Jets Add Longshot to Depleted TE Room, Rookie Could Earn First Start

Brandon Dillon

Getty Former Minnesota Vikings tight end Brandon Dillon signs with the New York Jets.

Just one day after the news that ex-Minnesota Vikings guard Dru Samia could be called on in Week 17, the New York Jets picked up another former Vikes player in tight end Brandon Dillon.

The Marian graduate joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and he’s what most would call an NFL longshot. Jets team reporter Ethan Greenberg noted that he was only “the second Marian player to sign a contract in the NFL after earning first-team All-Mid-State Football Association honors as a junior and senior.”

Dillon has appeared in five NFL games over the course of three seasons. He was targeted once, catching a six-yard pass, and has experience on special teams. He’ll join the Jets practice squad and act as a reserve in a depleted tight end over the final two weeks of 2021.

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Will Yeboah Finally Receive First NFL Start?

Anticipated rookie Kenny Yeboah has been elevated from the practice squad multiple times in year one and he was eventually signed to the active roster. Despite that, he has yet to log meaningful snaps in Mike LaFleur’s offense during his first seven appearances in the league.

The priority UDFA has found a role with Brant Boyer on special teams, however, with 80 snaps and a blocked punt.

The Jets’ tight end room is currently a disaster heading into Week 17 — more so than usual — and Yeboah could finally be forced into action.

The rookie has since been activated off the COVID-19/reserve but Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco remain sidelined. The latter two will not return in 2021.

Dan Brown — who was famously traded for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, then re-signed — will be elevated as well but he’s a glorified special teamer at best. Starting him on offense provides no developmental value for 2022 since Yeboah has more of a future with the franchise and even outplayed Brown during the preseason.

The Ole Miss product is also the better blocker, but that’s where Joshua Perkins comes in. Douglas added the veteran blocking tight end on December 29 and you definitely could see Perkins in there on rushing downs right off the scrap heap — as we saw with Will Parks at safety against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Still, nobody knows the playbook better than Yeboah. He’s been with the Jets all season and if LaFleur wants to utilize this problem productively, he’ll give the rookie his sink-or-swim moment.

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Learn From Brady

I’m not sure if this is more a product of Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians, or Tom Brady himself, but the legendary quarterback has always made it a point to have great dual-threat tight ends employed in his offense.

In New England, that was Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (the player not the felon), or Martellus Bennett and Ben Watson.

In Tampa Bay, the 2020 Super Bowl champions have a three-head monster that’s easily the deepest tight end room in the sport right now. That includes the aforementioned Gronkowski — who Brady coaxed out of retirement — former first-round pick O.J. Howard, and underrated veteran Cameron Brate.

Any of the three would start on the Jets in a heartbeat, and that’s if the entire Gang Green tight end room was actually healthy. Right now, they’d be considered saviors.

Douglas should take plenty of notes watching this well-constructed roster in Week 17 but one important change he must make is at tight end. Learn from Brady and give Zach Wilson two above-average options at the position in 2022.

Not Kroft or Griffin and definitely not Brown or Wesco. Yeboah could maybe find a job as the third-stringer in this scenario while continuing his role on special teams.

That’s the type of overhaul we need in this unit and you could even use this game as an audition if Howard gets any burn. The Buccaneers’ third-string tight end is a free agent in 2022 and most expect him to look for a starting role outside the organization.

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