A new season, a new team, a new everything almost. However, some things remain constant. We still have Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler.
When the Denver Broncos were still under the command of Mike Shanahan, we knew, as fans, that the group of TE's would be utilized and utilized often. We have Daniel Graham, who in my opinion is still the best blocking tight end in the NFL. Denver acquired Graham in a bidding war against the Seattle Seahawks from the New England Patriots for the small fee of $30 million dollars for 5 years including $15 million in guarantees. This is his 3rd season with the Broncos, upcoming. He was drafted by the Pats in the 1st round (21st overall) in 2002.
He was as much a part of the success to helping the running backs in Denver achieve the stats of being 12th in the league. That is saying a lot if you consider that the Broncos were down to their 8th running back, Tatum Bell, who they pulled out of early retirement from a cell phone store at the Aurora Mall.
Daniel would have had better stats receiving. However, how many times do we remember Jay Cutler fixated on Marshall when Daniel was open in the middle of the field? Yet, Jay would throw it into double coverage for an incomplete when Daniel was there to make a wide open catch. Oh well, chances missed, new possibilities ahead.
Then we have Tony Scheffler. Tony was drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (61st overall) in 2006. Tony was selected by the Broncos, not because he was known for his blocking skills like Graham, but rather because of his explosiveness off the line and ability to get free. We all remember his 72 yard catch and run for what fell just short of a TD last year against the Raiders in Oakland (one of my favorite Bronco games to remember).
Now we have the new Denver Broncos. The Broncos led by our new coach, Josh McDaniels, or better referred to as McD. A New England product who never utilized the tight ends much more then for blocking purposes. Oh, they would occasionally throw to the tight ends to keep the defenses honest, but not more then necessary.
McD worked with Graham at New England and many Bronco fans were fearful that McD would get rid of Graham because of the money he was making. Plus the fact that New England let him go while with the Pats. Not completely accurate. Yes, the Pats let him go, but that was Belichek, not McD's doing. Graham is still a Bronco and McD has been seen using him often in the mini camps.
Graham offers leadership and dependability to the offense. His blocking skills are rubbing off on the other tight ends. He is being utilized, by the looks at camp, as a receiving threat, also. What McD brought from New England as far as offensive ideas, don't expect them to be followed, New England style, to the letter. I see McD using the tight ends a little more often then Belichek did. But, I digress....
Tony Scheffler was rumored to be on the trading block when McD 1st came aboard, but as we all can see, he is still a Bronco. As a matter of fact, McD has complimented Tony on his ability to get open and how he is happy with his good blocking ability. Tony has improved over time and made himself valuable in McD's eyes.
Denver also has Jeb Putzier. Jeb was signed by the Broncos in 2002. Released by the Broncos on 3/1/06. Signed by Kubiak and the Texans in 2006 and waived in 2/08. Signed by Seattle 3/08 and waived 11/08. Now for the funny part, signed by Seattle in 11/08 and again waived 11/08 (making me dizzy). Denver signed him 12/08. I don't hear his name in camp much and I have a feeling he won't stick. Here's why:
Rookie Richard Quinn, "The Mighty Quinn." Drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round (64th overall). 6'4", 260 lbs. out of North Carolina. He was used primarily as a blocking tight end in college. So maybe the blocking tight ends we saw in New England will be used, after all?
My thoughts are that Denver will use Quinn and Graham in many blocking roles to open holes for Moreno. Hillis will help in the blocking role, also. Scheffler will be Denver's main go to TE for passing, although I expect Graham to play a bigger role this year then last year. Quinn is still learning so I expect him to be utilized primarily as a blocking tight end, at least through the 1st year while he learns.
Of course all of this is speculation and guesses based off of what I've seen at the camps and from the interviews with McD. Nobody can be really sure of what to expect from the new Denver Broncos until they have hit the field. But the tight ends should play a huge role in the McD plan. Are you ready for some football?
Note: It has been brought to my attention that I left out a rookie TE on the squad. He is a walk on rookie FA named Marquez Branson. 6'3" and 248 lbs. out of Central Arkansas. I haven't heard much about him in camp so I don't know if he is making a mark on the team? My apologies for the oversight.