The tight end position has become more en vogue than ever. The days of Jason Dunn lining up beside Willie Roaf and crushing defensive ends in the running game have become yesterdays news, last seasons fashion. Fewer and fewer players at that position are what you would call great blockers. It is all about getting mismatches in the passing game. Today's Tight End must be able to gain separation from defenders and make yards after the catch. They also must be able to use their size effectively in the red zone and out jump a defender. Not only that, they have to be sophisticated route runners with soft hands. In this new NFL, more is expected from these guys than ever before. They have basically become big wide receivers.
Case in point ,Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They are the poster boys for the modern day Tight End. Gronk is 6-7 , 265lbs and runs a 4.6 40. He lines up outside ,on the line, in the slot, wherever he can take advantage of a match up problem. He is too big and strong for a DB to bring down and too fast for most line backers to cover. He is deadly in the redzone , setting an NFL record for TD catches for the position. Then there is Hernandez. Couldn't block his way out of a paper bag. But what he lacks in ability as a blocker, he makes up for with his receiver speed , hands and route running. There isn't a linebacker in the league that can cover him. He is also used in an H back role in the backfield and is capable of taking handoffs if need be.
Much was made of the putrid offense KC put on the field last year. Many reasons were given as to why this offense stunk up the joint week in and week out. One of the things that is rarely brought up, was the lack of production from the Tight End. And I am being kind even using the word production. Tight end was hands down the WORST unit on the team last year in my opinion. And yes, that includes OL, QB, RB and safety. How bad was it you ask? Whoa nelly.....words can't even describe
The Chiefs Tight End Production, or should I say lack thereof
The three headed monster of Anthony Becht, Jake O'Connel and Leonard Pope combined for a whopping 34 catches for 325 yards and one TD. They didn't even average ten yards a catch. To put that into perspective, Dexter McCluster (a RB ) had 46 catches for 338 yards. Yes MNchiefsfan, Dex is more valuable than all of our Tight Ends combined. It is a sad state of affairs when you have to say that. They only had 90 yards combined once last year (GB) and did not have more than 40 yards total the rest of the season. There were 30 individual tight ends that eclipsed those numbers that KC's tight end's combined for. KC was dead last in the league in TOTAL Tight End production.
Pope is 6-7 265 lbs , but he plays like he is 5-7 165 lbs. I have never seen a guy that big fall down that easy. He had a whopping 24 catches for 247 yards and 1 TD. And he was the best of the bunch. And then there was the epic, weekly roster battle between Jake O'Connel and Anthony Becht. Every week the two played a round of musical chairs for a roster spot. Whoever won , played that week. Whoever lost, went home and they played again the next week. O'Connel has been given opportunity time and again. Only to drop the ball ( literally and figuratively).He chipped in with 7 catches for a meager 52 yards.He can't catch, can't separate other than that, he is a good player. There are rumors that he is a decent in line blocker. But that has yet to be confirmed, as he never gets on the field enough to show it. And then there was Becht. Out of the league for two years and a radio commentator. He actually became another in a line of guys to take O'Connel's job.The coaching staff finally decided at the end of the year that he was a better player than O'Connel was. But that isn't saying much now is it . He had 3 catches for 26 yards.
I have a love/hate relationship with Pro Football Focus. I think many of their findings are up for interpretation. However, I generally respect their opinion. Here is how they rated the Tight Ends for the Chiefs last season
Anthony Becht -3.5 overall grade
Jake O'Connel -6.6 overall grade
Leonard Pope -18.6 overall grade!!!
If that doesn't tell you how awful these guys performed, then I don't what will. We basically had three blocking tight ends that couldn't block. On top of that, they couldn't get downfield to make plays. The lack of receiving threat from the position crippled this offense.
The Todd Haley affect
I don't know what it is , but Haley didn't like using a shower , a razor , a barber or the Tight End position when he was here. Heath Miller, you should be worried right now. In the four years when Haley ran an offense, the most he ever got out of the TE position was 36 catches for 357 yards in 07 while he was OC in AZ. We all know Cassel's limitations as a passer. So you would think it would have behooved Haley to incorporate the Tight End more while he was here. It always frustrated me that he ignored the tight end time and again. Leonard Pope isn't worth much. But Jesus man , the guy is 6-7. You mean to tell me that you can't throw it up to him in the redzone once in a while and see what happens?. You mean to tell me that you can't devise a way to get O'Connel open in the middle of the field somehow? Then why the hell is he on this roster? You cut Jared Gaither but left O'Connel on the roster? No wonder you were fired. I hope Daboll uses the tight end more. Ben Watson had his best year under him , so you never know. Cassel isn't Kurt Warner with a rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy. A Tight End that could work the middle of the field would do wonders for Cassel. Pioli on the other hand , loves to draft Tight Ends. He has drafted nine since he has been a GM. So the fact he didn't address this in the last two drafts baffles me.
Of course , this post could all be for nothing. Afterall, we already have a Tight End on the roster. A Tight End that seems tailor made for the Pro Bowl. What am I so worried for? Moeaki is going to come back stronger and healthier than ever......right?? Not to mention , KC signed the Boss Kevin Boss. Boss is light years better than Pope or O'Connel. Casel should have two targets with great hands . The middle of the field and the seam shouldn't be the baron wasteland it was last season. I am overreacting .......right? Well.........
The Neverending Rehab Story
I remember it like it was yesterday. April 2010 , after suffering threw KC reaching on Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster, I was just about to shut off the TV. Then , something happened. A trade , KC was back on the board. I was never so happy to see Roger Goodell's crooked nose in my life. KC was back on the clock. I knew immediately that this had to be a Tight End. Could KC really get Aaron Hernandez, the guy I coveted throughout the whole draft process? I waited as Goodell read the card. ''With the 93rd pick in the 2010 draft the Kansas City Chiefs select Tony Moeaki Tight End Iowa. Sigh....... open hand, palm to face, exhale. I could not believe it, although seeing the other picks made he made that day , it became more believable.
You mean to tell me, with All American Aaron Hernandez sitting there, Scott decides on a player that couldn't even stay healthy for twelve games in college, ( I thought out loud). I hated the pick then and I hate the pick now more than ever
Moeaki reminds me of a beautiful women. You meet her and she is the girl of your dreams. She is smart , funny, sweet, gets along with all your friends and family. There is just one little problem. She used to be a coke addicted stripper and dated a 5'6 230 lb pimp named Bobo. But that was in the past. You can change her ....maybe not. You ignore the warning signs like her grind dancing on strangers in the club and her drinking heavily to the point of passing out. Before you know it , you get a text at 3 am saying it isn't going to work out and she leaves you for 200 lb woman named Dakota with a untouched by man tattoo on her throat.
Moeaki has everything you want in a player. Great blocker, great hands , good speed, high character guy, model citizen. One problem though. He makes peanut brittle look like titanium. Not exactly a minor thing you can look past . His list of injuries include broken wrist, dislocated elbow, concussion, broken foot, sprained ankle, hamstring pull, calf strain. One thing is for sure, he has made some DR in this country a ton of cash. He probably has a reserved room at the hospital. OK, that isn't funny ......let's move on shall we
But, you could just here Pioli say''Ya, but I can change him''. '' I don't care about his past'' He didn't have the trainers , he was just unlucky''. '' We will make him into a star''
Of course I was more than happy to say I was wrong the first year.It seemed like Pioli was a genius afterall for making that trade. Moeaki missed only one game that year with a concussion. Nevermind it was the third time he missed a game with a head injury in 3 years. Be that as it may,he finished the year with 47 catches for 556 yards and 3 td's. His athleticism was on full display with that unforgettable catch Vs the 49ers at home. For a moment , you had to rub your eyes. It was eerily similar to some of the catches Tony G used to make on a weekly basis
Moeaki gave Cassel a reliable intermediate target and Cassel responded with the best season he ever had. He no longer had to force throws downfield all the time. Something his lack of arm strength doesn't allow him to do with any type of consistency. This looked like a marriage that was going to last awhile. Moeaki seemed to have finally overcome the injury bug. Cassel seemed to have that Tight End that eluded him his whole career . All was well and good until....
Different injury same result
In a pre season game against the Packers, Moeaki tore his ACL while diving out of bounds. It is one of the more puzzling injuries I have seen in some time. What gets lost in this discussion is that Moeaki had offseason knee surgery, coincidence? Anyway , this set in motion the aforementioned horrible play by our Tight Ends the rest of the year. And it is no coincidence that with no security blanket, Cassel regressed into the QB we saw in 09.
Moeaki has already proven his worth for this team.If healthy, he could be one of the best tight ends in the league. But , he hasn't proven he can stay on the field. Durability is the most underrated aspect to a players game. You can have all the talent in the world. But if you can't stay on the field, what good are you? It is one of the forgotten aspects to Tony G's game. It isn't the 1,000 catches he made that impresses me the most. It is that he only missed two games with injuries in 15 years. That is remarkable.
I have debated with people on here about Moeaki's injuries. I think his career is at the crossroads right now. I think the guy is on the fast track to becoming the next Bob Sanders. Many people disagree and I hear a lot of excuses on here as to why I am overreacting . Am I?
Sports Bar Myths Volume 2; 1 Moeaki's injuries are not reoccurring
I keep hearing that Moeaki's injuries are somehow not related to one another. That they are all separate entities , not to be taken in conjunction with each other. For instance, his broken wrist is just one injury. His Broken foot is just one injury. Well, to ignore the fact that these injuries are related is to ignore the human body. Our bodies are one big unit. What happens to one body part affects another. For instance, he broke his foot. He then struggled with leg injuries the next three years. He had to put more weight and strain on parts of the body that were not accustomed to the extra pressure, to compensate for his broken foot. It is easy to see the chain of events that led to his lower leg injuries.
Another thing I hear is that these injuries are not reoccurring injuries. To that I have to say BS. He sprained his ankle twice. He broke his foot twice. He has had three concussions. He is a slow healer and has had more than one reoccurring injury
Sports bar myth 2; these were ''freak'' injuries
It is amazing to me that every injury this guy has is just some wild and zany mishap. This according to many on AP. Like he was walking down the stairs and tripped over his cat. Or he was helping a buddy move and a TV fell on his foot. No folks, these are FOOTBALL injuries. He dives for a ball and breaks his wrist and dislocates his elbow. Who was the last guy you heard getting hurt that bad making a catch? Those are injuries you would expect from someone falling off a ladder. His fragility is staggering.
Was it a ''freak'' injury when he broke is foot making a cut in practice? Was it ''freak'' injuries when he got those concussions? Again , some of these are non impact injuries we are talking about here. Injuries that happened on a football field , making football moves. He tore his ACL diving untouched out of bounds. Nothing freaky about it. It is just a guy that can't stay on the field , nothing more than that
Sports bar Myth 3; the guy is just unlucky
This kind of goes to the freak injury thing, but it is probably my favorite excuse. No one in life can be that unlucky. Charlie Brown , maybe. But I just don't believe Moeaki is the Al Bundy of the NFL. It is pretty easy to figure why this guy is hurt all the time. His body isn't able to take a pounding week in and week out. Luck has nothing to do with it.
Is it luck that Brett Favre started all those games? Or is it the makeup of a warrior that didn't ever want to come off the field. Is it luck that Will Shields never missed a start. Or is it the fact he put the time and dedication it took to get his body ready for the pounding he took every week. is it luck that Tony G only missed two games his entire career. Or was it the hours he spent in the weight room making himself stronger. You can't be hurt that often and blame it on simple bad luck. Life doesn't work like that
Where do we go from here
I think we can all agree that the Tight End is very important for this team. More importantly, Scott Pioli agrees. He signed Kevin Boss this offseason. I like the move. It seems that Pioli has learned from his mistake. I just don't think Boss is a number one tight end. He is a good complementary player , not an elite talent. If Moeaki goes down again, who is going to be that number two guy? Pioli is apparently worried about it. He brought in Dallas Clark and signed Martin Rucker. But now Rucker has a torn ACL and the only other guys on the roster are O'Connel and undrafted Tim Biere.Neither of whom inspire nuch confidence( I for one have seen just about enough of MR. O'Connel) Kc needs another veteran on the roster for insurance , in case the injury bug bites again. Boss himself has missed some games with injuries, although he doesn't have the medical Moeaki has. Problem is, it is a little late in the game to add guys in free agency. Who is out there right now that can help this team? Not much , but there are some interesting names
the good ; Graham has ties to Pioil , being that Pioli drafted him. He is a good blocker and an underrated receiver. He struggled with shoulder problems with the Pats , but he has only missed one game the last five years in the league. He is a good, solid veteran Tight End
the bad; Graham is 33 years old and looks to be slowing down. He had only two catches last year with the Titans. You have to wonder how much he has left in the tank, if he has anything at all
the good; Shockey proved last year that he still has something left in the tank. He had a respectable 37 rec, for 455 yards and 4 td's. He still has the ability to beat a linebacker and out jump a safety. He would bring a colorful personality to a team that needs a little flash
the bad; Shockey hasn't exactly been the model of health himself. He has never played a full sixteen games in the NFL. So it is hard to see how he can at age 31. He also isn't much of a blocker and does not play special teams. His value would only be as a receiver. Has also expressed that he may retire.
the good; Bajema is athletic tight end and he plays special teams. He is also under 30 years old . He is a team first type of player that will sacrifice stats and does anything asked of him. Can also play H-back
the bad ; Bajema has never been really productive in the passing game. He has never caught more than 14 passes in a season. You have to wonder if he would be an upgrade over O'Connel
the good; this is actually a very intriguing prospect. Has the size to block on the perimeter. Has the speed to get down field. He is also very young , only 25 years old. A good , solid, developmental prospect that I would love KC to sign
the bad; He is just a raw player at this point. he needs some coaching to reach his potential. Is probably a year or two away from making an impact.
the good; Gilmore is a road grader in the run game. He is almost an extra lineman. He is also a very durable player.
the bad; He is only a blocker at this point. He is also 32 years old
the good; the best tight end still available. Tremendous athlete. Has very good receiving skills. Has never missed a game in the NFL
the bad; Shiancoe has always been somewhat of an underachiever. He is also an unengaged blocker and is 31. He also doesn't play special teams.
I want more than anything for Moeaki to stay healthy. But I just am not going to count on it. KC needs to make another move to be proactive. Least we end up in the same situation we were in last season. The tight end is key for this offenses success in 2012