Jimmy Graham… Vernon Davis… Julius Thomas. A few examples of TEs that are revolutionizing the game of football today. But not only the game of football, but the TE position as well. These Athletic TEs are extremely different from the traditional “block and sometimes receive” TEs that were used to. But what affect, positive or negative, do these athletic TE have on the game today???
Well why would you want an athletic TE on your offense anyways? Mismatches. In a pass heavy NFL, you need as many weapons in your passing attack as possible. And on top of that, you want to set these guys up with as many opportunities to succeed as possible. So a great way to do that is to attack these slower, less athletic LBs sitting in the middle of the field. You get a guy like Jimmy Graham (6’7” 265 lbs., 4.52sec 40yd dash) who moves like a basketball player, to draw 1 on 1 against a 270 lb LB who isn’t really equipped with the coverage skills of a DB and you’ll create mismatches all over the field. But it’s not just the size and speed difference. These TEs are trained to run complex WR routes to perfection, making these LBs jobs even harder. These TEs are strong, fast, and smart (triple threat).
But then you say: “Well if these guys play just as good as WRs, then why aren’t they WRs?” To be frank, it’s because they still aren’t as lethal as our elite WRs today vs. Elite CBs. We saw this last year, Week 6: Jimmy Graham vs. Aqib Talib. New England obviously game planed and refused to let Graham have a field day against them. So what do you do? You stick your No.1 CB on him. With what results? Jimmy Graham: 0 catches for the day. Aqib Talib (6’1” 205 lbs) was a much better match up for Graham due to the balance of size and skillset. So the proves that you have to use these athletic TEs where they have a better chance of succeeding, which is against these slower LBs. Against them, these TEs are a real trouble for defenses.
One thing you do lose in the run game with these athletic TEs is effective edge blocking. These TEs, although very athletic, lack good run and pass blocking skill. They display nothing more than an average and sometimes below average blocking skillset. So it might be a good idea to employ a traditional blocking TE as well if you decide to go the athletic TE route.
So in a nut shell, these athletic TEs are the truth. The mismatches they create are obvious and a real bad day for any defense. (Once again trust me, I know). Put them in the right spot and sit back, relax, and watch the scoreboard rise up.
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