New York Jets: Offense must include tight ends in 2016
For the New York Jets heading into the upcoming season, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey must retool his spread schemes and have the tight ends be relevant to the passing game and not just used as blockers.
In what has become a pass dominated league, teams are not just counting on their tight ends to block. With players like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Tyler Eifert putting up stat lines better than some wide receivers, the ability for them to also be factored into the pass game is key to opening up play calls for the rest of the offense.
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With the Jets last season, we would see slants to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker out of the slot, sideline strides to Quincy Enunwa and Kenbrell Thompkins, quick dumps to Bilal Powell – but where were Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis? Sure, they were in on downs as blockers, but it was alarming how little they were thrown the ball.
Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland (85) runs the ball past Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck (91) during a game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Raiders 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
In the 2015-16 season, Cumberland and Davis were targeted only 24 times with a total of eight receptions collectively. The lack of attention and production can be attributed to both players inabilities, but also falls on Gailey. It’s no secret that Gailey does not use his tight ends within the spread offense other than to block. He may have managed in years past with that approach, but for a unit already loaded with talent at wide receiver and running back, factoring in the tight end will only benefit the system.
Let’s play devils advocate here. Suppose the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick come to terms on a new contract. Not only will Fitzpatrick already be acclimated with the offensive personnel from a season ago in which he posted franchise records, but now he’ll have Jace Amaro and Zach Sudfeld at his expense.
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But on the other side, let’s say he takes a hike, and under center Week 1 is Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, a free agent quarterback or even a newly drafted rookie.
The tight end becomes a safety net for whoever is in at quarterback. That bigger bodied player who not only blocks, can now be expendable to catch a quick pass when the offensive line breaks down.
No one is saying the Jets need a Gronkowski of their own, he’s a rare breed in the position; they just need the likes of Amaro and Sudfeld to contribute, should general manager Mike Maccagnan opt not to look in the draft.
It figures both players are coming off injuries that forced them to miss all of last season, but Amaro is in a make-or-break year for a player who showed promise in the draft coming off of a record-setting collegiate career. Injury aside, eyebrows were raised back in February by teammates, questioning whether or not Amaro can succeed in the NFL, according to beat writer Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News.
Sudfeld has the build and showed signs of involvement in a rather forgetful 2014 season. Wes Saxton, Brandon Bostick and Adrien Robinson are also on the roster, but I wouldn’t anticipate on much production out of them.
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Jeff Cumberland was cut and he’s now a San Diego Charger. Kellen Davis is still on the roster, but should assume position as a strictly blocking tight end, because he fairs well in that role. It’s Amaro and Sudfeld to count on. The duo should have no issues exceeding the single-digit reception total Cumberland and Davis left behind, though it does start with Gailey working them into the playbook a bit more than he’s used to doing.