The NFC South has four good quarterbacks, zero good defenses, and a mix of decent tight ends. It’s that position group we’ll concern ourselves with today, as we take a deep breath during the bye week and look at how the season has gone to this point.
The Falcons have four tight ends who have gotten playing time this year, and believe it or not, all four have been on the active roster. The problem is that they’re now down to three, with Jacob Tamme hitting injured reserve with an injured shoulder.
Rookie Austin Hooper is going to be the de facto starter the rest of the way and has looked pretty good for a rook, while Levine Toilolo will tall-ly block folks and Josh Perkins will show up on the field just enough to make people angry, if his early production is any indication. This is a decent grouping, but it’s not a strength.
Here’s the team stats at tight end thus far:
Jacob Tamme: 22 receptions, 210 yards, 9.5 yards per catch, 3 touchdowns
Austin Hooper: 15 receptions, 249 yards, 16.6 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns
Levine Toilolo: 7 receptions, 127 yards, 12.7 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns
Josh Perkins: N/A
Far and away the best group in the division for an obvious reason. Carolina’s got a lot of problems, but they also have one of the five or so best tight ends in the NFL, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Greg Olsen: 50 receptions, 712 yards, 14.2 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns
Ed Dickson: 9 receptions, 106 yards, 11.8 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
By himself, Olsen has outproduced every Atlanta tight end. That’s not a completely fair comparison because the Falcons have other receiving options, including some dude named Julio Jones, but he’s a truly excellent player, and Dickson’s a decent backup. Carolina is all set here.
New Orleans Saints
His stats look fine on paper, but Coby Fleener really hasn’t been a tremendous asset for this Saints offense, and he certainly wasn’t the Jimmy Graham replacement the team hoped he’d be. I’m writing this in the past tense because I’m hoping he doesn’t get any better the rest of the way, and it’s a good time to shovel dirt on him.
Still, New Orleans is solid here between Fleener and Josh Hill. Here’s how they’ve fared this year:
Coby Fleener: 30 receptions, 385 yards, 12.8 yards per reception, 2 touchdowns
Josh Hill: 8 receptions, 72 yards, 9.0 yards per reception, 1 touchdown
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last but unfortunately not least, we have to talk about Tampa Bay, which cut their most promising tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins because he was (allegedly) (per reports) an idiot. That left them with Cameron Brate as their top option, and he is inexplicably good yet again. Whatever, Tampa Bay.
Here’s how the Buccaneer tight ends have done:
Cameron Brate: 35 receptions, 375 yards, 10.7 yards per reception, 5 touchdowns
Brandon Myers: 4 receptions, 29 yards, 3.2 yards per reception, 1 touchdown
Luke Stocker: 3 receptions, 19 yards, 6.3 yards per reception
Right now, there’s little question that Carolina has far and away the best tight ends in the division, and that’s solely thanks to Greg Olsen’s ongoing excellence. The Falcons are in the mix for second place, and if Hooper can carve out a slightly larger role on offense and maintain his early production, they’ll look pretty good at the position.