Jets 2024 Make or Break: Can Jeremy Ruckert establish himself as a starter?

NFL training camp starts towards the end of July, which means players around the league are getting their last bits of offseason work in before the real work of trying to make the roster begins.

For certain players, this season is what some may call “Make or Break,” meaning they need to put together a productive year or they could be looking for employment elsewhere at the end of the 2024-25 campaign.

We’ll highlight those players for the Jets, continuing today with tight end Jeremy Ruckert.

2023 Stats

– 15 games (six starts)

– 16 catches for 151 yards

Why Make or Break?

Ruckert’s role increased significantly in 2023 but he was still in a rotational role and had a minor impact over the course of the season. However, he is expected to be an even bigger factor in 2024, especially following the departure of veteran CJ Uzomah.

Tyler Conklin will once again enter the year as the Jets’ top tight end, but he’s in the final year of his contract. While he’s hoping to have a breakout season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, it’s just as likely that the Jets could start to phase him out with the intention of Ruckert taking over as the starter in the final year of his rookie deal in 2025.

Indications are that the Jets remain high on Ruckert, who was a third-round pick in the 2022 draft, and that he probably would have seen much more playing time in his first two seasons if he didn’t have the highly-paid Conklin and Uzomah ahead of him.

What will break it?

The Jets have plenty of offensive weapons, so Ruckert might not get many opportunities to make an impact in the passing game. He will need every chance he can get to establish himself as someone Rodgers feels he can rely on so that he will get a chance to produce.

Of course, if Conklin does break out, then the Jets may be compelled to re-sign him, in which case Ruckert will seem destined to continue to be stuck behind him on the depth chart.

Ruckert, who missed time due to a shoulder injury and concussion in 2023, also can’t afford to get hurt because he could then potentially lose time to one of the young tight ends behind him who have yet to make an impact.

What will make it?

Ruckert has already shown that he can be a reliable blocker in multiple tight end sets and showed signs that he can be someone who will produce in volume as 11 of his 16 catches came in a five-game span after Uzomah got hurt and before Ruckert himself missed the last few games. That kind of production extrapolated over a full season could translate to 30-40 catches, but he has the potential to do more than this.

For the team to consider him as a viable option to replace Conklin in 2025 or start to take reps away from him this year, he needs to maximize every opportunity to make plays in the passing game. Ruckert hasn’t scored a touchdown or had any long plays so far in his career, as he’s averaged less than 10 yards per catch. However, he has the ability to get down the seam and the size to be an option in the red zone.

Conklin himself is averaging under 10 yards per catch as a Jet and didn’t score a touchdown on 61 receptions last season, so there is an opportunity for Ruckert to prove he has more upside as a big play threat in the passing game.

The Jets will continue to use plenty of multiple-tight end sets, so Ruckert is virtually guaranteed to see plenty of time even if Conklin remains healthy and productive. However, he’ll need to make the most of any looks that come his way if that playing time is going to translate to actual targets.

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