Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Position Analysis: Tight Ends

Next up in our positional analysis is the tight ends. So let’s start by running the tight ends through the same passing statistics car wash we did the receivers.

Keep in mind that some of these guys switch positions from time to time. Of Clark’s 1206 snaps, 996 (82.59 percent) were at tight end, 175 (14.51 percent) were at receiver (either slot or wide), 35 (2.90 percent) were in the backfield (people always say at fullback, but he actually lined up as a halfback in a split-backs set more often than at a true fullback spot 26 to 9). Robinson spent 293 (89.90 percent) of his snaps at tight end and the rest at the H-back; Tamme spent one of his 70 snaps split wide and another at fullback, while Santi and Cloherty were always lined up at tight end.

Going out there: Dividing total number of pass routes by total offensive snaps.

Tamme 48/68 70.59
Cloherty 13/21 61.90
Clark 632/1206 52.40
Santi 30/70 42.86
Robinson 72/326 22.09

Conclusion: Clark was in for most of the Colts’ plays and his run-pass ratio reflects that. Tamme is clearly utilized mostly as a pass receiver, while Robinson and – to a lesser extent – Santi were regarded more as blockers.

Getting open: Dividing the number of pass routes run by how many times the quarterback threw at him.

Santi 30/11 36.67
Clark 632/129 20.41
Robinson 72/14 19.44
Tamme 48/9 18.75
Cloherty 13/1 7.69

Conclusion: This is one of those stats that reflect the fact that Clark played almost every offense play, Robinson was in there for a decent chunk, while the other guys barely played. Of players who played 20 percent or more of the Colts’ offensive snaps, Clark was in first place in this category, with super receiver Reggie Wayne the only one even close.

Catching the ball: Dividing the number of catches by the number of times he was thrown to.

Cloherty 1/1 100.00
Clark 100/129 77.52
Santi 8/11 72.73
Robinson 9/14 64.29
Tamme 3/9 33.33

Conclusion: Again, Clark’s is the only important number here, and it’s very, very good.

Dropsy: Adding drops to catches to determine the number of catchable passes and dividing by drops. The bigger the number, the less often the guy drops.

Cloherty 1/0 –
Tamme 3/0 –
Clark 107/7 15.29
Robinson 10/1 10.00
Santi 9/1 9.00

Conclusion: Traditionally this has been an area of concern for Clark, and he was on or about his career average this season.

Yards per reception: Dividing yards gained by receptions.

Santi 110/8 13.75
Tamme 35/3 11.67
Clark 1106/100 11.60
Robinson 62/9 6.89
Cloherty 2/1 2.00

Conclusion: Except for the plodding Robinson, all of the tight ends scored well here by tight end standards. But it’s also a good example of how small statistical samples affect these sorts of stats. If you take out each player’s longest catch, their averages are: Santi 10.86, Tamme 7.00, Clark 10.63, Robinson 5.38, Cloherty 0.00.

Yards per target: Dividing total yards by how many times the receiver was targeted.

Santi 110/11 11.00
Clark 1106/129 8.99
Robinson 62/14 4.43
Tamme 35/9 3.89
Cloherty 2/1 2.00

Conclusion: Again this was skewed by sample size. Interestingly, Clark’s number was higher than any of the Colts’ wide receivers.

YAC: Dividing total YAC by receptions.

Clark 499/100 4.99
Santi 37/8 4.63
Tamme 12/3 4.00
Robinson 21/9 2.33
Cloherty 0/1 0.00

Conclusion: Again Clark put up great numbers here – he would have come in second among the receivers.

Routes: Taking yards per reception and subtracting average yards after the catch.

Santi 13.75-4.63 9.12
Tamme 11.67-4.00 7.67
Clark 11.60-4.99 6.61
Robinson 6.89-2.33 4.56
Cloherty 2.00-0.00 2.00

Conclusion: Santi’s numbers are distorted because of the one bomb he caught, but it is interesting to see that Tamme usually went deeper than Clark. But nobody should be surprised to see Robinson way behind.

Making ’em miss: Dividing receptions by missed tackles caused.

Clark 9/100 9.00
Robinson 0/9 0.00
Santi 0/8 0.00
Tamme 0/3 0.00
Cloherty 0/1 0.00

Conclusion: Herein is an example of why Clark is not like the other guys.

Moving the chains: Finding the percentage of catches that go for first downs.

Santi 6/8 75.00
Tamme 2/3 66.67
Clark 59/100 59.00
Robinson 3/9 33.33
Cloherty 0/1 0.00

Conclusion: Ugh, this stat has never meant much to me. I only include it because people would ask for it if I didn’t.

Sniffing the end zone: Determining the percentage of receptions that went for touchdowns.

Clark 10/100 59.00
Cloherty 0/1 0.00
Tamme 0/3 0.00
Santi 0/8 0.00
Robinson 0/9 0.00

Conclusion: I think this one kind of speaks for itself.

Up the middle: Simply a look at the player’s receiving production in the toughest part of the field:

Clark 18-145-0
Santi 1-22-0
Robinson 1-6-0
Cloherty 0-0-0
Tamme 0-0-0

Conclusion: See above.

Penalties: The first number is total penalties, the second is how many were declined or offset.

Clark 1-0
Santi 1-0
Robinson 1-1
Cloherty 0-0
Tamme 0-0

Conclusion: Nobody stood out here.

Pass blocking: Percentage of pass blocks that did not result in a sack, QB hit or pressure.

Tamme 1/1 100.00
Clark 113/119 94.96
Robinson 61/66 92.42
Santi 5/6 83.33
Cloherty 0/0 –

Conclusion: This is somewhat misleading – as blocking stats almost always are – because it makes Tamme look like the best pass-blocker of the lot and Santi the worst when the exact opposite is closer to the truth. Santi’s one sad attempt to stop Calvin Pace on his way to Curtis Painter skews his stats in a negative way just as much as the 31-yard bomb he caught distorts his receiving stats in a positive way. The fact is that none of the Colts tight ends will remind you of an extra tackle – and when the Colts go with three tight ends on short yardage, the third is an offensive lineman like Dan Federkeil or Jamie Richard. Robinson and Cloherty block like the fullbacks they were in college, Clark and Tamme like the bulked up receivers they are and Santi more like a traditional tight end. But he is not that far ahead of the others.

Run blocking: When it comes to run blocking, I just have to use the old eyeball test. Actually, I have pages and pages of data that have to be cross-referenced but they are even more goofy, vague and misleading than pass-blocking stats. I factor them into my opinion, but they are not worth sharing here. Instead here are the tight ends ranked from best to worst in my opinion.


Conclusion: Robinson and Cloherty block like fullbacks on running plays too – great when on the move or downfield, but not so impressive in-line. The others don’t add much, although Clark is better in this regard than he is usually described as.

And I always include a few statistical odds and ends.

Clark and Santi both fumbled once. Clark ran twice for 11 yards. Tamme had seven special-teams tackles and two assists.

Conclusion: Tamme is effective on kick coverage units, missing just one tackle all year.
So let’s move onto the players on hand.

Dallas Clark
(6033/257/4.65c in 2003)
The consensus these days seems to be that a star tight end is a receiver first and blocker second. And Clark certainly fits that mold, and is maybe the best in the biz. His numbers would make most teams’ No. 1 receiver proud. He’s a deep threat, he’ll go over the middle, he’s a blitz outlet, he can take a screen all the way, he’s a red zone target ... in short, Clark is everything you want from a receiver. And his blocking is better than many critics would have you believe.

Gijon Robinson
(6006/255/4.71c in 2007)
Robinson plays like the hard-working small-school fullback he was. He has good hands but has a hard time getting open, which makes him a dump-off option only who adds little after the catch. He blocks well on the move and downfield, but not so great on the line. Oh, and you can forget that Combine forty, he plays nowhere near that fast. But he is the kind of guy you want on the roster ... as a No. 3 tight end, not the No. 2 he is now. One thing to note about Robinson: People talk about starters as though they are so much better than non-starters. That’s true when it comes to quarterbacks and offensive linemen, but not always true at other positions. Robinson started 10 games last season, and Austin Collie started five. But Collie played 908 snaps and looked like a major offensive weapon, while Robinson played 326 snaps and looked like a spare part.

Tom Santi
(6034/250/4.80c in 2008)
After the 2008 draft when everyone was going nuts over Tamme, I was more excited by Santi. My reasoning was this: Tamme was a skinny, no-block pass-catcher while Santi was a bulkier, more complete tight end. Since Clark had the pass-catching role taken care of ably and Robinson had a shakier hold on the other spot, I thought Santi had the better chance to make a case for playing time. It didn’t happen. Nagging injuries bedevilled Santi, and even when healthy, he ha s only shown flashes. He’ll get another chance to prove he belongs, but tight end No. 3 is not a position that offers a great deal of job security.

Jacob Tamme
(6034/236/4.58c in 2008)
A lot of Colts fans were excited when they drafted Tamme in 2008, based on his immense production at Kentucky. But there was always the nagging question – is he a big, slow wide receiver or a skinny, no-block tight end? So far, he hasn’t really been either. Injuries have been a problem, but with so many other receiving options, Tamme has not really had a chance to make a case for himself. He has shown some ability on kick coverage teams, but not enough to guarantee himself a roster spot. Tamme may have a hard time sticking for a third season, unless he steps up and shows he can fill a defined role.

Colin Cloherty
(6021/245/4.78pd in 2009)
I know what you’re thinking: a slow, Ivy League fullback? Sign me up! Actually Cloherty has great hands, plays with football intelligence and is stronger than his size would indicate. He has a tough road ahead of him, but could well outlast players with much more hype.

Jamie Petrowski
(6037/248/4.75e in 2006)
This is what I said about Petrowski almost a year ago:

You guys probably know more about this old Sycamore than I do. But I have seen him — mostly when he was a Titan in the preseason — so I know a little. Petrowski has good hands and vision, and is a some natural run-after-the catch instincts. He’s a load to bring down with the ball in his hands, but he’s not exactly Tony Gonzalez when it comes to getting open. As a blocker, he’s a big strong lad who shows potential, but not much refinement in that area. He’s sort of the odd man out in this little group because he’s more of a traditional complete tight end.

That’s all still true, but you also have to factor in the horrific injury that wiped out his 2009 season.

Conclusion: There’s a temptation to think of the Colts’ tight ends as superstar Clark and a bunch of guys. Give in to that temptation, because it’s true. Robinson holds on to his “starting” role because the Colts have no other realistic option. Santi and Tamme still have much of the potential they had when they were drafted, but their injuries and lack of production have put their futures in jeopardy. Cloherty is a long shot, but the kind the Colts like. Keep an eye on him. And it’s nice to have Petrowski around.

But, if I may paraphrase the old adage, if you have five guys who could be your No. 2 tight end, you don’t really have a No. 2 tight end. I really think the Colts will draft a tight end this year. Bill Polian will salivate at the pass catchers, but cooler minds will suggest a more complete player to complement Clark.

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