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Fine TEs important 20 years ago and today

At the dawn of NFL free agency, the Dolphins saw Keith Jackson dangling there, available and talented, and decided to be aggressive and chase him as their first unrestricted free agent addition.

Why, people wondered, would the Dolphins want to add a tight end -- especially an expensive one?

The Dolphins had Ferrell Edmunds on the roster and he was solid. And Mark Clayton and Mark Duper were still on the team and both were coming off 1,000-yard seasons in 1991.

So why bunch talent at TE? Why take catches away from twin 1,000-yard receivers? (The last question was also asked by Clayton, but that's another story).

"Adding talent whenever you can ianywhere you can on the roster is something we're going to do," Don Shula said. "If there's someone out there that can help us and fits, we'll try to get them. And adding a tight end helps the passing game, helps the running game, helps the receivers get more one-on-one matchups and helps our quarterback. Those are things we like to do."

And so the Dolphins landed Keith Jackson and four days after arriving in Miami he caught a TD pass against the Bills in a 37-10 whipping of the defending AFC Champions.

Fast forward to today. I'm at the Super Bowl. I covered the AFC Championship game last week.

You know what I see?

Teams with pass-catching, seam-threatening tight ends.

The four conference finalists had good if not great tight end play this season.

The Falcons had Tony Gonzalez, who caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Patriots had both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who combined for 106 receptions, over 1,200 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns.

The Super Bowl teams also have excellent pass-catching tight ends.

Vernon Davis is a tight end that runs like some wide receivers. He runs a 4.4 in the 40 and can get deep. This year was a down season for him as the quarterback change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick resulted in more passes going to Michael Crabtree.

But Davis still had 41 receptions for 548 yards. He averaged 13.4 yards per catch, which is a wide receiver-type average, and scored five touchdowns.

The Ravens, meanwhile, offer Dennis Pitta, who is really starting to emerge in his third year with the team. This year Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yads and seven TDs. The Ravens have always recognized the need for outstanding tight end play as they drafted Todd Heap in the first round a decade ago and went to the Super Bowl with Shannon Sharpe.

The point?

Successful teams recognize the need for excellent tight end play and they find a way to add that to the roster. The Dolphins of yesterday tried free agency when it was in its infancy, the Falcons traded for Gonzalez, the Patriots drafted not one, but two outstanding tight ends and Gronkowski came with the 41st overall selection. The Ravens have a history of finding fine tight ends as their general manager Ozzie Newsome was a great tight end.

Today's Dolphins, meanwhile, have been chugging along with mediocre tight end play.

Oh, the club's coaches will speak about Anthony Fasano in glowing terms. He's a fine blocker. He doesn't make mistakes. He's got great hands (sometimes). He's like a coach on the field.

But the thing they can never say is that he's a seam threat that worries the defense and is a matchup nightmare. They don't say that because it is not true.

The Dolphins have used resources to improve their tight end corps. Charles Clay came in the draft in 2011. Michael Egnew came in the draft in 2012.

Neither has really contributed to any significant degree. Indeed, if the Dolphins handle this offseason as it should be handled, both should be very nervous about their job status in 2013.

If the Dolphins do what should be done -- namely address the tight end position with significant resources -- Clay and Egnew should come to camp worried. They should come to camp thinking that their scholarships have been revoked and they'll get cut unless they make plays and do it consistently in training camp and during the preseason.

Last season, neither Clay nor Egnew did anything worthy of making the team in camp. They just basically made the team because they were young and there was simply no one else around. In other words, they made the team on promise rather than production.

And Fasano?

He's not starting because he's great. He's starting because he's the best of a bad lot. He's the best Miami's got but he's typically a C-plus player.

And as I look around, teams with merely C-plus tight ends didn't get deep into the playoffs this year.

Comments

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Mark....

I know we didn't play the easiest schedule in the NFL....but I expected better from our players...if you draft a guy @ # 8 in TODAYS NFL....he should be able to win games....Lord knows that QB who have been drafted far lower are making things happen....

Tanne (to date)....is a dissapointment....hopefully he turns that around...

Opti/Pessi...

I went best case scenario last year...didn't quite pan out...

I think i'll be a bit more conservative this year...and possibly be surprised....

Dusty, the results say otherwise

Kris, if Tannehill easily exceeded expectations last year. If he was going to be better than that - he'd be a Brown at #3. In fact given the way the year panned out and Richardson's balky knee, Cleveland would probably take Tannehill at #3 right now.

Mark...

I doubt Cleveland is kicking themselves....Tanne is easily the worst of the rookie QBs taken....him and Weedon....

two HISTORICALLY BAD TEAMS....making the WRONG DECISION @ QB....who'd have thunk it.....

Mark Toronto,

Right on point. Tannehill definitely exceeded expectations in year 1. He was up and down and thats to be expected. Luck was Luck and was the real deal in college so he did what was expected. RG3 was the Heisman winner and the gimmicky but effective and probably here to stay pistol read option kept drives alive for RG3 and Russell Wilson so the comparisons are very unfair if thats the measuring bar. He needs to be graded on his own learning curve and he did very well for a guy who ran more no huddle (bad coaching) then any other QB in the league.

I got it Andy NJ....

Nobody critisize our POOR Rookie QB....he only had 19 college starts...

woe is him...

he should have his OWN standards by which he should be graded....

sounds like the Henne talk ALL OVER again....

kris i disagree on thill, he had a solid rookie year for having basically zero weapons around him. he has long way to go but i feel good about his future. exp wise he has by far the least amount from all qbs drafted

Kris,

I too looked at the schedule before the season started, and had us beating the Bills twice and the Titans and losing to Seatle but it did not turn out that way. There were games we could and should have won but didn't. Not all Tannehills fault. He did not have a consistent supporting cast. The way I see it is that the only players familiar with the offensive scheme was Tannehill and the rest of the offense had to learn a new play book. Yes Tannehill made some rookie mistakes but so did the rest of the team and correcting one players mistakes is a lot easier than correcting the other 52 players mistakes. I know we be better this year.

BTW...

there is a REASON Tanne ONLY has 19 college starts...

it's because he wasn't GOOD enough to get MORE starts....

have you guys considered that....

...Tannehill definitley exceeded expectations last year. The issue is that his expectations were lower then any of the other rookie quarterbacks(first rounders). I wouldn't be suprised if Tannehill went either direction.

Even if we get some quality playmakers. If Tannehill struggles the blame will no doubt be pointed in the direction of the GM, the HC, the playcaller. All the cliche whipping boys Dolphin fans have become accustomed to shouldering the blame.

flaco $$$$

excuse central.
lmao

..Kris..Good points. I agree 100 percent with you. The team knew that Tannehill had limited experience in college. That was why some had such a hard time with the pick(me). Like you said..Boo freekin hoo. This doesn't matter now. You don't get extra credit because you are inexperienced. And your right. His inexperience no longer gives him a pass. You either do it or you don't. This isn't a feel good story that gets played during the Olympics about a one armed Bulgarian gymnast. It is Pro Football.

kris u have really changed on thill. surprised to see u ripping a guy after one decent season

Didnt you just know Irescum would bring us another Chad Henne? lol

Kris,

Why don't you give the kid a chance??? He was drafted by a bad team that did ZERO to help him out as a rookie through FA or the draft. Wilson had Lynch & a very good O-line, RG3 had Morris & a very good O-line, & Luck had Wayne, Hilton, & two rookie TE's that could play.

All QB's (especially rookies) need help. You can't possibly compare our running game & O-lines to Seattle or to the Redskins.

BTW--And our stud, franchise LT who was supposed to protect him played so poorly that his wife Jackie has taken to twitter wondering where she is going to live next year.

You're angry for the wrong reasons. Tannehill took over a bad team with a LOT of glaring issues & considering the circumstances EXCEEDED expectations. Look at the inconsistency we had in the running game & the lack of domination by the O-line at the point of attack. Games are won & lost in the trenches.

kris seems to be blaming thill for not meeting his 11-5 prediction. thill has zero weapons, lets hope that changes this year

Kris, I've got to agree with more with Andy here. Rg3's and Wilson's #s were a little skewed because of the type of offense they ran. it was no coincidence that when Miami introduced some of those elements into our offense that Tannehill also improved ... well save for the NE finale when everyone mailed it in...

Luck was Luck as Andy said. Of the rookies only Luck., Tannehill, and Weeden were asked to run more traditional non run heavy offenses. Wilson may in time prove to be everything he was this year but he was never going to be drafted here because of his size after the pat White affair.

Tannehill may or may not pull through but anyone already closing the book is doing so prematurely. And as far as Tannehill v Weeden - go back to Childress' comments regarding tannehill (he has a lot of work to do) which led them to lean towards Weeden. Well in the end Tannehill closed that margin on Weeden quickly and is much younger and has a much better physical tool set to pull through.

And it's a shame that RG3 may be never be the same either. he would've revolutionized the position if they brought him along like the Dolphins did with Tannehill. make him learn from the pocket first then introduce the run. he has the skill set to do so. let's see what happens there but two wrecked knees before the age of 24 is not good.

How the heck did Tannehill go at #8? He was just average in college.

Kris,

I'm surprised to read your comments on Thill this morning. Maybe it's midweek and this weather is getting your down....not sure.

I honestly don't know what you expected from Tannehill this year. Neither you nor I thought he would play this year and he ended up leading this team to a 7-9 finish. Pretty damn good in my estimation. No he didn't light it up like RGIII or Luck or Wilson but those guys are FREAKS....they're not the norm I think if you look at the supporting cast of all those teams, it's not even close....we CLEARLY have inferior talent on offence. That's not on Tannehill.

Kris,

Don't put words in my mouth. I never said that was the reason Tannehill was so up and down. The facts are is expectations were lower from everyone considering that though since you brought it up.

Luck/RG3/Wilson all played great. They all had much better talent around them. The playcalling from Shanahan and Bevell with the read option was a huge benefit to these guys, It was similar to the Wildcat as it kept drives alive and gave them more opportunities and provided them chunk yardage (Sparano-ism).

It's up to Ireland to see if he can add the necessary talent to give Tannehill a chance and not have to make so many tight throws into small windows.

If you can't see that then I'm glad I was able to explain it to you because you are not watching the games or being objective. I'm not a Dolphins homer, I have no allegiances to Tannehill being the answer. I hope he is and think he has the tools and the "IT" that Henne never had.

We're hearing the same excuses for Tannehill that we heard for Henne......from the same people. Too Funny! lol

IF WE GET AN ELITE QB WE COULD PLAY WITH ANYBODY.

AtlFin,

Yeah again with the elite QB....Doesn't seem like the Niners need an elite to be one of the best teams in the NFL the last two year. I'm sorry but Alex Smith & Kaepernick are not in the elite discussion.

You need more than an elite QB to have a good team.

We Need Playmakers,

You were right on with everything. I don't know what guys expected of him.

Tanne (to date)....is a dissapointment....hopefully he turns that around..

Kris,

The team has been a disappointment for 4 straight years.

Kris,

I gotta echo what WNPs has said. Without piling on, I think he's hit the nail on the hard. AWFULLY hard to be down on Tannehill after what he was given to work with this year. Commendable job!

I don't get this idea that we get down on our QB after ONE season. If so, Brees never would have gone on to do what he did. Same with Elway and same with Aikman. These things take time and he needs to have much more help on offence.

...I don't want to speak for Kris. But I think the point is that the ground work has already been laid for the excuses to pile up. Tannehill played under difficult circumstances. No doubt. Hopefully we see a re-worked roster that gives him the opportunity to succeed. We have seen this here before. Go back to the offseason of 2010. Remember, Brandon Marshall was the piece Chad Henne needed to take us over the top. Remember. Everyone had Henne throwin 30 td's. We were the balls.

I want to believe Tannehill is the answer. I really do. But the truth is I have no idea. The stats would suggest he isn't. Some of the plays we saw him make would suggest he is. My issue. Is that just how many playmakers do we expect to aquire that are automatic difference makers? How much of this is on Tannehill. We saw, we see good quarterbacks make average looking recievers good to great. And not just one guy, the whole group. My point is we could bring in big names, sign high round picks. It doesn't automatically equate to efficient offense if indeed Tannehill is a fraud.

But of course it will never be his fault..

We're hearing the same excuses for Tannehill that we heard for Henne......from the same people. Too Funny! lol

Ron,

No you're right. We have a GREAT football team just like the Niners & it's Tannehill that's screwing it up!!!

Is that why our starting RB, our starting LT, & starting CB's are all MAJOR question marks w/ FA coming up??? Must be Tannehill's fault.

Ron Son,

I have NO clue why you show up here day after day after day. It's VERY clear you're not a Dolphins fan. Same negative BS spouted from you day after day.

How long before you start posting under one of your other names? Nobody gives a sh8t about the negativity you spout. Pretty sure I'll be the only one that even responds to you.

Ask yourself what that means....

Yes he has only 19 starts as a college QB but was a WR before that. Just maybe he was able to read defenses quite well in running his routes and they usually take that back to the side lines and discuss it with the coaching staff and coaches saw something in him to upgrade him to QB. He does have good arm strength and is accurate (when given time) and also smart. Give the kid some weapons and a break and he will be good.

We Need Playmakers,

Your name says it all. Playmakers all have something all in common which is elite speed for the position. Miami needs that every position of need which is WR, TE, CB, pass rusher.

They have enough nuts and bolts guys like Odrick, Soliai, Dansby, Burnett on D to go along with 1 difference maker in Wake. And a very good young talent in Reshad Jones who played very good and deserved a Pro Bowl nod IMO. They need a CB or S who can take int the distance and is that sort of threat out there.

This brings me to Kenny Vacarro from Texas. He is in the same mold as former Texas alum and arguably the best S in the league in Earl Thomas. Miami passed on him in 2010 for those nuts and bolts contributors Odrick and Misi.

Miami talks about playing to win your division well with New England being the target and them having the best TE in the league in Gronk and another top 5-7 TE in Hernandez thats a good place to start with a cover safety with elite speed for the position.

You were right on with everything. I don't know what guys expected of him.

Andy NJ,

If our O-line played better & we had a more consistent running game we would have finished AT LEAST 9-7.

Is it Tannehill's fault that Long had his worst season as a pro??? Is it Tannehill's fault that Bush got nicked up after the 3rd or 4th game & disappeared for the next 8 games until he got healthy late in the season??? And the lack of recievers other than Hartline, Bess, & occasionally a slow Fasano??? Yep. Must be Tannehill's fault.

Sounds like a dream scenario for any rookie QB...

We Need Playmakers,

The thing is he was a rookie nonetheless and a rookie can struggle at times. I guess these Tannehill haters who have written him off after 1 season knows something the rest of the people in the league don't know. I haven't heard anyone media/coaches/scouts/GMs/"So called Experts" say Tannehill was terrible or that he looks lost.

There is a thing called progression in football and Tannehill in year 1 showed what he can do at times and what he needs to improve. And AGAIN I cant say this enough that many times the throw has to be perfect because the WRs aren't skilled enough to go get it or bail him out on a jump ball, the window he has to throw into is so tight that if he places the ball anywhere else it would be an int because skill players couldn't get open consistently. Theres not a player on the roster who is a consistent threat and thats a fact.

We can draft either Zach Ertz in the first round or Jordan Reed at #43.

Two players that will be VERY good in the NFL, would look stellar in Fins uni's and don't seem to get talked about much as good as they are:

Florida S Matt Elam. He is simply a VIOLENT tackler. It's like he has total disdain for the opposing offensive players trying to gain an inch. He seems to track and explode through his tackles MUCH better than most any Safety in this draft. It's like he has the awesome angles to go to where the tackle will be made and not get caught trailing plays.

Of course he is more a Strong Safety type but I think he plays the ball well in the air. He and Reshad could easily play multiple enforcers and namely get turnovers via INT's AND Jarring hits. We flat need more turnovers!!! Give the ball back to the Off with a short field.

He would be my favorite choice at Safety...period. I think he and Reshad Jones could form a tandem equal to Gholdson and Whittner in SF.

He tackles like a Rodney Harrison or Ronnie Lott type. Local kid from Florida!

Here is a vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rREjDTpTedE


Also Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton: He is the all time leader at Oregon State. He is fast, fluid, super body control and has great hands.

Here is a vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-RkS8riVX0

If the Fins kept Hartline, signed Wallace, drafted Patton and Markus Wheaton...teamed with Bess...are you kidding me? That would be WR corps transformation 101.

Cheers,

Miami hasn't brought in big name free agents since Shula was there

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