One of the absolute truisms of the NFL is: If it works, steal it. Last season, the New England Patriots showed us that you can do some things with 2 tight ends if they can catch the ball and stretch the field. The Jets should take a page out of their book and do the same thing. The Jets have the personnel that is perfectly suited to take the Patriots' formula to the next level. We already know about the talent of Dustin Keller. Now its time to add Jeff Cumberland to the mix.
What we know about Cumberland is very little. We know he was a WR at college in Illinois that converted to TE; and that he suffered with bad QB play while he was there. He's a big man (6-4, 260) that is very athletic (reportedly runs a 4.5 forty). Those of you that are GGN regulars, know that I've been clamoring all season for him to get playing time. Mostly because I want to get a sense of how good he is; or at least how good he possibly can be. Unfortunately, we've never gotten a chance to see him play for more than a few snaps; and in those situations he rarely had an opportunity to make a catch. He definitely didn't get a chance to do what a lot of us wanted him to do(i.e. catch it and run). So, all we know about the guy really is that he wasn't good enough to dress on most Sundays, and at the same time he was too good to be placed on the practice squad for fear of him being poached by another team. But what could we do with Jeff? I think we can do a lil somethin somethin.
I think if we use him properly, we could make the offense nearly unstoppable. We could improve both the running and the passing game. We could run more 2 TE sets (with him and Keller) and use Cumberland in alternating fashions as a slot receiver and to add leverage in the running game. What I had in mind was starting him on scrimmage (i.e. both TE on scrimmage in a traditional 2 TE set), then motioning him to Kellers side.
Teams usually combat 2 TE looks with their base defense, but sometimes they add more beef. Which makes sense because the offense seemingly adds more beef to their running game. But this would put a defense at a disadvantage when facing two TEs that each can easily outrun most LBs and that could each give most safeties all they can handle.
How it helps the running game
Traditionally, the idea to successfully running the ball is to get a body on a body and to either generate push or create a crease for the back to move through. Traditionally, most teams use a TE and a FB as a blockers. The idea being that the offense's guys and the defenses guys meet in the box and whoever can push the other guy around will win. Generally, the offense wants their TE and FB to win their battles in the box so that the RB has room to run. And the good ones do just that, essentially erasing would-be defenders from the equation. But there's an alternative approach.
With 2 TEs that are both legit pass catchers, the defense can't cheat and attack the run with reckless abandon. By motioning an athlete like Cumberland out of the box and into space, the defense is forced to honor him as a serious threat and will have to respond accordingly. They will have to remove a safety and/or a LB out of the box to cover him. This creates the desired effect of removing at least one defensive body out of the equation. He also can be motioned directly next to Keller, where he can be used to double-team a DE/OLB and help set the edge for an off-tackle run. Cumberland won't have to be much of a blocker in order to help the running game significantly. He only needs to be a very real threat as a pass catcher.
How it helps the passing game
As mentioned earlier, most teams match the added beef of an extra TE with more beef of their own. Conceivably, they could protect against the pass when they see Cumberland trot into the huddle and add a DB. But that only helps the running game by taking an LB off the field, and it would put the defense at a considerable size disadvantage in the box with DB up against Cumberland's 260 lbs. So assuming that they will at least stay in their base defense, opponents will most likely have to cover either Keller/Cumberland with a LB. Which is a tough match-up. Which means that which ever one gets the LB, they will also most likely also be getting help over the top from the FS. Which means the other TE is likely to be solo with the SS, and that both WRs will be solo on their corners. It'll one-on-one match-ups galore. And simple reads for Sanchez.
By motioning Cumberland from his traditional TE spot across the formation and into the slot between Keller and the WR to that side, it forces the defense to declare who is covering him. Either the SS or a LB has to move out there with him or they leave themselves open to being gashed by short, simple passes. And when they do, we'll not only take that guy out of the box, but we'll also know exactly where the match-up is likely to be in the passing game. All Sanchez will have to do is execute the play-action fake and locate the FS. Where ever the FS goes, there's at least 2 favorable one-on-ones somewhere else (WR, RB checkdown, TE on a backer in the seam, etc).
Jeff Cumberland very well could be the key to taking this offense to the next level.