A year ago few knew the name Damon Harrison at the start of training camp. He ended up starting and being an integral part of the New York Jets having one of the best run defenses in the league. While players like Snacks are rare, the Jets do have some no name players who might make an impact in smaller roles this year. Today we'll look at Zach Sudfeld.
Zach Sudfeld was an undrafted free agent the New England Patriots signed a year ago out of Nevada. Because his 6'7" 260 pound frame is similar to Rob Gronkowski, and he was timed in the 40 yard dash in the low 4.7 range, a few people referred to him as Baby Gronk. That was kind of a crazy thing to do to an undrafted free agent. The comparisons end at the fact they both play tight end. Despite having a need at the tight end position due to injuries and the Aaron Hernandez situation, the Patriots parted ways with Sudfeld in October.
The Jets picked him up, and he had a fairly unremarkable rookie season. When rewatching the Jets' season, though, I did notice some work Sudfeld did Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints. Jeff Cumberland was injured in that game, and Kellen Winslow was suspended, making Sudfeld the top tight end that week with expanded playing time.
I was left pretty impressed with Sudfeld's run blocking in that game. It seemed like he got off the snap well. He showed what I thought was good hand placement and played with good leverage even when he was matched with Cameron Jordan, a really good defensive lineman.
The Jets currently do not have an established blocking tight end. Jeff Cumberland is ineffective, and Jace Amaro was seldom asked to block in college. This isn't a major concern. I'm not big on the idea of carrying all block, no catch tight ends like Ben Hartsock. You can just use a backup offensive lineman. Even bad linemen tend to have better blocking skills than the average tight end. Just think about it. Guys like Wayne Hunter, Vladimir Ducasse, and Jason Smith have performed well for the Jets as an extra blocker. A blocking tight end whom the other team at least has to respect as a receiver has some value, though.
To be certain, Sudfeld does have a long way to go as a receiver. I think his route running is unimpressive. He doesn't play with the requisite physicality a guy of his size should use to impose his will. He does have some physical tools that could potentially be developed, though, to turn him into something of a threat. Let's forget about the Baby Gronk thing. If he has developed during the offseason as a good blocker and can at least do enough to keep a defense honest as a receiver, he is going to have some value. You might even see the Jets try to get Cumberland, Amaro, and Sudfeld on the field together.
Now I don't want to read too much into one game. Bent at The Jets Blog took at look at his time with the Patriots and reported enough to make one pause.
Will he be an impact player? I doubt it. Could he become a useful part for the Jets in 2014? I think there's a chance.