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BSN Denver is previewing the Denver Broncos, position by position, as the four-time defending AFC West champions prepare to kick off training camp July 31 at their new and improved Dove Valley headquarters. In this segment, we look at the tight ends.
Since the days of the Denver Broncos greatest tight end, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, the position has evolved. It’s become basically another receiver; a bigger, stronger receiver. Tight ends work the seam of the field, where it’s usually easily exploited by throwing over a linebacker and in front of a safety. Tight ends can also utilize their size to box out smaller corners for touchdowns and shorter, safer throws.
But when it comes to the Broncos best tight ends this season, they’re throwbacks. Denver’s tight ends understand the importance of blocking as well as being a pass-catching threat, making them versatile and valuable.
Denver’s acquisition of Daniels was superb considering the departure of last year’s breakout tight end Julius Thomas. But Thomas’ downfall was his inability to block consistently well in the run game, making him a one-dimensional player. Daniels can do it all.
He’s a true veteran, being drafted by the Houston Texans and playing for them from 2006-2013, then for the Baltimore Ravens last season. Kubiak must love Daniels, who’s always played in the now Broncos head coach’s offense. The feeling must be mutual because he followed Kubee once again, to Denver.
Over his nine-year career, Daniels has averaged 48 receptions for 572 yards and 3.7 touchdowns per season. His best year was in 2012, with 62 catches for 716 yards and six scores while he blocked for Arian Foster’s 1,500-yard, 15 TD season. The Texans went 12-4, eventually losing to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.
Daniels can be used as both a possession receiver or as a guy that tests the defense. He has great hands and uses his experience to know just how to create separation from the defender. Daniels has no problem catching balls in traffic and is an astute route-runner. He’s also quick off the line of scrimmage in the run game and understands the importance of getting across his opponent to seal a block.
Green is even more a throwback than Daniels, as a run-blocking tight end first. He’s never enjoyed more than nine receptions in a single season and last year’s 74 yards were his most in four years as a pro. His lone touchdown came against the Oakland Raiders from Brock Osweiler on a quick out, proving he has hands to score in the trenches.
He’s a mauler on the line, a sixth – or sometimes seventh – lineman when Denver decides to run in short-yardage situations and he’ll see playing time as a blocker first.
Heuerman is the sad story of the group, a rookie drafted in the third round this May who tore his ACL in practice with the team. He seems to be an athletic, pass-catching tight end, one befitting of the era he’s playing in. But, we’ll all have to wait and see until next year what he can do on the NFL field.
Jensen is a second-year pro who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. Coming out of college at Fresno State, NFL scouts liked his physicality in the run game as well as when he out-muscles defensive backs in passing routes. He’s got the speed to attack the defense vertically and is coachable. At 6’6” and 260 pounds, he has great size for the position. What he can do in Denver remains to be seen.
Jones started his career with the Indianapolis Colts (2012-13), spent one year in Kansas City and has been with the Broncos since last season. He’s a massive man, weighing in at 265 and can be another asset to the blocking game.
It must be noted that James Casey and Joe Don Duncan are listed as TE/FB and we’re considering them as fullbacks. Casey is a seemingly ultimate hybrid player and has enjoyed some success under Kubiak in 2012 as a receiver. Fullback is a position unfamiliar in Denver’s latest offense but will make a comeback under Gary Kubiak.
As will a hard-fighting run game with tough-nosed tight ends.