The Tight End position has been largely synonymous with the Chargers for as long as most fans can remember.
First, it was Kellen Winslow, then it was Antonio Gates, and now it is Hunter Henry.
You could say that what the team has lacked in promising offensive lineman lately has been made up for with unimaginable success at the tight end position. They’ve been spoiled, almost.
As solid as the Gates/Henry duo looks, the team must carry at least one more tight end and that third slot is being fought for by Jeff Cumberland and Sean McGrath. With McGrath having been the third tight end last year, Jeff Cumberland is my guy in the group who has the most to prove heading into 2017.
After all, he missed the entire 2016 season due to injury soon after he was signed that offseason and must beat out a polished veteran to secure his place with the team.
So far, he has been off to a good start:
Philip Rivers connected with Jeff Cumberland on a long TD play down the sideline. He's having a good camp.— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 6, 2017
Hunter Henry and Jeff Cumberland look outstanding today & have done well in Camp thus far— NICK HAMILTON (@NickHamiltonLA) August 6, 2017
Play of the day so far as Philip Rivers hit Jeff Cumberland in stride for a 50-yard TD. #ChargersCamp— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) August 6, 2017
Luckily for Cumberland, he brings a much more explosive and vertical presence to the offense while McGrath has been notable for his dependable blocking ability which cannot be understated on this team. The former being much more in line with the team’s offensive philosophy than the latter.
However, the blocking technique and all the little nuances can be coached up while natural athletic ability and prowess is a bit harder to develop at this level. I’d much rather have the player who can add another dynamic option to the team than a guy who gets by on making the least amount of mistakes.
For fun, let us take a look at their Height/Weight/Speed combinations:
- 6’4” - 260 lbs. - 4.45 Forty
- 6’5” - 250 lbs. - 4.78 Forty
I don’t know about you guys but I’ll always take the guy with the most upside every time, especially when it comes to picking our third-string tight end.
If Cumberland were to be the Bolts’ third tight end, he would be in a unique spot compared to other third-stringers.
With Gates playing a very conservative role on offense (red zone threat/third-down situations), Cumberland could see some decent playing time were Henry to ever find himself being kept off the field for any reason.
Cumberland would also grant the offense the best opportunity to NOT take a step back in terms of play-making ability when either Gates or Henry is not on the field.
Behind the top four guys, there isn’t much to be said about the tight end position. The team recently signed Mike Estes (6’4” 230 lbs.) and picked up Sean Culkin (6’5” 255 lbs.) as an undrafted free agent after the draft. Both do not stand out in any facet and virtually have no shot at making the final roster.
This may not be the most interesting position battle going on in training camp but I do believe it will hold some implications that won’t be totally evident until later in the season. Who do you guys think deserves that third tight end spot? Do the Chargers need McGrath’s dependability over Cumberland’s athletic ability?
Let us know.