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NY Jets’ supposed biggest weakness indicates how good they are

Tyler Conklin, NY Jets, Tight End
Tyler Conklin, New York Jets, Getty Images

Is this really the New York Jets’ biggest roster hole?

If any New York Jets player should be bristling over disrespect, it’s Tyler Conklin.

First, it was the constant calls for Brock Bowers as the Jets’ “slam-dunk” first-round pick. Joe Douglas clearly didn’t agree, as he said he likes the team’s tight end room.

Now, Aaron Schatz of ESPN called tight end the biggest weakness on the Jets’ roster. This is what Schatz had to say:

The Jets have a pretty steady and deep roster across the board, with the big issue being the lack of a star at tight end. Tyler Conklin, who signed with New York from the Vikings in 2022, hasn’t had a positive receiving DVOA in six NFL seasons and ranked 43rd among qualifying tight ends in the past two seasons. Jeremy Ruckert, a third-round pick in 2022, could take over as the starter after becoming a bigger part of the Jets’ passing game in Weeks 10-14 last season. New York should consider bringing in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ former Green Bay target Robert Tonyan, who is still a free agent.

Now, I’m as big a fan as anyone of DVOA as a statistic. It stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and measures impact while adjusting for opponent quality and game context. As a team stat, it’s one of the best metrics out there.

However, as an individual stat, DVOA has many shortcomings. It does a terrible job of isolating the individual’s impact from the context of his team. Nowhere does this hold more true than for pass-catchers, where a receiver or tight end in a bad passing offense has no chance of posting strong numbers.

No one who covers the Jets regularly would suggest that Jeremy Ruckert could take over for Conklin as the starting tight end in 2024. Jets fans just hope that Ruckert can emerge as a viable TE2. That is not assured based on what he showed in 2023 with limited opportunities.

Suggesting that Robert Tonyan would be an upgrade over Conklin is laughable. Tonyan benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers but has done nothing since. Look no further than his 49.6 Pro Football Focus receiving grade with Chicago in 2023, the result of catching 11 passes for 112 yards and no touchdowns in 17 games (183 routes run). That’s a convenient but lazy take.

Besides the unwarranted smears on Conklin, though, Schatz’s take is encouraging for the Jets in a different way. If all an analytics guy can come up with to knock the Jets’ roster is their tight end room, the roster must be in pretty good shape.

I would argue that the biggest weakness on the Jets’ roster lies in other areas. Wide receiver, defensive tackle, safety, interior offensive line, and even linebacker are all a bit thin depth-wise. The issues in some of those areas could affect the Jets more than having Conklin and Ruckert at tight end.

Still, this kind of coverage is encouraging for the Jets. As Michael Nania indicated, it’s reasonable to think that the Jets will have the better roster in 16 of their 17 games this season, with the 49ers the lone exception.

So keep the Conklin slander coming. It might not be great for the player, but it speaks to the strength of the team. If that keeps going under the radar, so much the better.

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