Position Battle: Tight Ends

This offseason has certainly seen a lot of change at the tight end position for the Colts, with Dallas Clark the only sure thing on the roster for 2008. What changes are yet to come? How will the rookies factor into the mix at tight end? Brad Keller has the analysis.

After allowing Ben Utecht to sign with Cincinnati as a restricted free agent and releasing Bryan Fletcher this offseason, the Colts find themselves very thin at the tight end position with Dallas Clark ... and little else in terms of proven NFL players.

Practice squad stalwart Gijon Robinson is the most experienced player on the roster after Clark.  While Indianapolis coaches like his potential, he definitely needs to realize it soon.

After a certain period of time, a player goes from being a prospect to a former employee and that window is closing fast for Robinson.  He has the inside track to the top backup job, but that could change very quickly depending on how he performs and how quickly the rookies become comfortable with the offense. 

Zac Herold was signed to a 2008 contract before the end of last season.  He has potential as a blocker at 6 feet, 5 inches and 264 pounds, but injury concerns and lack of top-end speed have conspired against him staying with any one NFL team for very long.

He's bigger than the Colts generally target for the position and he has logged a fair number of miles and days on the waiver wire.  The odds are that he's on the outside looking in, but Indianapolis must have seen something special in the young man to have secured the rights to him before the league year began.

Jacob Tamme
AP Photo/James Crisp

Fourth-round pick Jacob Tamme of Kentucky was very productive in college and fits the Dallas Clark mold from a size, speed, and tenacity perspective.

He was a player that the Colts had their eye on since the Senior Bowl and it's very easy to see him matching or exceeding his college productivity with Indianapolis.

Clark needs to make sure he takes Tamme under his wing and shows him the ropes — as well as the nuances of Peyton Manning's pre-snap histrionics — because Tamme appears to be the best match for the offense and the best compliment to Clark of the players available.

Sixth-round selection Tom Santi reminds a number of scouts and fans of Utecht, so it would seem to make sense to keep the two rookies on the roster, relegate Robinson to the practice squad yet again, and let Herold try his hand at another team.

Leaving two rookies behind Clark, though, could also be a recipe for disaster.

And, the familiarity with Manning and the offense in general cannot be overlooked.  Though it is not outside the realm of possibility for the Colts to keep four tight ends on the regular roster, it is a long shot, especially when you consider that this is the position where they have the lowest number of quality players from a depth standpoint, so keeping another decent tight end may mean sacrificing a talented wide receiver, linebacker, or defensive tackle.

The depth chart most likely reads Clark, Robinson, Tamme, with Santi going to the practice squad and Herold being released in the cutdown to 53.

But, the offseason is far from over and this battle will most likely go right down to the wire.

Regardless of how things shake out, it is readily apparent that someone needs to separate themselves from the pack and get a firm hold on the second tight end job.  Given the Colts affinity for two tight end sets and Clark's propensity to play fewer than 16 games per season, lack of depth at the position will come back to haunt Indianapolis if someone doesn't step up.

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