April 29, 2022. Lindenhurst, New York. Inside his home, Long Island native Bill Ruckert and his family watched Day 2 of the NFL Draft. On the living room table sat a row of 32 hats with NFL logos. With five picks remaining on the day, his son Jeremy Ruckert checked his phone. After the Ohio State graduate finished his call, he proceeded to pick up a New York Jets hat.
Ruckert heard his name called with the 101st pick in the draft, and with tears in his eyes, Bill began a chant Jeremy heard endlessly growing up; J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS!!! The lifelong Jets fan turned tight end began his NFL career. He would join fellow OSU teammate Garrett Wilson in New York, who was selected 10th overall the day before. Now in year two, he’s ready to prove it was a worthy investment by the team.
Jeremy Ruckert Deserves A Larger Role on the Jets
Before attending Ohio State, Jeremy Ruckert showcased his potential as a star at Lindenhurst Senior High School. During his senior year, Jeremy put forth an unforgettable season on both sides of the ball. In the 2017 season, he split time between tight end, linebacker, and kicker. He played well in each phase, registering over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense, 13 sacks with four forced fumbles on defense, and kicked six field goals. An undefeated season led to winning the Division 1 Long Island Championship, and Ruckert was named New York’s Gatorade Football Player of The Year.
While attending Ohio State, Ruckert played in an explosive offense for Ryan Day. He emerged on the scene during a productive sophomore campaign playing with Justin Fields. The 6’5″ 250 lbs tight end caught 14 passes for 142 yards and four touchdowns while starting every game. Justin Fields was drafted by Chicago in 2021. Ruckert’s success continued with future second-overall pick C.J. Stroud under center. Between his junior and senior seasons, Ruckert caught 39 passes for 460 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. Although overshadowed by Trey McBride of Colorado State during the draft process, Ruckert showcased great potential during his four years in Columbus.
Why Does Ruckert Need More Playing Time?
Thanks to the inconsistent play at the quarterback position, Ruckert’s rookie season was a somber one. The rookie recorded only one catch for eight yards in his first season. Unfortunately for him, free-agent acquisitions Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah kept the rookie on the bench. Soon, New York would begin revitalizing their offense after bringing in Nathaniel Hackett as the team’s offensive coordinator and trading for Aaron Rodgers. New York desired to bring a veteran presence to the offensive staff after Robert Saleh built up a top-five defense during his first two seasons. Yet, things quickly changed once Rodgers suffered his season-ending ankle injury. While fans were anxious after the former MVP’s injury, Jeremy Ruckert was making a name for himself. The stat sheet won’t tell the whole story.
The Value of the Run Game
In New York’s victory over the Bills in Week 1, Jeremy Ruckert saw the most playing time since leaving Ohio State. Ruckert was a force in the ground game, doing his part to help create running lanes. In the second quarter, Ruckert and Conklin made two key blocks that allowed star running back Breece Hall to take the ball 83 yards to inside the Bills 15-yard line. That kind of run blocking can be a difference-maker for any team’s running game.
A prime example was on display Sunday against Dallas. Ruckert played only five snaps against the Cowboys. This is despite a poor performance from veteran C.J. Uzomah. After a standout career in Cincinnati, Uzomah has largely been a disappointment after a career season in 2021. Going from Joe Burrow to Zach Wilson will affect you, but years of injuries seem to have caught up to a now 30-year-old Uzomah.
Pro Football Focus has the data to back it up. Through two weeks, CJ Uzomah registered a 33.1 run-block grade, which ranked last among 76 tight ends. Who has been number 1? None other than Jeremy Ruckert with an 86.1 run-block grade. If Hackett is going to salvage this offense (and Zach Wilson), he will need Ruckert’s blocking to impact the running game.
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