Coming into the 2012 season, the tight end position for the Denver Broncos was arguably the deepest on the team. With young players like Julius Thomas and Virgil Green as well as veteran additions Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, the position was more than set.
That has continued now for a third year, as the competition for any playing time at tight end is stiff, yet the Broncos have found a great way to utilize their talented quartet of players at the position, one that could soon see some intriguing changes.
Since 2012, the major difference is that Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen have been replaced by Julius Thomas, who broke out in 2013 as one of the star players in the NFL.
Thomas had one catch for five yards in two seasons with the Broncos, battling injuries and the obviously steep learning curve for a young player coming into this league out of a small school. In 2013, that all changed.
Thomas became one of the Broncos’ best offensive assets, catching 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. He’s a nightmare for linebackers to have to cover because of his speed, and he’s a nightmare for safeties to try and cover because of his size. And he’s only going to get better, heading into a contract year.
The rest of the TE position didn’t see a ton of work in 2013, but Jacob Tamme did come in against the Patriots in relief of Thomas and had a nice game both as the tight end and as a backup slot man.
Tamme saw the 2nd most targets of tight ends, and Joel Dreessen got in the mix with seven catches. One player who doesn’t get talked about a lot but is on the field more than people notice is Virgil Green, who was penciled in for what appeared to be a five-yard catch.
With those four already at the position, competition for a roster spot is going to be really hard, especially since all of these guys now have significant NFL experience. Here’s who the Broncos have and what they bring to the table.
80 – Julius Thomas (4th season, Age 25)
Thomas emerged as one of the best pass catching tight ends in the NFL last season. His blocking wasn’t always great, but who cares? Thomas can always work on his blocking, but for what the Broncos want him to do, he has delivered and then some.
Going into the 2013 season, not even the greatest supporters of Thomas thought we’d see the type of contribution from him that we did, which was 65 catches including 12 for touchdowns.
This is a dynamic playmaker who has size, speed, and makes tough catches. The Broncos are onto something here, and going into a contract year, they better find a way to lock him down.
84 – Jacob Tamme (7th season, Age 29)
Tamme doesn’t do anything that makes you go crazy over his abilities, but he’s a good pass catcher who has better speed than meets the eye.
With Tamme, the Broncos have a versatile TE who can split out wide and play in the slot if need be. He’s a really smart player who knows how to find ways to get open, and he obviously has built up a solid chemistry with Peyton Manning through the years.
81 – Joel Dreessen (9th season, Age 31)
Dreessen is arguably the Broncos’ best blocking TE, but he also struggles with injuries, which could cause him to be a roster casualty in the future.
He gets involved in the passing game every now and again, but nothing like he did in 2012 when he caught a bunch of touchdowns.
85 – Virgil Green (4th season, Age 25)
Green is another TE who has good blocking ability which has likely kept him around the roster for as long as he has been. The interesting thing about Green is the fact that he came out of Nevada with phenomenal athletic ability, speed, and potential as a receiver. The Broncos haven’t yet seen that translate to the NFL.
89 – Gerell Robinson (3rd season, Age 24)
Robinson is a former WR who moved to the TE position last season, and has added around 20 pounds to his frame to bulk up for playing the position. I think Robinson will unseat one of the four other top tight ends on the Broncos’ roster due to his youth, speed, hands, and the fact that he can be a mismatch all over the place. I love his potential.
82 – Jameson Konz (3rd season, Age 27)
Konz is a very interesting case. He was drafted by the Seahawks in 2010, has suffered a barrage of various injuries, and also couldn’t find a positional fit to stick with Seattle.
He played tight end, defensive end, and linebacker before eventually getting cut and then re-signed by Seattle last July. He was part of their final round of cuts before signing a reserve/future deal with the Broncos at the end of last season.
Konz is getting a shot at tight end in camp with the best offense in the league, and you might wonder why he’s intriguing. This is a 240 pound man who ran a 4.41 in the 40 and had a 46-inch vertical. His athletic measurables are ridiculous.
86 – Cameron Morrah (4th season, Age 27)
Morrah, a former seventh round pick of the Seahawks, has been around the league a bit, appearing on the roster for Seattle, San Francisco, and Detroit for a short bit before ending up in Denver.
He’s getting another shot at his NFL dream in Denver, but since being in the league starting in 2009, he’s running out of chances. We’ll see how he does at camp.