Now that the dust of the 2011 Draft has settled, it’s time to analyze the current state of Buffalo’s roster. We’ll be taking a look at one position at a time. Today: TE. (Previous editions: QB, RB, FB, WR)
Oh boy…here’s a potential problem. Tight end continues to be a prepetual problem for Buffalo, as the Bills have not had a truly productive tight end in years. 2010 was no different, as the foursome of Jonathan Stupar, Scott Chandler, David Martin, and Shawn Nelson combined for an uninspiring 23 receptions, 187 yards, and 1 touchdown.
The Bills responded by not tendering Stupar a contract before the lockout started – meaning chances are good he won’t be back. Then the team went ahead and did nothing to upgrade the position via the draft. Here’s who’s left.
Players Under Contract (4): Shawn Nelson, Scott Chandler, David Martin, Mike Caussin
Possibly Departing Free Agents: Jonathan Stupar
1) Shawn Nelson
2010 stats: 3 catches, 25 yards, 1 really important lost fumble
Nelson would probably like to forget 2010. He started the year with a four-game suspension, did very little in five games except lose a fumble in overtime at Baltimore, and then got hurt and missed the rest of the year.
Nelson is easily the most talented guy in this group as a receiver and will get every opportunity to win the starting job in training camp. If Buffalo is going to get any meaningful contributions from its tight ends in the passing game, it’s going to be because of Nelson. No one else has the playmaking ability.
However, this might be Nelson’s last chance to grab the starting role in Buffalo. If he can’t emerge from this group, it’s never going to happen and the Bills are going to cut him loose.
2) Scott Chandler
2010 stats: 1 catch, 8 yards
Nelson spent most of 2010 with Dallas before the Bills picked him up before Week 13. Chandler’s been around the league a bit, starting off as a fourth-round pick of the Chargers. He never actually got onto the field for San Diego, ending up in Dallas. He played some special teams for the Cowboys before he was waived and claimed by the Bills. He made his first career catch in the win over Miami.
Chandler’s big (6-7, 272) but not a very good or physical blocker. He’s also a former college wide receiver, but not much of a receiving threat. Buddy Nix is familiar with Chandler from their shared time in San Diego, so maybe he thinks Chandler can pull it together and be a productive NFL tight end.
I’m not so sure. If Chandler ends up starting – and he might if Nelson struggles – you can move “tight end” to the top of the Bills list of needs.
3) David Martin
2010 stats: 7 rec, 43 yards, 1 TD
Martin played in all 16 games in 2010, fluctuating from starter to backup to reserve as his teammates were healthy or not healthy. He caught a touchdown early in the year but didn’t really do much in the passing game. At this point, he’s a veteran who can block some and catch some. You could do worse for a reserve.
Martin will probably stick as the #2 or #3 TE again for the Bills in 2011. In that role, he’s fine. If he’s pressed into starting duty again…not so fine.
4) Mike Caussin
2010 stats: None
Caussin, an undrafted rookie, spent most of the year on the Jaguars’ practice squad before Buffalo claimed him for its 53-man roster in December. He didn’t get on the field for the Bills.
Caussin has some receiving skills, but doesn’t really add much as a blocker. He’ll have a shot to challenge Chandler and Martin for a roster spot in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He does have practice squad eligibility left, so that’s a possibility as well.
Possibly Departing Free Agents:
1) Jonathan Stupar
2010 stats: 12 catches, 111 yards
Stupar, a pre-season all star for the Bills, got his chance to play in 2010 and didn’t really make an impression. He made one big play – a 35-yard grab in the Cleveland win – and not much else. The Bills didn’t tender him a contract before the lockout and I’d be surprised to see him back.
So…yikes. Not a lot to work with here. It’s possible if Nelson doesn’t work out the Bills simply won’t run a lot of tight end-inclusive sets in 2011. I frankly wouldn’t blame them. If the Bills improve in more important areas (run defense, pass rush, offensive line play) before the 2012 Draft, then this position HAS to be a priority next offseason.