You can ask any media pundit, any fan, or even the Miami Dolphins coaching staff about what position battle has been getting the most attention through training camp and you’ll get the same answer: quarterback. But that’s not the only position that has had a heated battle taking place through the preseason. In fact, I’d argue that the most intriguing battle is coming elsewhere on the offense, and no, not at running back. I’m talking about tight end.
Since Charles Clay left for the Buffalo Bills with a hefty contract back in 2015, the Dolphins have struggled mightily to find production at the tight end position. The team has looked to Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas, and MarQueis Gray to fill that hole, but none have thrived. Last year, Miami took Mike Gesicki in the second round and Durham Smythe in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft with the hopes finally arriving at a solution to the team’s tight end problem, and it looks like that solution may have finally been found, but not in the way you might think.
During Miami’s first drive of Thursday night’s preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Dolphins deployed three, yes, three tight ends at the same time. Gesicki, Smythe, 26-year old Nick O’Leary were all lined up together. They moved around the formation as well, taking turns blocking, playing out wide, and taking snaps in the slot. It appears the Dolphins are hoping to keep defenses guessing by moving around the team’s group of talented tight ends in order to find favorable matchups, something both head coach Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea are familiar with given their background with he New England Patriots.
Gesicki (6’6”, 245 lbs), Smythe (6’6” 253 lbs), and O’Leary (6’3”, 252 lbs) are all currently listed as co-starters on the depth chart, and each brings a unique skillset to the lineup, Gesicki, who was a prolific pass catcher with Penn State during his collegiate career, provides the best vertical threat of the three, while Smythe is a very proficient blocker. O’Leary doesn’t stick out with any one skill, but he is capable of playing a jack-of-all-trades role and is a reliable pass catcher when called upon. He’s also pretty tough to take down.
Dwayne Allen is currently behind Clive Walford on the depth chart, but with Miami having signed Allen to a two-year, $6,000,000 contract with almost half of the first year’s salary guaranteed, I think the 29-year old veteran is more likely to be kept around if the team decides to retain four tight ends.
Regardless of who claims the top spot on the depth chart, expect Gesicki, Smythe, and O’Leary to see regular snaps come September.
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