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Will the Tight End Return to the Offense?

Coaches & Players Optimistic that Jets TEs, Off the Radar in 2015-16, Will Be in the Mix This Year


We're going to start our Inside The Numbers series early this season, today, in fact, to get everyone salivating for the start of training camp next week. We won't be relying too much on preseason games to provide grist for this mill, unless it's something significant like the QB rotation or how the kickers are faring.

Instead, these summer ITNs will deal more with areas of emphasis in the Jets' 2017 regular season, metrics that head coach Todd Bowles, his coaches and players either want to improve on or carry over from the past two years. Today we have a few observations about one under-the-radar position in the Green & White offense recently: tight end.

New coordinator John Morton was asked very early in his first news conference about that position in his offense.

"I like all the positions right now, not just the tight ends. We're going to get everybody involved," Morton said. "It's going to be my job to figure out which guy does certain things and put them in the right position to succeed."

The numbers from 2015-16 would indicate that the Jets TEs will be more involved in the passing game this year. Morton was not New Orleans' OC but as the WRs coach his group contributed to offenses that combined to produce 171 TE catches (11th in the NFL) for 1,833 yards (11th) and 15 touchdowns (8th).

Get to Know the TEs Heading into Camp

The Jets' tight ends in the past two seasons, meanwhile, produced 26 receptions for 268 yards and one TD, all 32nd in the league. The last team with one TE touchdown catch was the Texans in 2004-05, the last with fewer catches and yards was the Falcons in 1995-96. The only other two-year span in franchise history with fewer TE catches was the first two as the Titans of New York, 1960-61, when the only tight end on the roster, Thurlow Cooper, had 24 catches.

We can offer no promises of individual performances or guarantees of how the offense will unfold. But by all reports, Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked trimmer after dropping almost 30 pounds and more dangerous during the offseason. He'll miss the first two games due to a league suspension but has talked about a new-found energy that will come in handy when he returns. Can he match his average season — 49 catches, 613 yards, 7 TDs in 13 games — at the University of Washington? That's enticing, yet it remains to be seen.

And fifth-round rookie Jordan Leggett, after averaging 43 catches for 631 yards and 7.5 TDs his last two seasons at Clemson, has at least talked the talk of a tight end that sees opportunities ahead for him and his position.

"Coach Morton, and the way the tight end was used at the Saints, it's a position that's going to be there this year," Leggett said. "I'm definitely excited for my chance."

TEs coach Jimmie Johnson had the balanced view last month when asked about his position.

"I just think in regards to last year, we had some other guys we wanted to get the ball to. We know who those guys were. They're no longer here," Johnson said. "Now it looks like it ought to be spread around a little more so everybody will have an opportunity to catch the ball as well as be involved in the run game."

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