In his first year with the Jets, after four in Minnesota playing alongside Irv Smith Jr. and (for a time with) Kyle Rudolph, veteran tight end Tyler Conklin knows what a good tight end group looks like. The Green & White's 2022 band, he believes, should make opposing defenses fearful.
"They are going to have a heck of a time matching up," Conklin said. "No matter who the personnel is or who you are out there on the field, we have opportunities to get the matchups we want."
On paper, Conklin's company features a converted wide receiver in Lawrence Cager; a rookie in Jeremy Ruckert; returnees in Trevon Wesco and Kenny Yeboah; and a pair of veteran free agents in C.J. Uzomah and himself.
The group's variety of talents and ability to adjust to and execute Mike LaFleur's calls on offense creates matchup problems.
"I think everybody in our room prides ourselves on being able to do everything as a tight end," Conklin said. "In the run game, pass game, pass protection. … This offense allows you to play your butt off in the run game. And if you do that, you are going to give yourself more opportunities in the passing game."
See the Green & White on the field for the final time before the Jets-Giants preseason game.
Cager has been impressive in camp and in two preseason games. Cager, a wide receiver in his first stint with the Jets in 2020 and with Cleveland last season, scored in last week's preseason games against Atlanta, and has totaled seven catches for 105 yards in two games. His growth from primarily a receiving threat to tight end is still a work in progress, but his play so far has caught the eye of Conklin and Jets coaches.
"I can't say enough good things about Cage," Conklin said. "He just does things the right way. He stays late with meetings with coach [Ron] Middleton and [Jeremy] Ruckert. You knew what he was going to be able to do in the passing game as a receiver, but attention to detail and the work that he has put in the run game and pass protection are things that you see him get better at literally every single day in practice. And I think the sky's the limit for him."
Each NFL team must trim its roster from 80 to 53 byTuesday. How many tight ends the Jets retain remains to be seen Regardless of the final number, Conklin set his expectation at playoffs or bust.
"I'm confident that every single tight end in our room can play in this league," Conklin said. "I do not just come up here and say that because it's the right thing to say.
"I think we know how good we can be and how much talent we have on this team. And our goal is to make it to the playoffs and win in the playoffs. And I think internally we think we can do that. Now we just have to go out there and do it every week and prove it."