The Buffalo Bills' spread offensive attack developed by head coach Chan Gailey is finally utilizing the tight end position for the first time in years. Last season, Scott Chandler had a breakout year after moving from team to team and was a key threat in the red zone. With former Bills' tight end Pete Metzellars coaching the six tight ends currently on the roster, they all have an opportunity to compete and earn what will most likely be two or three spots on the final 53-man roster.
The Bills took a flier on Scott Chandler after he was waived by the Dallas Cowboys and had an excellent 2011 campaign for the team, developing a rapport with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chandler caught 38 passes for 389 yards, while scoring six touchdowns in nine starts, despite missing significant playing time with a nagging high ankle sprain.
Chandler is a lock for the No. 1 tight end spot on the depth chart, as the Bills' front office re-signed him to a two-year, $5.45 million contract in the offseason. Chris Brown, buffalobills.com lead journalist, saw Chandler as the biggest playmaker on offense during offseason training activities, writing:
Chandler was a daily fixture on the highlight reel for the offense, especially in the red zone where he was a major matchup problem for the defense. He and Fitzpatrick appear to have their on-field chemistry fine tuned for training camp.
Lee Smith earned a spot on the 53-man roster last year due to his blocking abilities. Standing at 6'6" and 265 pounds, Smith brings the most competition to the table because of his strength in the run game. Tight end coach Pete Metzellars told the Buffalo News:
"Lee Smith is a powerful man. You've got to love what he does. You can stick him in and say, ‘We're gonna run behind him, I don't care who they line up over him.'"
Smith is aware of his limitations in the passing game, but is confident in his ability to make the team as a contributor, telling buffalobills.com:
“I have always said that if you have a tight end that can get in there and block the defensive ends in this league it is only beneficial. A lot of teams have to throw extra tackles on the line of scrimmage, which makes you very one-dimensional.”
The Bills made an interesting move in the offseason, bringing in tight end/ H-Back Dorin Dickerson, a second-year pro out of Pittsburgh. At 6'2" and 227 pounds, Dickerson is the best athlete out of the listed tight ends, but it may be hard for him to find a niche in the offense. He ran with the first team offense throughout OTA's, and Coach Gailey sees him strictly as an H-Back.
Coach Metzellars had this to say about the physical specimen:
“He is fast, really fast. He is so athletic, explosive and quick. If it continues to trend that way he has a chance to help us because he creates matchup problems.”
Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 added:
I'm fairly intrigued by the prospects of one of the Bills' newest signees, H-back Dorin Dickerson. With the type of unique skill-set he has, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he were to make the team outright. He's been getting first team reps each day at practice, and gives Chan Gailey another viable receiving option to play with that could stretch a defense. He just seems to be the type Gailey would like to keep around.
Kevin Brock has never played in a National Football League game, but he impressed Coach Metzellars during OTA's with his overall completeness as a tight end.
“I like to think that I am a complete player, but obviously I have strengths and weaknesses,” said Brock, “I see myself as a complete tight end that blocks well, while also feeling confident in the pass game.”
“He is a solid guy and athletic enough to play,” Metzelaars said, “He is your all around kind of tight end with good speed and athleticism.”
Last year, Mike Caussin saw limited action due to Scott Chandler's injury, and caught five passes for 41 yards before injuring his ACL. Caussin is more of a pass-catching tight end and has limitations in his blocking ability. He will have a hard time making the final cuts behind Chandler, Dickerson and Smith.
Fendi Onobun has bounced around the National Football League ever since the converted basketball player transferred to the University of Houston for his one year of organized football. He is an athlete at this point, and the Bills snatched him off of the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad when Scott Chandler went down midseason. For now, Onobun adds depth and potential, but it's unclear whether he will have a real role on the team.