As we continue to rank the New York Jets’ best players, we reach a member of their much maligned group of pass catchers. Tight end Jeff Cumberland was a solid player for the Jets last season, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the potential his athleticism offers. Still, he has been a productive member of the offense over the last two seasons.
Cumberland caught 26 passes for 398 yards and 4 TDs last season, with the yardage and scoring marks being career highs and the four touchdowns leading the team. He posted nearly identical numbers in 2012, when he caught 29 passes for 359 yards and 3 TDs, again leading the team in receiving touchdowns.
At 6’3″, 255 lbs with sub 4.5 speed, Cumberland is an imposing target in the middle of the field, and he is at his best running vertical routes down the seams. Cumberland has also proven to be a solid red zone target for the Jets over the last two seasons. Like most of the Jets’ receivers, it is safe to say that he could put up much bigger numbers with better quarterback play or a more pass oriented offense.
Cumberland is somewhat in limbo following the Jets’ decision to draft Jace Amaro in the second round, and it remains to be seen how things will shake out at the tight end position. Amaro is clearly a better receiver, but Cumberland is clearly a better blocker and more traditional tight end. The early guess is that the two will play together frequently, in what will be called two tight end sets but will actually feature Amaro as a receiver. Cumberland should line up as the traditional in-line tight end with Amaro either split wide or in the slot, the two areas he most frequently played in college. However, even if Cumberland plays frequently, expect his targets to decrease this season.
Although his numbers may not improve much, Cumberland should still remain an important part of the Jets’ offensive plans. If they can develop a system that maximizes his and Amaro’s talents, the Jets could end up with a much improved passing attack. With his red zone skills and ability to stretch the field, Cumberland is certainly deserving of significant playing time and his spot on this list.