Tight end was one of the positions that saw the most regression for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 to 2009.
Last season, newcomer Anthony Fasano gave the Dolphins a legitimate dual threat at tight end, while veteran backup David Martin made clutch catch after clutch catch following a few shaky year in Miami.
This season was different, as Anthony Fasano struggled in the passing game, Martin was released prior to the season, and 2008 third-stringer Joey Haynos was asked to step in to a larger role.
Here are my individual and overall ratings for the Miami Dolphins' tight ends in 2009:
Anthony Fasano: C+
A year after serving as Miami's best red-zone target, Fasano struggled mightily in the passing game.
Fasano's touchdown total fell from seven to just two, and his yards from 454 to 339. He also dropped three passes and lost two fumbles on the season.
If it sounds like there wasn't much good about Fasano's play this season, that's understandable. So why the fairly high rating for a player that was essentially a negative contributor in the passing game?
One word: Blocking. Fasano was in fact the second-best blocking tight end in the NFL this season, behind the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten. He was a big contributor the Dolphins' highly successful ground game.
Despite his struggles as a receiver, Fasano's heavy blocking role and consequently fewer opportunities in the passing game could also have been a factor in his decreased statistical production.
Joey Haynos: D+
When Haynos was signed off the Green Bay Packers' practice squad, the 6-foot-8 rookie seemed like a great potential deep threat. However, he understandably failed to see much game action as a rookie behind veterans Fasano and Martin.
Haynos stepped into the No. 2 tight end spot in 2009, and expectations were high given his physical tools, as well as how Martin had performed in that role the previous season.
Like Fasano, however, Haynos was a bit of a disappointment. He didn't make much of an impact in the receiving game, and was only a solid blocker in the running game.
Haynos still has potential and may get more of a shot to prove himself in 2010, but he has a long way to go and has not yet shown he's a legitimate starting prospect.
Kory Sperry: n/a
Sperry made an early splash when he was signed off the team's practice squad in mid-November, catching a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first career game and start.
Although he went on to play in the team's final eight games, Sperry was mostly limited to special teams and finished with just three catches for 31 yards and the lone score in his rookie season.
While he did play half the season, Sperry reasonably didn't see much action as the team's third tight end, and thus get's an n/a from me.
Honestly, it's impressive he even played that much since he didn't attend training camp with the team and eventually beat out the Dolphins' fifth-round pick, John Nalbone, for the promotion.
John Nalbone: n/a
A rookie fifth-round pick out of Monmouth, Nalbone failed to make any kind of impact with the Dolphins his rookie season.
After spending the first seven games of the regular season as the inactive third-string tight end, Nalbone was waived and finished the season on the team's practice squad. When the Dolphins wanted a third tight end in mid-November, fellow practice squad rookie Kory Sperry got the call instead.
Part of me wants to give Nalbone an F for failing to even get into a game as a drafted rookie, especially over an undrafted one in Sperry that spent training camp with the San Diego Chargers.
However, Nalbone was understandably raw coming out of Division I-FCS Monmouth, and fifth-round picks don't always make their drafting teams at all.
The Dolphins re-signed Nalbone to a two-year contract after the season, but he'll find himself on the outside looking in if he doesn't significantly improve in the offseason.
Overall Position Grade: C
The Dolphins' running backs scored 20 touchdowns on the ground in 2009 and were highly productive throughout the season, and a big part of that was the positive contributions by Haynos and, in particular, Fasano.
Neither, however, is much of a play-makers in the passing game, and both performed well below average in that department.
While a stud tight end might be nice to have, the Dolphins' offense has bigger needs, and they seem to get by just fine without one.
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