Make Or Break 2010 For Fasano

Anthony Fasano

At the beginning of training camp 1 year ago, the future of the Miami Dolphins TE position was not a concern.  In fact, it seemed to be a strength.  Anthony Fasano was ready for a break-out season following a solid 454 yd, 7 TD 2008.  Football pundits and fans alike believed Fasano had no where to go statistically but up – and why wouldn’t they?   He’s young.  He’s entering his prime.  He’s a “Parcells guy” from Dallas, a former 2nd round pick who spent the first 2 seasons of his career learning the ropes from a proven receiving TE in Jason Witten. The coaching staff that knew him best brought him to Miami for a reason – and he was beginning to prove them right in 2008.

Then something weird happened.  Fasano virtually disappeared in 2009. He seemed to have regressed. On a team desperate for receiving help, he caught fewer balls (31), for fewer yards (339) and had just 2 touchdowns.  He battled a hip injury in November – but even before that, he had not picked up where he left off in 2008.  There was speculation that Fasano might not be re-signed in 2010, and Bill Parcells admitted he was targeting the TE position in April’s draft – particularly Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski.

That speculation has been nipped for now. Fasano was signed for 1 more year and pressing needs at LB and DB were addressed in the draft.   He has another shot in 2010 and he no doubt realizes the significance of this season.  He’ll be auditioning for a brand new contract all year long – for the Dolphins, or for any team that’s watching.

Parcells and Coach Sparano clearly like the guy because he can “do a lot of jobs”.  He can block, play in and out of the backfield, line up as a receiver, and be serviceable in a number of formations – everything you look for in a starting tight end.

So, why the 2009 statistical “regression”?  Can Fasano come out of hiding in 2010?

Let’s hope so.  I’m not saying we’ll see Dallas Clark numbers, but I’m not counting him out just yet.  The Dolphins were a run first team in 2009 even before Chad Pennington was lost for the season.  The offense wasn’t built toward throwing period – let alone throwing to a TE.  Chad Henne was essentially a rookie QB last year and the offense was in flux for a good part of the season, particularly when Fasano was healthy.  It wasn’t until the last quarter of the season that Henne began to show signs of his arm’s potential.  He launched assaults of 300+ yards in 3 of the final 5 games.  Is the team leaning more toward the pass in 2010?  I think so.  It may not be much more, but surely the presence of Brandon Marshall will open things up for everyone trying to catch balls.  That may not translate to a giant leap in numbers for Fasano – but you have to hope it may help.

Tony Sparano

In yesterday’s press conference (have a listen here), Tony Sparano said he’s happy with what he’s seeing within the TE position at camp, but it’s evident he’s looking for players below Fasano on the depth chart to step up.  Sparano wants versatility.  He wants to know if the other TE’s on the roster can wear the various hats that come with the position.  The Dolphins had a sporadic taste of Joey Haynos throughout 2009 (19 catches, 162 yds, 2 TDs) and Kory Sperry found the stat sheet in a single game against Tampa in which he had 3 catches for 31 yards and a TD.  Sparano also seemed pleased with 2009 5th rounder John Nalbone, whom he calls an “interesting guy” because he’s taking reps at 2 different positions.  The growth of the backups working from different formations might be the key in Fasano’s return to statistical relevance.

According to Sparano:

“If we can find some of those guys {Haynos, Sperry, Nalbone} that can do as many jobs as Fasano can do, that helps us say, ‘Hey, where can we put Anthony on this play?’ …..We would like to have {Fasano} get away from formation, and get him the ball.”

Predictable, but nonetheless, that could be telling.  Dolphin brain trust isn’t giving up on Fasano just yet either.  They may not have been thrilled with his performance last season, but he’s in the plans for 2010. The Dolphins have shown that once they lose faith in a player, the door closes quickly.  That door may have been close to shutting on Fasano this spring, but it stayed ajar.  He’s got another year.  It will be interesting to see if it’s still open next spring.

Topics: Anthony Fasano, Brandon Marshall, Chad Henne, Joey Haynos, John Nalbone, Kory Sperry, Miami Dolphins, TE, Tight End, Tony Sparano

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