Tight End Trouble

There were no special on-field ceremonies to commemorate Mickey Shuler's 28-yard catch late in the third quarter Sunday. But it was pretty noteworthy just the same. Before that catch, the Dolphins had come within five quarters and change of failing to produce a single catch by any tight end not named Anthony Fasano.

For a franchise with a proud history of multiple weapons at the position, this has been a stunning dropoff. Consider: Three former Dolphins man the radio broadcast booth, and two of them -- Jim Mandich and Joe Rose -- are former tight ends.

In 1983, Dan Marino's rookie year, three Dolphins' tight ends caught a combined 75 passes, including a franchise-high 46 by Rose's backups (Bruce Hardy and Dan Johnson).

"It was nice to finally get a catch, get that first one out of the way," Shuler said. "Then the rest of them seem a little easier."

John Nalbone was active the first two weeks before being waived. Jeron Mastrud was the choice for seven out of the next 11 weeks, with Shuler, a rookie out of Penn State, getting a few cracks as well.

Dedrick Epps took his turn against the Jets and Bills. He was used differently, getting split out wide to take advantage of his speed, but he still failed to end the production drought.

Finally, with his catch across the middle that set up the Dolphins' go-ahead touchdown against the Lions, Shuler stopped the madness. He also caused quite a sideline stir among his position mates.

"They were all happy," Shuler said. "We didn't care who got it. We just wanted a second tight end to get a catch."

Shuler added another catch for 16 yards on the game's final drive. With one game left at New England, the Dolphins have avoided joining the 1990 edition as the only team in franchise history to produce zero catches from backup tight ends. Ferrell Edmunds caught all 31 passes directed at Dolphins' tight ends that season.

Only one other Dolphins' season (1974) has seen backup tight ends catch fewer passes than this year's group. Marv Fleming had just one catch that season.

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