Turn On The Jets Film Room – Jeff Cumberland – Capable Starter?

The Turn On The Jets film room breaks down tight end Jeff Cumberland. Can he be a capable full time starter for the New York Jets?

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.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • matr dontelli iii

    hey joe, i don’t think anyone will be surprised by this column, as i’m sure you were not surprised by what you found after reviewing the tape. as always the analysis is excellent, which is what i tell anyone i point to this site. i’ve been hoping mr. smith will be able to overtake cumberland and become our starter and it seems i’m seeing more and more people sharing that same hope. fortunately it sounds like he’s doing well in otas as well. we can only hope…thanks for a great site and the hard work and always tremendous analysis you provide. it is appreciated.

  • John C

    It’s probably because I’ve been down on Keller the last two years (he never really reached “elite” status), but I think I’m the only member of the JC fan club! That being said, JC’s failure to react to that blitz read in Pittsburgh, was probably the second worst play of the Jets’ year (right after the Buttfumble). If Sanchez threw it lower, it might have been the first ButtDrop in NFL history. If Hayden Smith or anyone else beats him out, as a Jets fan, that’s fine by me, but I do like Cumby as a receiving tight end at the least.

  • Mark Phelan

    Entering the draft TE was an obvious deficiency.

  • JetOrange

    I am a little more optimistic about JC, in 2012 he was coming back from an Achilles injury. I think his blocking got better in the second half of the year, he just got off the ball better. ,as a function of the recovery from the injury.. His field awareness and pass blocking are terrible but possibly can be improved with a new position coach and expierance. This is his contract year and Marty’s system provides TE’s with opportunities.

  • Sean

    “most importantly kept his proper spacing 2 yards below the hash mark, which is immensely critical on a seam/vertical route like this”

    Can someone explain this a little better? I didn’t really follow exactly what he’s saying.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Hey Sean –

    On this play, you have four receivers run vertical or “go” routes. The most important thing on the play is spacing. The outside receivers run down the bottom of the numbers. The inside receivers run 2 yards outside of the hash marks. Based on the defense Houston was showing, Cumberland was the primary receiver and properly waited 16-18 yards and then bends his route over the middle into the open area for the touchdown. This article explains it in more detail


  • bonebreaker

    I agree with you JetOrange in that with a new OC things might turn out better for JC. I don’t think he would ever be great as a TE in a power running game (like we ran last year) but Marty might find ways to use his skills better and create more mismatches to spread the field.

  • Anthony

    You would figure that if Cumberland lost 25 lbs he would still be a 6’3 235 lb H-back or slot receiver, and perhaps be a bit more explosive.

    Sporano had a talent for putting guys in a position to fail. MM, who seems very much a Bill Walsh disciple, with the belief of playing players to their strength rather than roles will put cumby out onto the field to do what he can do well. 6’3 with 4.45 speed is sick when paired with confident hands.

  • John C

    I’m glad to see more JC fans. I remember his first exhibition season, he impressed me, then he got hurt. I do believe he can be an excellent pass catching TE. If someone else comes on too, then maybe we’ll run more two TE packages,