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08-10-2005, 07:05 PM
2005 preview: Tight ends

By Cris Carter, Yahoo! Sports
August 10, 2005

The NFL is a copycat league. Teams duplicate the success of other teams. That's why everyone is trying to find a tight end to take advantage of the increased enforcement of illegal contact rules. It's important to have a tight end in the middle of the field to make plays.

I don't think there's a lot defenses can do, though. They're not going to double-team the position because the level of athletic ability of strong-side and middle linebackers is matched now by the tight ends.

In the past, you only had a few great athletes at tight end. Now you have a bunch of great athletes at the position.

Here are the guys to keep an eye on this season:

Best in the business: Tony Gonzalez
He's the only tight end that defenses are trying to double-cover. Teams know he's going to get the ball in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense, but they still can't stop him. The five-time Pro Bowler has averaged 80 receptions and eight touchdowns the past six seasons. I would say he ranks among the top-four tight ends of all time along with Shannon Sharpe, Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome.

Most underrated: Eric Johnson
He's playing for the worst team in the league, so the tendency is to disregard his numbers. But you can't disregard 82 catches and 825 yards his numbers last season for the San Francisco 49ers. The thing about him is that he runs better than people give him credit for.

Johnson should be a big help in No. 1 pick Alex Smith's maturation. If a running game is a quarterback's best friend, then a tight end is a QB's second-best friend. Johnson should have 80-plus receptions and 800-plus yards again this season.

Most overrated: Jeremy Shockey
I don't think he's overrated because he doesn't have the ability. I think he's overrated due to the attention he gets from some of the things he says. He has the talent, but right now his production on the field doesn't warrant the attention he receives from the media in New York.

Shockey could definitely be one of the best tight ends in the league if he stays healthy. He is a great athlete, can run all of the routes, is a great blocker and has very good speed. Those are some of the things we should be talking about.

Eventually, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin will get the best out of Shockey, who returns this year with increased focus after working out in South Florida during offseason. I think Shockey and Eli Manning will be a great passing combination for a long time in the NFL.

Ready to break through: Randy McMichael
You can get some indication of the type of numbers McMichael will have this season under Scott Linehan, the Miami Dolphins' new offensive coordinator, by looking at the numbers of Minnesota's tight ends the last couple of years. They've all been productive under Linehan, but none of them are near the talent level of McMichael.

That's why I'm saying McMichael will go into the stratosphere. Given Miami's system and the ability of quarterback Gus Frerotte, he could put up numbers like Gonzalez or Antonio Gates and that should propel him to the Pro Bowl level.

Rookie to watch: Matt Jones
The Jacksonville Jaguars will use him as a tight end to capitalize on the crackdown on illegal contact. Jones will be great going down the field against linebackers. He's a phenomenal athlete who played quarterback and wide receiver at Arkansas, but he'll never be a wide receiver in the NFL. He'll cut his teeth using his 4.3 speed against linebackers who are running 4.5s or 4.6s.

We know how good Jacksonville can be defensively at times, and the offense showed signs last year that it might turn things around but the Jaguars really need to make that offense more consistent. If they can pull that off, they could be a dominant force in the AFC South. Jones could play a big role toward achieving that goal.

Biggest 2005 surprise: A growing 1,000-yard club
I believe there'll be three tight ends with over 1,000 receiving yards this year maybe even five. Gonzalez, Gates and McMichael will be locks. Johnson of the 49ers and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys are capable of 1,000-yard seasons, too.

First off... didn't Antonio Gates prove plenty last season, breaking the record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end? Tony Gonzalez isn't the best in the business. Gates is. Hands down. And that's not just my Chargers homer bias talking there.

08-10-2005, 07:08 PM
tony g had 400 more yards than gates.

that is alot .. especially by te standards

08-11-2005, 05:12 PM
Paul i tend to agree with a lot of what you say but this one i have to agree on. He had more touchdowns but a lot less yards. Tony G is still the current standard that is set for Tight Ends

08-11-2005, 05:15 PM
Ok, you guys have a point.

Let's add another column to this: Most Valuable Tight End. That clearly has to go to Gates, since I don't think the Chargers would have been nearly as effective as they were without him.

I ended up taking Gates in the sixth round of my work's fantasy draft. People laughed at that pick, until they saw that he picked up 25+ points a week.

08-11-2005, 05:18 PM
Its a tough choice. Gates has proven he has the hands when it comes to needing the six points. I have seen games though were tony was taken out of the game early by the D and the chiefs not do much of anything moving the ball. Tough choice though but i might have to agree with you and give the edge to Antonio.

08-11-2005, 05:23 PM
When Gates was taken out of games a couple of times last year, it's because defenses were focusing on stopping him. This allowed LT to have huge games.

San Diego was to the NFL two years ago as Arizona was to college football last year. Just put 7-8 in the box every down and you won't have to worry about them scoring.

08-11-2005, 05:54 PM
didnt the chargers make the playoffs?
and tony g was home watching

08-11-2005, 06:30 PM
I think the Chiefs D had more to do with them not making the playoffs. Gonzalez right now is argueably the best ever at the position and has done it over the last 5 years at an elite level. He is also a superior blocker to Gates, in games were Tony is taken out the Chief's usually run the ball pretty well as a result. I think we need more than a season to put Gates at Gonzalez' level but that is just my opinion.

08-11-2005, 06:47 PM
one player to watch maybe as a borderline starter in a ten team league is Ben Watson in New England(ok me being the homer) The Pats use two TEs and most Pat followers expect him to be second on the team in receptions and be the primary redzone option for Brady. Daniel Graham is an excellent TE but his hands have been suspect at times but his standing as one of the best blockers in the NFL will keep him protecting Brady more than Watson.