Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: 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: Miami brought in David Martin last year to fill the team's need for a starting tight end. Well, as many expected, that experiment didn't work out too well. Thus, a starting tight end was once again a need this offseason, and the front office sent a fourth-round draft pick over to Dallas in return for Anthony Fasano (and Akin Ayodele). Whoever the starting TE is, don't expect them to all of a sudden become Jason Witten just because they are playing in a similar offense. Miami will use a lot of two-TE formations, but that is much more for blocking purposes than route-running purposes.

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

Anthony Fasano
Assuming he's healthy, Fasano should have no problem winning the starting TE spot. He's really the only TE on the roster who can be considered both a good blocker and a good pass catcher. The rest of the guys all seem pretty one-dimensional. Fasano blocks straight ahead very well, and that will help the power running game. He's also a weapon catching passes over the middle, and he runs his crossing routes to perfection, oftentimes helping the other receivers to get open. The fact that he's stepping into a system that he already knows while all the other guys adjust further cements his seeming lock on the starting spot. Also, he's only 24 years old, so he's still got plenty of room to get better. I expect good things from Fasano in the future.

David Martin
What a disappointment this guy was last year (and I wasn't even one of those crazy fans who thought Martin was the next coming of Antonio Gates - talk about a rude awakening for them). In five seasons with the Packers before coming to Miami, Martin had never been a full-time starter. Cam Cameron mistakenly thought he could turn him into one. Wrong. Martin is what he is. He's essentially just another receiver who plays a position that requires him to perform a task that he is seemingly physically unable to do (ie. blocking). The injury bug that perpetually follows Martin around like Pigpen's dust cloud hampered him again last season, sapping his effectiveness. All of those injuries, combined with his older age (29), aren't doing any favors to the one skill he relied on - his speed. Despite all these negatives, I still think Martin will make the team primarily due to a lack of better options. He comes pretty cheap and aside from Fasano, he's the only other receiving threat that Miami has at TE.

Justin Peelle
Peelle has been a serviceable backup with Miami for the past few seasons, but I get the feeling his time with the team may be running out. He's always been a blocking tight end first, but he does have good hands. Of course, if the offense is having to continually throw to Peelle, something probably isn't going well. His yards per catch are horribly low and his ability to get open is average at best. The nail in his coffin, however, will likely be his bloated contract and the fact that he's 29 years old. There are younger guys on the roster who can do what Peelle does for a fraction of the cost.

Sean Ryan
One of those younger guys is Sean Ryan, brought over to Miami from the Jets. Ryan is primarily a blocker, and he has the big frame (6'5", 260 lbs.) to excel in the trenches. The Jets liked to motion Ryan into the backfield to act as a lead blocker on run plays, and Miami could use that same strategy when lining up in multiple TE sets with no fullback. He's not at all a weapon in the passing game. If you want a comparison player, think of Kyle Brady (just not as good as Brady).

Aaron Halterman
Halterman came to Miami because he had experience working with Cam Cameron. Now that Cameron is gone, expect Halterman to soon be shown the door. It's a bit surprising that he's even lasted this long.

Matthew Mulligan
Mulligan was an undrafted college free agent, and he didn't show anything special in minicamps and OTAs. He's just a camp body.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. Anthony Fasano
2. David Martin
3. Sean Ryan

Training camp battle to watch: Martin vs. Peelle vs. Ryan for the #2 and #3 spots.

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