The New York Jets offense is going to be the Tyler Conklin Show
Anybody who has followed the New York Jets throughout the past month knows that Tyler Conklin has been a training camp star. Rarely does a day go by in which Conklin does not stand out as one of the team’s best performers on offense.
All of the tweets below are from different days of practice (and this is only the tip of the iceberg in regards to Conklin’s collection of training camp highlights):
Red zone TD earlier from Joe Flacco to Tyler Conklin. #Jets TE continues to impress in camp.
— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) August 18, 2022
Joe Flacco hits Tyler Conklin for a TD in the red zone.
— Ethan Greenberg (@EGreenbergJets) August 16, 2022
Third-and-9 and Zach Wilson finds Tyler Conklin for a first down.
(Conklin is your fantasy sleeper pick at TE). #Jets
— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) August 12, 2022
Tyler Conklin was his best friend tonight. It was a prototypical "LaFleur-called night," as the team simulated live environments. Plenty of ground calls, looking to get into manageable second downs.
For ZW, nothing that'll jump off the page but nothing that was bad, either.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 7, 2022
Zach Wilson continues his best practice of camp – rolls out and finds Tyler Conklin for a short TD.
Lined up like a 2-point conversion, Wilson then completes to Elijah Moore. #Jets
— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) August 3, 2022
In the Jets’ preseason opener against Philadelphia, we saw Conklin’s heavy involvement on the practice field translate into a live game environment.
Conklin only played 14 offensive snaps in the game, 7 of which involved him running a route on a passing play. Over that measly total of just 7 routes run, Conklin received 4 targets. That’s a colossal target/route ratio of 57.1%.
Not only was that the highest mark of any Jets player in the game, but it was the highest mark of any tight end in the NFL during the first week of the preseason.
Yeah… it’s safe to say that Conklin’s name is going to be called quite frequently this year.
Now, don’t get it twisted: Conklin is not going to come anywhere remotely near that 57.1% number in the regular season. It’s an absurd mark that was accrued over a minuscule sample. For instance, the highest target/route ratio among tight ends in 2021 belonged to George Kittle and Mark Andrews at 23.9% apiece. Conklin’s mark in Minnesota was 17.3%.
Nevertheless, it was interesting to see Conklin so heavily featured in his first live game action after watching him establish himself as such a fixture in the offense during training camp practices. It is starting to look more and more likely that Conklin is poised to demand a much larger diet of targets than many expect.
Conklin drew 87 targets in 17 games for the Vikings last season (5.1 per game). It ranked as the 11th-most targets in the league among tight ends and placed him third on Minnesota behind wide receivers Justin Jefferson (167 total / 9.8 per game) and Adam Thielen (95 total / 7.3 per game).
Jefferson’s target total ranked fourth-highest among all players in the NFL. Most likely, Conklin won’t have to compete against a player with such a high target total in New York, opening the opportunity for him to match or exceed his target total with the Vikings.
On the other hand, Conklin will have to compete against fellow tight end C.J. Uzomah for targets, which is something he did not have to do in Minnesota. Conklin had zero competition last year. The Vikings only threw 10 targets to tight ends other than Conklin, meaning Conklin was responsible for 90% of the team’s targets to the TE position.
Uzomah actually received a larger contract than Conklin this offseason, signing for three years and $24 million opposed to Conklin’s three years and $21 million. It’s clear that Uzomah is going to have a role in this offense, and that will lay somewhat of a dent in Conklin’s target volume.
With that being said, it is becoming increasingly clear that Conklin has a real chance to significantly outpace Uzomah when it comes to their involvement in the passing game. Uzomah has not made a whole lot of noise in training camp and was quiet in his short preseason appearance, seeing just 1 target (which fell incomplete) over 6 routes run.
Perhaps Uzomah’s responsibilities will primarily lie in the blocking department whereas Conklin eats up the bulk of the targets. This would be similar to how the New England Patriots utilized their duo of big-money free agent tight ends in 2021: Jonnu Smith (4 years, $50 million) and Hunter Henry (3 years, $37.5 million).
New England used Smith primarily as a blocker while Henry ate up the majority of the receiving production. Henry had 75 targets (50 catches for 603 yards and 9 TDs) to Smith’s 45 targets (28 catches for 294 yards and 1 TD). Smith was used as a blocker on 66.7% of his offensive snaps as opposed to Henry’s 43.3%.
Maybe the Jets will have Conklin take the Henry role while Uzomah takes the Smith role.
It is going to be very interesting to see how the Jets divide duties between Conklin and Uzomah. We know the Jets have big plans in mind for both of them – otherwise, they wouldn’t have paid starter-level money to two different tight ends.
But Conklin’s consistent excellence in the passing game is making things tricky. Yes, the Jets want to use both him and Uzomah, but if Conklin is clearly the better receiving weapon – showing legitimate top-10-caliber potential in that phase considering how frequently he’s been making plays – should they really hold him back just to make sure Uzomah gets his fair share of chances?
No matter how things shake out, one thing feels certain: big things are coming for Tyler Conklin.