The New York Jets have compiled an interesting group of players at the tight end position for 2014. Jeff Cumberland is a 6’4 converted college wide receiver, who has the straight line speed of a split end but weighs 260 pounds. Jace Amaro is two inches taller than Cumberland but is also 260 pounds and functioned as a highly productive slot receiver for Texas Tech last year. Finally, Zach Sudfeld is 6’6 as well and moves on the field in way that more often resembles a receiver than a traditional tight end.
At wide receiver, the Jets have many question marks after Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley. They are going to be a fairly run heavy team and frequently utilize the screen game. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has a history of heavy tight end use and with the Jets personnel this season, people should expect an offense that regularly features two or three tight ends on the field. Cumberland, Amaro and Sudfeld should be in position to be regular contributors in both the running and passing game.
All three of Jets tight ends have the ability to line up at split end, in the slot or in the H-Back position. Mornhinweg won’t hesitate to use the them as receivers are traditionally used or to integrate them in spread formations. Below the Jets have Geno Smith in a shotgun with a 5 wide formation with Kellen Winslow Jr and Jeff Cumberland as the slot receivers. The Jets could very well go five wide this year and only have two “receivers” on the field, with two tight ends and Chris Johnson filling the other spots or even just three tight ends filling the other spots.
Below is a more traditional two tight end look, which the Jets hit for a big play last season. They are able to go four verticals and have both tight ends as viable threats down the seam. This type of formation allows the Jets to get their athletic tight ends matched up on linebackers and in a position to make a play down the field.
Here are two plays where the Jets have three tight ends on third downs. In the first, play both Winslow and Cumberland are down in a three point stance with Sudfeld as the “Z” receiver, motioning into the formation. They run a three man route combination, which frees Cumberland up over the middle. This was a creative way for Mornhinweg to cover up the team’s shortcomings at receiver, by getting five players in the route, only one of whom is a wide receiver.
In the second play, the Jets use a traditional front-side bunch formation but with all three tight ends. The Jets ran the ball for a first down here and then stayed in a hurry up and were able to keep the same personnel on the field for a more spread look on the next play, due to the versatility of all three tight ends.
Finally, we see below the Jets using Winslow as the “Z” receiver on the same side of the formation with Cumberland down in a three point stance. This is going to be common for the team in 2014, likely with Amaro filling the Winslow role, although Sudfeld has the ability to be in a three point stance and let Cumberland fill the Winslow role or even just fill the Winslow role himself.
When looking at the Jets offense in 2014, it may be more logical to think of their receivers and tight ends as almost one position group. You are going to see frequent use of tight ends in traditional receiver spots, with Chris Johnson and/or Bilal Powell there as well, along with receivers being utilized out of the backfield or as H-Backs at times. The versatility of Cumberland, Amaro and Sudfeld gives the Jets good flexibility with their personnel groups and playcalling.