Jets Positional Analysis: Tight Ends

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First a few updates:

1. A little double post action today, because I want to get through all the different position analysis articles. If you scroll down on the main page or click back through the archives, you can see the previous ones on the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

2. Jets training camp opens on July 27th for rookies and July 30thfor veterans…at least we are in the same month now. The pre-season opener is Friday, August 14th at home against the Rams.

Jets Positional Analysis: Tight Ends

Over the next 6 weeks, I am going to go through all of the Jets positions and assess each player, continuing today with the tight ends:

1. Dustin Keller #81, Last Season: 48 Receptions, 535 Yards, 3 TD’s

History: Keller was a first round pick of the Jets last year. After beginning the season quietly, Keller broke out in a 4 game stretch during the middle of the season. Against the Rams in week 10 he had 6 receptions for 107 yards and a TD, in the following three games his lines were: 8 Receptions, 87 yards, 6 receptions, 42 yards, and 7 receptions, 77 yards. He didn’t produce as much in the Jets final four games but stilled showed tremendous potential and athleticism during his rookie season. With Chris Baker now in New England, Keller will have increased reps and pressure to improve his blocking and become an every down tight end.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Keller takes his game to the next level and thrives with the increased reps and balls thrown his way because of the departure of Laveranues Coles and Chris Baker. He plays at a pro-bowl level and becomes the Jets go to guy when they throw the ball, especially in the red zone.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Keller regresses from his rookie year, doesn’t improve his blocking and struggles with drops.

Prediction: Keller is going to have a ton of balls thrown his way in 2009 and proved last year he is immensely talented. I don’t think he is ready to be a pro-bowl caliber player yet, but I do think you will see a nice jump in his numbers from last year, especially in touchdowns. Keller is going to be the Jets primary target inside the 20 yard line.

2. Bubba Franks #88, Last Season: 6 Receptions, 47 Yards, 0 TD’s

History: I am only listing him as the #2 because he is the only other Jets tight end with NFL experience at the position. Franks signed with the Jets last year and struggled with injuries, only playing in 8 games. Rex Ryan is hoping he can provide some blocking and experience to the position. He hasn’t participated in off-season activities because he is still recovering from knee surgery but he is expected to be ready for training camp.

Chance of Making Roster: 75% (Depends on Health)

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Franks stays healthy and provides the Jets with a reliable, consistent #2 tight end. He blocks well and catches the ball the few times it is thrown to him.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He can’t get healthy in time for the season and the Jets eventually just cut him.

Prediction: I am not that confident in Franks after what I saw last year and since he is currently recovering from surgery. However, I don’t think the Jets would have re-signed him if they didn’t think he would be ready for at least most of training camp. I think Franks plays this year but struggles with injuries occasionally, but when he is on the field is able to do his job adequately.

3. Kareem Brown # 84, Last Season: Played Defensive End

History: Brown has been a backup defensive end for the Jets the last couple of years. He was moved to tight end this off-season and has apparently made some decent progress after going through mini-camp and OTAs. Brown lost 30 pounds to make the transition and because of the Jets amazingly thin depth at TE, probably has a good chance to make the roster because of his versatility and ability to play special teams.

Chance of Making Roster: 75%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Brown becomes a capable #2/#3 tight end. He is able to block for the Jets in their running sets and able to handle catching a few short passes.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Brown can’t handle the transition to offense and is too light to play defense.

Prediction: I think Brown sticks on the roster as the #3 tight end because of his ability to play special teams and his athleticism/potential.

The Other Guys:

James Dearth, #85 – The Jets long snapper, hasn’t caught a pass since 2001. He will make the roster but hopefully not be forced into any offensive action.

Jack Simmons, #46 – A UDFA the Jets signed this year. He caught 34 passes for 331 yards and 2 TDs last year for Minnesota. He is 6’4, 246 lbs and apparently made a good impression on the Jets coaches during OTAs. Hey, if there is a team for a UDFA tight end to make it on, this is it.

J’Nathan Bullock, #48 – Another UDFA the Jets signed, although Bullock wasn’t a football player in college. He played basketball at Cleveland State. Bullock is 6’4, 240 lbs and showed good athleticism during OTAs.

Overall Position Analysis: The Jets are in need of a veteran in a big way. They would be crazy to go into the season with Franks and Brown as Keller’s top backups. Hopefully, Simmons or Bullock will step up in training camp and show some potential. If the Jets are looking for help, my coaches always joked about me moving from receiver to tight end because of how slow I was…and yes, I am available.

  • bruceharper

    Joe-

    Why did Keller get used less and less late last season?

    Also, my sense is that getting Sanchez changes the whole perception of what the Jets’ timeframe for winning. Despite Flacco’s and Ryan’s successes last year, you would have to admit it is pretty unlikely for a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback to win this year. The argument for starting Sanchez, assuming he isn’t a complete bust is for him to get the experience to become more competitive in the ensuing years.

    I think the Jets have done a fabulous job in the last two years of improving their personnell. I remember after 2007 thinking that they were about 20 players away from winning. They are still a handful of players away-a major WR, a pass-rushing DT, a good blocking TE, a better back-up nose guard. But Tannenbaum deserves a lot of credit for the rebuilding that has been done. For all of the people who criticize the Farve move, no one was complaining when we whipped tennessee.

    Anyway, good job. J-E-T-S, etc. Bruceharper

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  • Joe Caporoso

    Bruce Harper,

    It is a great question as to why Keller got used less and less as the season went on, it belongs in the same category as why Leon Washington doesn’t get enough touches.

    I agree that it may be unfair to have high expectations for Sanchez in year one, but you do have to feel good that he has a great offensive line, great running backs, and a potentially great defense to support him.

    I also agree with your compliments of Tannenbaum, the guy isn’t afraid to make big moves to help his team win, which is what you want. Yes, we still need some depth but overall this team as increased their talent vastly the past couple of years