Season in Review: Tight Ends

Dallas Clark had another stellar season, but what about the three developing players behind him on the depth chart? The Colts want Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi as a big part of their future. So what went right, and what went wrong at the position in 2008? ColtPower takes a look back, and a look ahead, inside!

Season in Review:

Starter: Dallas Clark. Backups: Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme, and Tom Santi.

Clark had another Pro Bowl caliber season, finishing second on the team in receptions (77) and yards (848) and tying for the team lead in touchdowns with six. He proved to be a red zone threat, a player that could stretch the seam, and versatile enough to be used on endarounds and screens.

The Colts should count themselves fortunate that they have locked him up for the long term, as he is more and more becoming a vital part of this offense.

Robinson, Santi (before he was placed on injured reserve), and Tamme finished with 32 receptions total and one touchdown. Robinson languished on the practice squad for some time before getting his shot, but seems as though he is more of an asset as a blocker than a receiver.

Tamme is a Clark clone and Santi is a Ben Utecht clone, so the next 12 months will go a long way in determining what they truly have to offer.

Strengths:

Clark is a safety valve, a deep threat down the middle, and dangerous with the ball in his hands. He is definitely the centerpiece of this unit. If Tamme turns out to be half as good as Clark, the Colts can consider that to be a win.


Robinson contributed, but not as much as the Colts might have hoped in 2008
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Robinson stepped up in the passing game when needed and served as a tackle in tight end's clothing when the offensive line found themselves shorthanded.

Needs Improvement:

Depth. Robinson is a fine blocker and a capable receiver in a pinch, but there is not much of note behind Clark. The 32 receptions the three men behind Clark tallied up are only one more than Utecht had in 2007 and five fewer than he had in 2006. That is not enough production in an offense that values the tight end position.

Tamme certainly has potential and Santi showed flashes of what he could do before he got hurt, but there is simply not enough firepower on hand if Clark were to miss a significant amount of time. And the fact that Tamme could not garner more playing time with Santi on injured reserve and Robinson primarily having value as a blocker shows that he may not have as much potential as is necessary.

What's Next?

The good news is that none of these players is going anywhere unless the Colts choose to jettison them due to underperformance. Tamme and Santi will are still under their rookie contracts and 2008 was essentially Robinson's rookie year. Clark was locked up through 2013 during the 2008 offseason, so he's not going anywhere.

Free agency will not offer many options, as Scout.com's top tight end Owen Daniels will likely re-sign with the Texans and LJ Smith (No. 2) is either past his prime or will be re-signed, and Bo Scaife (No. 3) is too valuable to Tennessee for them to allow him to leave.

After that, the list starts to deteriorate quickly, so the Colts will need to look to the draft or their roster to find a capable backup.

It's highly unlikely that Indianapolis will keep four tight ends on the roster next season, as they did this season, so that will ratchet up the competition at the position. Tamme needs to show more than he showed throughout the 2008 offseason and regular season to make enough of an impression to stay on. Santi needs to prove that he's healthy and has enough speed to do some damage in the deep seam.

After all of his time on and off the practice squad, Robinson is in the best shape of anyone. Indianapolis knows what they have in him and, if they see that they will need his blocking prowess in 2009, they will keep him on the roster.

It is also possible that the Colts will draft a tight end to intensify competition during the 2009 offseason. They need to do something, because they are one torn ACL by Clark away from taking a serious hit to the production of their passing game.


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