Mularkey and the Tight End Approach
By Luke Sims
With the explosion of the tight end position in recent years, it behooves teams to focus on making their tight ends an important aspect of their offense. This goes beyond the simple blocking tight end or the main wide receiving threat that many teams focus on.
In Mike Mularkey, the Jaguars have a coach who has not only played well as a tight end in the NFL, but has also been a position coach for the large half linemen, half skill player position.
The Jaguars have fortunately been blessed with a brilliant blocking and receiving tight end in Marcedes Lewis (when motivated, apparently). He fits quick slants, corner routes, and is big enough to catch a well thrown jump ball.
Then their are other, less dual-threat and more traditional tight ends. The Jags’ Zach Potter is a big receiving threat, but can’t block. He is part of the transition that is making tight ends an important part of the passing game. Still others are used more for blocking than pass support (most teams tend to follow this model).
As we all know, Marcedes Lewis did not quite perform as expected in 2011. He failed to catch important passes, he failed to efficiently block on every down, and he failed to be a true leader for the team in a crucial rookie year for Blaine Gabbert. I believe that Mularkey will help to capitalize on Marcedes’ deep talent. Will he become the elite pass catching tight end that Anthony Gonzalez and Gronk have become? Maybe not. But we know that he will contribute greatly to the strong running game that the Jaguars boast.
The Jags will not just use Marcedes Lewis as a safety valve in the offense going forward. Look for him to be utilized as a receiver more and to be in on almost every down. Lewis’ size allows for him to boost the offense in any situation. When his hands are working that is. A strong tight end forces the defense to focus on him with another faster safety or big corner and removes a linebacker from crowding the box.
Mularkey knows this, as does Bob Bratkowski, it should be a good year for the tight end in Jacksonville.
While the Patriots get all the attention for their successful passing attack, expect the Jaguars to compete for the limelight in 2012.
– Luke N. Sims