Titans positional analysis – tight ends

As noted in the analysis on the Titans’ receivers, the tight ends will probably have to pick up a lot of the slack in the passing game. The main problem with that is the tight ends and H-backs were also lacking in production last year and will also need to improve.
The 2005 Tennessee tight ends had 149 catches, second-best for tight ends in NFL history. (The record is held by the 1984 Chargers TEs featuring the connection between Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow Sr.) The 149 receptions in 2005 fell to 51 catches in 2006.
So what happened to turn a great group into a less than stellar one? All three of the top tight ends from the previous year ended up on Injured Reserve last season.
The star and veteran leader of that group, Erron Kinney, was never able to recover from knee injuries and is now retired. That left, and still leaves, a hole which hasn’t been satisfactorily filled.
This is the group which will have to improve on last year’s play.
Ben Troupe – In compiling a list of the players who need to step it up this year, Troupe is the first guy who comes to mind. Now in his fourth year, he’s coming off a career-low 13 receptions last season. In his first two years he was often put out in the slot or lined up as a H-back but he’s bulked up and can now be a decent in-line blocker, which was Kinney’s forte. His athleticism still makes him more valuable as a receiver, which he will probably be used as most of the time.
Bo Scaife – He’s listed as a tight end, although he’s really a H-back. Scaife and Troupe ought to be a combination that will be on the field together a lot. With the lack of proven receivers, expect offensive coordinator Norm Chow to use a lot of two-TE formations. The second tight end can still be utilized as a receiver, while providing an extra blocker for the running game, which will also have to take up some of the slack from the receivers.
Ben Hartsock – The Titans picked him up off waivers last year after he was caught in a numbers squeeze in Indianapolis. Hartsock should take over Kinney’s responsibilities as the primary blocking TE and looks like he’ll be able to catch the ball over the middle.
Casey Cramer – Although the Titans normally keep only three tight ends, Cramer has a good chance to make the roster as a fourth. There are two factors in his favor. First, with the expected need to use a lot of two-TE sets, a fourth TE becomes more valuable. Second, Cramer became a standout performer on special teams last year with a blocked punt for a safety, fourteen tackles and two key fumble recoveries. Cramer was listed as a FB/TE when he was with the Panthers and has been used as a H-back by the Titans.
Cooper Wallace – He spent most of last season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster due to injuries to Troupe and Scaife. He’ll probably be fifth on the depth chart and will be looking at another practice squad gig this year.
Jamie Petrowski – He was an undrafted camp body last summer who was signed to the practice squad after the rash of injuries in 2006. Petrowski was allocated to NFL Europa this spring and will attempt to make the team once again this year. He reportedly did well in Europe but based on last season, he’ll have a tough time competing with Cramer and Wallace for a possible fourth spot. He and Wallace will both be eligible for another practice squad gig this year, should the Titans elect to have a TE on the squad.
The first four give the Titans two receiving threats (Troupe and Scaife), two inline blockers (Troupe and Hartsock), and two H-backs (Scaife and Cramer).
It will be difficult not to keep all four of them on the roster. There’s a chance, though, that only three will stay on, meaning Cramer will likely be the casualty.
This is a contract year for both Troupe and Scaife. Hartsock and Cramer have both been tendered as restricted free agents.

2005 STATS REC YDS AVG LNG TDs
Erron Kinney 55 543 9.9 27 2
Ben Troupe 55 530 9.6 35 4
Bo Scaife 37 273 7.4 19 2
Gregg Guenther 2 13 6.5 8 0
Total 149 1,354 9.1 35 8
2006 STATS REC YDS AVG LNG TDs
Bo Scaife 29 370 12.8 34 2
Ben Troupe 13 150 11.5 32 2
Ben Hartsock 6 68 11.3 23 0
Casey Cramer 2 8 4.0 6 0
Cooper Wallace 1 6 6.0 6 0
Total 51 602 11.8 34 4
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