Mike Clay


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Examining Offensive Personnel

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two-plus tight end packages

Not coincidentally, we’re going to see some overlap here. Teams who generally use a lot of wide receivers won’t use very many tight ends and vice versa. For the teams we discussed earlier, you’ll see only some quick analysis, as there’s no sense in repeating the same facts.

The Leaders:

1. New England Patriots (70 percent of snaps) – Could Daniel Fells or Spencer Larsen force more three-tight end sets? Jabar Gaffney hopes not.

2. San Francisco 49ers (56 percent) – Wide receiver upgrades will mean fewer snaps for Delanie Walker.

3. San Diego Chargers (54 percent) – Eddie Royal is an impact slot man, but Dante Rosario and Ladarius Green add to a strong tight end unit.

4. St. Louis Rams (50 percent) – With Josh McDaniels in town, the Rams looked to model the Patriots by spending a second-round pick on Lance Kendricks and teaming him up with blocker Michael Hoomanawanui. The results weren’t near as good as those in New England, however, as Kendricks struggled with drops and Hoomanawanui missed half the season with a torn ACL. It’s a new regime in St. Louis, of course, but know that Jeff Fisher’s Titans were among the league-leaders in two-tight end sets during his last few seasons. The Jets’ offense, however, which was led by new Rams’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, hasn’t used the second tight end much. Considering the Rams’ underwhelming wide receivers and the fact that they won’t be forcing a ground-and-pound attack, it’s fair to expect a healthy dose of two-tight end sets in St. Louis this season.

5. Dallas Cowboys (49 percent) – Jason Witten is one of the game’s best all-around tight ends and Martellus Bennett is arguably the league’s top run blocker. It was a no-brainer for Dallas to roll with a tight end-heavy attack. Bennett is now with the Giants, however. Replacing him will be John Phillips and rookie James Hanna. Had the team been able to re-sign Laurent Robinson, it would make sense to expect more three-wide formations. Unfortunately, Dallas figures to be stuck with one of Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, and Danny Coale in the No. 3 slot this season. Phillips is going to see a heavy workload opposite of Witten, but he won’t see more than a target or two each week.

The Basement:

1. Oakland Raiders (9 percent of snaps) – Oakland ranked third in the league in fullback snaps thanks to the production of Marcel Reece. That explains why they aren’t higher on the three-plus wide receiver list despite barely using a second tight end. Despite a coaching change, not much figures to change in 2012. Reece, Darren McFadden, and the three-man wide receiver trio of Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Jacoby Ford won’t leave the field much. That’s bad news for the tight ends, especially considering that it will be a three-man committee there, as well, between Brandon Myers, David Ausberry, and Richard Gordon.

2. Buffalo Bills (10 percent) – No team uses three or four wide receivers more than Buffalo. Scott Chandler and Co. are the odd men out.

3. Tennessee Titans (23 percent) – Jared Cook’s underwhelming blocking has kept him from being an every-down player. When Craig Stevens is in the game to run block, Cook often leaves the game. Instead, Tennessee leans on a three-wide attack that will be even stronger with first-round Kendall Wright now in the picture. Cook will play more this season, but it will be at the expense of Stevens – not a wide receiver. Tennessee figures to be in the lower-third of the league in tight end usage again in 2012.

4. New Orleans Saints (24 percent) – The Saints keep the fullback (39 percent of snaps) busier than most teams and only two teams went with two tailbacks more than New Orleans one year ago (albeit on only six percent of their snaps). That means a below market number of three-wide and two-tight end sets. David Thomas played quite a bit early during the 2011 season, but concussions held him to only five games. Now back at full health, he figures to cut into the fullback snaps this season.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25 percent) – Kellen Winslow didn’t leave the field very often last season, but rookie Luke Stocker only played a handful of snaps behind him. With Winslow off to Seattle and Dallas Clark now in the mix, the tables will turn. Stocker will play most downs, focusing on blocking. Clark will work the opposite side and run routes from the slot. Although Preston Parker has emerged into a quality slot receiver, the Bucs will run plenty of two-tight end sets under their new coaching regime in 2012.

Mike Clay is a football writer for Rotoworld.com and the Founder/Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter @MikeClayNFL.
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