When you think of Gary Kubiak’s offense, one of the first things that come to mind are the tight ends. They have to be balanced in their style of play—meaning they cannot be great in one aspect and awful in another.
That was one reason the Denver Broncos were willing to let Julius Thomas go. He was a great receiver, but an awful blocker, and blocking is crucial in this offensive scheme. There were other reasons as to why they didn’t even negotiate, but that played a part.
Even after losing Thomas, the Broncos tight end position is strong. They went out and brought in a player who knows the offense and has been successful in the offense and kept, or brought in, others who really fit the scheme and can do whatever is asked of them.
The top two tight ends on the depth chart are like a No. 1A and No. 1B, instead of a clear leader. That is because of what their big strengths are and they will both likely start, due to the two-TE sets. After that, the depth chart isn't as clear.
No. 1A: Owen Daniels
Before that he was with the Houston Texans, where Kubiak was the head coach. Daniels has spent his whole career with Kubiak and he has been really successful, when he has seen the field. One concern with Daniels is the fact he has only played two complete seasons out of nine and those were years two and three. He also missed more than one game four times, the last time in 2013 when he only played in five games.
He is a well-balanced player, capable of being a good receiver and an above average blocker. He knows his role in the scheme and how to execute, thanks to his nine years in the offense.
His experience is also invaluable to the younger tight ends on the team, because Daniels is there and capable of helping them learn and grow in the offense. The more he can help them the better, because if Daniels is unable to play a full season, everything he taught them will come in handy when it is time for them to step up.
Stat Prediction: 13 games, 42 catches, 420 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 1B: Virgil Green
The next tight end, No. 1B, is Virgil Green. Green was retained by the Broncos in free agency, which is huge for the team. When Julius Thomas went down last season and Green stepped in, the Broncos offense became more efficient. Why was that?
It was largely due to Green's skills as a run blocker, making the running game a lot more efficient. The only area that can be said Green is weak at is as a receiver, but that is just speculation. Until he gets utilized as a receiver, more than just a few times a season, we don’t know. Even though there is only a small sample size that can be used to judge, he has done a good job as a receiver.
Green is a perfect fit in the offense, due to his blocking skills alone. Even if he doesn’t grow into a receiver, he is still the backbone of the offense. He is a hard worker and puts in a lot of time to be great.
In this offense, he can be great. When drafted, he had a lot of potential as a seventh round pick and he may finally be able to reach it. This coaching staff won’t keep his playing time limited and the offense won’t limit what he does when he does see the field.
Stat Prediction: 73 catches, 850 yards and five touchdowns.
No. 3: Joe Don Duncan
For the third tight end, I expect James Casey to see a good amount of snaps here, however, I have him as the fullback. So, the third tight end is Joe Don Duncan. While he has not played much, he is young and athletic. He is listed as the same as Casey—a tight end/fullback. I would expect him to rotate with Casey at fullback and see time as a tight end, too.
More Broncos Stories
Stat Prediction: 10 catches, 50 yards.
No. 4: Dominique Jones
The fourth tight end to make it is Dominique Jones. Jones is a big-bodied tight end who is a more than capable blocker. There have been some weight issues with Jones, as he was weighing over 280 pounds at one point.
Coach Kubiak met with him and talked to him about it. Since then, he has gotten down to about 260 pounds. As the fourth tight end, he won’t be utilized a lot, if at all. He likely will be a gameday inactive, as long as everyone is healthy.
Stat Prediction: N/A
The Broncos also drafted Jeff Heuerman, who would have been the third tight end on the roster. However, he suffered a torn ACL which ended his rookie season early.
That wraps it up for the tight ends. Next up, I'll complete my offensive roster projections, with the offensive line.
Related Story: Early Broncos 53-Man Roster Projection: QB
Related Story: Early Broncos 53-Man Roster Projection: RB
Related Story: Early Broncos 53-Man Roster Projection: WR