A lot of coaches, with the innovations in the spread offense, have forgone the tight end. They say they go to the spread because their is no tight end in their program. They don’t have that 6’6″ great athlete. I simply feel this is an excuse to not use tight ends. I think it’s a lazy answer for coaches. I mean, I don’t have 5 6’4″, 300lb offensive linemen, but I still have 5 of those positions.
The tight end is a huge benefit to a spread offense. Even if the athlete isn’t the best, if he puts in good effort blocking, he can be just about anyone as long as he has a little bit of weight so he can block.
1: Tight Ends: Extra Gaps
The most obvious reason to me for the extra tight end is the extra gap he can present. Whether he is on or off the line of scrimmage, he presents another threat that the defense must honor.
Even if your tight end is smaller, that means, hopefully, he is a little quicker or faster. He has an advantage on linebackers, both blocking and receiving. If you have the big athlete, obvious he can get good body position in the passing and running game.
Without the tight end, a 4 man line can occupy a 5 man line easier. You’re playing into the defense’s hands in my opinion. If you never present more than the 5 linemen’s gaps at the line of scrimmage, drawing up blitz’s and stunts couldn’t be any easier. Even the threat of the extra tight end gap makes the defense account for it in their schemes. If they don’t, you’re going to be off to the races because their gap control and run support structures will be broken at the foundational level.
2: Tight End Motion
Another great aspect of the tight end is motion. Nothing messes with strength calls for tight end oriented defenses like tight end trade. You can dress up the trade and continue to motion the tight end out wide or bring him into the backfield as well.
Using motion, if you have an undersized athlete, you can use him as a ball carrier. Florida under Urban Meyer used the tight end shovel pass for instance.
If you know that the end is crashing on a zone read play, you can motion the tight end a little in the backfield and you can arc block the QB player.
Finally, the motion forces the secondary or the linebackers to bump. This may enhance angles for your offensive linemen, or open up a specific running play, or create a seam down the field. In the least, for many defense, trade motion often times forces a check to a vanilla defense. Regardless, even a half second of hesitation is the difference between a 3 yard play and a 4-5 yard play.
3: Tight End: Protection enhancements
Having the tight end at the end of the line of scrimmage often times, depending on the protection, helps your tackle. It buys him an extra half second to get good position on a quick defensive end.
While this may not be an obvious benefit of the tight end, it most certainly exists. And if a team gets wise to this and keeps their best defensive linemen matched up on your worst, you use tight end motion to throw different looks at the guy. In the worst case scenario, you again create that half second of hesitation.
Traits of a tight end
In my opinion, the tight end can have lots of traits. It ultimately depends on what you want to get out of the position. If he’s really going to be a glorified receiver just to make the defense honor a gap, then you might not worry as much about size as you do strength and the ability to get off the line.
Overall though, here are 3 qualities I look for in a tight end:
I believe balance is important for tight ends because it means they have good body control. Being able to bend around a defender or maintain a block is important. Not every block has to be devastating, but they need to be sustained.
Acceleration is important for getting off the line of scrimmage in the passing game and for reach blocking or getting to linebackers in the running game. Again, the block doesn’t need to be devastating, but if he can get there quickly and maintain the block, you win the edge. Also, acceleration and balance help in terms of getting to linebackers. This prevents them from “dodging” the tight end as they pursue. While that’s bad technique, it happens more often than you think and is relatively effective.
Awareness is important for finding the hole in the zone. It also is important for recognizing multiple schemes. The tight end needs to be a jack of all trades. A smart player is definitely needed.
Tight End Drills
Below is a video of Weber International University Tight End Drills. I encourage you to take a look. Remember, while these guys are bigger, they do a lot of things we do for other positions. Every kid can put their hand in a 3 point stance. Every kid can execute these drills.
Tight End Conclusion
Overall, the tight end is important. Even if you use it on 10% of your play calls, a guy who can present the extra gap really keep the defense from getting the upper hand. I encourage you to try to find a good tight end athlete, it will only benefit your offense.
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