Tyler Kroft: The New York Jets’ new TE1?
The New York Jets entered the offseason with a big need at tight end. Objectively speaking, it’s still very much a need, but perhaps not as dire as conventional wisdom would have you believe.
The security that comes with undrafted free agent Kenny Yeboah and veteran free-agent signing Tyler Kroft (one year and $2 million) is more than enough to think the Jets are in a much better spot at the position than this time a year ago. And interestingly, Kroft probably shouldn’t be viewed as just “security.”
Kroft, who began his NFL career as a third-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, has consistently battled injuries throughout his career. Kroft tallied just 21 catches and a single touchdown over his first two years in the league. But he enjoyed a breakout in his third season, 2017 when he started 16 games and caught 42 balls for 404 yards and seven touchdowns.
The full Jet X member-only video is near the bottom of this page and can also be seen on the Blewett's Blitz homepage (if you're a paid member and logged in).
Unfortunately for Kroft, he couldn’t follow that season up as he battled more injuries in the 2018 season—appearing in just five games, starting two and snagging just four receptions.
The Bengals opted to let him go, to which he then signed with the Buffalo Bills. Yet again, the man battled injuries. He missed five games in 2019 and six in 2020. In Kroft’s last season with the Bills, he finished with 12 receptions for 119 yards and three scores.
While none of these numbers are overly impressive, and I hate basing things on numbers alone (obviously have plenty of film to dive into with you), what Kroft looks like on paper is anything but is actual on-field talent represents.
The new Jets tight end is an OK (at best) receiving option. But that’s not what he was signed for, and nor is it his bread and butter.
Kroft was signed to be a blocker – whether that happens at Y, H-back or fullback – who can occasionally stretch the seam with size or leak out for an easy reception.
Tight end blocking is of the utmost importance in the Shanahan system and any outside zone-heavy attach. The running back’s initial track takes him outside of the offensive tackle’s hip—or even wider on some incidences/play calls and the system likes to incorporate TEs in general—and this is critical when threatening east-west to find room.
Emphasizing tight end blocking will be a feature in the Mike LaFleur system. In many scenarios, Kroft will nearly represent a sixth offensive lineman who is expected to get dirty in the run game.
Just how good is Kroft’s blocking? What does he offer in the passing game? Should he see significant snaps? Is he the de facto starting tight end heading into the 2021 season?
Let’s take a look at some plays showcasing Kroft’s major strengths and weaknesses. Below, you will also find a full list of strengths and weaknesses, plus a member-only Tyler Kroft film breakdown a little over an hour in length.
Blewett’s Blitz podcast episode
Highlighted strengths and weaknesses
While blocking is Tyler Kroft’s main strength, I want to note that he is much more versatile than most pundits think.
Bills run mid-zone to the left, where Kroft is aligned as the Y-tight end (next to the left tackle). Kroft shuffles to the outside while staying tight to the left tackle in order to assist on the combo while maintaining his outside leverage/half-man relationship.
Kroft does a good job on the initial block as he comes into the block with good leverage, attacking the defensive end’s hip (center of gravity) while staying square, not overcommitting to the block, and keeping his eyes on the second level.
Kroft sees his next threat (No. 31) angling to get outside on the running back. Kroft uses the defensive end as a launch point, pushing off to both shove him inside to the left tackle and to get himself out onto the defensive back.
Kroft lands his hands on the defensive back, maintains his grip, and drives down the field.
Kroft loses the block as a cornerback runs into his shoulder. But Kroft stays on the play, finds the defensive back again (looks for the nearest threat), and gets hands-on.
This is a fantastic play from Kroft.
Lafleur talked today about how critically important the run game is, the Jets have two massive run blocking Tackles, blocking TE’s could be critical to the success of this Outside Zone Scheme. Saleh mentioned Wesco in the Fullback role, but also as an in-line TE. Waiting for Herndon to show some life, Griffin coming off a bad ankle of two years ago is making some noise, and Yeboah is waiting for his chance. Camp will be interesting.