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Falcons 2015 Roster Review: Tight end

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We're continuing our roster review with one of the biggest question marks on the Falcons depth chart. Who's going to make the biggest impact at tight end this year?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons were spoiled with Tony Gonzalez lining up at tight end every game for five straight years. After his departure, Levine Toilolo took over as the starter and finished 2014 with 31 receptions. Just a bit of a drop-off from the standard 80+ catches the Falcons were getting from the tight end position previously.

Knowing Toilolo isn't going to be the starter for years to come, the Falcons added two veteran tight ends this offseason. They didn't draft a tight end, which left some questioning the decision not to add a rookie with upside. This group is already more promising that its 2014 version, though.

Let's look at the candidates for the Falcons starting tight end gig.

Jacob Tamme

A seven-year veteran, Tamme decided to leave the Denver Broncos to pursue a new opportunity in Atlanta. He was overshadowed by Julius Thomas for most of his time with the Broncos, but Tamme is still seen as a reliable target.

In 2010, Tamme set career highs with  67 receptions for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 52 passes in his first season with the Broncos in 2012. Aside from those two years, though, most of his time in the NFL has been spent as a backup.

Well, here's his shot at the No. 1 role. Tamme is the early favorite to lead the Falcons tight ends in just about every statistical category.

Tony Moeaki

There's an alternate universe where Moeaki is healthy and happy. In that world he's playing full NFL seasons and padding his career stats every year. What a world that would be.

Moeaki simply hasn't be able to stay healthy as a pro. He spent all of 2011 on IR. He fractured his shoulder in 2013 and missed the entire season. Last year he played six games with the Seattle Seahawks and caught eight passes.

Moeaki was a promising prospect at one point. He caught 47 passes in 15 games as a rookie. His body just won't cooperate. If he can stay healthy, and obviously that's a major "if," Moeaki could be a contributor alongside Tamme.

Levine Toilolo

Tight end is a tough position to adapt to in the NFL for young players, but Toilolo just isn't panning out. Last year he ran 491 pass routes and finished with 31 receptions. That is terrible production.

Toilolo was asked to make a huge leap forward when Gonzalez left, and he wasn't an integral part of the gameplan in 2014. Still, he graded out as the second-worst player on offense, according to Pro Football Focus. He can't block well. He doesn't bring much to the table in the passing game aside from being tall.

Mickey Schuler

He has not played a regular season game since 2010. He has two career catches.

Outlook

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has been somewhat unlucky with his run of tight ends in the NFL. His tight ends seem to deal with injuries rather often (I might've just jinxed the team). Take a look at look at Shanahan's history with this position.

  • Jordan Cameron played in 10 games last year and didn't have much at quarterback to work with.
  • Jordan Reed was on pace to catch 80+ passes in 2013 before he went down with an injury halfway through the season.
  • Fred Davis only played seven games in 2012.
  • Owen Daniels missed half of the 2009 season.

Daniels caught 70 passes for 862 yards in 2008, Shanahan's first season with the Houston Texans. Chris Cooley finished with 77 receptions for 849 yards in 2010 with Washington. We've at least seen the potential for Shanahan's tight ends, even if those chances have been brief.

But Julio Jones is the No. 1 target in Atlanta, Roddy White is No. 2 and the run game will feature several capable receivers coming out of the backfield. Whoever starts at tight end is going to be a lower priority.

Barring an unforeseen injury or transaction, I can't see anyone but Tamme contributing in a major way.

Prediction

Tamme finishes with close to 50 receptions for around 500 yards. He averages 9.6 yards per reception for his career. Tamme isn't going to break off highlight-reel runs or score double-digit touchdowns, but he's a stopgap for 2015.

What are your thoughts on tight end for 2015?