The New York Jets had one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL last season, ranking 30th in league in passing yardage. They have been looking for playmaking options to upgrade their attack, and they are desperate for some of their young players to step up. One of the few quality receivers the team had was tight end Dustin Keller, but the Jets chose to allow him to leave in free agency this offseason.
Enter Jeff Cumberland. The fourth year man was an undrafted free agent in 2010, and he spent his first season on the practice squad. Cumberland then missed most of the 2011 season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. This season, he has been overshadowed by the Jets’ decision to sign veteran Kellen Winslow, who has a much more impressive career resume. However, Cumberland has been very productive in camp, and he was given the start in the Jets’ first preseason game.
Cumberland responded to being named the starter with a 26-yard touchdown reception on which he ran a seam route right through the heart of the defense and made a nice over the shoulder catch for the score. Cumberland is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, and he ran a 4.4 40 before his injury. That is the type of size and athleticism that is revolutionizing the tight end position in the NFL today, and Cumberland has the potential to develop into a very good receiving threat.
Cumberland has earned praise from Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg, and he will continue to be the starter as long as his level of play remains the same. Cumberland needs to improve as a blocker to become a truly well rounded tight end, but with his size and strength there is a good chance he could develop into a solid blocker. He will be given many opportunities to work on this aspect of his game this preseason.
Last season, while sporadically filling in for the injured Keller, Cumberland caught 29 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns while displaying flashes of the red zone threat he may eventually become. Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will both need a reliable target down near the goal line, and Cumberland could become that player for them.
The Jets this season are going to need lesser known players to step up and become contributors if the team is going to have any type of success. Cumberland looks like a very good candidate to be one such player, and his development as a receiving threat at the tight end position would be a tremendous boost to the New York offense.