Are tight ends still a big part of the game? In the midst of offensive trends of spreading the field and throwing the football at a high rate becoming the new norm in football, the answer now more than ever, is yes.
As we uncover below, tight ends arguably present the biggest matchup problem on the field for opposing defenses. Tall, strong, nimble and coordinated are a few of the many terms that describe tight ends in today’s game of football. Elite athletes with many responsibilities in an offense, you’ll see just why their unique blend of size and athleticism plays a crucial role in offenses all across football.
What does a Tight End do?
The tight end splits time between running routes, and being a viable option as a blocker for an offense. The tight end will typically run a lot of short-medium routes, looking to battle against linebackers and become available for the quarterback over the middle and underneath areas of the field. Typically being big, tall, and strong, they become a great option in the red zone, as teams look to find a way to find 1 on 1 matchups throwing the football.
The Stick Concept is a good example of the kind of pass plays that are designed with the tight end as the primary receiver.
Due to tight ends most often lining up right next to offensive lineman, their job includes blocking defensive lineman and linebackers in the run and pass game. Adaptable athletes are the standard for the position, as teams rely on tight ends to help bolster their rushing attack, and utilize their ability to block big bodies in pass protection.
Why is it called Tight End?
The name “tight end” is a relic of the old days in football, when wide receivers were originally known as "Ends".
Why? Because they played on the end of the line, and once the forward pass became a more popular, these players began to line up wider and wider to force the defense to cover more space.
If the player lined up on the line of scrimmage out wide, he was referred to as a split end. To differentiate those players who usually stayed in tighter to the formation and on the line of scrimmage, they became known as tight ends.
What are some other names for the Tight End?
TE: This is the universal abbreviation for the position.
H-Back: As discussed already, teams like to move their tight ends around in order to present problems for the defense. An H-back is simply a tight end line up back from the line of scrimmage outside of either offensive tackle.
What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play Tight End?
Blocking (Run and Pass)
Arguably needing the most diverse skill set for an offensive player, tight ends look to create the pass-catching value of a receiver, while being able to provide value blocking similar to an offensive lineman.
Body Type: (General Estimate)
Build- Strong, Athletic
At the highest levels of the game, tight ends will be very comparable to lineman in terms of height, but will be both lighter, and possessing more athleticism.
Who are some of the best Tight End ever?
Tony Gonzalez (1997-2013) - Throughout his long NFL career, Gonzalez managed to set records for both receptions, and receiving yards for a tight end. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, Gonzalez is a consensus top tight end in NFL history.
Rob Gronkowski (2010-2018, 2020-Present) - After a brief retirement, Gronkowski has returned to football, and has already pieced together a career that has garnered him respect as one of the best tight ends of all time. Playing with Tom Brady his entire career, Gronkowski has won 4 Super Bowl titles.
Antonio Gates (2003-2018) - A college basketball player turned NFL tight end, Gates NFL career is one of the best of all time at the position. A consistent receiving threat, and 8x Pro Bowl selection, Gates was a superstar for the San Diego Chargers for the entirety of his career.
Shannon Sharpe (1990-2003) - A superstar tight end turned current TV personality, Sharpe found success in his NFL career winning 4 Super Bowl titles. A small-school 7th round draft pick out of college, Sharpe ended his career holding many receiving records for a TE that have since been surpassed.
Why is the Tight End so important?
Having versatile players is key for an offense, as it allows coaches the chance to increase the amount of plays/schemes their team can run. Tight ends play a crucial role in this, as their ability to line up in different places, run routes, and block help diversify an offense and increase production.
In a great tight end, you get the pass-catching ability of a wide receiver paired with size and strength, becoming an automatic nightmare for opposing defenses. The best tight ends in football can win their matchup in a variety of ways, whether it’s using their physicality against defensive backs, or utilizing their athleticism to create separation from linebackers. Simply put, an elite tight end automatically gives offensive coordinators a reliable weapon to use in a multitude of ways in their offense.
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