Next up in our series of positional analyses is the tight end position.
In my opinion, this is one of the team’s strongest areas. With veterans Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife and youngsters such as former third rounders Craig Stevens and Jared Cook, the Tennessee Titans appear to be stacked at this spot.
As the onset of the 2009 NFL season slowly approaches, let’s take a stab at addressing the following questions: Which TE will have the best season? Are Scaife’s days as a Titan numbered? Can Algernon perform at a Pro Bowl level again? Is this Jared Cook kid for real?
My thoughts and answers to those questions and more are after the jump.
Redemption for Algernon?
Putting his veteran leadership and excellent blocking aside, 2008 was a forgettable campaign for Alge.
His 24 catches were a career-low. After playing a key role by snagging the winning touchdown pass from Kerry Collins in the Titans’ 13-10 victory over the Ravens in October, his fumble against the same Raven squad in January contributed mightily to the team’s playoff loss (by the same 13-10 score) to Baltimore.
Of course, as I alluded to in my opening statement, Alge was a solid veteran presence for the Titans in ’08. Also, let’s not forget that unlike his days in Hotlanta, when he was a focal point in the passing game, his duties in Tennessee consisted mostly of staying on the line of scrimmage and blocking.
In ’09, I’m expecting Crumpler to have a better season, but at this point in his career, his days of being one of the game’s best tight ends are probably long gone.
Will the Titans show Bo the long-term money?
Coming off of his best statistical performance as a pro in ’08, Bo was primed to cash in on some free agency riches in February. However, to his dismay, Bo was slapped on the back with the dreaded franchise tag, which meant that his dreams of securing a long-term deal were put on hold.
Coincidentally, (or not) Bo signed the team’s one-year tender almost immediately after the Titans selected Jared Cook (more on him later) on draft weekend.
The Titans and Bo appear to be headed in opposite directions. While Cook is being groomed as Bo’s heir apparent as the team’s receiving TE, Bo has decided to pursue a similar route to riches traveled by several NFL players with dollar signs in their eyes: he recently hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent.
Don’t be surprised if 2009 is Bo Scaife’s last in a Tennessee Titan uniform.
Getting excited about Jared
Jared Cook is quickly turning heads with his unique combination of size and athletic ability. His mini-camp performances have led to speculation that in addition to his duties at TE, the athletic Cook may be lining up as a wide receiver in some packages.
Despite veterans such as Crumpler and Scaife ahead of him, at the very least, I’m expecting Cook to emerge as a possible red zone threat. I could easily foresee a scenario where touchdowns account for the majority of his receptions in ’09.
Almost needless to say, the future looks pretty bright for Mr. Cook in Nashville.
The rest of the pack
With Cook emerging as the team’s future receiving tight end, Craig Stevens remains in a position to be the Titans’ primary blocking TE for years to come.
In terms of the present, we should expect to see Stevens in his normal special teams’ role with an occasional cameo appearance blocking on running plays while Alge gets a breather.
Casey Cramer has the ability to play fullback and tight end but don’t be surprised if he’s playing neither with the Tennessee Titans in ’09. Finding a spot on this roster is going to be anything but a walk in the park for Casey.
’08 practice-squadder Matthew Mulligan rounds out the Titans’ collection of tight ends.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Matthew will be wishing for a mulligan after his likely meeting with the Turk this preseason.
Your turn, guys…What are your thoughts on the Titans’ TE position in 2009?