Thursday, July 18, 2013
Camp preview: Tight end
By Rich Cimini
Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:
Position: Tight end
Projected starter: Jeff Cumberland.
Projected reserves: Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland.
New faces: Winslow.
The departed: Dustin Keller.
Player to watch: Winslow, who earned a non-guaranteed contract after a minicamp audition, says his goal is to catch 100 passes. Maybe he should start with 100 snaps. Winslow will be fascinating to watch in camp because of what he used to be, but don't expect him to be the Jets' tight-end savior. He turns 30 in a couple of weeks and has bad knees, the result of multiple surgeries. He was in such pain last season that he lasted only one game (four snaps) with the Patriots. He says he feels fine, but camp will be a battle. His reps will be monitored and he'll need plenty of rest, which will hurt his ability to develop chemistry with the quarterbacks. This could be an amazing comeback story, but it's a long shot.
Potential strength: Cumberland has a chance to establish himself as a legitimate starting tight end in the league. Because of injuries to Keller, he played a lot last season (592 snaps), displaying an ability to make plays in the deep seams. Cumberland has the raw talent to become a solid pass-catching tight end, but his overall game needs more consistency, especially the mental aspect. It's a contract year for Cumberland, so there will be plenty of motivation.
Potential weakness: The entire position could be deemed a weakness on the team. This is one of the least accomplished tight-end groups in the league; the players not named Winslow have a combined total of only 45 career receptions. We don't mean to pile on, but there also isn't a true blocking tight end in the group. The Jets might regret passing on former Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert with the 13th pick.
Wild card: Hayden Smith, the former English rugby star, was one of the most improved players on the team in minicamp. He looks the part (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) and flashes unusual athleticism, but he's way behind in terms of actual game experience. Remember, he didn't start playing organized football until last year. He needs a lot of reps on the practice field and in preseason games. At that point, the Jets will have a better idea if Smith has what it takes.