The Rundown: Time to get bullish about the Jets tight ends

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Back in 2013, I stood in Radio City Music Hall during the first round of the NFL Draft.  Music boomed in the background and lights flashed while the tumult of the crowd ebbed and flowed.  I was leaning over a row of journalists, shouting above the din to catch up with one of the NFL’s most universally respected journalists.  We were talking about the Jets and what direction they would like to go in the NFL Draft.

Jace AmaroI babbled on about how the Jets needed to upgrade their offense with a certain pint-sized first round receiver, but the journalist indicated that the Jets would try hard to pick up a tight end on day two of the 2013 NFL Draft to help upgrade their transitioning offense, even throwing out a few names that were of particular interest to the team.  It wasn’t news to me that the Jets needed to fill up the position, but the earnestness of the journalist’s statements made it clear that the Jets were serious about addressing the position in a tangible and long-term way.

Of course in the end it didn’t work out that way for the Jets.  The Jets were trying to install a new offense with lots of West Coast elements from their new (and proven) offense coordinator Marty Morhinweg.  Looking back at the draft while there were talented players, the Jets draft board might have indicated the need reach in any of the middle rounds to take the player they would have wanted.  The Jets second round pick (which they used for Geno Smith) would have been their best chance, but after that they appeared to be chasing talent in successive rounds.  If we learned anything about John Idzik in 2013 it’s that he doesn’t reach for players all that frequently.

With an obvious hole on the roster, the Jets brought in stopgap Kellen Winslow during June minicamps on a tryout.  When healthy, Winslow was productive in the Jets offense, but was never a long-term solution for the team.

It might have been a year late, but this year Jets were able to get their man in on the second day of the draft in Jace Amaro.  Amaro, the tight end from Texas Tech who played in the simple no huddle offense in college, had some hiccups during the early OTAs.  The concepts, where he should be on the field, working against defenders seemed to catch up to him in this new much more complicated NFL offense.

But this week, it sounds as if the team had him moving around and lining up all over the field and according to his position coach Steve Hagen, he was doing a good job at it.

“He’s lined up everywhere,” tight end coach Steve Hagen said the conclusion of the OTA sessions. “He’s lined up flexed out, hand down, out by himself (on the) single-receiver side, on the three-receiver side, on the two-receiver side. We use him everywhere we can use him. So we have asked him to do a lot, and we expect him to do a lot. He’s asking that of himself, and he’s delivering, too. It’s been fun to watch him.”

It sounds as if Amaro has very high expectations of himself.  He uses future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez as his personal measuring stick of success, per ESPN NY in May.

“He’s kind of old school, but he did some great things,” the Jets’ second-round pick said Friday of Gonzalez after his first rookie-camp practice. “I’d definitely like to (model) his game. … That’s someone who I’d ultimately love to be. He’s supposedly the greatest tight end to ever play. That’s somewhere where I want to be, too.”

Amaro has also said that he wants to catch 100 balls in the NFL “on a consistent basis.”  That might be something possible for the most talented player to do on a college team that runs a no-huddle offense, but in the NFL with other talent around him, let alone talented players lining up across the line of scrimmage might be tough for Amaro to do.

There’s something very noble about measuring yourself against the player who might be considered the greatest of all time at his position, but it’s also something that his position coach wants to make sure doesn’t impact his productivity early on.

As for Amaro’s 100-catch goal, Hagen does not mind his players setting high standards, but he wants them to do so logically.

“First of all, I tell him to catch all the passes,” Hagen said. “I don’t know how many it’s going to be. So when you start to put benchmarks on that, you can create your own frustrations. It’s more important to do the right thing all the time. I’m never going to ask a guy to lower his standards. If he gets frustrated because he’s not doing the right thing, good. Because now he’ll continue to push himself to do the right thing, and I think that’s the mark of a true pro, that they don’t lower their standards.”

Competing for some of those 100 passes will be players like Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Kerley along his battery-mate Jeff Cumberland who might put up a good fight for offensive snaps this season.

Hagen also spoke about Cumby, who related that the fifth year Jet took Falcons’ defensive coordinator by surprise with his speed on the Monday night game last year.

“Jeff is a fast guy,” Hagen said. “Jeff went from primarily playing a receiver role to being a really good tight end, as the NFL would look at, like: ‘Who is that guy? Wow.’ He blocks. He can run. And he can catch. He can run after the catch. You saw some big, dynamic plays from him last season. The defensive coordinator for the Falcons last year (Mike Nolan) said they didn’t realize how dynamic Jeff was until he was out there on the field, and they were like, ‘Whoa, that guy can run.’”

Hagen said Nolan made these comments to him right after the game. On that Monday night in Atlanta, as the Jets won, Cumberland had three catches for a career-best 79 yards and a touchdown (a 20-yarder).

“Some things you see on film and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that guy can play,’” Hagen said. “But sometimes, it doesn’t really sink in until you see the guy blowing by one of your guys that you’ve been training all week long, and you’re like, ‘Whoa, this dude can run.’ So, Jeff is good at that.”

Between Amaro and Cumberland, the Jets now have a solid duo of pass catching receivers with youth, speed and upside.  What they don’t seem to have yet is a player who can be relied on to be an excellent run-blocker.  Even though the Jets of added a number of players on offensive side of the ball for this year, there are questions about what kind of offense they will run come the regular season.  If it is a run heavy attack, then Amaro and Cumby might not be suited to be on the field every play.

While new RT Breno Giacomini is known for his ferocity and grit, the Jets might still consider who can be the team’s blocking tight end beyond Amaro and Cumby.  The Jets were said to be interested in Brandon Pettigrew, a player known as a solid blocker, during free agency.

Last year the Jets brought in Zach Sudfield from the Patriots who didn’t make cutdowns and he played passably despite coming to the offense late.  Could Sudfield be that player?  Could it be Chris Pantale?

Pantale helped his former teammate Ryan Quigley out last year with a place to crash, but it sounds as if Quigley won’t be boarding at the Pantale house again this season.

Regardless, the Jets have good pass-catching options at the top of the roster and have some promising depth players who can fill in as blockers when necessary.  The position is secure for a few years and will only get better with time together.

Considering all the other changes on the roster that will help this offense and isolate tight ends for their quarterbacks, it’s time to get bullish about this group.




26 comments
kniff
kniff

I'll take Cumby, Amaro, Sudfeld over Winslow, Cumby, Sudfeld for 2014 anyday... and there is plenty of time to sharpen up on Marty's system to boot.


Can't Wait!!

bob
bob

If we are gonna have a conversation about blocking Tight Ends in the NFL the coversation may last 30 seconds thhen we willprobably move on to the next topic.

eurojet
eurojet

Amaros and Cumbys lack of blocking ability is the reason why I think Sudfeld wont make the roster - dude is just another liability though he got potential as a receiver

tsjc68
tsjc68

"The journalist indicated that the Jets would try hard to pick up a tight end on day two of the 2013 NFL Draft to help upgrade their transitioning offense, even throwing out a few names that were of particular interest to the team."

--------

I assume one of those names was Ertz. What were the others? Vance McDonald? Gavin Escobar?

tsjc68
tsjc68

I don't think either Amaro or Cumberland need to be good inline blockers. Just good downfield ones for screens, cut-blocks, sweeps and crackbacks.

Even when Ivory is in there, I expect more runs out of passing formations. Just a hunch.

levi
levi

It will be interesting to see how Amaro does compared to Troy Niklas the TE I thought the Jets would take.

anthonya
anthonya

Why do they need a Run Blocking TE? Technically if you have a run blocking TE, the defense will know and presumably key in on a run and adjust their package accordingly. Might as well just use an extra Tackle if that's the case. 

levi
levi

@bob we need a dual threat TE to run the dis way dat way play bob.

juunit
juunit

No.

Evans and Enunwa will both make the team and Nelson isn't going anywhere. We're gonna carry extra WRs this year.

harold
harold

@tsjc68

Cumberland was actually decent last year and was bale to function juch better in-line then he has before.  I think you are selling them both a little short.  I feel they both can develop into functional two way TE's. 

They both will still be more of the athletic type but the should both be able to contribute in the run game. 

levi
levi

@tsjc68 We will see how Amaro is at blocking very soon. Although he wasnt asked to do it much he says he can do it. Im sure just like anything though the more you do it the better you get at it so not sure how good he could be.

tsjc68
tsjc68

Look at what the Eagles did last year with Celek/Ertz and Shady McCoy.

Split the TE wide, run a route with him, have him draw a LB into coverage and run McCoy through the vacated hole.

williamg1
williamg1

@anthonya Which is why you don't always run with a run-blocking TE in. Just like you may not automatically pass with 4 WRs in. 

bob
bob

@levi @bob 

Ya dats right I tell those guys dis way but they look confused so i say it dis way dis way they no get it yet.. I say rookies.

levi
levi

@juunit Would they last on the practice squad or get picked up?

tsjc68
tsjc68

No, I'm not saying that they can't be good inline blockers (they both can be), just saying that having a good inline blocker (whether it's them or someone else) isn't really a pressing need, nor is either of them being good inline blockers a requirement for their (or our) success.

Because they can still add value to the ground game by being vertical threats to draw an LB or an S out of the box to cover what looks like a passing route and then block that LB/S downfield.

anthonya
anthonya

@williamg1 @anthonya So you carry 4 TEs in order to fake a run... That's some next level thinking bro

Pete 57
Pete 57

I doubt William would keep a 4th TE on the roster to fake a run. He is a pretty knowledgable fan. I think you missed his point. The reason you have a blocking TE in the game as opposed to a lineman is that he has the ability to catch a pass once in a while. Therefore making him much more valuable than an extra lineman.

levi
levi

@williamg1  Yeah thats what Iwas thinking with Saunders and Evans but Enunwa might be ok on there.

juunit
juunit

I don't see Enunwa making it either. We got him where we did because he couldn't work out during the combine season after tweaking his hammy in his first 40. He's got a world of potential so someone would definitely snap him up.