A good tight end is hard to come by, yet very necessary for team success. Back in the day, tight ends were really just additional linemen. Today, they must be able to block like linemen, but catch like wide receivers.
When you talk about some of the best tight ends in the league, you have to talk about Jason Witten (Dallas), Antonio Gates (Chargers), Dallas Clark (Colts), and Chris Cooley (Redskins).
All of these guys were part of passing offenses that were ranked top 10 in the league last year. All of these guys with the exception of Cooley were also part of overall offenses that were ranked in the top 10. You could make the case that with Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning tossing balls to these guys, they should be at the top of the tight end list every year. However, these are all guys you can expect and rely upon to throw out some big blocks for their backs and receivers.
The Broncos are in the process of looking for their next big tight end. A few tears were shed when the team released Tony Scheffler a couple of years ago, and more tears were shed when Daniel Graham was released in the off season.
Training camp saw a slew of potential in the tight end department, which is great because Richard Quinn was waived yesterday with a knee injury. Quinn suffered the injury at the beginning of camp and never returned, so the Broncos have to move on with their potential. Let’s take a look at the five tight ends who are vying for a spot on the Broncos roster.
Daniel Fells – Fells is listed first on the depth chart, and in camp he had great chemistry with Kyle Orton. The 4th year tight end played for the St. Louis Rams before coming to Denver. Last year, he had 41 catches for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Julius Thomas – The 6-5, 255 lb rookie out of Portland State is more comfortable on the hardwood than on the turf, but he showed in camp that he can make the transition to football player. The comparisons to Antonio Gates are easy to make because of his size and great athletic ability, but we’ve been warned by the coaching staff not to take that leap of faith just yet.
Dante Rosario – Rosario has the most experience out of all the tight ends on the roster. Entering his 5th year, Rosario is familiar with John Fox since he played in Carolina. Last season, he had 32 catches for 264 yards. He’s a great blocking receiver and knows Fox’s power running game very well.
Dan Gronkowski – Another big tight end at 6-5, 255 lbs. He played in 12 games for Denver last year making 8 catches with 3 of those going for first downs. Gronkowski looks stronger this year and with another year of experience under his belt, he could be the one to make the cut.
Virgil Green – Green was drafted in the 7th round, but don’t overlook him because of that. Remember, there was another tight end who was a 7th round draft pick who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. Green was impressive in camp making grabs over the middle and meshing well with both Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn.
As the race for tight end continues, keep an eye on all of these guys during the remaining preseason games. Watch not only their ability to catch the ball, but their blocking technique, and their willingness not to give up on a play. In the end, the combination of these things will beat out just a catching tight end.