Tight end was an underrated need for the New York Jets this offseason, and they made sure they addressed the position early in the draft. Tight ends are often a great security blanket for young quarterbacks, and the Jets hope that they have provided Geno Smith with what he needs to take a big step forward in his second year. Here is a look at what the Jets’ tight end depth chart could look like.
Starter: Jeff Cumberland
Reserves: Jace Amaro, Konrad Reuland
To be perfectly honest, this depth chart is a bit misleading. Cumberland should and will start as the in-line tight end, simply because Amaro is not that kind of player. However, Amaro will likely start split out wide as the de-facto No. 2 receiver, even though he will be called a tight end. Most observers expect the Jets to use a two tight end set as their base offense, with Eric Decker and Amaro wide, Jeremy Kerley in the slot, Cumberland as a traditional tight end and no fullback.
Whether or not Amaro is technically a starter isn’t particularly important, because he will play a huge role for the Jets this season. They spent a second round pick on him because they believed that he could provide the upgrade they needed to their passing game. Amaro mostly played in the slot in college, where he was extremely productive in Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense. The Jets will be counting on Amaro to work the middle of the field and the seams and provide Smith or Michael Vick with a security blanket. Amaro’s presence in the red zone should be a huge boost as well, as the Jets struggled in that area last season.
Amaro is a poor blocker, however, and that is where Cumberland comes in. He is no elite blocker, but he is a traditional tight end who can handle the pressure of blocking in the Jets’ preferred power run offense. Cumberland also led the team in touchdown receptions last season with four, and the Jets are hoping that he can continue to develop. Cumberland and Amaro are not meant to compete with each other, but rather to compliment each other.
The general expectation is for the Jets to carry three tight ends, which means Zach Sudfeld and Konrad Reuland will be in a tight competition for the final roster spot. Sudfeld has a lot of promise as a receiver, but he never made an impact with the Jets after being released by the New England Patriots early in the season. Reuland is a blocker and special teams player, and he has value in those roles. Chris Pantale will try to factor into the competition, while Terrence Miller and Colin Anderson don’t appear to have much of a shot.
The guess here is that Reuland will be the one who makes the team because his skill set is something the Jets need. Cumberland and Amaro are both receiving tight ends, and adding Sudfeld to that mix leaves the Jets short on blocking. Reuland has a key role in short yardage and goal line packages, and he can serve as the backup fullback. The Jets simply need to have a blocking tight end, and he’s the only one in camp.
The tight end position has been revolutionized over the past 15 years, and NFL offenses have changed with it. New tight ends are too fast for linebackers, too big for defensive backs, and have all the skills of receivers. The Jets believe they have two of these players in Amaro and Cumberland, and they will be counting on them to make a significant impact this season. The Jets must improve their pass offense to have any shot at the playoffs, and the tight ends will play a big role in that.