Jeremy Ruckert, NY Jets, C.J. Uzomah, TE, Depth Chart
Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Jeremy Ruckert has a better chance to elevate into the New York Jets’ TE2 role than many realize

Jeremy Ruckert was a surprising choice by the New York Jets in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft. After already spending big on two tight ends in free agency, Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah, few people were talking about the tight end position as a potential target for the Jets with a relatively early draft pick.

Regardless, the Jets liked the Long Island native so much that they decided to take him even though the position was not a glaring need. Ruckert was considered one of the best tight end prospects in the 2022 class – according to NFL Mock Draft Database, Ruckert was the consensus No. 2 tight end behind Trey McBride. The Jets clearly viewed Ruckert as the best player available at that point of the draft.

Ruckert remained buried on the Jets’ depth chart throughout his rookie year. He played in nine games (zero starts) and only took an offensive snap in five of those. In total, Ruckert finished the year with 48 offensive snaps and 99 special teams snaps. It was essentially a redshirt year for the Ohio State product.

Most third-round picks would be thrust directly into the limelight after a redshirt rookie season. After all, a third-round selection is considered a valuable asset. It’s no first- or second-round pick, but it is worth much more than a Day 3 pick. Third-round prospects have a decent chance of developing into good starters and most of them get the chance to play early and often.

But this isn’t an ordinary redshirt situation. The Jets still have Conklin and Uzomah blocking Ruckert’s path. The two veterans will have a combined cap hit of $12.8 million this season. Their continued presence on the team has some Jets fans worried that Ruckert will be buried on the depth chart for the second consecutive year.

Fear not: Ruckert’s path to becoming a fixture in the Jets’ offense is clearer than you might think.

The Jets are likely hoping Ruckert can be an upgrade over Uzomah

Conklin was the Jets’ clear TE1 as he led the unit with 861 offensive snaps (snap ratio: 77%). In fact, Conklin was one of the most heavily relied-upon tight ends in football; only five tight ends played more offensive snaps.

Uzomah was firmly nestled behind Conklin as the TE2, playing 525 snaps in 15 games (average snap ratio in games played: 53%).

It seems like a foregone conclusion that Conklin will retain his position as the TE1 in 2023. Conklin had a solid year, overcoming poor quarterbacking to tie for eighth among tight ends in receptions (58) and 12th in receiving yards (552). He was also an efficient run-blocker. There is no reason to expect a decline in snaps for Conklin.

Uzomah, meanwhile, did not have a good year. He was largely a non-factor in the Jets’ passing attack, finishing the season ranked 42nd among tight ends in receptions (21) and 41st in receiving yards (232). Both numbers were less than half of his 2021 totals with the Bengals.

Uzomah could have made up for his minuscule receiving production by providing excellent run-blocking, but he was equally poor in the blocking department. Based on my charting, Uzomah was the third-most detrimental run-blocker on the Jets’ offense, ahead of only Laken Tomlinson and Duane Brown. His blocking was nowhere near consistent enough for a tight end who catches barely over one pass per game. I blamed Uzomah for 25 run-stuffs allowed – Conklin allowed only 12.

Considering the way he played last year, I don’t think Uzomah is guaranteed to reprise the same role in 2023. There’s no reason Ruckert cannot steal his spot as the Jets’ TE2 if he makes a second-year leap, proving throughout the offseason that he has progressed and is ready to take on a bigger role.

I’m not in the Jets’ building. Maybe the coaches are higher on Uzomah than I am and have no plans of diminishing his role. But if the Jets play it right, they will not giftwrap a role for Uzomah. He performed poorly last year and should have to earn any playing time he gets; contract be damned. Don’t fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy. If a player is hurting the team, bench him. The money’s already lost. There is no need to try and justify the signing.

The Jets spent a third-round pick on Ruckert, so I would be shocked if they aren’t praying Ruckert can step up and take Uzomah’s place this year. I am honestly befuddled as to why they signed Uzomah to such a hefty contract in the first place, but that’s a moot point now. All that matters is this: The Jets have a TE2 who struggled last year and a talented, unproven third-round pick sitting behind him. If the third-rounder looks improved in training camp and the preseason, moving him up the depth chart should be a no-brainer.

And I believe the Jets will do just that if Ruckert proves he deserves the promotion. I would be shocked if Ruckert shows progress and the Jets keep him buried just because of Uzomah’s presence. If Ruckert does not get moved up, it will only be because he didn’t prove himself worthy.

It feels likely that Ruckert will get a role in the Jets’ offense if he earns it. The next question is this: What must Ruckert do to prove himself to the coaches?

Where Ruckert must shine to earn a bigger role

Blocking is the number one key to Ruckert’s ascension. To earn the TE2 role, Ruckert must prove to the Jets’ coaches that he can be an upgrade over Uzomah as a run blocker.

Conklin is going to eat up most of the targets at TE. He had a target advantage of 87 to 27 over Uzomah. On a per-game basis, Conklin out-targeted Uzomah 4.9 to 1.8 in games where both Conklin and Uzomah were active.

The TE2’s main responsibility is run blocking, which is shown by Uzomah’s utilization last year. Uzomah run-blocked on nearly half of his offensive snaps (49.5%) compared to barely over one-third (33.4%) for Conklin.

This is because a large portion of Uzomah’s snaps came in multi-TE packages, which are typically used in situations where there is a higher chance of a run play. Uzomah was used as part of a multi-TE package on 53% of his offensive snaps. Most of those were in 12 personnel (1 RB/2 TE/2 WR), as 44% of Uzomah’s snaps were in 12 personnel.

Where Conklin earned his snap advantage over Uzomah is in 11 personnel packages (1 RB/1 TE/3 WR), which usually indicate a high likelihood of a pass play. The Jets frequently used Conklin as the lone TE in 11 personnel without Uzomah.

Conklin played 530 snaps in 11 personnel compared to 224 for Uzomah. In multi-TE packages, they played nearly the same amount of snaps: 317 for Conklin and 290 for Uzomah (18.6/19.3 per game). But due to the disparity in total 11 personnel snaps, Uzomah had a much higher portion of his snaps played in multi-TE packages.

So, it’s clear that blocking will be the primary area of focus for Ruckert as he attempts to steal Uzomah’s spot on the depth chart. Fortunately for Ruckert, this is the same area where he showed promise at the end of his rookie year.

After playing 9 offensive snaps over the previous 15 weeks, Ruckert played a season-high 19 offensive snaps in the Jets’ season finale against Miami, and he made the most of the rare opportunity. Ruckert went into the offseason on a high note as he put together a dazzling display of blocking.


If Ruckert can maintain what he did against Miami throughout the course of the next few months, he will easily prove to the Jets’ coaching staff that he is a better run blocker than Uzomah.

While blocking is the main focus for Ruckert, he can strengthen his case by progressing in the passing game, too. Specifically, Ruckert can aim to shine in areas where Uzomah struggles.

Before highlighting Uzomah’s weaknesses, it should be noted that there are two specific positive traits that Uzomah brings in the passing game: his big catch radius and his YAC ability.

At 6’6″ and 260 pounds with 34⅛” arms and great speed for his size (4.62 forty), Uzomah can snatch balls outside of his frame and is a freight train in the open field when he has the football. To his credit, he was solid in these two areas last year. Uzomah only had one drop, caught 77.8% of his targets, and averaged 5.2 YAC per reception (26th of 57 qualified TE).

Where Uzomah really struggles is as a route-runner. He rarely creates separation on his own. For the most part, he only catches passes when he is schemed open. His lackluster route-running is the main reason why he only attracted 27 targets last year and is averaging a measly 2.8 targets per game in his career. Uzomah has all of the physical tools you could want, but he just doesn’t win one-on-ones. He’s someone who capitalizes on opportunities, not someone who creates opportunities.

This is an area where Ruckert has the potential to establish himself as a major upgrade over Uzomah.

In his review of Ruckert’s Ohio State film, Jets X-Factor’s Joe Blewett highlighted the following points as strengths in Ruckert’s game:

  • Can stretch seam
  • Good and slipping shoulders to avoid zone droppers
  • Good feel of how to get open vs. zone
  • Shows flashes of using physicality in routes
  • Gets out of breaks well
  • Shortens stride before breaks
  • Flashes of good releases vs. press
  • Hand usage as a route runner
  • Route pacing

Flashes of exciting route-running skills are littered across Ruckert’s college film.

The path is clear for Jeremy Ruckert

It might not be glaringly obvious at first glance, but the door is wide open for Jeremy Ruckert to snag a big role in the Jets’ offense. C.J. Uzomah had a poor season last year and Ruckert has the blocking skills to be an upgrade in the same role. Plus, if Ruckert can fulfill his route-running potential, he can provide a new element to the Jets’ offense that Uzomah did not bring to the table.

All Ruckert has to do is keep his head down and continue working hard on developing his game. If he stays on a positive trajectory and makes the year-two leap that teams expect out of their third-round picks, Ruckert will be the Jets’ TE2 in Week 1.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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1 month ago

What would the options/costs be for moving on from CJ?

30 days ago
Reply to  DHB

Dead money $12.6m…savings $5.9m according to over the I think he’s worth keeping. Even if CJ gets beat out… Ruckert, is a low cost option so CJ is good insurance/bounce back. I think CJ has a better year this year.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
30 days ago
Reply to  DHB

iirc he would have alot of dead cap space…only way he’s not on the team, I beleive is if someone wants him for a 7th round pick.