Last summer, Austin Seferian-Jenkins was in the news for the wrong reasons, like getting tossed from Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice. By fall, he was booted from the Bucs’ roster following a DUI arrest.
In 2017, the New York Jets tight end has received only high praise.
Connor Hughes of NJ Advanced Media called ASJ “the most impressive player on the field” during organized team activities. Rich Cimini of ESPN reported the Jets “like what they’ve seen” from the maligned tight end.
After losing 30 pounds, thanks in part to quitting alcohol, Seferian-Jenkins promises to make the most of his second chance.
“I feel like a different person on and off the field,” he told the team’s official website. “The weight loss has been tremendous and I’m just really happy I have the opportunity to show the Jets taking a chance on me is going to pay off. I’m just trying to work every single day on the team like everybody else.”
ASJ still has to serve a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy stemming from his DUI arrest.
When he returns, the 24-year-old has an opportunity to earn a substantial share of the targets in a stripped-down Jets pass-catching corps. After jettisoning Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall this offseason, New York’s wideouts are painfully inexperienced. No. 1 receiver Quincy Enunwa has 80 career catches, Robby Anderson has 42, Charone Peake has 18, Jalin Marshall has 14, recent addition Marquess Wilson has 56 in four seasons, and rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen round out the group. At tight end, ASJ is battling fifth-round pick Jordan Leggett for snaps.
After rarely targeting the tight end last year under Chan Gailey — the Jets used 10 personnel (one running back, zero tight ends, four receivers) on 33 percent of snaps last year, most by far, per Football Outsiders — the Jets appear to be headed for a change under new coordinator John Morton.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the weight loss and I think that’s kudos to Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and John Morton,” Seferian-Jenkins said of his positive offseason. “Coach Morton has definitely made an emphasis to use the tight end and it’s on the tight end room to make sure we do the best we can to take full advantage of those opportunities.”
ASJ’s athleticism has never been in question, but his inability to stay healthy and out of trouble has knocked a once optimistic future off the rails. This might be his last chance to change the course of his career.