Saturday, March 8, 2014
Analysis: Cumberland and a new look at TE
By Rich Cimini
The decision to re-sign Jeff Cumberland could signal the start of a new era for the New York Jets at the tight-end position, which is to say they're actually planning to make the tight end more than an afterthought in the scope of the entire offense.
Nice of them to join the party.
The Jets have re-signed tight end Jeff Cumberland to a three-year deal.
In Year 1 of MartyBall, the Jets went against the leaguewide trend. In fact, they used two or more tight ends on only 206 plays. Only three teams used the package less than the Jets, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (As an aside, the Jets completed a league-low 50 percent of their passes from those sets.) Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg probably held back because ... well, it wasn't like he was loaded at the position. Kellen Winslow served a four-game suspension and rarely practiced, and the No. 3 spot was a musical-chairs game.
But now the philosophy appears to be changing.
They locked up Cumberland with a modest, three-year contract, and they're in the market for another veteran. Yes, they're serious about upgrading the position. They've been linked to Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions), Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills) and Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers). The "legal tampering" period is underway, and they've already expressed interest in Pettigrew. I think they're trying to sell Pettigrew on the idea that he and Cumberland would be a two-headed monster, with Pettigrew handling the in-line responsibilities and Cumberland being deployed as the "move" tight end.
In theory, it sounds good, but Cumberland isn't known as that kind of tight end. In 2013, most of his receptions (16 out of 26) came when he lined up as a traditional, in-line tight end, per ESPN Stats. They tried to move him around the formation; in fact, he ran 76 of his 214 routes from the slot or split out wide, but he was targeted on only 15 of those 76 routes. In other words, he was a decoy. Either that, or he simply couldn't get open.
Obviously, the Jets thought enough of Cumberland to sign him before he hit the open market. Hey, why not? He'll be only 27 and the price was right -- $3.7 million over three years, according to the New York Daily News. I have doubts about whether he can be a legitimate, pass-catching tight end, although here's something you probably don't know about him: His yards-after-catch (YAC) was 6.35 per reception, second in the league.
One thing is certain: The Jets are trying to shake up the status quo at one of their weakest positions.