The Jets have been saying for weeks that they wanted to get Jeremy Ruckert more involved in their offense.
On Sunday night, they finally did.
Ruckert, the second-year tight end from Lindenhurst, played a career-high 25 offensive snaps and had his first multi-catch game in the NFL in a 23-20 loss to Kansas City. Both catches came on scoring drives.
The first was a 3-yarder to help set up a second-quarter field goal that cut Kansas City’s lead to 17-5. The second was a leaping 23-yard grab along the sideline early in the third quarter that put the Jets in the red zone. That drive ultimately ended with a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the score at 20.
“Obviously you want to get the win, but it was good to be out there,” Ruckert told Newsday. “Like I’ve said since I got here, whatever the team needs me to do in any part of the game, I’m going to be ready to do that, whether it’s special teams, one play, the whole game . . .
“The only thing that matters is winning the game, but we got into a good rhythm there and things were clicking. It felt good to be out there with everybody playing as hard as we did.”
One of the wrinkles the Jets used on Sunday was having all three of their tight ends on the field more often than they had in the first three games. They had been practicing those personnel groupings with Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, but it hadn’t been showing up in games.
All three contributed. Uzomah caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on his only target of the game, Conklin caught four passes for 58 yards, and Ruckert tripled his career production in the span of one night.
“You put it up there, it’s not much of a 50-50 ball,” Ruckert said of the scoring play to Uzomah. “He’s going to go get it. Once [Zach Wilson] called it, we had a pretty good idea we were going to get one for the room. It’s always good to see that.”
That grouping also helped in the running game, with added blockers, and in the pass protection that allowed only two sacks.
“We didn’t know how much of that we were going to do, so that was fun,” Uzomah said.
Ruckert’s short reception in the second quarter came on a play in which he motioned to the right, then ran a route across the formation to the left while Wilson rolled with him. That was indicative of the approach the Jets seemed to use all game, allowing Wilson to make throws on the move to targets who were placed within his reach.
Targets such as Ruckert — in this game at least.
Sunday was the first time Ruckert had a pass come his way all season. A week ago in the loss to New England, he played only one offensive snap. The most offensive snaps he had played in any game in his career was 18, in Week 2 against Cleveland last year and again in Week 1 versus the Bills in the season opener. His only other NFL reception was an 8-yard catch in last season’s finale.
“I feel like we opened up the playbook a lot in this game and hopefully we can build on that in the future,” Ruckert said. “We’ll take this loss and really look back on what went wrong, how to fix it and get ready for next week.”