One of Denver’s more under-the-radar signings this offseason was journeyman tight end, Eric Tomlinson.
Tomlinson spent last season with Baltimore as a key asset in their run-game, landing there in 2020 after being signed off the Giants’ practice squad. He entered the NFL as an UDFA, originally signing with the Texans back in 2015, and after years of bouncing between active rosters and practice squads, hopes to have found a lasting home in Denver.
Eric isn’t known for his receiving capabilities, having only managed two receptions on three targets over the last three seasons, and only 18 catches total in his career. Luckily, Denver has plenty of talented pass-catchers, including fellow tight ends Albert Okwuegunam and second round pick Greg Dulcich. The areas where Tomlinson shines are where Albert and Greg struggle; his ability as a run-blocker.
Standing at 6’6 and nearly 270 lbs. Eric Tomlinson borders on offensive tackle measurements. This behemoth annihilates opposing edge rushers in one-on-ones and was a terror down-blocking and doubling-up on bigger defensive ends. He was graded as PFF’s second best run-blocking tight end with a 77.3 grade, and only gave up one pressure the entire year on 24 pass blocking opportunities.
Over the last two seasons, Baltimore has totaled the most rushing yards in the league (Lamar Jackson helps), and a big part of this is the personnel the Ravens acquire for their offense and the size and physicality players such as Tomlinson bring. Denver can look to utilize him in a similar role, paving the way for Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.
WT: 263 lbs.
Where He Fits?
Last season with Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers rostered five tight ends, while Denver only rostered four under Shurmur. New offensive coordinator Justin Outten was also the Packers tight end coach, which may give some insight as to what position is more favored. Depending on what the coaches consider Andrew Beck, with him primarily being used in the backfield as a fullback, the Broncos have five guys I expect to make the roster: Albert O, Greg Dulcich, Tomlinson, Saubert, and Beck.
I expect Tomlinson to see anywhere from ten to twenty snaps a game, opening running lanes and all-around kicking ass as a blocker. Likely we don’t see him catch many (if any) passes this season, and I expect him to be relatively unheralded amongst Broncos Country.
He’ll likely be third on the depth chart to start the year, but don’t be surprised to see him given extra early season work lining up inline while Greg Dulcich finds his way as a rookie tight end, which historically is one of the positions that takes the longest to acclimate to on the pro level.
He and Eric Saubert are similar enough that if they look to only keep one, I think they lean Tomlinson based on contract. But, I believe keeping both of them will boost Denver’s offense as a whole.
Eric Tomlinson might not make the flashy plays that get him on Sports Center, but he does plenty of the dirty work that will give guys like Javonte and Melvin their opportunities to shine.#BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/40t30JE9Jd— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) July 10, 2022
Nathaniel Hackett’s offense will look to heavily feature the run and multiple tight end sets often. With an aging Russell Wilson, two top-25 NFL running backs, along with one of the NFL’s best defenses on paper the Broncos are wise to invest in a strong rushing attack, as it will only extend the career of Wilson and help keep the ball out of the hands of some of the elite QB’s Denver will be facing in the AFC.
Eric Tomlinson brings to the table a ‘bully’ mentality the Broncos tight end room lacked, and instantly bolsters the rushing attack for a team hoping to be multi-faceted.
He may be one dimensional (again… two catches in three years) but he’s a valuable role-player who knows his role and plays it well. Currently the Broncos tight end room is full of relative unknowns after the departure of Noah Fant. Albert has the coaching staff excited, but he and Dulcich are both stepping into much larger roles than we’ve seen them in before. Having guys in that room that know their role and can do the dirty work is crucial and will only benefit the younger guys. That’s what Tomlinson brings to this group.
I doubt we hear the announcers yell his name on the broadcast, and there’s even the chance he doesn’t make the final-53, but I believe the Broncos would be foolish to let him go. He plays an essential role the offense currently lacks, and he plays that role among the best of anyone in the league.