Between now and the end of the month we will break down the AFC West position-by-position, rating the players in all the starting spots and other key positions. We’ll continually update totals and the team with the lowest total of points will represent the division’s best team. Players listed are expected to be in those roles at the start of the pre-season.
Tight end #2
#1 β John Phillips/San Diego: 6-5, 251 pounds, will be 29 years old, 6th-round 2009 (Dallas.)
During his time with the Cowboys, Phillips was more blocking tight end than receiving tight end. In three seasons that he played, he caught just 30 passes for 218 yards and 2 scores. He missed the 2010 season when he suffered an ACL tear. San Diego’s signing of Phillips was one of the quieter and possibly most significant moves the Chargers made for their offense in the off-season. Last year for Dallas, he caught 8 of 10 passes thrown his way for just 55 yards and a touchdown. He’s proven to be a reliable receiver and more than reliable blocker; in Dallas he sometimes lined up in the backfield as a fullback to serve as a lead blocker for a running play. He’s not a game-breaking type of guy, but he’s as solid a No. 2 TE as there is in the division going into training camp.
#2 β Jacob Tamme/Denver: 6-4, 232 pounds, 28 years old, 4th-round 2008 (Indianapolis.)
Although he was second on the Broncos last year in offensive snaps at the position, Tamme proved to be the most consistent performer among Denver tight ends. One major reason was because he did not have to introduce himself to QB Peyton Manning; Tamme came into the league as a draft choice of the Colts and in 2010 stepped in for the injured Dallas Clark over the second half of the season, collecting 67 catches for 631 yards and 4 TD receptions on the season. Tamme was especially impressive in the first half of the 2012 Denver schedule, and he ended the season catching 55 of 83 passes thrown to him for 599 yards, but only 2 TDs catches. Against Tampa Bay last year, he caught 9 of 13 passes in his direction for 89 yards.
#3 β Tony Moeaki/Chiefs: 6-3, 252 pounds, 26 years old, 3rd-round 2010.
After missing the 2011 season due to an ACL injury in his left knee, Moeaki started off slow in the first half of last season. It wasn’t until the season’s second half that his play returned to a level where he made positive contributions. He caught 33 of the 49 passes thrown in his direction last year, for 453 yards but with just one catch of more than 25 yards and only one scoring catch. In the off-season, Moeaki was not part of the Chiefs sessions in the new Andy Reid offense as he was rehabbing his left knee that underwent more surgery after the ’12 season. He has a lot of ground to make up once he is cleared to return to practice. More than likely Moeaki will start training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list until he can show that his knee is ready for the rigors of daily practices.
#4 β Richard Gordon/Raiders: 6-3, 265 pounds, 26 years old, 6th-round 2011.
Gordon was on the field for just 79 offensive plays last year and was targeted just 5 times by the passer. One of those did end up in a touchdown for the Oakland offense. Gordon is a solid blocker in the run game, but his contributions as a pass catcher remain a question mark for the Raiders going into this season. The only other possible competitor right now on the roster besides David Ausberry is 6th-round draft pick Nick Kasa. If Oakland goes with two tight ends, Gordon figures to be the blocker in that alignment.
RANKING TOTALS/7 POSITONS: Broncos 9 points, Chiefs and Chargers 19 points, Raiders 23 points.