MHR 2008 Position Reviews -- Tight End

The first thing one notices about the TEs in Denver is that there are two exceptional ones.  Graham and Scheffler are a great duo, each with advantages and disadvantages.  Together, they helped the Broncos offense when it shined, and had little to do with offensive shortcomings in 2008.

With two players at TE that could start for most teams, Denver is pretty lucky.  But Denver also has had effective #3 TEs ranging from a terrific run blocker in Mustard (who, like Graham, is proving he can catch) to Jackson (a pure catcher).

The Review

Scheffler is a 25 year-old TE in his 3rd year.  He is a magnificent receiving TE, with a combination of good hands, speed, power and agility.  His salary was only around $612,000 in 2008.  His run-blocking and pass-blocking skills are above-average, but not excellent.  He is hampered by a foot injury that has cost him a bit of playing time.

 

From FoxSports.com comes the following chart:

Regular Season
CAREER SEASON STATS
  RECEIVING RUSHING FUMBLES
Season Team G GS REC YDS AVG LNG TD ATT YDS AVG TD FUM LOST
2006 Broncos  13  5 18 286 15.9 29 4 1 3 3.0 0 0 0
2007 Broncos  16  7 49 549 11.2 41 5 0 0 0.0 0 1 1
2008 Broncos  13  7 40 645 16.1 72 3 1 -1 -1.0 0 1 1
Career  42  19 107 1480 13.8 72 12 2 2 1.0 0 2 2

 

Graham is a 30 year-old in his 7th year.  While many saw him as the best blocking TE in football, there was a rumor that he was being brought to Denver to catch passes.  Flubbing a couple of passes in his first year with Denver, many fans gave up too soon.  But Graham's blocking skills (a skill perhaps valued by coaches and players more than fans) remains elite, and Graham went on to prove that he is a very effective receiver.  Graham is a double-threat whenever he hits the field.

From FoxSports.com comes the following chart:

Regular Season

CAREER SEASON STATS
  RECEIVING RUSHING FUMBLES
Season Team G GS REC YDS AVG LNG TD ATT YDS AVG TD FUM LOST
2002 Patriots  12  6 15 150 10.0 31 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2003 Patriots  14  9 38 409 10.8 38 4 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2004 Patriots  14  14 30 364 12.1 48 7 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2005 Patriots  11  9 16 235 14.7 45 3 0 0 0.0 0 1 0
2006 Patriots  12  11 21 235 11.2 29 2 0 0 0.0 0 1 1
2007 Broncos  15  15 24 246 10.3 28 2 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
2008 Broncos  16  16 32 389 12.2 28 4 0 0 0.0 0 0 0
Career  94  80 176 2028 11.5 48 23 0 0 0.0 0 2 1

 

What did this mean for Denver in 2008, and what will it mean moving forward?

In 2008, Denver's offense was both explosive (gaining multiple yards in the air game), and disappointing (red zone issues and key interceptions).  Despite the issues with injured RBs, the offensive line (with close TE support) kept the Broncos' OL producing.  Denver's offensive tackles absolutely shined in '08 in pass-protection, with at least one TE pass-blocking on most plays.

As a group, the TEs also were responsible for their share of first downs in the air, TDs, yards and value as "safety valves" for Jay Cutler whenever he was under pressure.

Because Denver boasted two starting quality TEs, the team could play a deadly two-TE set, allowing protection from 3-4 defenses while adding complexity to whether the offense was using players as blockers or receivers.

The Future

Moving forward, the team has a lot to smile about, but a little to worry about, too.

Positives -

1) The team retains the dynamic duo of Graham (#1 TE) and Scheff (#2) in 2009.  That's the best news so far.

2) Both players are being paid below their worth.

Negatives -

1) Graham will be getting older.  His route-running skills will improve, and he shows no signs of slowing, but he won't be around forever.

2) While Scheff is young and can stick around for a while with the team, he can't be counted on to play every game.  Injuries other than foot injuries could be attributed to how he compensates for his foot (as has been discussed by MHR resident physician BroncoBear).

All in all, Denver is fortunate at the TE position and has time to worry it further down the road.  #3 TE Mustard is an above-average blocker (even for a starter), and his receiving skills continue to improve.  But, he is a year older than than Graham.

Grades 

I would give Denver an "A" in 2008 for the TE position.  I project the same grade for 2009.  The defense will likely get the most attention this reloading season, but most of the offense (including key retirement candidate OC Wiegmann) should return.

What are your thoughts on Denver at TE?

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