Analysis: Winslow loss hurts passing game
October, 11, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on TE Kellen Winslow's being suspended four games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances:
1. Impact on the offense: Winslow's absence will hurt the passing game. Not only is he the team's leading receiver (17 catches), but the overall offense functions better when he's on the field. Facts are facts: With Winslow in the game as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 79 times for 516 yards -- 6.53 yards per play. With Jeff Cumberland as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 35 times for 198 yards -- a 5.66 average. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg hasn't used a lot of two-TE sets with Winslow and Cumberland. When he has, it hasn't been too productive -- 33 pass plays for 141 yards, a 4.27 average.
2. Depth chart: This will mean a bigger role for Cumberland, who has appeared in 51 percent of the offensive snaps. (In case you're wondering, Winslow is 60 percent.) Cumberland is a capable player and, as he demonstrated Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, he can be a threat in the deep seams. There won't be much of a dropoff there, but the problem is, it'll mean more playing time for Konrad Reuland and newly acquired Zach Sudfeld. Clearly, Reuland (only 12 snaps) hasn't found a niche in Mornhinweg's offense. He's a tight end/fullback tweener, not offering much in the passing game. Sudfeld, who stands 6 feet 7, played well for the New England Patriots in the preseason and was a surprise cut last week. Once he learns the offense, he could leapfrog Reuland on the depth chart.
3. There goes the feel-good story: Winslow, in a statement released through his publicist, said he was surprised by the suspension and claimed he hasn't taken any supplements that list banned ingredients. Nevertheless, this tarnishes a potentially wonderful story. Rejected by the rest of the league, Winslow signed with the Jets after a minicamp audition, made the team and became an important player. Because of chronic knee pain (multiple surgeries), every day is a struggle. It flared up recently, causing him to miss more practice time than usual. That probably contributed to his reduced role in Atlanta (and perhaps his postgame frustration), although he made his only catch count -- a toe-tapping reception in the back of the end zone. "I want to do a lot more in this game," he told me last week. "I don't know how much longer I have, but I want to give it my all until I'm done. "
Now he's done for four weeks.