‘Banged Up’ Jets Position Group Opens the Door for Youngsters

C.J. Uzomah

Getty New York Jets tight end C.J. Uzomah during the 2022 regular season.

The New York Jets closed up shop on Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on June 9 and with no mandatory minicamp scheduled for the franchise in 2023, that means summer break is officially upon us.

The vibes were mostly positive leaving Florham Park for the next month-plus of time, although there was one new injury to report. SNY’s Connor Hughes was among those who relayed the news from practice, tweeting: “[Tight end] C.J. Uzomah looks like he just hurt his right leg in individual drills. He’s with a trainer. Trying to walk it off, but he’s struggling.”

Hughes provided video of Uzomah limping off the field, noting: “He was running routes with QBs. Twisted weird and dropped.” The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt also caught the tail-end of the apparent injury to No. 87 on video while recording running back Breece Hall in the background.

After Uzomah hit the showers early, Hughes followed up on the tight end room as a whole, informing fans that they are a little “banged up” at the moment. “Looks like the only ones left are [Jeremy] Ruckert & [Zack] Kuntz,” he explained. “Uzomah just limped off. [Tyler] Conklin & [Kenny] Yeboah (boot on right foot) in rehab area.”

Hughes did not mention undrafted rookie tight ends E.J. Jenkins and Izaiah Gathings.

Jets Tight End Injuries Provide Opportunity for Jeremy Ruckert & Zack Kuntz to Shine

Ruckert had been having a standout spring — even before the Uzomah exit — but it goes without saying that any veteran injuries would open the door for younger players like Kuntz, Jenkins and Gathings at the position.

Jets X-Factor media member Robby Sabo voiced that Ruckert and Kuntz were “getting a ton of work in” after Uzomah left on June 9, for example.

Conklin’s current ailment is undisclosed, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, so the hope is that the Jets TE1 is ready to go after the break. Having said that, who knows if Uzomah just tweaked something on Friday or if a longer absence comes from this.

The big surprise is actually Yeboah. “Boot on [his] right foot”? Where’d that injury come from?

Yeboah may have been hard-pressed to make the Week 1 roster anyway — factoring predominantly on special teams in 2022 — but this certainly doesn’t help his chances.

At the same time, it’s still too early to say whether or not any of these players will be missing during training camp or preseason — and as a fan, the hope is always full health. It’s never great to lose bodies before the regular season begins and it’s even worse during OTAs.

Jets HC Robert Saleh Can’t Wait to See Jeremy Ruckert Play With Pads on During Training Camp

Jets head coach Robert Saleh has been fielding quite a few questions on Ruckert this spring after an explosive OTAs following a quiet rookie campaign. On June 9, he reiterated that he’s “excited about Ruck” in 2023.

“I never want to put too much stock into OTAs because I call ‘em a bunch of bobbleheads running around with helmets on — no pads — but Ruckert was battling a year-long injury with that foot injury [plantar fasciitis] that he had, so he’s healthy [and] he’s really attacked the offseason,” Saleh told reporters.

“He looks fluid, he looks athletic,” the Jets HC went on. “I would say I question the pads part but if anyone watched that last game of the year when he flat-backed a couple of guys… I think he’s going to be [okay]. He has a very physical mindset to him, so excited for him to get pads on and continue and pick up where he’s left off here at OTAs.”

If Ruckert impresses during training camp too — watch out. At that point, it might be tough for Saleh and his staff to keep last year’s third-round selection off the field no matters who’s healthy in 2023.

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