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New York Jets: Analyzing the Tight End Position

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Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) reaches for a pass against New England Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung (23) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

I spend quite a bit of time combing Jets sites around the internet. My wife believes it’s a disproportionate amount of time, but she’s not much of a football fan. Recently, I began to see a lot of fans calling for help at Tight End. It started as a trickle, but it seems to be gathering momentum.

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Some fans have begun to demand that the Jets acquire a top free agent at the position, while others are calling them to address the position in the draft. It would appear fans are not happy with the Amaro/Cumberland/ Sudfeld trio, and they are calling for change.

Today I’d like to take a look at the position and the players that man the position. I’d like to take a look at what each player brings to the table for the Jets. What are the strong suits are for this group and what are the weaknesses? Let’s see what we have, and what we might need.

Next: Jace Amaro

Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) scores a touchdown defended by Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Jace Amaro measures in at 6’6″, weighing 265 pounds. Jace has an arm length of 34″ and possesses nine inch hands. He was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, by former GM John Idzik.

The Jets were reportedly extremely high on Amaro  last season after attending his pro day  at Texas Tech. That day, Amaro produced a 40 yard time of 4.68, up from his combines’ 4.74. Amaro also improved on his vertical jump from his combine, adding a half an inch from  33″ to 33.5″ at his well attended pro day.

Amaro struggled last year, much to the dismay of Jets fans who were expecting big things from the big guy. He had far too many drops through the season and was criticized highly for his blocking. The Jets didn’t see much from Amaro through the season offensively, but what they did see was development. By season’s end, you could see what the future just might hold for Amaro.

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Amaro’s totals were meager for his rookie season to say the least. Amaro did however manage to put up 38 receptions on 53 targets. He posted 345 yards for a 9.1 average and 2 TD’s. Just to show the development, in Amaro’s first game of the season, he posted two receptions out of four targets for seven yards, a 3.5 yard average. In comparison, he closed out the season catching three balls in four targets for 34 yards and a 11.3 average.

Amaro entered the season looking more like a WR, as he was basically used as at Texas Tech. His route tree was less than ideal for a pro, and his blocking skills were predominantly non-existent. Amaro developed slowly through the season, but by season’s end you could clearly see the potential.

Next: Jeff Cumberland

Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland (85) runs with the ball against the New England Patriots during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Cumberland is the New York Jets veteran at the position. He measures out at 6’4″ and weighs 260 pounds.  Cumberland was an undrafted rookie taken by the Jets after the 2010 draft. Cumberland’s Pro Day results back in 2010 weren’t enough to get him drafted, but he put up these numbers; 40 yard time of 4.45 seconds, a vertical jump of 35.5 inches, to go along with a 9’10” broad jump.

Cumberland is entering his sixth year with the Jets. His career totals have been adequate, but surely not spectacular.  Cumberland has produced 81 receptions on 146 targets for 1,042 yards for a 12.9 average, and 10 TD’s. The area that Cumberland has excelled at for the Jets has been as a third down receiver, posting 46 conversions in the past three seasons.

Cumberland has been a streaking type player for the Jets. Some games Cumberland looks like a pro bowl type TE, before virtually disappearing for several games afterwards. Cumberland has managed to stay relatively healthy through his career since 2011 when he missed extended time with injury.

Besides disappearing from the game at times, the knock on Cumberland has always been his blocking technique. He can be viewed as a receiving type tight end, but surely not a well-rounded player. The Jets have been hoping that area of his game would come around for years, but sadly he far too often whiffs on defensive players.

Cumberland has played fairly well for an undrafted free agent. He’s been the anchor for the Jets, as the team has worked through a series of tight ends in recent years. The Jets gave him a vote of confidence last year, signing him to a three-year extension.

Next: Zach Sudfeld

Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets tight end Zach Sudfeld (82) tosses the football during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Sudfeld came into the league as an undrafted rookie after the 2013 draft. Taken by the Patriots, Sudfeld initially received rave reviews in camp and early in the 2013 season. He was later released by the Patriots in October, before being picked up by the Jets off the wire.

Sudfeld is a big tight end by most any standard. The Jets list him as 6’7″ tall, while weighing in at 260 pounds. Sudfeld is 25 years old entering his third NFL season. His Pro Day results looked like this; 40 yard time of 4.78,  a vertical jump of 37″ and a broad jump of 9’5″.

Sudfeld had a myriad of injuries through his collegiate career, but has managed to stay fairly healthy at the NFL level so far. He’s a huge target and has displayed some terrific athleticism for a man his size. Sudfeld has a good set of hands, but hasn’t picked up the NFL blocking game to date. Sudfeld’s greatest asset may be his ability to extend the play after making the reception, but unfortunately for Sudfeld, he hasn’t been given many opportunities to display it.

Sudfeld was seen as a project tight end when signed by the Patriots, and again by the Jets when the signed him off waivers. Having only appeared in 27 games for the Jets, predominantly as a back up, Sudfeld has posted a measly 10 receptions for 148 yards, posting a 14.8 average per reception. To Sudfeld’s credit he’s only been targeted 16 times over the same span.

Sudfeld was expected to be a better blocker then he has displayed, but the biggest disappointment might be in the red zone, where Sudfeld was expected to excel. To date, Sudfeld has yet to produce a Jets TD.

Next: What It All Means

Jan 21, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets new general manager Mike Maccagnan speaks during a press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports

Mike Maccagnan has his job cut out for him at tight end. He will need to evaluate each one of his inherited tight ends, while also looking at them as a trio. Chan Gailey is rumored to be implementing a “spread offense” for the Jets this season, so he will also need to evaluate their fit in any scheme his OC decides upon.

Jace Amaro will return. He’s a second round pick, and I don’t believe he’s even begun to scratch the surface as a receiving tight end. Through camp, it will be vital for Amaro to grasp the blocking schemes at the NFL level, and vastly improve his technique. It’s vital for Amaro, as the Jets would like to keep him on the field more often than not. His inability to properly block will limit his opportunities as a receiver, if he has to be pulled from the game in obvious passing downs.

Jeff Cumberland will also be back in 2015. Cumberland’s new three year deal, and adequate production, guarantees his return barring some unexpected development. He’s not an elite tight end by any means, but his ability to convert on third down will likely return him once again to a starting role.

Zach Sudfeld could be seen as a fringe player. Only entering his third season, Sudfeld still has the opportunity to grow into the position. As large a man as he is, he has disappointed in the blocking game, and has put up little production in the receiving game. He did however make a case for his return.  He was a surprising contributor on special teams, but with a change in coaches, he’s likely on the bubble. If he does return to camp, the coaches will need to improve his blocking.

It’s my opinion that the Jets can afford to stand pat at the position, at least this year. With only six picks in this year’s draft, they might opt for a late round replacement for Sudfeld, but that will be the extent of changes at the position in my opinion.

I haven’t been a big fan of the positional coaches for the Jets in recent years. Former tight ends coach Steve Hagen wasn’t a target of my criticism, but I do question his effectiveness when it comes to Amaro’s slow development. Hagen’s gone now, being replaced  by Jimmie Johnson. Unlike his predecessor, Johnson played the position for ten years in the NFL.

Unlike many NFL teams, tight end has been often overlooked and under utilized for the Jets. I don’t believe last season’s play calling did much to help the trio either. With a new system, new coaching and a different OC, I believe the Jets can stand pat with this grouping. The team has several glaring needs, and I’d place the priority for the position to be very low. What’s your take? Should the Jets upgrade the position this year?

We want to know your take, Join us in discussing the Jets Tight Ends. Let’s talk Jets football!

Next: Draft Profile: Trae Waynes

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