Miami Dolphins training camp preview: Breaking down tight ends
Will the Dolphins tight ends become a primary target in the new west coast offense?
Charles Clay is all smiles after his touchdown in the first half. (Jim Rassol, Sun Sentinel / November 20, 2011)
This four-year starter was a key component in the Miami Dolphins offense back in the Chad Pennington era. Teamed with David Martin the pair caught 65 passes for 904 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
While Fasano has been assigned a smaller role the past few seasons the Dolphins envision that type of production from the position moving forward.
The tight ends will serve as a key component in Joe Philbin's offense, just as the position was during his tenure orchestrating Green Bay's offense.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter – Anthony Fasano. Backups – Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman, Jeron Mastrud, Les Brown
BY THE NUMBERS: Egnew, the first of Miami's two third-round picks in the 2012 draft, caught 140 passes for 1,285 yards and scored eight touchdowns in his final two seasons at Missouri. He's a natural hands catcher, but doesn't have much in-line blocking experience. That means he'll be a one-dimensional tight end when he enters the game this season.
ON THE HOT SEAT: Yeatman is an undrafted former lacrosse player whom the Dolphins claimed off New England's waiver wire and kept on the 53-man roster all last season. While he looks like an adonis, if Yeatman doesn't start making impact plays on the field his South Florida stay won't be extended into the 2012 season.
THE KEEPERS: It is hard to say how many tight ends the Dolphins will keep on the 53-man roster when you factor in that Green Bay kept five on its 53-man roster last season. Fasano, Clay and Egnew are clearly safe, and we can assume Yeatman, Mastrud and Brown are not just battling for a fourth spot, but also competing with what can be found in the waiver wire in late August. Yeatman and Brown have practice squad eligibility.
BREAKDOWN: Fasano has made the most of his limited opportunities in his four seasons with the Dolphins, contributed 136 catches for 1,772 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns. Last season he was rated by ProFootballFocus.com as the eighth most effective tight end in the NFL. However, Fasano has never caught more than 40 passes in a season during his seven year career. And there are concerns he's physically breaking down. It is likely he’ll remain Miami’s in-line blocking tight end while Clay is used as the H-back, flex option.
Clay, who contributed 16 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns last season, has the ability to create separation from linebackers. But this former Tulsa fullback is rough around the edges when it comes to blocking, and reading defensive coverages. If coached up properly the Dolphins expect Clay's productivity to double in the west coast offense this season. Don't be surprised if he's targeted 50 times this season as the quarterback's outlet target.
Egnew could also get into the mix, but this rookie has a lot to learn about the traditional tight end role considering he was primarily a route runner at Missouri. Mastrud and Yeatman must earn their keep on special teams, and Brown, a former college basketball player, is viewed as a long term option that might warrant an investment on the practice squad.