Part 4 of 9
Position Breakdown: Tight Ends
Joel Dreessen, 2013 base salary: $2.5 million:
Signing Dreessen for three years and $8.5 million was one of the best investments the Broncos made in the off-season next to Peyton Manning. He was Denver’s most well rounded tight end and was rewarded with 300 more snaps on offense than Jacob Tamme. Mostly because of Dreessen’s demeanor blocking for the rushing attack. However, the former Colorado State Ram graded out in the middle of the pack in terms of effectiveness blocking for the ground game. He ranked 17th out of 35 starting tight ends for run blocking efficiency according to Pro Football Focus.
However, Dreessen was the best pass blocking tight end in football this year as he was occasionally used to protect Peyton Manning when teams were bringing the blitz more. This statistic might be inflated because of Manning’s quick release and decision making. Still it is impressive. As a receiver he recorded 41 catches for 356 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. Dreessen was a great red zone weapon for Manning as he was a prime target in the play action game.
Future: Returning starter. Should be on the field just as much to block for the run game. An underrated asset.
Jacob Tamme, 2013 base salary: $2.5 million:
Was brought in on a 3 year deal for $9 million to do what he did with Manning back in Indy-catch the football. He did just that, amassing 54 catches for 555 yards and two touchdowns. Tamme has some of the best hands in the NFL, which was evident as he only dropped one pass the entire year, second in the league behind Miami's Anthony Fasano.
Interestingly Tamme only played in 44% of all offensive snaps, mostly due to his average blocking abilities. It still begs to ask the question if the Broncos used him enough in the offense. Hopefully new offensive coordinator Adam Gase recognizes Tamme’s value in the passing game and how he works the middle of the field; where he did most of his damage. Manning might insist that in 2013 the Broncos utilize one of their better size/speed assets.
Future: Should partake more in the passing game. Will return to have a better year.
Virgil Green, 2013 base salary: $555,000:
The former seventh round draft choice out of Nevada has improved greatly in each of his first three seasons in the league. He was suspended early in the year for testing positive for a banned substance, which cost him four games. Green is a physical run blocker with impressive athleticism. The coaching staff liked him enough that they kept him on the active game day roster after the suspension. Although he is capable of being a good receiving tight end, Mike McCoy mainly had him come into the game to block. He recorded five catches for 63 yards after playing in only 19% of snaps.
Future: Very talented tight end who hasn’t seen the field enough to show his skills in the passing game. Underrated blocker and special teamer who should see the field more in 2013.
Julius Thomas, 2013 base salary: $555,000:
The former basketball player out of Portland State was gambled on by the Broncos brass when they drafted him in the fourth round hoping they had the next Antonio Gates. In two seasons he has caught one pass and in 2012, he played just two snaps. It was a grand possibility that he could have been cut after the preseason because he failed to show any progress towards getting onto the field. However, because the Broncos invested a fourth round pick in him they held onto him. This is a make or break year for Thomas.
Future: Do or die in 2013. It might be tough for him to crack the lineup with three more well-rounded and seasoned players ahead of him on the depth chart. Unless injuries hit the position Thomas’s chances of making the team are below 50%.
Denver has three starting caliber tight ends that split duties with each other. All are important in their own way which makes it difficult to see the Broncos drafting or signing any this off-season. They will bring in a few guys to compete but this might be a position that will be unchanged for two straight seasons.
Recommendations are to get Tamme on the field more to use his size and speed to exploit mismatches. When Manning was hitting Tamme the offense was at its peak. Luckily the Broncos have a lot of weapons which makes Tamme expendable in many formations.