There were several members of the New York Jets offense that had down seasons in 2022 — and a lot of that likely stemmed from poor quarterback play and an inexperienced offensive coordinator.
With Aaron Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett in the building, however, the Jets expect their offense to keep up with the defense in 2023. One player that can help with that is veteran tight end Tyler Conklin — who immediately surpassed C.J. Uzomah as the starter last summer.
Although Conklin was by no means bad in 2022 — 41 receiving yards short of a career-high — the potential is there for him to be one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. On May 25, Jets X-Factor film analyst Rivka Boord explained why “Conk” could be due for a “bounce-back” campaign with Rodgers at the helm.
Jets TE Tyler Conklin Could Finally Have Breakout Season With Aaron Rodgers
Last year, Conklin felt like a player on the cusp of a breakout season coming over from Minnesota in free agency. Considering the offense’s struggles though, it was tough for any player to really go crazy outside of rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, whose talent rose above his situation.
“I had predicted that Conklin would lead the Jets in receptions [last year],” Boord admitted to readers. “Instead, although some of his counting stats ranked fairly high among tight ends, he was not nearly as impactful as I had expected.”
“Conklin’s 58 receptions tied for eighth among tight ends and his 552 receiving yards ranked 12th,” Boord continued. “However, his 1.13 yards per route run ranked 25th out of 32 qualified tight ends (min. 40 targets), and his 6.5% drop rate tied for 18th. He did catch 9 of 13 (69.2%) contested targets, the best rate for tight ends, but Jets quarterbacks also threw four interceptions his way, one of which bounced right off his hands.”
The Jets X-Factor analyst also noted Conklin’s two early fumbles — an issue he corrected throughout the year.
She went on, explaining the theory behind this year two jump within the organization: “With Aaron Rodgers, though, I believe Conklin will have a bounce-back year. His catch numbers might not suddenly explode in an offense with so many mouths to feed, but I believe his efficiency will. Rodgers has thrown an average of 6.1 touchdowns per season to tight ends; Conklin only received four targets in the red zone all year in 2022, and sure enough, three of them went for touchdowns.”
“Furthermore, the Jets underutilized Conklin’s biggest strength of going one-on-one against linebackers in key moments,” Boord added. “They used him mostly as a checkdown option, running him to the flat on 19.7% of his routes, which was the sixth-highest rate among 41 tight ends with at least 200 routes run. His 19.5% hitch rate, while ranked in the middle of the pack, did not maximize his talents.”
Aaron Rodgers Could Change the Jets Game Plan for the Better
We’ve already heard players and coaches talk about Rodgers’ influence in team meetings. Hackett gives the future Hall of Famer the power to put his personal stamp on the offense, and that’s what Boord expects him to do when it comes to Conklin and the tight end position.
“I think Rodgers will insist that the team use tight ends more favorably,” she noted, “he [typically] saves running backs and receivers, players with better YAC ability, for throws to the flat.”
Boord concluded: “Overall, it’s reasonable to believe that Rodgers will better take advantage of Conklin’s talent, and that Conklin’s mistakes will regress to his career norms.”
The soon-to-be 28-year-old TE has never achieved a 600-yard campaign as a receiver. He’s also never had more than 61 catches and three touchdowns in a single season. Assuming he’s healthy, it’s a good bet that he’ll shatter most of those totals with Rodgers as his QB.