I typically don’t endorse anything made trendy by those dastardly New England Patriots, because, well, as petty as this is, I hate them, but I’m going on the record right here, right now:
I like the two-tight end receiving threat made famous a season ago.
The emergence of a powerful, play-making tight end is nothing novel – something Broncos fans know well. (Thank you for that, Shannon Sharpe.) The Patriots’ two-tight end formation in 2011, however, was a new wrinkle for opposing defenses, yet another “something to worry about” that elevated an already
pretty good great offense (it pains me to admit that) to another level.
Now to be clear, trotting two tight ends onto the field is nothing new. Generally though, both of them didn’t break down the seams when the ball was snapped. The Patriots, in a moment of, “Why has no one else thought of this yet?” started thinking of tight ends as mismatch weapons more than extra blockers with decent hands. The traditional thinking was to populate rosters with tight ends that could block as well as they could run a route. What was oddly overlooked is that receiving tight ends are a built-in mismatch in a game that relies on mismatches, and when defenders treat you as a downfield threat on every play you don’t need to be a great blocker as the guy you’re blocking probably isn’t expecting you to block him.
Not surprisingly, NFL pundits expect this particular double-tight end set to the take the league by storm in 2012.
And could that upcoming sensation that’s sweeping the nation include Denver?
Possibly. The truth is we really don’t know, and won’t know until we see the new-look Denver Broncos in action.
What we do know is the arrival of Peyton Manning equals more passing than a season ago. We also know the Broncos upgraded the position of tight end by replacing Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario with Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, the latter being a former teammate of Manning’s in Indianapolis.
At the very least, Dreessen and Tamme give offensive coordinator Mike McCoy the flexibility in developing such plays for 2012. Add to that the defensive dilemma for opponents: Do you put a fast guy on a tight end, likely giving up size, or do you put the big guy on a tight end at the risk of giving up speed?
This is by no means to suggest the Broncos will a) even do this, or b) if so, replicate the Patriots’ success from a season ago. Again though, it’s a curious option now that Denver has some semblance of an actual passing game in place. The chief benefactors of Manning’s services will be the wide receivers, namely Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but the Broncos didn’t bring in Dreessen and Tamme merely to round out a roster. That said, it would be premature to assume the TE roster moves put the Broncos on the level of New England. Tamme is by far more of the athletic receiver, perhaps akin to Aaron Hernandez, but Dreessen is no Gronkowski. Then again, 95% of tight ends are no Gronkowski.
Manning’s recovery from sitting out all of 2011 is certainly the biggest headline entering training camp and the preseason, but out of all those little subplots, it’s the role of the tight ends that has my attention.
Wait, what about those young tight ends?
No, I didn’t forget about Virgil Green and Julius Thomas, the tight ends drafted by Denver in 2011.
Green is suspended for the first four regular-season games of 2012, and only played sparingly a season ago. Thomas missed much of last season because of injury, and is still recovering from offseason surgery. (Remember, he did not participate in OTAs or minicamp.)
The Broncos obviously want Green and Thomas to improve, but bottom line: It will be a battle for both to see increased playing time.