As the Jets entered Cortland, they had arguably one of the most questionable tight end units in the entire NFL. While their not fielding an All-Pr stocked unit, things are looking up after the first preseason game. With three new faces fighting for a spot on the roster at tight end, a former rugby player, a former wide out, and one of Sanchez’s high school teammates, the group is certainly packed with story lines. Let’s see how their stacking up with the pads on after week one of the preseason
1) Jeff Cumberland
A lot of people are clamoring over Kellen Winslow Jr, rightly so. If Winslow can stay healthy he will most likely have more of an offensive impact than Cumberland in the passing game, but Cumberland’s progression is quite impressive. Many people fail to realize he was a wide receiver in college, signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets and immediately switched to tight end. The pass catching skills were there, along with the size-speed ratio mismatch, but his improved blocking ability is what will keep him on the field. If the Jets can get serviceable blocking along with his consistency as a red zone threat, Cumberland will remain “the guy” at the tight end position.
2) Kellen Winslow
What once seemed like an absolute shot in the dark is becoming a reality: Kellen Winslow Jr can still play football. While never a game changing blocker, Winslow is a threat in the aerial attack and cannot be covered by most linebackers. His biggest question mark is his health and it will remain that way until the season concludes. The Jets have been intelligent in their use of keeping Winslow on a “pitch count”, limiting his practices and preseason game reps. In a league where two tight end sets are trending, Winslow is a vital piece to the New York Jets offense.
3) Konrad Reuland
The former high school teammate of Mark Sanchez caught on at the end of last season. Reuland isn’t anything more than a team’s third tight end in the NFL, but he fits this role well. He’s an average blocker with decent hands and plays special teams. He was on the field a lot against the Lions and has an upper hand on the next three guys.
4) Hayden Smith
The Hayden Smith project may be expiring soon as a large part of me wanted to put him at the five spot, but he hangs on here for now. He hasn’t shown much in any games and even worse has been relatively quiet in training camp. A guy with his size and speed should be making catches all over the place. Best case scenario he breaks out in the last preseason game where no starters play and makes the practice squad again.
5) Chris Pantale
Pantale had a nice 19 yard grab against the Lions in the second half, showing off good hands. I have previously stated Pantale has great measurables to be a serviceable NFL tight end, his system in Boston College just rarely took advantage of his skill set. He’s a player the Jets will need to get more of a look at in the next few weeks.
6) Mike Shanahan
Shanahan had a quiet debut to go along with his quiet camp. He was a UDFA for a reason, my friends.