Every week Cole Patterson will break down the performance of the New York Jets tight ends. Here is his take on week one.
Going into the offseason, anyone claiming a Jets’ tight end would lead the team in receiving week one would be immediately informed of a bridge for sale. Yet, here we stand, following a roller coaster of a win and the Jets tight ends may have out performed all other position groups (excluding the defensive line).
Grading Scale: Tight end is an interesting position to grade out, given that they are responsible for both receiving and blocking. As receivers in the West Coast Offense, tight ends will be asked to line up anywhere from slot, to split end, to flanker and be responsible for the entire route tree. As blockers in the offense, they will be assigned delayed releases, one-on-one blocks, or simply to chip a pass rusher. With these roles in mind, it is difficult to create a complex grading scale based on YPC or blocking, as the play may conclude before the tight end’s true role on the play is clear. All of that is to say, because the tight end position is so enigmatic (particularly in a WCO) a simple letter based grading scale is best employed.
A = Entirely positive impact
B = Consistent positive impact, few minor mistakes
C = Equal level of positive and negative impact, average, or made no impact plays whatsoever
D = Mostly negative impact, with room for improvement
F = Entirely negative impact
Kellen Winslow: 7 rec, 79 yds, TD
Winslow (a late offseason addition to the Jets with numerous health risks) entered the game as the 1A tight end, expected to split the snaps with a much improved Jeff Cumberland. Winslow displayed his budding rapport with Geno Smith early in the game and appeared to be the most consistent receiving option on field. Winslow ran with speed and quickness out of his cuts. He constantly found gaps in the middle zone of the Bucs’ defense and exploited them. Winslow made tough catches in traffic and acted as a reliable safety blanket for the rookie quarterback in his first professional start. When Smith would be forced out of the pocket and made to improvise (a common occurrence this week) Winslow was able to adapt and find an open passing lane. Winslow was not often asked to block but appeared able on the two screen plays where that was his directive. Winslow and Smith’s chemistry should be a pleasure to watch grow over the course of the season. I imagine Winslow will have plenty more of these type of games (if he can remain healthy) and quickly become a fan favorite.
Cumberland had a stellar summer, looking much improved in camp and hauling in two touchdowns in the preseason. The coaching staff raved about his renewed focus, improved blocking, and crisper route running. He was expected to split time with Winslow heading into this week one matchup. However, Cumberland only saw the field for a handful of plays before he was taken out by a brutal hit. Cumberland looked to be open on Kerley’s wildcat pass attempt but failed to break and look back for the ball. Later, on a deep seam route, Cumberland was sandwiched between two defenders and took a vicious shot to the head. On the play, Smith placed the ball perfectly over Cumberland’s shoulder where he made a great catch in stride, only to have the ball immediately jarred loose. After a second watch through of the game, Cumberland returned to the field but failed to make any impact. It appears the coaching staff was stingy with his snap count following the hit.
Konrad Reuland: 1 rec, 7 yds
Konrad “The Garbage Man” Reuland earned his nickname during his stint with the 49ers because he was able to catch any pass thrown his way, even if it was garbage. Yet, he is essentially the teams designated blocker at tight end. This position is more because of Winslow and Cumberland’s weakness in that area and less because of any particular aptitude Reuland may have for it. However, Reuland is a competent blocker and receiver, meaning his presence in the game doesn’t necessarily tip the offenses hand. The Jets’ running game in general looked pretty lack luster against an underrated Buccaneers front 7, but Reuland didn’t make any glaring mistakes. He had one solid sideline catch for seven yards on a Smith bootleg. He even did well in pass protection, particularly on the Mason Foster sack of Smith just before the two minute warning. Reuland managed to block the 6’3″, 263 lbs DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim out of the play. Reuland held his own but did not make many impact plays, one way or another.
Overall: The Jets tight ends, despite losing Cumberland early, had an overall solid performance. Winslow proved he still has plenty left in the tank and can be a constant in an offense seemingly bereft of playmakers. Cumberland looked good on the one play before he got knocked out and should make an impact upon his return. Reuland held his own as a blocker and didn’t make any serious errors. All in all, the Jets tight ends look much better than they did heading into training camp.