If you’re having a conversation with someone about the Dolphins offense, there’s a pretty good chance you’re discussing the quarterbacks. And if not the quarterbacks, then the wide receivers. And if not the wide receivers, then probably the running backs.
And while all of the QBs, WRs and RBs are going to be critical to the team’s success on offense this year, there’s another group that could very well make major contributions: the tight ends.
Last year, Joe Philbin’s Packers offense carried five tight ends from training camp into Week 1–not a small number. Right now, the Fins have six TEs on the roster (including Charles Clay, who, despite what anyone tells you, is considered a tight end), and with all of the traffic at WR and RB, it might be hard to envision the Fins taking more than four TEs to Houston on September 9th.
The players’ performance during training camp and the preseason combined with what happens at those other key offensive positions (plus, of course, injuries) will dictate the final number of tight ends on the roster, so let’s get to know the six men that will enter camp a little better:
-Anthony Fasano: A mainstay in the Dolphins lineup since his arrival in 2008, Fasano is coming off a 32-catch season in which he collected 451 yards and five touchdowns. A classic on-the-line TE, he is an excellent blocker and probably a better pass-catcher than you realize. The last couple of seasons, he was charged with assisting the offensive line in pass blocking, which limited his offensive numbers (only Daniel Graham stayed in more to block the past three seasons according to ProFootballFocus). I’m very excited to see how this new coaching staff plans on utilizing him.
-Charles Clay: As a versatile rookie in 2011, Clay appeared in 14 games and caught just 16 passes. The amazing thing? They all seemed to be big plays. His 14.6 yards per reception average made his receptions pretty easy to remember and thus the expectations are very high for him in year two. Clay is more of an h-back, who you can expect to see line up all over the place, including in the backfield.
-Michael Egnew: The third of the “top three” TEs, the third round pick in April’s draft provides something a bit different than both Fasano and Clay. At Missouri, Egnew almost never lined up on the line and was used primarily in the slot. At 6’5, 255, he ran the fourth-fastest 40 at the Combine among TEs and will hopefully be able to contribute as a vertical threat in the seam, while also learning to do some of the more traditional responsibilities for someone at his position.
-Les Brown: Maybe the most interesting human-interest story in the NFL this year, Brown comes to the Dolphins as a 25-year old rookie who hasn’t played football since high school. Brown certainly looked the part during OTAs and mini-camp though making this team is nothing close to a sure thing.
-Jeron Mastrud: Coming into this third year out of Kansas State, Mastrud has collected just one catch so far in his NFL career, but is a strong in-line blocker. At 6’6, 262, he possesses the size and strength to help out of the offensive line in a two-TE set. Also showed an ability to get free in the passing game, catching a nice touchdown in the preseason against Dallas.
-Will Yeatman: Another big guy (6’6, 270), Yeatman appeared in just three games as a rookie in 2011 and, like Mastrud, has that big body that can be used to help move people out of the way. A former lacrosse player, don’t sleep on the former Maryland Terrapin’s athleticism.
As mentioned, these guys aren’t just competing against each other for a spot on the 53-man roster, but also against some of the RBs and WRs. While it may not be a head-to-head competition, there are only so many spots up for grabs when it comes to the players who will be catching and carrying the football.
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