Breaking down the New York Jets’ roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, which begins July 29:
Position: Tight end
Projected starter: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (faces two-game suspension).
Projected reserves: Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett.
Notables on the bubble: Brian Parker, Jason Vander Laan.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was one of the offseason stars, but can he maintain that momentum with the pads on? AP Photo/Gene Puskar
Top storyline: The tight end is back. New coordinator John Morton runs a West Coast-based offense, and the tight end is a big part of that system. The new approach was on display in minicamp, as the tight ends were featured in some team periods. Under Morton’s predecessor, Chan Gailey, the Jets’ tight ends were used primarily as blockers. The new way — the way used by 31 other teams — will add more balance to the passing attack. Welcome to the modern NFL, New York.
Player to watch: Seferian-Jenkins was one of the offseason stars, but can he maintain that momentum with the pads on? If he can, it would be a heck of a story. He dropped 25 pounds, went to rehab and quit drinking, vowing to turn around his life and career. With his skill set — a 6-foot-5 frame and above-average speed — he has the ability to thrive as a receiver. The man has talent (42 catches in his first two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), but he has always lacked focus and commitment. Maybe he has turned the corner. This is a contract year for Seferian-Jenkins, so there’s no shortage of motivation.
Wild card: Leggett, a fifth-round pick from Clemson, had a rough spring, but the team still loves his upside. In college, his receiving metrics compared favorably with those of O.J. Howard, whom the Jets probably would have chosen at No. 6 overall if Jamal Adams had been off the board. Leggett’s problem is that he’s not a good blocker. To become an every-down player in this offense, he’ll have to improve a lot in that area.
Training camp will be a success if …: A starting-caliber player emerges to replace Seferian-Jenkins for Weeks 1 and 2. Slapped with a suspension stemming from a DUI arrest last September, Seferian-Jenkins can practice and play in the preseason, but he must sit out the first two regular-season games, at Buffalo and at Oakland. Tomlinson is the next man up in the pecking order, but he’s primarily a run-blocker. Parker has some game experience (nine games with the Kansas City Chiefs), but we’re not talking about a grizzled vet.
By the numbers: By now, you’re probably well aware of the Jets’ abysmal receiving stats over the past two seasons, but here’s the most mind-blowing number of them all: The tight ends had zero — zero! — catches in the red zone in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Three targets, no catches. Wow.