiah Price was catching TDs all over the place. The day I decided to switch I was at Buffalo Wild Wings. He [Price] was at Minnesota when I got there.

"Once I got to the predraft stuff, all I heard was that I can't do this or that. I was going to prove them wrong. So, I go to the Senior Bowl and show them I can block. I just think the beauty of tight end is that you have to do everything, block, play pass pro. I want to be the guy in there on first and second down. I want to be the all-around tight end, not just a receiver or the blocking guy. Coach Mid [Ron Middleton] has helped me in the run game, something I'll keep getting better at, and he's helped me in pass pro, and to have the opportunity to show what I've worked on."

Conklin is one of two TEs the Jets signed in free agency in the offseason. The other one, C.J. Uzomah has had a modest number of receptions (7 for 66 yards) but is averaging 9.4 yards a catch. Uzomah, like Conklin, is also well aware that the Jets face a big challenge on Sunday against the Bills and their aggressive, top-rated defense.

"They're a good defense," he said. "You know they, for the most part, they do what they do, they don't really change too much outside of their base packages and their base fronts and things. They fire on the ball, they're physical. It's going to be a good test for sure. You know they run what they run, and they want you to try to beat them."

In last week's game against the Patriots, QB Zach Wilson (who had been 4-0 since returning from knee surgery) tossed three interceptions as he attempted 41 passes while the Jets ran the ball 15 times -- which basically flipped the script from the team's string of four straight victories.

"Zach was like, 'yeah I made some boneheaded plays,' " Uzomah said. "At the same time, I told him he made some good decisions, some really good balls [a 63-yard connection to Denzel Mims and a 54-yard pass to rookie Garrett Wilson], he did a lot of the right things.

"We as an offense didn't protect correctly. We didn't run the right routes correctly, little things like that. So it's like everything's always going to come back on the quarterback and he's the one that has to bear the burden of miscues as an offense, as a whole, always. And it's our job to make sure that he knows it's not a one-man game. It's not a one-man team. It's a collective, we as a unit left plays out there, not just him."

For his part, Conklin said there's precious little time to wallow in last week's loss. The imperative of facing one of, if not the best team in the NFL right now is staring the Jets in the face.

"I think the beauty of this league is the quick turnaround after you've had a tough loss," Conklin said. "Expectations were flipped, we were expected to win the game. That's kind of new for the organization. It's a little bit of a letdown. But we don't have time to sit and mourn it. You move on."

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