There was an interesting wrinkle in the New York Jets offense last Sunday that may have gotten overlooked, and no, it didn’t have anything to do with Tim Tebow.
Second-string tight end Jeff Cumberland saw 23 snaps on offense, just two snaps fewer than starter Dustin Keller.
Granted, Keller was fighting through a nagging hamstring injury, but it’s significant that Cumberland was on the field so often in his first game back since a Achilles injury ended his 2011 season.
Keller had just 1 catch for 7 yards in Week 1, while Cumberland had 3 catches for 33 yards, and all three of his catches went for first downs.
Cumberland was in the middle of Mark Sanchez‘s ill-advised interception, but other than that, he was a reliable target for Sanchez to lean on, and the same can’t always be said about Keller.
Keller is a decent player, but he’s nothing special. At 6’2, 250, the 27-year-old Keller has always been a shaky blocker and an inconsistent receiver.
He’s in the last year of his contract, and I would not at all be shocked to see the Jets part ways with him at season’s end.
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Cumberland is going to get more and more looks on offense as Tony Sparano goes to his double-tight end sets, and at 6’4, 260, he’s got better size for the position that Keller does.
Keep your eye on #86. He may end up taking more and more playing time away from Keller, and he could be getting groomed for the starting role sooner rather than later.
Upgrading the tight end spot has become more of an issue than the Jets would’ve hoped, as Keller has simply not developed into the player the Jets hoped he’d be when they drafted him 30th overall in 2008.
Jeff Cumberland may not be a household name, but he might be the best tight end on the Jets roster.
Tony Sparano is going to play the best guys, and it would not surprise me at all if that means a heavier dose of Jeff Cumberland in the coming weeks and months.
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