Let me count the ways the Patriots are better than the Jets. Wait, how much time do you have?
It’s hard to even know where to start. But how about tight end?
All you need to know on the disparity there is this: the Pats recently lost the services of the best TE ever to play the game--and the NFL’s best current player, period--and they’re still much stronger at the position than their rival from New York.
With All-World Rob Gronkowski now out for the season following back surgery, you’d think New England would be struggling at Tight End. You’d be wrong.
While the absence of Gronk inhibits Bill Belichick from putting his preferred two-TE formation on the field on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, the Pats are still tight end-rich, as Martellus Bennett is playing the position as well as anyone in the league.
In his eight previous years in the NFL, Bennett earned a reputation as a very gifted headache--an underachiever and locker-room lawyer who hurts more than he helps. And though he’s been an able receiver, he was a nonentity as a blocker while wearing out his welcome in Dallas, New York (with the Giants) and Chicago. But as we’ve seen over the years, things are a little different in Belichickland. Bennett is blocking ferociously in 2016, and catching nearly every ball thrown his way.
A good tight end changes the equation, because he’s such a vital part of both the running and the passing game. Not that the Jets would know.
At 6’6” and 260 lbs., Austin Seferian-Jenkins is simply too big to be able to run as fast as he does. After three impressive years at the U. of Washington, Seferian-Jenkins jumped into the NFL Draft and caught the eyes of every scout in the place when he ran a sub-4.6 40 at the scouting combine. A second-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2014, Seferian-Jenkins didn’t make much of an impact in Tampa, and showed immaturity and poor judgement when he was arrested for DUI earlier this season (and it wasn’t his first such offense).
The Bucs cut him loose at that point, so he joined Gang Green, a franchise notorious for ignoring its tight ends. Hey, you would do if you hadn’t had a reliable one since Mickey Shuler in the early 1980s.
Last season, Jets TEs caught just 8 passes, and while that figure has been doubled 14 games into the current campaign, it remains a eyesore. Still, the tide may be turning. Seferian-Jenkins was targeted 10 times in the past three weeks, and he may match that number over the final two contests.
He’s big, he’s fast, he can catch the ball, and he’s just 24. He also proved to be quite a knucklehead before arriving in the Big Apple. Is he someone you can build around? The jury is decidedly out. But Seferian-Jenkins is the most able TE the Jets have had in quite some time. And a good place to start.