New York Jets: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Tight End
As the countdown to training camp officially gets underway for the New York Jets, team coaches and executives face several crucial decisions at multiple positions, especially on offense. One of the most noteworthy in-camp positional battles for the Jets this summer will be tight end, where five players will vie for roster spots.
The Jets were owners of the worst receiving offense in the NFL last season, recording 266 total catches for a league-worst 3,270 yards. That must change if New York is going to contend for a playoff berth in 2014.
The tight end position figures to be a staple in the Jets' reformed offense in the upcoming season, especially considering the acquisition of second-round pick Jace Amaro.
Even though the Jets remain a good distance from competing for the ultimate prize, their stout defense combined with an improved offensive attack should give them a chance to win nine or 10 games in 2014. It's an absolute must for the Green and White to average more than 18.4 points per game in order to achieve that goal.
The following slideshow breaks down the Jets depth chart at tight end before training camp.
The Jets took a flier on undrafted free agent Terrence Miller, inking the big-bodied downfield target to a deal that counts $420,000 against the 2014 cap, according to OvertheCap.com. The deal invokes minimal risk for the Jets, who can use as much playmaking talent as they can find.
The former wide receiver wasn't a primary target at Arizona, but he showcased above-average ball skills when given the opportunity to make plays. He caught 95 passes for 1,117 yards and three touchdowns in parts of five seasons at the collegiate level.
Miller doesn't flaunt outstanding speed. He ran a 4.74-second predraft 40-yard dash, according to NFL Draft Scout, and was ranked as the 40th-best player at tight end by CBS. At 6'4'' and 233 pounds, Miller boasts a big body, which he uses to his advantage against smaller defenders to make plays. He's mostly reliant on his physicality to gain leverage, given his lack of ability to gain sufficient separation.
While it's unlikely for Miller to earn a 53-man roster spot, considering the Jets will carry a maximum of four tight ends, he should have the ability to develop his skill set on the practice squad.
Former Boston College tight end Chris Pantale is the Jets' best blocker at his position, which could result in a significant increase in playing time in the upcoming season. New York needs solid run-blocking protection from its tight ends, considering how dependent the offense will be on backs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory.
Even though Pantale flaunts the ability to catch passes in stride, his value resides in the trenches as a blocker. The New Jersey native doesn't boast exceptional strength or speed, but he showcases above-average agility for a player his size (6'5", 254 lbs).
According to NFL.com, Pantale posted a 4.50-second time in the 20-yard shuttle during the 2013 scouting combine. He's quick on his feet, which enables him to maintain blocks long enough to help create rushing lanes for backs and hold off defensive ends in pass protection.
Pantale has a legitimate chance to earn a spot on the Jets' 53-man roster as a role player.
After an impressive display during the 2013 preseason, the New England Patriots thought they might have found a suitable stopgap fix to their newly established lack of depth at tight end, but Sudfeld didn't perform up to expectations during the regular season.
The Jets opted to pick up the former undrafted free agent off waivers, hoping the 25-year-old could rekindle the type of success he had in preseason action. Sudfeld received limited opportunities on the field with the Jets in 2013, playing sparingly in 11 games. He recorded five catches for 63 yards, averaging 12.6 yards per reception.
Sudfeld checks in a 6'7'' and 253 pounds, making him a difficult player to cover in the open field. His height gives him an advantage over defenders, although his speed remains suspect. The Nevada-Reno product was initially projected as a seventh-round draft-pick in the 2013 draft, according to CBSSports, but he was never taken. He was rated as the 14th-best player at tight end.
Sudfeld will compete with Pantale for the No. 3 slot on the Jets depth chart in training camp.
Jets coaches are excited about the potential that former Texas Tech standout Amaro presents to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense. Amaro is a legitimate playmaking threat at tight end. He showcased his supreme pass-catching abilities during his final collegiate season, racking up 1,352 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 106 receptions.
At 6'5'' and 265 pounds, Amaro flaunts exceptional vertical speed (4.74 40-yard dash at the combine) for a player his size, enabling him to gain separation on defenders downfield. He solidified his status as a perennial difference-maker on offense at the scouting combine, registering top-performer status in six drills, according to NFL.com.
Amaro needs to hone his technique as a run-blocker in training camp, although it's essentially a given that he will be a big part of the Jets offense in 2014. He showcases crisp route-running skills to accompany his ability to reel in tough catches with his hands. He extends well and isn't afraid to take a hit when trying to make a play.
Amaro should increase the Jets' red-zone efficiency and also improve their ability to move the chains on third downs. His size and speed make him very difficult to cover, although he must learn how to beat defensive ends off the snap in order to gain an edge against coverage.
At the moment, Jeff Cumberland remains the Jets' No. 1 tight end, but that will change if Amaro showcases above-average blocking ability in camp and during the preseason. Cumberland was granted the opportunity to prove himself as a starting-caliber tight end in 2013 but fell short of expectations.
The 27-year-old pass-catcher recorded fewer receptions last season (26) than he did in the season prior (29). He racked up a career-high 398 total receiving yards, averaging a respectable 15.3 yards per catch. Cumberland also recorded four touchdowns.
Cumberland's supposed-to-be breakout season took a hit in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when safety Dashon Goldson lit him up on a play that would result in a fine. Cumberland was able to start 12 games despite battling concussion-like symptoms for much of the season, but he wasn't able to exhibit the playmaking ability the Jets would ideally like out of their starting tight end.
Cumberland has a chance to reclaim his starting role this summer, but Amaro's natural playmaking ability is going to be hard for Jets coaches to look past.