The tight end position is quickly becoming a highly recognizable one thanks in large part to the favorable rules for the down-the-field passing game and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichek’s mastery of the 2 tight end set. While the Patriots may have a few issues to deal with at that position for the next several years (go Tebow!), the NFC East is home to some fairly respectable groups of tight ends. These rankings are strictly based on the talent of the top 2-3 players at the position, and do not reflect the offensive schemes and quarterbacks involved in getting these players the ball. The position as a whole has changed and the demand for a blocking tight end has quickly shifted to the need for an individual who can block and catch the ball downfield.
While this line-up of tight ends will not blow your doors off, further examination of the group reveals an excellent mix of blocking and athleticism that will provide quarterback Robert Griffin III with several possession and down-the-field options to incorporate into the team’s vaunted read-option scheme. The healthy return of Fred Davis gives the Redskins the best tight end in the division, as stars like Brent Celek and Jason Witten are beginning to slip quickly and quietly past their prime. Logan Paulsen has always been an excellent blocking option at the position, but last year found himself thrust into the starting job due to injury. This allowed the blocking specialist the ability to improve his possession game and become a much better-rounded player. Rookie Jordan Reed may be the most talented of the bunch in terms of a deep threat and finds himself in a perfect position that will allow him to learn from both Paulsen and Davis, while also being molded by Mike Shanahan into an excellent starter of the future.
The Eagles quickly took on the offensive philosophy of new Head Coach Chip Kelly when they expanded their depth of athletic tight ends by drafting Zach Ertz and signing James Casey. With Brent Celek beginning to slow down, Ertz will likely become the go-to option out of this group, but Casey and Clay Harbour will still provide the Eagles quarterback with other viable options in the passing game. The key knock on this group is the lack of run and pass-blocking ability; however this can be somewhat overlooked due to the nature of Chip Kelly’s new high-tempo offense. Only time will tell how the teams’ offseason moves turn out, but on paper they appear to make perfect sense.
The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a similar situation to the Eagles with their star tight end Jason Witten beginning to get up there in age. While Witten is coming off a remarkable season, injuries are beginning to become a serious concern for this Cowboys legend. As a result, the team drafted Gavin Escobar as its tight end of the future and signed Dante Rosario as a potential second option to either of the two more talented options. A San Diego State product, Escobar will likely be Witten’s understudy for the next few years and will eventually become one of Romo’s favorite targets down the middle of the field. Rosario brings above-average catching ability to the team that will allow the Cowboys a safe transition over the next few years from Witten to Rosario. In a perfect world, Witten would remain healthy all season, catch between 70 and 90 balls, and Rosario and Escobar would complement him in two-TE sets. Only time will tell for this group, but on paper the Cowboys seem to be set here for the foreseeable future.
The Giants appear to have missed the memo in regards to supremely athletic, pass-catching tight ends being the wave of the future. Brandon Myers caught 79 balls in 2012 for the Raiders and provides a reliable pass-catching/blocking combination, however there is no doubt he does not provide the speed and downfield threat of a Fred Davis, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed, or Gavin Escobar. This issue may be minimalized in Tom Coughlin’s system as he uses his tight ends strictly as possession receivers, while allowing Nicks and Cruz to make the bulk downfield plays. Bear Pascoe is strictly a blocking option for the G-men and youngster Adrien Robinson likely has another year or two before becoming a potential number 1 option for quarterback Eli Manning.