Dec 9, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano (80) catches the ball for a touchdown ahead of San Francisco 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner (31) during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Reminded Of Need For A TE

The New England Patriots will not be going to a consecutive Super Bowl.  High-fives all around.  Last nights Tom Brady performance was memorable.  As memorable as the game Peyton Manning ended his season on.  Manning tossed a ill-fated interception on his final drive sealing the Baltimore Ravens bid for an AFC Championship match-up with the Patriots.  On Sunday night, Tom Brady did the same thing.

While the game itself played out wonderfully for Miami Dolphins fans, one part of this seasons playoffs stood out as a reminder to the fans and steadfast directive to Jeff Ireland…if he was listening.  The Dolphins need to find a pass catching seam threat TE.

Last nights game in Foxboro showcased Aaron Hernandez on one side of the ball and Dennis Pitta on the Ravens side of the ball.  Looking at the box score it’s easy to see that Hernandez outperformed his TE counterpart statistically but while his 9 receptions for almost 80 yards fine and dandy, Pitta added a clutch TD to his five for 55.  The numbers don’t jump off the screen at you as being a major reason to upgrade the Dolphins own TE position.  Anthony Fasano has had better statistical games than both of Pitta and Hernandez.  The difference however is that Fasano doesn’t come close to being a threat.

The Ravens use Pitta in their passing game consistently and that creates mismatches in opposing defenses.  Most of the time, Pitta is covered by a LB or a safety and that frees up other WR’s downfield or over the middle.  We routinely see the same offensive strategy employed in NE, they will actually use two TE’s.  In Miami, the Dolphins fail to put their TE’s into the passing game enough to draw coverage.  When they do, the inconsistent play of their TE’s doesn’t lead opposing defenses into a state of confusion.

It’s not just the Ravens and Patriots.  Keys to all four Championship round teams were the TE’s.  San Francisco uses Vernon Davis as a legit seam and outside threat.  In Atlanta the Falcons have had offensive success with Tony Gonzalez.   The fact is that the best offensive teams in the NFL this year can attribute a good portion of their success on the play and performance of the TE.

Of the 12 teams who made post-season appearances, five of those teams had a TE in the top 10 in receptions, six in the top 12 for yardage, and 9 were in the top 10 ranked in touchdowns.  While Anthony Fasano finished tied for 10th in TD’s, his receptions ranked him 28th and his yardage ranked him 34th among TE’s in both conferences.  Not lost on these stats is that a few teams had two TE’s ranking higher than Fasano.

This is not not knock Fasano.  I have made it very clear that in terms of the current Miami Dolphins who have been on the team for at least 4 seasons, Fasano is by far my favorite player.  That does not however mean that I am blinded by the reality that our offense needs a huge overhaul of the position.  This off-season may or may not change the depth.

Most fans and some in the media will point to the possible free agency of Green Bay Packer Jermichael Finley.  A natural mention given his connection to head coach Joe Philbin.  Most Packer players will be in some way associated as a possible signing for the same reason that Cincinnati Bengal impending defensive free agents will be linked with DC Kevin Coyle.  There is however no guarantee that Finley would want to play for Miami any more than Miami would want to pay him what he will likely receive.

Last off-season the Dolphins opted for no change at the position during free agency and instead turned to the draft where they missed very badly on 3rd round bust Michael Egnew.  Egnew saw the field on two plays this season, started none, made no catches, and was not targeted.  His season ending review by local media led to harsh criticism and one unidentified teammate calling him a “pussy” and referring to him as “not an NFL caliber player”.

Egnew took a public beating during his Hard Knocks portions but the fact is he never came close to making the game roster and only injuries opened up a spot late in the season.  Again, he only managed two plays.  The Dolphins don’t possess a true TE outside of Fasano and Egnew that has the consistency to step in and be a starter.  Many wonder why Jeron Mastrud is still on the team and Charles Clay is still a H-back/TE hybrid.  Behind them, Kyle Miller.

In order to open up the Dolphins West Coast style of offense, they need a seam threat TE and if we learned anything from sitting at home watching the playoffs this year, it’s that the TE in this era of the NFL is a vital part of the game plan.  At the rate the Dolphins are going in getting up to speed, the TE offense will have faded and the Dolphins will be once again late to the party.

Fans have been wondering each and every year if this is the year and again, in 2013 we are asking the same question.  Will the Dolphins solve their TE problem?  Because the reality is this, while Fasano is good, he is good only at times.  He isn’t going to change the game.  He isn’t going to scare the defenses and defenses are not going to game plan for him.  Until that happens, the Dolphins will remain inconsistent in their production…both at the position and on the offense as a whole.

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  • Mattpatrick5

    Yeah, pretty sure I wrote like 3 articles since last year about the Dolphins getting an athletic TE that can catch the ball down the field. Instead, people called me a “Fasano” hater and insisted I was wrong. I actually like Fasano. He’s a good leader and an excellent blocking TE. However, based on my analysis on 32 other TEs in the league, he is average at best. But I’m a greedy Dolphins fan and I don’t like to settle for mediocrity. That’s the problem with a lot of Fin fans. They like to settle for mediocre players which is why we seem to never make the playoffs. Some peeps are content with that but I’m not.

    This team had a mediocre TE, well below average WRs, and a mediocre Oline. This alone is why this team went 7-9. If Miami ever wants to get to 11 – 14 wins per season, we need an upgrade at the TE position, and at least 1 playmaking WR that is physical who knows how to go up for the ball and provide YAC yards to extend plays and move the chains for Tannehill. Not to mention, act as a true “redzone” threat. When Ireland got rid of B Marshall and never attempted to replace him or Fasano, I knew this team was in trouble before the season even started. Tannehill deserves more credit than what he’s getting for even winning 7 games with the complete lack of talent around him. People love Brian Hartline and think he’s a stud WR. In my opinion, he only knows how to run 2 routes and he wouldn’t even start on most teams in the league. His production went down significantly after week 5 when Defensive Coordinators easily figured him out. Plain and simple, Brian hartlin is a #2 WR, that’s it. If you disagree with me, I suggest you look at film on some of the other WRs in this league playing on other teams.

    Tannehill was set up to fail before this season even started. Ireland better stop looking for acorns when their are shiny diamonds staring him right in the face. He better get this right in the offseason. This fanbase is getting impatient and in my opinion, 2013 could be the biggest season in Dolphins history for many reasons….

  • gofins60

    IMO, a big part of Miami’s problem is that TEs (and backs) spend more time helping with blocking due to the poor play of the o-line than they do going out for passes. Yes, a seam threat TE is needed, but at the same time Miami must finally fix the o-line! They’ve been working on it for years, and it’s still bad.

  • John Gallup

    Keller, Cook or Bennett. Keep saying it over and over. If I had my way sign one of those guys and get Dallas Clark as a 2nd option