Remember in 2016 where a different tight end would pop up with an amazing, clutch catch in those beautiful three tight end sets? Those times are long gone. The tight ends feel like an afterthought, with only one real weapon. And that weapon has been struggling.
So what the hell happened?
We might have been a bit too bullish on Austin Hooper entering his second season. Tight ends seem to need a little more time than other positions, and, well, Hooper is proving that correct. He’s had a lot of mental miscues, poor routes, bad drops, and soft play. He is not ready to make that next step quite yet, and might continue to be a liability.
Hooper is on pace to more than double his yardage from last year (662 to 271), and bump up from three to four touchdowns. When you consider his one catch against Chicago, and the fact the rest of the tight ends are not incorporated into the passing game, this is a sizable step back.
Why did they pay him $4 million a year?
Any player that isn’t replacement level is going to get paid something. I’m still surprised at Toilolo’s salary, as he’s on pace for 98 yards and 0 touchdowns. I don’t care how well you can block, Toilolo is getting overpaid. I don’t think anyone expect him to maintain his 20+ yard per catch average, but he’s back down to 8.2 yards per catch, and is on pace for 166 fewer yards.
I think Shanahan was successful because he was able to incorporate every player. Matt Ryan broke a record for throwing touchdowns to the most players in a single season. Sarkisian has yet to implement anything like that, and it has made things easier for opposing defenses.
No, he didn’t get cut but you haven’t seen him
We were halfway expecting Eric Saubert to get cut so he could develop on the practice squad. That didn’t happen, and he hasn’t done much offensively. He was out blocking against the Carolina Panthers, but is pretty unlikely to wrangle in more than a few catches the rest of the year.
There are no more tight ends
Last year the Falcons had Hooper, Toilolo, D.J. Tialavea, Jacob Tamme, and Joshua Perkins at tight end. That’s not a lot of big names, but the team’s performance is taking a step back from 2016.