With the first half of his rookie season in the books, QB Geno Smith has shown the ability to share the wealth among his receivers as eight players have double-digit receptions yet no one has even as many as 30 catches so far this year.
Within that wide distribution of the football, however, Smith has shown a knack for finding his tight ends. Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland rank fourth and fifth respectively on our team's reception leaders for the season, and they're tied for first with two touchdowns apiece.
But Winslow will miss Sunday's game as he serves the last of his four-game suspension, and Cumberland's status is up in the air. Recovering from a concussion sustained in last week's game at Cincinnati, he's officially listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis Friday in a red non-contact jersey.
If Cumberland can't go, that would leave us with a pair of tight ends who have combined for just three catches this season: rookie Zach Sudfeld and second-year man Konrad Reuland.
Asked about this scenario, Rex said, "They'd both play. One guy has probably a little better skillset as a receiver, one's probably a little better blocker. So if Konrad starts, expect run, and if Sudfeld starts, expect pass — no, it's not like that, but we will play them in different things. It's not just a set starter."
Last week Sudfeld was on the field for 57% of our offensive plays, while Reuland was on the field for just one offensive snap. Part of the reason for that may have been the desire to throw the ball often, after finding ourselves down by at least two possessions for the majority of the game.
Unsure of just how many snaps he'll get this week, Sudfeld's getting ready just like he would any other.
"I think you try to prepare the same for every game, like you're going to be the guy," he said, "but the idea that you might have a bigger role, it definitely gets you excited."
"I think the big thing about Zach is he's got the height," Ryan said today of the ex-New England tight end. "A 6'7" guy is hard to cover. He clearly has some receiving skills and things. His blocking, it's not that he's not a willing blocker. He is. He's not exactly going to be Brandon Moore over there as a tight end, but he's a competitive guy."
Sudfeld secured his first and second career receptions on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, while the 6'5" Reuland has added one catch this season to the 11 he recorded last year.
If Cumberland's unable to go, there will certainly be a bit of added pressure on these two guys come Sunday, but it might not just be these two who line up at tight end vs. the Saints. Ryan didn't rule out the possibility of calling up practice squad TE Chris Pantale for the game.
And, like Sudfeld, Pantale's gone through this week as if it's business as usual.
"I can't really let anything like that get into my head," the undrafted rookie free agent out of Boston College said. "I mean, you're going to hear outside noise from family and friends, like, 'Hey, you might get a shot this week,' but you don't want to get your hopes up for anything. You don't know what the upper management's going to do. The only thing I can do is focus on myself and focus on giving the defense the best look." "At this point, it's just kind of preparing as best I can," Sudfeld said. "I've just got to go out there and perform my best when I get the opportunity."