The Jets quarterbacks are grabbing the headlines and justifiably so. Sam Darnold continues to get most of the work at practice, Teddy Bridgewater has been excellent in both his game appearances and Josh McCown is still slinging it when given the chance. While all the signal callers are performing at a high level, they are getting help from a tight end group that absolutely took over Sunday's practice.
"Probably the toughest spot to evaluate because all five can play," said head coach Todd Bowles. "We don't have a lapse among them, so that's probably going to be one of the toughest decisions we make. All five of them are very good and we like all five."
Many wondered what the Jets would do at the position after Austin-Seferian Jenkins, who resurrected his career with a 50-catch campaign in 2017, signed with the Jaguars in March. But the team responded with a pair from The U, claiming Clive Walford off waivers and selecting Chris Herndon in the fourth round. Jordan Leggett, a fifth-round pick in 2016, is back contributing on the practice field and returnees Eric Tomlinson, the top blocker of the bunch, and Neal Sterling, who possesses good athleticism, round out an intriguing unit.
"The tight ends are going to be huge on this offense," said rookie passer Sam Darnold. "They're great weapons, really athletic, who can also run block for us, so they're tremendous weapons that we have. We're going to utilize them as much as possible. It's awesome to be able to have those big guys because if there's a DB on them, it's a mismatch. If there's a linebacker on them, it's a mismatch. It's really the best of everything, they can run block, get in there, get dirty a little bit and then they can also be scot-free on a deep sail, so it's really awesome to have those guys and utilize them as much as possible."
Sterling set the tone early today, lining up outside on the first team rep and working his way back across the middle to haul in a pass from McCown. A few plays later, Darnold saw No. 85 streaking down the left sideline on an apparent coverage bust and took advantage. Practice ended with Bridgewater leading a crisp hurry-up drive down the field, hitting Leggett for a score. As he has done on multiple occasions earlier in camp, the 6'4", 250-pound Walford showed an impressive catch radius by climbing the ladder for a catch from Darnold. The rookie also threaded the needle to Leggett during a team period in the red zone.
All five of the Jets tight ends can play in this league. The question will be how many make the final roster because this group is taking off.
"They all do different things. It's hard," Bowles said. "There's not one above the other in my opinion. It's going to come down to certain things and we'll see how the next two weeks shake out. We like all five."
Top Snapshots from Sunday's Open Practice at 1 Jets Drive
The Crow Flies
Isaiah Crowell returned to team drills Sunday, taking on a sizable workload while donning a red non-contact pinnie. Crowell was held out of practice last week and missed the game with the Redskins after suffering a head injury on his touchdown catch-and-run vs. the Falcons in the preseason opener… Cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Parry Nickerson, RB Trenton Cannon, S Kacy Rodgers, WR Jonah Trinnaman, RG Brian Winters and LT Kelvin Beachum all were suited up but did not participate in any 11-on-11… Avery Williamson was active, blowing up a couple of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage… Neville Hewitt continued his strong play with a pair of pass defenses… Andre Roberts had one of his better receiving days this summer.