Positional analysis: Tight ends

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
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This is the fourth part in a nine-part review of the season, a position-by-position analysis:

Position: Tight ends

Overall grade: 8.5

Depth chart: Dustin Keller (12 starts/891 plays), Matthew Mulligan (9/473), Vladimir Ducasse (1/59), Jeff Cumberland (0/48), Josh Baker (0/38).

2011 headline: Keller Makes History.

Gold star: Keller.

Disappointing: Mulligan.

Stat check: Keller (65 receptions) became the first tight end since Mickey Shuler in 1985 to lead the team in catches.

Analysis: Thanks to a strong finish, Keller set career highs in receptions and yards (815) and tied a career high in touchdowns (five). In fact, he finished sixth among tight ends in receiving yards. Each year, Keller gets better and better and that bodes well for him, considering he's heading into the final year of his contract.

He was the only pass catcher that had any sort of chemistry with Mark Sanchez. Keller (65 catches/116 targets) improved his hands (only three drops) and his YAC (4.9). Going forward, he needs to be more productive in division games (20 catches in six games). The AFC East, especially the Patriots, knows how to defend him. They get physical with him at the line of scrimmage, disrupting his ability to get open. If Keller can learn to counter that, he'll be a force.

Mulligan (5 catches/8 targets) wasn't asked to do much -- just block -- and he turned that into an adventure because of his penalties. He committed nine penalties for 64 yards, including six pre-snap penalties. That indicates a lack of focus. As a blocker, Mulligan was good, even dominant at times, but he offset those moments with his mental mistakes. Late in the season, Ducasse fell into Rob Turner's old role as an extra tight end, but he wasn't nearly as good as Turner. It's too bad Cumberland (2 catches/5 targets) blew out his Achilles' tendon in Week 3, because he was starting to make strides as a receiver. If he stayed healthy, Cumberland and Keller would've given the Jets their version of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Well, sort of.

2012 free agents: Mulligan (RFA).

On the bubble: N/A

Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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