Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is primed for one of the best seasons of his career in his 17th season in the league.
His 23 receptions, 242 yards and three touchdowns this season bear witness to his staying power.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan joked last week, “I wish he had retired.” But Gonzalez’s decision to play one more season gives them another legitimate threat on their offense.
“It’s always huge for us, first and foremost when you add a great player to your team, it makes you better,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “But beyond that, his personality in the locker room, his leadership, for young guys to see what it takes to be one of the best. I think that’s huge for us. Seems to be getting better the longer he plays.”
A week ago in a loss to the Patriots, he had 12 catches for 149 yards with two touchdowns. He is a reliable route runner with good hands. But beyond that, he's a playmaker.
When Gonzalez came into the league in 1997, the tight end position was a block-heavy role, with a role in the passing game being very limited. But Gonzalez changed things and made the position one that is now a match-up problem for linebackers and safeties. His long, muscular frame is still an issue to this day and his ability to make tough catches and yards after contact are still reminiscent of a wide receiver.
Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said Gonzalez is “the best pass-catching tight end in the history of the game.” The Jets linebackers will be charged with the responsibility of trying to contain him on Monday night.
“It's hard, because even when he's covered, he's not covered. He can have guys draped all over him and he can still pluck the ball out of the air,” linebacker Garrett McIntyre told Metro. “He's a savvy veteran. He can make plays. To say that there is one thing you can do against him to stop him — [you] can't say that. You've got be at your best.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.