Monday, January 29, 2007

A Look at the Offense: Whither the Tight End

Now, I know this might come as a shock to you, but apparently the Vikings did have a tight end on their roster this year. His name’s Jermaine Wiggins, and you might remember him as the one of the more valuable tight ends last year, as his 11.9 DPAR was the tenth best at the position. That’s what happens when you average 8.2 yards per catch while hauling in 69 passes for a total of 568 yards.

Wiggins is, by all accounts, still a quality tight end. And yet, he almost dropped off the map in 2006. He caught fewer passes (46) for fewer yards (386) this year, dropping from the team’s leader in receptions to the fourth option. The question, of course, is how much of Wiggins’ massive drop in production (he only posted a 1.9 DPAR, good for 29th at the position) was due to Childress’ offense, and how much was because of a decline in the quality of his and Brad Johnson's play?

Now, not having access to Childress’ infamous play card, it’s hard to know where Wiggins fit into the offense. With that caveat, however, it looks as if the drop in Wiggins’ production has as much to do with him as it does Childress. Considering that many of the passing plays were dump offs of some sort, it would seem that a good tight end would have been more involved. And, based on the stats from Childress’ last year with the Eagles, where tight end L.J. Smith lead the team in receptions and finished second in receiving yards, it would stand to reason that the tight end would normally see a healthy amount of passes come their way. And, with Wiggins’ catch rate dropping from 76% in 2005 to 69% this season; it would seem that a large part of the blame can be laid on his shoulders.

Whether or not the Vikings choose to cut bait on their Bostonian tight end, they need to get more production from the position next year. Having a quality receiver at tight end creates mismatches no matter who the defense covers him with, and is also a very effective way to attack the cover 2 defenses that are all the rage these days. Not to mention that both Super Bowl participants have quality tight ends (the Colts have two, actually) and as we saw in the AFC Championship game, having a tight end that can run a good seam route can be the difference between going to Miami and going home.

[A look at the Wide Recievers should be coming tomorrow, and if you've missed any of the other positions, the links are below]

Quarterbacks
Runningbacks
Offensive Line
Defense

1 comment:

Vegan Viking said...

Here's a guess.

Wiggins is a solid player, but he's not overly talented; at no point with the Vikes was he a legitimate downfield TE.

When he came on in 2004, Moss was still at the top of his game (before injury), and Wiggins was the perfect kind of receiver to reliably catch passes in the big openings Moss left (isn't it amazing how wide open RBs and TEs were when Moss was here?). In 2005, the Vikes were employing the same offense--finding ways to get WRs deep, and also finding ways to get other receivers open short.

In 2006, the offense changed, but the personnel did too: Childress's offense required more short passing, but then so did Brad Johnson's arm and the legs of the WRs. There weren't WRs clearing space deep in order for a mediocre TE to get open short.

The Vikes could use a TE who can get open in his own right--who can actually get separation from linebackers and not depend on scheme and the talent around him to open him up.

I like Wiggins and think he has done good things for the Vikes, but he's not a TE who can get open in his own right.