Jeff Cumberland becomes a top red zone target

Jeff Cumberland has given the New York Jets offense an early spark. Can he continue this playmaking heading into the regular season and provide Gang Green with the scoring punch they desperately need?

New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland has two catches during the preseason and they have both resulted in six points for the offense.

Cumberland's most recent touchdown was a 23 yard catch from Mark Sanchez during the opening drive of Saturday night's match up against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I had the linebacker on me one-on-one," Cumberland said. "When I came out, I broke out my route, the linebacker fell, I just caught the ball and ran into the end zone."

Cumberland's other touchdown was a 26-yard connection from Sanchez during the first quarter of last week's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.

The fourth year tight end will be relied upon to help the offense replace long-time fan favorite Dustin Keller, who jetted for the Miami Dolphins during the offseason. Cumberland and Kellen Winslow will be the two tight ends to garner the greatest workload at the tight end position for the Jets.

Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Dolphins Saturday night game against the Houston Texans. Keller fought injuries all of last season and the Dolphins gambled by signing him to a one year deal.

Not only was Keller a fan favorite in New York, but he was also a go to target for Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had tough luck without his favorite target in the lineup last season. He had 26 during 2012, with 18 of them coming via interception.

Sanchez is now in a quarterback competition with rookie Geno Smith and will have to cut down on the turnovers in order to maintain his job.

"He's been there and done that, so he's used to it," Cumberland said about helping Sanchez recover from interceptions. "He keeps his calm. Then, he gets out there and he just plays each play. There are going to be negative plays throughout the day, you just have to forget it and move on to the next play."

Sanchez showed he was capable of moving on during the first preseason game. The Sanchez to Cumberland connection came shortly after an interception for a touchdown by the Lions Ziggy Ansah.

The Jets offense came alive this week against the Jaguars and Cumberland's touchdown helped open the gates for the scoring. Gang Green ran away with the game in the second half on their way to a 37-13 victory.

"Our offense did pretty (well)," Cumberland said. "We came out and we moved the ball. There were a few times where we kicked field goals and we had an interception where we could have changed the score completely. I felt, as an offense, we moved the ball pretty (well)."

The combination of Cumberland and Winslow could have a huge impact on the Jets' offense this season. Cumberland is showing early signs of improvement and could give the Jets something they needed desperately last season; an offensive weapon who can find the end zone.


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