Miami Dolphins: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Tight End
The position of tight end has long been one of the most neglected needs for the Miami Dolphins, and in recent seasons, they've worked hard during the offseason to fix it.
A tight end can be a quarterback's safety net and best friend, working as the final check down that can get the yards needed for a first down or more or creating matchup nightmares by being the primary target on any given play, while on other plays acting as an additional blocker both in the run game and in pass protection.
The Dolphins have lacked this aspect of their offense ever since the departure of Randy McMichael (sorry Anthony Fasano fans, he's a good receiver but wasn't great as a blocker) but seemed to get it solved with the emergence of Charles Clay.
Behind Clay, the Dolphins have a tight end that they have drafted in each draft since 2012, yet none of them have been able to unseat Clay as the starter. Here's a breakdown of Clay and the rest of Miami's tight ends, what they could bring to the team and where they are on the depth chart.
6th Spot: Kyle Miller
Kyle Miller is listed as Miami's sixth tight end on the depth chart, and out of the players on the roster at the position, he's made the least amount of noise so far in OTAs.
That says a lot. Miller was claimed off of waivers by the Dolphins in late 2012 from the Indianapolis Colts, and since then has spent most of his time on Miami's practice squad.
With the younger players ahead of him on the depth chart, it will be surprising if Miller lasts in Miami another season, even on the practice squad.
5th Spot: Harold "Gator" Hoskins
Marshall's Harold Hoskins (nicknamed Gator) is already turning heads in Miami since being signed by the Dolphins after the draft.
Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel tweeted out last week that he kept "seeing TE Gator Hoskins doing good things," adding, "Gotta keep closer watch on rook from Marshall."
I wrote extensively about Hoskins last week, discussing his body of work while at Marshall as well as what he could bring to the table with the Dolphins.
In training camp, he will definitely be a player to watch out for.
4th Spot: Arthur Lynch
The Miami Dolphins used a fifth-round pick on Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch, and right now he's fourth on the Dolphins depth chart.
Since reporting to Dolphins camp, Lynch has played well, with Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel stating that Lynch has given the Dolphins defense some trouble but still needs to work on his assignments and on learning the playbook.
Seeing that Lynch has given the Dolphins defense some fits is a promising sign, as Lynch was known mainly as a blocking tight end in college, a stigma that he told Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post that he would like to shed (subscription required).
3rd Spot: Dion Sims
When the Dolphins drafted Dion Sims in the 2013 draft, I was in love with the pick. Sims was a great blocker at Michigan State who could also serve as a good red-zone threat.
Sims' red-zone threat was sparingly used in 2013, with his shining moment coming in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons. That would be Sims' only touchdown, and he'd only pull down five more receptions, bringing him to a line of six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
You would expect Sims to be a decent blocker, right? Not exactly, as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Sims at minus-11.2 in run blocking, along with a minus-1.2 pass-blocking grade while allowing two sacks.
These numbers illustrate why Sims is third on the depth chart right now, but Sims can improve and definitely possesses the tools to be an effective NFL tight end.
2nd Spot: Michael Egnew
ESPN's James Walker currently has Michael Egnew on the roster bubble, and it's hard to see why not considering that the former third-round pick's first two seasons in Miami have registered nothing but a fart noise and an ongoing punch line.
My counter to that is the fact that the Dolphins never really used Egnew properly. He's definitely a weapon for the NFL in 2014, but when you have an offensive coordinator stuck in 1994, it might be hard to find a place for a tight end who never really blocked that well.
That was the struggle that Mike Sherman had with Egnew, part of the reason why he was cussed out by Sherman on the first episode of Hard Knocks two seasons ago and why he didn't get a lot of playing time.
New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor does appear to be suited for 2014 and might find himself redeeming Egnew's career.
Egnew, as reported by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, is being lined up wide and off the line more often during OTAs and has produced in that role.
This isn't a coincidence. Michael Egnew was never a conventional tight end; he's a seam threat. You don't have him on to block; he's there to catch footballs.
If he does that, he won't find himself on the roster bubble come September.
Starter: Charles Clay
After the breakout season that Charles Clay had in 2013, the only way he's not starting at tight end for the Dolphins is if Jimmy Graham somehow becomes a Miami Dolphin.
There's really no reason for there to be a competition for starter, as Bill Lazor will use two tight ends in the Dolphins offense in 2014 (at least based off how the Dolphins have practiced thus far), and Clay is head and shoulders above everyone else on the roster.
One reason for that: the obvious one of 69 receptions for 759 yards and six touchdowns. This performance led to Clay being ranked as the 89th best player in the NFL's Top 100.
Now on the flip side: Clay isn't much of a run-blocker, at least not according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), who has him graded out at minus-10.9 in run blocking. This grade was bad enough to knock his overall grade down to minus-0.5, but that's a grade that should improve with a better offensive line leading to a better running game as a whole.
Clay will be keyed in a lot more by opposing offenses in 2014 and could find himself dipping in production (despite him being in a contract year) because of that. As of now, though, he is Miami's best tight end.