Offseason Roster Review: Tight End

Posted Jan 18, 2012

Reviewing and previewing each position heading into the 2012 offseason

Chiefs Tight End Overview

Under Contract (1)

Tony Moeaki

Free Agents (3)

Anthony Becht (Unrestricted), Jake O’Connell (Restricted), Leonard Pope (Unrestricted)

End Of Season Depth Chart

1. Leonard Pope, 2. Anthony Becht, 3. Jake O’Connell

Injured Reserve: Tony Moeaki

What Happened: Tony Moeaki’s season-ending knee injury grounded this position before the season got started. When Moeaki tore his ACL in the preseason finale at Green Bay, it eliminated a sizeable portion of the Chiefs passing game.

Without Moeaki, the Chiefs were left with three blocking tight ends that served primarily as extra tackles in pass protection and the run game. Moeaki’s loss was the first major injury blow of the season and the position never recovered from a passing aspect.

Leonard Pope became the regular starter in place of Moeaki with Anthony Becht and Jake O’Connell bouncing on and off the 53-man roster behind him.

By the end of the season the Chiefs were content with Pope, Becht and offensive tackle Steve Maneri running check-down routes and providing extra protection on the edge. O’Connell sat inactive for the final six games of the season.

Many tabbed Moeaki as a breakout candidate last season. The hope is he’ll bounce back filly healthy and be a comeback player of the year candidate in 2012.

Big Question

Who is the fallback option behind Tony Moeaki in 2012?

What’s Next

Tony Moeaki is a special player. There’s no denying that.

When healthy, he’s a stud in the passing game and is a better blocker than most give him credit for. He’s also versatile, allowing the Chiefs to line him up as a slot receiver, traditional tight end or flanker.

But Moeaki is also injury prone. His college career was filled with a multitude of injuries and he’s missed 17 of 32 regular season games since the Chiefs traded up to make him a third-round pick in 2010. Moeaki began training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before tearing knee ligaments in the preseason finale. Was he ever truly healthy in 2011?

What approach will the Chiefs take to ensure there isn’t a huge drop in receiving production if Moeaki finds himself injured once more? With three of the four tight ends set to become free agents, we’re likely to see a new cast of faces this spring at summer.

There’s a need for run-blocking tight ends like Pope and Becht, but elite NFL offenses all seem to have a receiving threat (or two) lined up at tight end as well.

Take a quick look at the top-5 offenses last season and the production they received out of the tight end position.

1. New Orleans – Jimmy Graham (99 catches for 1,310 yards with 11 TDs)

2. New England – Rob Gronkowski (90 catches for 1,327 yards with 17 TDs) and Aaron Hernandez (79 catches for 910 yards with 7 TDs)

3. Green Bay – Jermichael Finley (55 catches for 767 yards with 8 TDs)

4. Philadelphia – Brent Celek (62 catches for 811 yards with 5 TDs)

5. Detroit – Brandon Pettigrew (83 catches for 777 yards with 5 TDs)

Moeaki could easily become a 60-catch player if healthy for a full season. He totaled 47 catches for 556 yards with 3 TDs as a rookie in 2010.

Without Moeaki, the Chiefs cast of tight ends combined to post 34 catches for 325 yards with 1 TD. Leonard Pope was the Chiefs primary pass-catcher at the position with a career-high 24 catches for 247 yards and a TD.

Story You Missed

You probably noticed this one, but the Chiefs tight ends were among the most highly-penalized players on the team.

Leonard Pope led all Chiefs in individual penalty yardage with nine flags for 79 yards. Jake O’Connell was the fourth-most penalized Chief with seven flags totaling 40 yards in just eight games played. Anthony Becht was flagged once for five yards.

Tight ends were responsible for a total 124 penalty yards last season. By comparison, that amount equals over 38% of their receiving output.

One Sentence Wraps

Tony Moeaki: A valuable piece of the Chiefs offense and it showed without him in 2011.

Leonard Pope: Replaying visions of Pope running the seam vs. Green Bay.

Anthony Becht: Will turn 35 next summer, but is still motivated to play.

Jake O’Connell: Hasn’t been able to find consistent playing time in three seasons with the Chiefs.

Interesting Stat

The tight ends stepped up in the Chiefs 19-14 victory over Green Bay with Leonard Pope reeling in a single-game career high 72 passing yards and Anthony Becht tallying his first multi-catch game since 2007.

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