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Falcons position group reviews: Is tight end better in 2016?

Our series looking at improvement (or decline) in position groups across the Falcons roster. We continue by looking at the tight ends.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Welcome to our final running series of the offseason! We’ll be going position-by-position and simply deciding whether that position is in better shape in 2016 than 2015. Enjoy!

2016 Tight End Projection

Jacob Tamme (Starter)

Austin Hooper (Backup)

Levine Toilolo (Backup)

DJ Tialavea (Practice Squad)

2015 Tight End Depth Chart

Jacob Tamme (Starter)

Levine Toilolo (Backup)

Tony Moeaki (Backup)

The addition of Austin Hooper to this unit should provide an immediate boost. Arguably one of the shallowest and most talent-deficient positions last season, improvement should be the expectation in 2016.

While Jacob Tamme has been a familiar name around the league for quite some time, he actually enjoyed a career season with the Falcons in 2015. In his eight NFL seasons, Tamme has averaged 29.6 receptions, 295 yards, and 1.4 touchdowns per year. During his first outing as a Falcon, Tamme caught 59 passes for 657 yards and a touchdown. His numbers were up across the board except in the scoring department, something that plagued the Falcons’ tight ends as a whole.

Atlanta tight ends accounted for only two touchdowns last season – Tamme caught one and Tony Moeaki snagged the other – the second-worst mark in the NFL behind the New York Jets. Tony Gonzalez was the ultimate red zone security blanket for quarterback Matt Ryan, and it’s clear that nobody at the position has been able to fill that role.

Enter Austin Hooper. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound rookie has the athletic ability to become a very good tight end in the NFL. If he can improve throughout his first season, the entire unit’s production will improve with him. In Hooper, the Falcons have a tight end capable of creating mismatches with linebackers and safeties down the middle of the field. While defenses focus on stopping – good luck – Julio Jones, the hope is that Hooper will be successful exploiting the open space on the field. What’s more, Hooper caught six touchdown passes in his final season at Stanford and should bring value to Falcons’ red-zone offense.

Is it better?

Atlanta spent a third-round draft pick to address the position, and it should pay off in 2016. Tamme is still a very capable tight end in this league, and Hooper adds an element the team has been missing since Alge Crumpler. It’s safe to say that Levine Toilolo hasn’t grown into the player Atlanta had hoped for, but he isn’t a bad third option at the position.

Kyle Shanahan has earned a reputation as an offensive coordinator who can get production from the tight end position. Although it may not have seemed that way in 2015, Tamme did enjoy one of his best seasons as a pro in Shanahan’s offense. With the addition of Hooper, Shanahan should have greater flexibility in how he deploys the position, which should lead to an increase in production from the Falcons’ tight ends in 2016.

Let the debate begin.