Dec. 2, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller (81) celebrates on the field against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Still Have Questions At TE

The Miami Dolphins are doing a lot of talking lately.  Most of their talk seems to straddle the “we could be great” fence.  That isn’t talking trash but simply showing confidence in your teammates and the concept of your team.  This time of year, every team should have a little bit of hope.  Still it doesn’t matter what they say now, it matters what they can say come December.

The Dolphins have made some strong additions on both sides of the ball but one position on offense is perplexing.  It will either be very good or the Achilles heel of the entire team.  I’m talking about the tight end position.

Jeff Ireland went hard after former Tennessee Titan free agent TE Jared Cook.  They lost Cook to St. Louis.  With Cook off the market the Dolphins turned to former NY Jets TE Dustin Keller.  A smart move that strengthened the Dolphins and weakened a division rival.  Yet for as good as Keller can be, questions still surround his health.  Last season Keller missed time last season with a hamstring injury and battled an ankle injury earlier in the season.  The Dolphins have raw talent behind him on the roster.

The closest thing the Dolphins have to a veteran TE behind Keller is HB/TE Charles Clay who is no more a true TE than he is a true RB.  Too small to be a blocking TE Clay is a pass catcher who has done better out of the backfield than off the line of scrimmage.  Clay will need to learn to get off the line and underneath coverage and to be more aggressive.  While Clay has the potential to make plays he won’t do it singularly from one position or another.  In other words, if Keller goes down Clay can’t fill that void.

Behind Clay is Michael Egnew.  Yes the same Egnew of Hard Knocks fame a season ago.  Egnew was tentative and lost last season but thus far has been receiving solid grades and comments from this past organized team activities.  Egnew still has to prove that whatever he can do in practice is something that he can do in a game.  Last season Egnew saw no targets in the one or two times he actually touched the field.  Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Egnew exists to be fill the void if in fact Keller goes down.  While he has been out in front with the first time over Keller, Egnew has a long way to go before he takes that away.  Egnew has a lot to prove and a short time to truly prove it.

Dion Sims has been raved about as well in this past weeks OTA’s.  A solid blocker with good hands, Sims has to find a way to make a big jump earlier as a rookie.  The Dolphins are expecting him to contribute this year and early this year at that.  Sims is talented and the selection has been met with a rather favorable grade.  He is however a rookie and rookies often find it difficult to jump into NFL play making stardom.  Sims has as long a way to go as Egnew.

Kyle Miller rounds out the Dolphins current list of TE’s on the team.  He enters his second NFL season and does so with less field time as Michael Egnew.  A practice squad player last season, Miller has a long way to go before he unseats anyone.

The Dolphins will have to keep a close eye on the waiver wire for possible cuts later this off-season.  Too much is riding on Keller’s health and Egnews growth for anyone to be comfortable about the position.  As I said, the options behind Keller are not strong should he suffer another injury this season.  The Dolphins are upping the tempo of the offense this season and the tight end position is a key role in that offense.  Especially in the redzone where the team has struggled to score touchdowns.

Of all the positions on offense the Dolphins did little to securely upgrade the TE spot over last years group.  Keller is potentially far better than Anthony Fasano but his health is a concern.  After that, eh, not so much of anything.  Yet.

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Tags: Dustin Keller Miami Dolphins Michael Egnew

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