Florham Park, NJ - There is a common perception around the league that tight ends benefit from rookie or inexperienced quarterbacks. These players are looked as a big target in the middle of the field that is available as a check down or to cut up the field. The New York Jets haven't had a pass-catching threat tight end since Dustin Keller departed. But, their woes may have ended when the organization gave a certain player a second chance.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins came to New York this past September but wasn't initiated in the offensive attack until the team hit the road in Pittsburgh, a 31-13 throttling to the Steelers. Since then, Seferian-Jenkins had his targets per game increase as well as his production in an offense that has struggled to get off the ground throughout the season.
At age 24, Seferian-Jenkins is showing Jets coaches he can be an effective player despite issues off the field. His young age shows he still hasn't reached his ceiling.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived the tight end after the former second round pick in 2014 was arrested with a DUI charge. It wasn't the first time he encountered the law as Seferian-Jenkins was handcuffed with another DUI in 2013. The Jets brought him in with hopes a change of scenery would spark a change - it has.
In six games in green and white, Seferian-Jenkins has nine catches for 93 yards. His best performance of the season came in the overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 11 - a game that saw Seferian-Jenkins haul in three catches for 35 yards. That was one week after the tight end was targeted five times against the Indianapolis Colts. Jets quarterback Bryce Petty is starting to find comfort in Seferian-Jenkins' 6'5, 262 pound frame on the field.
While history suggests veteran quarterbacks benefit more from pass-catching tight ends, the Jets know that success can come when the quarterback and tight end are on the same page.
From 2009 to 2012, Dustin Keller was a primary target for Mark Sanchez. During those years, Keller compiled 193 receptions for 2,341 yards and 14 touchdowns. Together they teamed up for many key plays during the Jets' run to consecutive AFC Championship Games. Many fans remember the Sanchez play action pass to Keller in the Wild Card Game against the Cincinnati Bengals or the touchdown catch in the back of the endzone in San Diego.
It's been a mess since. The team tried Kellen Winslow Jr. - that failed. They tried Jeff Cumberland - that wasn't much better. In came Jace Amaro and Kellen Davis but the production never showed up. Do we dare bring up the names Zach Sudfeld, Braedon Bowman, or Eric Tomlinson? For a good portion of last season and beginning portion of 2016, New York refused to get their tight ends involved in the offense.
Through trials and tribulations, the Jets never found Keller's replacement until Seferian-Jenkins suited up in green and white.
When Seferian-Jenkins was drafted by Tampa Bay, scouts believed he would fit perfectly in an offense with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. In his first two NFL seasons, the tight end had 21 catches and six touchdowns in just 16 games. As a rookie, Seferian-Jenkins totaled 221 yards. As a sophomore, he added 338 to his resume.
The one thing Seferian-Jenkins lacks is blocking ability. Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey rarely use a tight end in a role more than a blocker. With that said, if the former second round pick can show coaches he can do more than block, he can be a keeper in 2017.
There is no question - the Jets need a roster overhaul this offseason. It is time for them to cut dead weight away from the team with underperforming veterans or other players who aren't meeting standards. Seferian-Jenkins has one year left on his contract after this season. He is due a base salary of $1.061 million in 2017 but none is guaranteed.
His contract is manageable. There is no excuse to cut ties with him this offseason.
Seferian-Jenkins was rewarded a second chance in New York. So far, he has made it count and is making a case for him to stay and be Dustin Keller's replacement at tight end.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28Joebarone) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).