Jeff Cumberland may finally be established as one of the Jets’ top tight ends, but he doesn’t want to act like he’s arrived.
Cumberland signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft. He was a wide receiver at Illinois but made the transition to being an NFL tight end. He had good hands and ran good routes, but he was a raw player. But since 2012, Cumberland has settled in with the Jets with 54 receptions for 757 yards and seven touchdowns over that two-year stretch.
It has been an impressive growth curve considering he had just 38 receiving yards combined during his first two years in the league. Cumberland signed a three-year contract to extend his stay with the Jets in March.
“When I talked to [general manager John] Idzik [at] the end of the season — after the Miami game when everyone had their talk with him — he let me know he liked the things I did and he wanted to keep me,” Cumberland said. “So it was up to me and my agent to figure it out decide what was best for me and then what was best for the team as well.”
Cumberland spoke last Thursday at the Jets’ season ticket holder draft party at MetLife Stadium.
He’s turned himself into a more versatile tight end and he isn’t just a receiving threat anymore. The Jets selected tight end Jace Amaro, the second-best tight end on most draft boards, in the second round last week — but Amaro isn’t a strong blocker.
Last Thursday when he spoke to Metro, Cumberland was atop the Jets’ depth chart at the position. A day later, he is in an instant competition for who will start this season.
Amaro set a BCS record for tight end receptions in a season in 2013 with the Red Raiders.
“Well I’m just focusing on getting better day-by-day. All I can do is go out there, play hard and show my skills and do it every day,” Cumberland said. “Trying to determine if I’m No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 — I don’t really know. I can be No. 1 now and then somebody else come along and who knows. That’s for the coaches to figure out. I just want to play ball.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.