We are back in the film room at Turn On The Jets with a look today at presumptive starting tight Jeff Cumberland. Check out our recent previous breakdowns of Stephen Hill, Brian Winters, Mike Goodson, the Defensive Line and WIllie Colon.
As of today Jeff Cumberland is likely to be the New York Jets starting tight end in 2013. Last year he saw his most extensive work as a professional, starting 12 games and finishing with 29 receptions, 359 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dustin Keller was constantly banged up, opening the door for Cumberland’s expanded playing time. Should the Jets be comfortable relying on him as a full-time starter in 2013?
Cumberland has an impressive combination of size and speed. A former college wide receiver, he was clocked in the 4.4s in his forty time despite being 6’4, 260 pounds. Yet, the tape from 2012 shows that he is probably better suited to be a situational backup than a full time starter.
Let’s start with the positives. Cumberland is much better when releasing from off the ball as a H-Back or tight slot instead of being in-line at tight end with his hand in the dirt. He has good instincts when it comes to finding a soft spot in the zone, which were developed when being a possession receiver in college. In week 1 against Buffalo he was able to move the chains on this 3rd and 9 by sitting in the window right before the sticks and getting upfield after the catch.
Here against the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets bring Cumberland in motion across the formation to H-Back. He runs a solid corner or 7-route against a zone defense and comes up with a pretty 24 yard reception.
His most impressive play of the season was a seam route he caught for a touchdown on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans. Safety Glover Quin was matched up on Cumberland man to man. From the H-Back spot, Cumberland beat him down the seam and most importantly kept his proper spacing 2 yards below the hash mark, which is immensely critical on a seam/vertical route like this. He then bends the route at the perfect time and makes a terrific leaping grab for the score.
Cumberland can be a productive role player as a receiving tight end in certain packages. Despite the above positives, he struggled with more physical linebackers and safeties. He runs very upright which limited his explosiveness out of cuts and makes him easy to get his hands on to be redirected. The top image comes against the Tennessee Titans and the bottom is from a play we discussed in-depth in this breakdown against the Miami Dolphins, with Cumberland at the bottom of the screen. There were consistent issues with Cumberland being knocked off his routes throughout the 2012.
Field awareness was an issue for him as well, epitomized by this hot read against Pittsburgh when he never turned around to look for what would have been an easy third down conversion. He failed to recognize the defense and properly adjust his route. This was a too frequent occurrence for Cumberland when tasked with a full time role.
Blocking is the weakest part of Cumberland’s game. He struggled with speed pass rushers off the edge and would often be overwhelmed if he was left one on one in obvious passing situations. His run blocking has a long way to go also. Here against the Titans, Cumberland seems to have his guy lined up at the second level yet for some reason overruns him and tries to chip late on Lex Hilliard’s guy. The guy he is supposed to be blocking tackles Shonn Greene, in an otherwise perfectly blocked up play.
Only a few plays later Cumberland would badly whiff on his guy who drops Green for a loss. These types of misses are drive killers and cannot be regular occurrences from a starting tight end.
After going through Cumberland’s 2012 snaps, which included the previously mentioned 12 starts. It is hard to be optimistic about him being a capable full time, starting tight end. He is now entering his fourth season but struggles heavily with his blocking, lacking the needed physicality in the running game and foot speed combined with technique for pass protection. In the receiving game, he is a upright runner who has good speed when he gets going but lacks explosion or quickness in his breaks. He also struggles with aggressive defensive backs or linebackers who can get their hands on him. Cumberland has enough size and receiver instincts to be a weapon if used properly in a 15-25 snap per game role as a receiving tight end/H-Back but will be overstretched as a starter.