Jeff Cumberland, entering his fifth year in the league, is in an interesting situation.
On the one hand, he's the oldest and most experienced tight end on our roster, and it's not even close. His four full years of NFL experience are more than the other five TEs combined.
"When I got here, we had guys in the locker room," Cumberland said. "We had Dustin Keller, we had Ben Hartsock, last year we had Kellen [Winslow], so I've had guys around me to help me see the way and see what there is out there. Now that I have this younger group, it's up to me to kind of help these guys get the feel as well."
"As a veteran guy, he has great football smarts," second-year tight end Zach Sudfeld said. "He's a leader who's great for talking through plays and everything else with. He's very accommodating with all the younger guys and it's a blast playing with him."
On the other hand, Cumberland still has a long way to go before reaching his proverbial ceiling.
"In my room, I have no choice but to be that veteran guy," he said, "but overall I feel like I'm a young veteran player. I've been around and I've seen it, but at the same time this is only my third year of actually being on the field and playing so I still consider myself as being a young player. I'm not in my prime yet."
If the 27-year-old Cumberland is indeed still on the rise, it won't be long before he becomes what tight ends coach Steve Hagen wants each individual in the group to be: elite.
"Run and catch like a receiver, and block like a beast," Cumberland said. "That's what he preaches, and that's what we try to do. We're big receivers and small linemen who have to do the best of both worlds."
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Cumberland's 6'4", 260-pound frame certainly helps him hold his own against opposing 300-plus pounders in the trenches, but it helps him blaze by defenders as well, interestingly enough.
"Even in college when I played receiver, a lot of guys are like, 'Well, he can't be that fast because he's a big guy,' and then when I run right by him he's like, 'Well, kind of fast,' " he said. "It's always good to be the underdog, but hopefully soon people will realize exactly who I am and what I have to offer. But that's up to making plays out there on the field."
Last year, Cumberland made enough plays on the field to lead the Green & White in receiving touchdowns, but is this Jet's career still taking off?
"I'm just taking things one by one," he said. "As I continue to get comfortable, build more confidence and learn what the defense wants to do against us, I can see things a lot faster and I can move a lot quicker. Then I can get out there and show my abilities of what I have to offer for the team."