Friday, July 20, 2007

Training Camp Positional Preview: Tight Ends

Continuing with my look at the offensive side of the ball, today's training camp positional preview will focus on the tight ends.

What to expect: The group of tight ends currently on the roster does little to instill much confidence in me. Take a look at this stat line from last season:
  • 37 catches, 314 yards, 3 TDs
Now those numbers may seem like a good line for a backup tight end. So which player put up those stats last year? That stat line was compiled not by one player but by all five of the tight ends currently on Miami's roster, combined. Just let that sink in for a moment. Three of the players didn't record any catches at all, leaving only Peelle and Martin to combine for that middling line. Granted, David Martin was a backup last season, and he will be stepping into a starting role in Miami, but he has never been a starter in his entire career. Cam Cameron is taking a huge leap of faith in assuming that Martin can solidify the starting TE position. Yes, he has the ideal physical makeup and speed to be a pass-catching threat, but until he translates that potential into on-field production, I will remain cautiously skeptical. Behind Martin, the tight end depth is bare, consisting of young players with very little experience and low upsides. If Martin goes down with an injury (something that is highly probable), the team will be in very bad shape as far as the tight end position is concerned. In my opinion, the smart move would have been to keep Randy McMichael, but that's water under the bridge at this point.

Here's a closer look at the individual tight ends currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

David Martin
I'd like to believe that Martin is going to step in as a starter and provide the type of production that McMichael averaged, but I can't put my full confidence in someone who has never been a full-time starter before, and who is injured seemingly every season. In fact, Martin has only played a full 16 games once during his 6 year career, sitting out a total of 26 games over that span. Additionally, Martin only caught 58% of the passes thrown to him last season - a number that he will have to improve upon. Physically, he fits the mold of the kind of tight end that flourishes in Cameron's system. He's big and he's fast, and while he may not be a strong blocker, his primary job will be pass-catching. He's the kind of tight end who can line up split out and act as a receiver. When he has been healthy and given opportunities to play, he has shown flashes of promise. It will be very important for this offense that Martin parlays this potential into consistent performance. In the end, perhaps the most important thing for Martin this year will simply be his ability to stay healthy. And let me just say this: we all have to remember that potential and upside are terms that describe what a player might do, rather than what they definitely will do. So while I agree that Martin has a good deal of potential to excel in this offense, let's not just assume that he will. Realistically, there are several big questions surrounding him this season.

Justin Peelle
Peelle is a solid if unspectacular backup tight end. He has a modest amount of experience, and he can hold his own in the blocking game. The best aspect about his game though is that he catches most everything that is thrown his way. Last season with the Dolphins, he caught 89% of the passes thrown to him. It's important for a backup, who doesn't get many passes thrown his way, to catch the ones that are, and Peelle does an admirable job of doing so.

Tim Massaquoi
Massaquoi played in 7 games for the Dolphins last season, but he didn't catch any passes. During last year's preseason he led the Buccaneers with 9 receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. He will spend training camp battling for the third tight end spot.

Jason Rader
During the 2005 preseason, Rader caught four passes for 25 yards and two TDs. Some of you may recall the incredible athletic leaping grab he made for one of those TDs. He then went on to play in 5 games for Miami in 2006, with one start.

Aaron Halterman
Halterman has experience working with Cameron from his time at Indiana and with the Chargers. He has yet to play in a regular season game, so it's uncertain what he brings to the table.


Here's my predicted depth chart:

1. David Martin
2. Justin Peelle
3. Tim Massaquoi

Training camp battle to watch: Massaquoi vs. Rader vs. Halterman for third TE spot. It's somewhat of a mystery as to what each of these three players can bring to the table since they are all very inexperienced. Training camp will be their proving ground.

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