New York Jets: Zach Sudfeld

Training camp preview: Tight end

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Tight end

Projected starter: Jeff Cumberland.

Projected backups: Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld.

Player to watch: Amaro. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, the Jets' second-round pick has the measurements of a sturdy, in-line blocker, but that's not his game. He's at his best when he's detached from the line, either flexed or in the slot or split wide. He'll bring a different dimension to the offense, creating potential mismatches with his size. The big question is the learning curve. Amaro came from a no-huddle, spread offense at Texas Tech, so the transition may take a while. He looked lost at minicamp, so don't expect him to be an overnight sensation. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will feed him the playbook at a gradual rate, trying not to overwhelm him.

Top storyline: The Jets retained Cumberland with a three-year, $5.7 million contract, in part, because they feel he has untapped potential as a receiver. They went out and drafted Amaro, so it'll be interesting to see how they use them. Cumberland may not get as many opportunities in the passing game as he hopes.

Training camp will be a success if ...: Mornhinweg is formulating a Week 1 game plan that includes a significant role for Amaro, who has the kind of skill set that can really help the offense. Chances are, he'll be in their "11" personnel package, used in passing situations -- one back, one tight end and three wide receivers. The question is whether he'll be ready.

Wild card: None of the tight ends are sturdy blockers, which makes you wonder if they will address the need at some point during training camp. Ben Hartsock, who played with the Jets in 2009 and 2010, is a free agent. He's not a receiver by any stretch of the imagination, but he can block at the point of attack. They used lineman Vladimir Ducasse as an extra tight end last season in the "jumbo" package, but he left as a free agent. The job is open.

By the numbers: If the Jets used a lot of two-tight end packages, it will be a big change. A year ago, they attempted only 82 passes with two tight ends on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only five teams had fewer attempts. Geno Smith struggled, completing a league-low 43.9 percent -- 10 points lower than the next team.

Twitter mailbag: Any ex-Patriot gems?

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
Plenty to discuss as the New York Jets prepare to wrap up the offseason with next week's mandatory minicamp:

@RichCimini: You're referring, of course, to cornerback Ras-I Dowling, tight end Zach Sudfeld and outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham. Dowling and Cunningham are both former second-round picks of the New England Patriots, so we're talking about players with some degree of talent. On the other hand, Bill Belichick is a smart coach, not in the habit of dumping useful players. Dowling has impressed the coaches this offseason, working his way up to the second-team defense. I wouldn't say he's a lock to make the team, but his chances are better than 50-50. Cunningham has received some reps with the first-team nickel package. If he can rush the passer, he'll make the team -- but it remains a big if. I'd say Sudfeld has the best shot, based on the lack of numbers at tight end. Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro are locks, but Sudfeld -- who has intriguing receiving skills -- probably will stick as the No. 3. @RichCimini: I think the running backs will be Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, with Tommy Bohanon at fullback. I'd like to put Daryl Richardson on the team, but he's a wild card, still recovering from last year's turf toe injury. I don't see Mike Goodson in the picture. At wide receiver, I see Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Jalen Saunders, David Nelson and Jacoby Ford. You're right, it's crowded and there will be some tough decisions. Truth be told, I think Decker and Kerley are the only true locks. Saunders and Ford are helped by their kick-returning ability. We know that John Idzik likes to protect his draft picks, so you know Shaq Evans will be in the conversation. If Evans impresses in camp, a veteran like Nelson could be in jeopardy. @RichCimini: As I've noted a couple of times, I think they need to sign a veteran for insurance. None of the backups have experience -- unless you count Caleb Schlauderaff, who has played only 14 regular-season snaps. Right now, their top backups are Oday Aboushi, Ben Ijalana and William Campbell -- a.k.a. the Idzik Redshirts from 2013. Rex Ryan is talking up Aboushi, and that's fine, but there's no substitute for experience. They a grizzled vet who can play multiple spots, someone like Wade Smith, formerly of the Houston Texans. @RichCimini: Interesting question. I did some research, and here's what I found: In 2012, the Jets blitzed on 34.3 percent of the dropbacks (11th in the league), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Last season, it dropped to 29.6 percent (22nd). I find it very hard to believe that Ryan will dial it back even further; that's not in his DNA. I could see definitely see him cranking up the pressure in an attempt to reduce the burden on the back end. One thing about "pups," as you call them: They usually can run faster than the old dogs, which, in theory, should help them in man-to-man coverage. So, no, I don't see Ryan dialing it down. @RichCimini: I realize this has nothing to do with football, but I like questions like this because they give the fans an off-the-field appreciation for the players. I've covered a lot of genuinely nice guys over the years (too many to list), but I'll try to narrow it down to a few: Curtis Martin, Dennis Byrd, Brandon Moore, Kyle Clifton, Marty Lyons, Pat Leahy, Jerricho Cotchery, Vinny Testaverde, Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, Damien Woody, Lonnie Young, Kyle Brady ... and I could go on. A locker room filled with these guys would be awesome for a beat writer. When I'm in a bad mood, maybe I'll name my all-nasty team. 

Practice report: Geno vs. Vick, Round 1

May, 28, 2014
May 28
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets held their second OTA practice (first open to the media) Wednesday. A few thoughts and observations:

Early look at the QB competition (or is it a competition?): Rhetoric and semantic nonsense aside, the quarterbacks -- Geno Smith and Michael Vick -- performed well in the two-hour practice. Smith, in particular, was sharp, completing eight of 10 passes (plus two sacks) in team drills. One incompletion came when he intentionally "dirted" the ball. Vick completed only three of seven, but he was victimized by two drops. Watching him up-close for the first time, the aspect of his game that jumps out is how effortlessly he can throw the long ball. He can really spin it, as they say in the biz. Smith worked ahead of Vick in the rotation, but they basically shared the reps. By my count, Smith got 14, Vick 12.

Receivers, new and old: Plenty of interesting developments here. As you would expect, Eric Decker stood out, impressing with his route running, his hands and his overall size. This is a new offense for him, but you can tell he knows where he needs to be. He connected once with Smith, once with Vick. The other newcomer that impressed was Jacoby Ford, who hooked up with Smith a couple of times. Ford is fast, we all know that, but you don't realize how fast until you witness it in person. He could be a real wild card in the competition at receiver.

And let's give some props to Stephen Hill, who appears recovered from his knee injury and demonstrated sure hands. There was a borderline drop on a crossing route (tough to tell from our angle on the sideline), but it still was a solid practice for Hill, who faces legitimate competition for the first time. On the downside, Jeremy Kerley and Saalim Hakim dropped well-thrown long passes by Vick.

Medical report: Players who sat out included RG Willie Colon (knee/biceps), RB Chris Johnson (knee), S Calvin Pryor (toothache), RB Daryl Richardson (lingering turf toe), rookie CB Dexter McDougle (shoulder), rookie WR Quincy Enunwa (undisclosed) and LB Antwan Barnes (knee). WR David Nelson (illness) wasn't at practice. Remember, these sessions are voluntary. RB Mike Goodson (knee) also didn't attend. Rookie WR Shaq Evans had a school obligation.

Zach and Jace: Zach Sudfeld, a slightly taller, slightly thinner version of rookie Jace Amaro, will be an interesting player to watch over the next few months. Sudfeld (6-foot-7, 260) has the ability to make plays downfield, and he showed it with a nice catch on an intermediate crossing route. The key for him is staying healthy, a problem throughout his college career. Amaro (6-foot-5, 265) made one mental mistake, failing to turn on a seam route in a 7-on-7 drill drill. He ended up getting doinked by a Vick pass.

On guard: The Jets have an issue at right guard. Colon (knee scope) is out until training camp, and there is no clear-cut replacement on the roster. Second-year tackle Oday Aboushi, who saw no game action last season, practiced for the second straight day at Colon's spot. He "looked pretty good," according to Rex Ryan. At some point, perhaps in the preseason, they might have to import an experienced guard because they are thin at that spot. Colon is in a tough spot because he will be rehabbing two injuries -- the knee and his surgically repaired biceps, hampering his ability to do upper- and lower-body conditioning in preparation for camp. Tough break.

Odds and ends: The rookies that received the most work were Amaro, WR Jalen Saunders, LB Jeremiah George and OLB IK Enemkpali. QB Tajh Boyd split a handful of reps with Matt Simms. CB Brandon Dixon and LB Trevor Reilly came in late. Dixon was promptly burned on a deep pass. ... DE Leger Douzable had a sack. ... CB Ellis Lankster made a nice pass break-up. ... Ryan on OTAs: "It's not football yet, but it's close, closer than what we've had." He said he challenged the players to not only improve individually on a daily basis, but to help make their teammates better.

Five players to watch in OTA's

May, 28, 2014
May 28
Players not named Geno Smith with the most on the line in the New York Jets' OTA's, which continue Wednesday (open to the media):

1. Stephen Hill, wide receiver: If his balky knee cooperates, Hill needs to reinvent himself this spring and summer, validating the first-round grade he received from the Jets as a talented but unpolished wideout who came out of Georgia Tech in 2012. If all goes well, he could start opposite Eric Decker. If he remains an enigma, he could jeopardize his roster spot.

2. Jacoby Ford, wide receiver: Overshadowed by Decker and the three rookies at receiver, Ford has quietly impressed the coaching staff. People forget he was an ascending player for the Oakland Raiders in 2010 -- until injuries hit. If healthy, Ford could be a factor at receiver, not to mention a scary kickoff returner -- or just a tease.

3. Kyle Wilson, cornerback: After four years, the Jets know what the former first-round pick can do, but it'll be interesting to see if they can find anyone to do it better. They imported competition in the slot. If a newcomer jumps out (perhaps Johnny Patrick or rookie Dexter McDougle), Wilson -- always a notch below expectations -- could be expendable in the preseason.

4. Zach Sudfeld, tight end: A late arrival last season after being dropped by the New England Patriots, Sudfeld flashed potential as a receiver in limited action. The coaches like his upside, but they still drafted Jace Amaro in the second round. It's time to turn upside into production.

5. Quinton Coples, outside linebacker: These next few weeks aren't make or break for the former first-round pick, but Coples can establish a positive tone for the season by making big strides. This is his third season, and he acknowledged recently it's time to be more productive and assertive. We already know how Joe Klecko feels about him.

10 plays that shaped the season (No. 3)

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
We're counting down the 10 most important plays of the New York Jets' season. After presenting numbers six through 10 in one post, we'll take it one at a time from five to one.

No. 3: The blocked-punt fiasco in Carolina

The Jets picked a bad time to have a major breakdown on special teams. In a must-win game against the Panthers in Week 15, the Jets suffered a fourth-quarter collapse and lost, 30-20. It all started when Jason Williams blocked a punt by Ryan Quigley.

For 47 minutes, the Jets went toe-to-toe with the heavily-favored Panthers, trailing only 16-13 at the start of the fourth quarter. Punting from his own 30, special teams coach Ben Kotwica employed a tactic he used twice earlier in the game. Concerned about speedy punt returner Ted Ginn, Jr., Kotwica used three gunners instead of two. It was a calculated gamble. Not only did it leave one less player in protection, but it allowed the Panthers to line up over the center -- by rule, a no-no when there are only two gunners.

Exploiting the alignment on the third try, Williams rushed the center/left-guard gap. Zach Sudfeld, the left guard, failed to slide and block Williams, who had a free path to the punter. The Panthers recovered the block at the Jets' 14, marched in for a touchdown a few plays later and scored again a few minutes later on a Geno Smith interception that was returned for a touchdown. In less than five minutes, a close game turned into a blowout.

The loss left the Jets on the verge of mathematical elimination. On Wednesday, Kotwica left the Jets to become the Washington Redskins' special teams coach.

Cumberland inactive; Colston out for Saints

November, 3, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets will be hurting at tight end Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Starter Jeff Cumberland, listed as questionable with a concussion, was declared inactive before the game. Kellen Winslow is serving the final game of his four-game suspension for PEDs, leaving Konrad Reuland and Zach Sudfeld as the only active tight ends active. Reuland, listed as the starter, and Sudfeld have combined for only 64 offensive snaps and three receptions. Neither one is a good blocker, so Cumberland's absence will hurt the running game. They could use G Vladimir Ducasse as a blocking tight end.

The good news for the Jets is that RG Willie Colon (calf), also listed as questionable, is active and will start.

Aside from Cumberland, the Jets' inactive players are QB David Garrard, WR Santonio Holmes, RB Alex Green, G Will Campbell, T Ben Ijalana and OT Oday Aboushi. WR Greg Salas and rookie S Rontez Miles, signed from the practice squad Friday, are active for the first time.

The news for the Saints is that WR Marques Colston (knee) is inactive. So, too, are safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. That will put a dent in Rob Ryan's game plan because he likes to use three-safety packages. Rafael Bush is expected to start for Jenkins.

Rookie Kenny Stills is listed as the replacement for Colston, but the Saints will use all four receivers that are active.

Their other inactives are QB Ryan Griffin, RB Khiry Robinson, T Terron Armstead and DE Tyrunn Walker.

Green Day: Crisis at tight end

November, 1, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- To say the New York Jets are hurting at tight end is an understatement.

With Jeff Cumberland (concussion) sidelined this week, and with Kellen Winslow serving the fourth game of a four-game league suspension, the Jets will face the New Orleans Saints Sunday with ... (drum roll, please)

Konrad Reuland and Zach Sudfeld at tight end.

Oh, boy.

Reuland and Sudfeld have played a total of 64 offensive snaps and have three receptions. Neither one is a good run-blocker, which could be a problem because the Jets should be in a run-oriented mode against the Saints' suspect rush defense.

What to do? The Jets have to get creative.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said there are a "handful" of players who can play multiple positions, hinting there could be some "double-dutying." Backup guard Vladimir Ducasse has been used as an extra blocker in the past, but there's a chance he could be pressed into right-guard duty if Willie Colon (bruised calf) can't play or can't finish the game. They could reach to the practice squad and elevate tight end Chris Pantale. Or -- who knows? -- maybe they can use defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. He played one snap on offense in the Week 5 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

All we know is that Reuland and Sudfeld, who began the season with the New England Patriots, will play.

"One guy [Sudfeld] probably has a little better skill set as a receiver, one's probably a little bit better blocker," Rex Ryan said. "So if Konrad starts, expect a run. If Sudfeld starts, expect a pass. No, it's not like that, but we will play them in different things. It's not just a set starter."

ICYMI: Cumberland and WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) haven't practiced this week and won't play Sunday. It'll be Holmes' fifth straight game on the sideline. ... The Jets could use CB Antonio Cromartie to cover TE Jimmy Graham. Hey, why not? The Patriots used CB Aqib Talib on Graham a few weeks ago, and he shut him down. ... On Friday, former Jets G Brandon Moore will formally announce his retirement at the team's facility. ... WR David Nelson said he was fined by the league for his block on Cincinnati Bengals CB Adam "Pacman" Jones. Nelson said he will appeal. ... Check out this week's edition of "Gang Green Report." ... For the best Saints coverage, read my colleague Mike Triplett on the Saints team page.

Sudfeld on coaching styles, 'Baby Gronk'

October, 19, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Being asked to compare New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is tricky business, but tight end Zach Sudfeld, who spent his first training camp with the Patriots but is on the Jets roster for their second AFC East matchup, handled it deftly.

“I think that it’s interesting,” Sudfeld said. “I’ve only been here a couple of weeks but they’re both extremely competitive and you can see that so there’s this under-layer of competitiveness, they both hate to lose. But they go about it in different ways. Rex is a lot more animated.”

Sudfeld was briefly nicknamed ‘Baby Gronk’ while in New England for his resemblance to Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. At 6-foot-7, Sudfeld is an inch taller than Gronkowski, but is an unrefined version of the red zone threat that Gronkowski presents.

“I guess (the comparison is) flattering because he’s such a tremendous player,” Sudfeld said, “but I’m trying to make my own path.”

The Jets nabbed Sudfeld off waivers, becoming yet another player to tread the well-worn path between Foxborough and East Rutherford, for competitive value or gamesmanship.

“He’s a sharp, sharp young man, so we do our due diligence and try to get what we can out of him,” Ryan said.

Although Ryan admitted they did try to get some information from Sudfeld, the tight end downplayed his contribution.

“I think the Jets and Patriots have played so much that I think that they know the tendencies pretty well,” Sudfeld said. “I don’t know that there was too much that I was able to offer. Obviously I’m there to help out in any way that I can but I think they have a pretty good feel for what the Patriots are doing.”

Analysis: Winslow loss hurts passing game

October, 11, 2013

A few thoughts on TE Kellen Winslow's being suspended four games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances:

1. Impact on the offense: Winslow's absence will hurt the passing game. Not only is he the team's leading receiver (17 catches), but the overall offense functions better when he's on the field. Facts are facts: With Winslow in the game as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 79 times for 516 yards -- 6.53 yards per play. With Jeff Cumberland as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 35 times for 198 yards -- a 5.66 average. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg hasn't used a lot of two-TE sets with Winslow and Cumberland. When he has, it hasn't been too productive -- 33 pass plays for 141 yards, a 4.27 average.

2. Depth chart: This will mean a bigger role for Cumberland, who has appeared in 51 percent of the offensive snaps. (In case you're wondering, Winslow is 60 percent.) Cumberland is a capable player and, as he demonstrated Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, he can be a threat in the deep seams. There won't be much of a dropoff there, but the problem is, it'll mean more playing time for Konrad Reuland and newly acquired Zach Sudfeld. Clearly, Reuland (only 12 snaps) hasn't found a niche in Mornhinweg's offense. He's a tight end/fullback tweener, not offering much in the passing game. Sudfeld, who stands 6 feet 7, played well for the New England Patriots in the preseason and was a surprise cut last week. Once he learns the offense, he could leapfrog Reuland on the depth chart.

3. There goes the feel-good story: Winslow, in a statement released through his publicist, said he was surprised by the suspension and claimed he hasn't taken any supplements that list banned ingredients. Nevertheless, this tarnishes a potentially wonderful story. Rejected by the rest of the league, Winslow signed with the Jets after a minicamp audition, made the team and became an important player. Because of chronic knee pain (multiple surgeries), every day is a struggle. It flared up recently, causing him to miss more practice time than usual. That probably contributed to his reduced role in Atlanta (and perhaps his postgame frustration), although he made his only catch count -- a toe-tapping reception in the back of the end zone. "I want to do a lot more in this game," he told me last week. "I don't know how much longer I have, but I want to give it my all until I'm done. "

Now he's done for four weeks.