Cumberland Set To "Ball-Out"

One of the stars to emerge from Jets' training camp has been rookie tight end Jeff Cumberland, who is, simply put, making plays.

Cortland, NY - Drafted out of Illinois as a four year starter, Jeff Cumberland was not the most noticeable player for the Fighting Illini. In Champaign, Cumberland was overshadowed by stars such as Rashard Mendenhall, Vontae Davis, and Arrelious Benn-all high round NFL Draft picks. Before the draft during his private workouts for teams, many franchises were labeling him a "tweener" - Cumberland was switched frequently between wide receiver and tight end at Illinois. He says it made his playing career a challenge since his was constantly switching back and forth.

Now with the Jets, he looks like he may have found a home at tight end as he is impressing many including head coach Rex Ryan.

"He's hard not to notice when he's catching 40-yard passes all the time," Ryan said of Cumberland. "His block when he gets knocked into the backfield catches your eye as well. If he can improve upon that block….he is definitely a threat as a receiver."

Cumberland had the catch of the practice Tuesday morning as he and safety Emmanuel Cook were battling for the ball and Cumberland just overpowered Cook for what was a 40-yard catch. For Cumberland though this is just another step in the right direction.

"I just come out here and keep my focus," said Cumberland."I know what I can do. I just wanted to get that shot to come out here and prove what I can do and they gave me the shot to come out here and show my talents and that's what I've been doing so far."

Cumberland, who is listed at 6-3, 250 pounds, resembles a lineman but the big man can move and also make plays as well.

"I feel I bring aggressiveness and speed on special teams. And then at the receiving end like I've said I played receiver before and I've gone against linebackers also - like I got big mismatches with my size and then my speed and my catching ability to make the big play," said Cumberland.

Cumberland, who never really had a true position in college, is solely a tight end with the Jets, but he also feels he needs to work on his blocking. He got some private work with assistant coaches during Tuesday's morning session to focus on his hands and placement while blocking. Getting better in that regard will certainly help round out his game.

"[In college] guys didn't know where to play me tight end or receiver. I heard different things, like I was too stiff to play receiver and my blocking [wasn't adequate] for a tight end. But right now, my position is tight end and I'm focusing on getting my blocking better and focusing on catching the ball and running routes and making plays," said Cumberland.

Cumberland has been helped out in training camp so far by the likes of Dustin Keller, Ben Hartsock, and Matthew Mulligan, but the coaches simply want the 23 year old to stay hungry.

"They tell me just stay active, stay productive, and get my blocking going and just keep working hard," the undrafted rookie free agent said.

Cumberland wouldn't be the only star to emerge as an undrafted free agent under Rex Ryan as players like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard all did the same in Baltimore and Jamaal Westerman emerged last year as a contributor for the Jets.

"I got a lot to bring to the table. I'm a big time play maker. I can make the big plays down the field. I can turn a five yard route to a 40 or 50 yard route. On special teams, I can ‘ball-out' of a block and get down there and make plays when it's time to be made," said Cumberland.

Matt Whitfield contributes to GreenAndWhiteReport.com


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