Bill Belichick seems to always be one step ahead of the competition. Whether that is from his own genius, or from the extra football aptitude that can be learned from illegally filming other teams, he does what it takes to win. And whether you like him or not, you have to admit that when he sets a trend, the rest of the league is sure to follow.
When the brilliance of his duel tight end formations was revealed last season, it was as if you could hear the collective group of other NFL general managers shouting at their scouting department and coaching staff to try to figure out how to replicate it. The NFL is a copy cat league, and for good reason; why be original when you can just adopt?
The Chiefs are not innocent of this, nor should they ignore the constant change the league finds itself in. And for those wondering if Belichick was only kicking the tires on the duel tight end sets, locking up both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to contract extensions this offseason put an end to that. If anything, the versatility of Hernandez and the different places he lined up on the field (including tight end, wide receiver, and even half back) makes you wonder what Belichick has up his unmistakable hoodie’s sleeve. But that discussion is for another time.
Back to the two receiving tight end trend: the Chiefs, whether intentionally or not, find themselves with two very good receiving TEs. Since I don’t believe Kevin Boss was only brought in as an insurance policy to Tony Moeaki’s health, I’m going to assume that Scott Pioli, having seen what his former mentor in New England was doing, decided he would follow suit.
So can the Chiefs replicate New England’s success?
In short: No.
The Chiefs are not built the same as the Patriots. And by that I mean they don’t have Tom Brady at quarterback. The Chiefs are a running team, and to be honest, Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki are not nearly as talented as Gronk and Hernandez. But that doesn’t mean the Chiefs offense won’t benefit greatly from their presence.
I touched in my last article about the importance of the tight end position in a Daboll offense. In 2010, while coordinating the Cleveland Browns offense, TE Benjamin Watson lead the team in receiving with 68 catches for 763 yards and 3 TDs. In 2011, the stats are not as lopsided, but TE Anthony Fasano for the Miami Dolphins finished 4th on the team with 451 yards and 5 TDs. And while one might conclude that with Boss and Moeaki competing for catches because of a spreading of the wealth, neither player will have great numbers. But if the preseason has told us anything, it’s shouted the importance of their position.
In the first preseason games, a tight end lead the team in receiving – Steve Maneri with 3 catches for 69 yards against the Arizona Cardinals and Kevin Boss with 4 catches for 62 yards against the St. Louis Rams. In those two games, the TE position accounted for 29% of the team’s receptions and 39% of receiving yards.
While those numbers decreased in the third preseason game against the Seahawks (Moeaki recorded the only catch for tight ends with a 31 yard reception although Kevin Boss did have two targets) it leveled off against the Packers on Thursday night – 3 receptions for 37 yards, 32% of the total receiving yards.
It’s a small sample size, I know, but those percentage numbers compared to last season’s totals of Chiefs tight end utilization create an interesting trend. Last year, Chiefs TEs combined for 35 catches and 326 yards, which was 12% of the team’s catches and 10% of the team’s receiving yards.
If you would like a point of reference, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez accounted for 42% of the Patriot’s receptions, 43% of the receiving yards, and a staggering 62% of the team’s touchdowns.
While I do not think (nor dare dream) that the Chiefs tight ends could be that productive, I do think that some sort of middle ground between last year’s Chiefs and Patriots TE production is a reasonable expectation.
So what do you think Addicts? Will the Chiefs have that kind of tight end success in 2012?