Grading the Broncos tight ends’ performances during the 2016 season

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We all know that the Denver Broncos offense struggled this season. With the difficulties on the offensive line, youth at quarterback, and a non-existent running game, scoring points, or even sustaining drives became a very difficult proposition.

The tight ends also failed to produce much this season. Whether that was the scheme that was instituted by the coaching staff, or just a failure to make plays by the entire offensive unit, is a little tough to calculate.

Broncos tight ends combined for just 53 catches in the 2016 campaign. Compare that to new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s San Diego Chargers team, where the tight ends racked up 91 receptions. The Broncos tight ends didn’t put up very good numbers as a group, but how did they grade out individually?

Virgil Green

Green may go down as one of the most underused Broncos in team history. Green is now a six-year veteran that has shown he is a very able blocker, and has better hands than people might think. The big tight end has just 57 receptions over that career.

This season was just another example of Green often being overlooked. He posted a career high in receptions with 22, and 13 of those catches went for a first down. Green averaged nearly 11 yards every time that the ball went his way, so it is a little hard to understand why he was only targeted 37 times. Perhaps, the coaching staff was asking Green to help out the struggling offensive line. That didn’t seem to work either. Green could flourish under the new coaching staff.

Final grade: C

A.J. Derby

The Broncos traded for Derby, sending a fifth-round pick to the New England Patriots after the Week 7 win over Houston. The Patriots had drafted him in 2015, out of the University of Arkansas, but he had been placed on injured reserve for his entire rookie season.

Derby came to Denver and showed that he could be a solid contributor, as he caught 16 passes for 160 yards. At 6’5” and 255 pounds, Derby is a big target that is capable of going over the middle, and has to speed to attack defenses down the field. He needs to develop as a run blocker, and we all remember that painful fumble that he had in Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans, but Derby is a solid addition to the tight end corps.

Final grade: C+

Jeff Heuerman

Heuerman missed his entire rookie season last year after tearing his ACL in rookie camp. He returned this year, and made nine catches for 141 yards. The Broncos like his ability to be a threat downfield in the passing game, and if his blocking improves, he could be the tight end of the future.

Final grade: D+

John Phillips

Phillips is an eight-year veteran that has bounced around the NFL. The Broncos signed him, in hopes of using his versatility as a blocker and a pass catcher. He did catch 10 passes for 72 yards, even managing a touchdown in the Week 3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, Phillips battled an ankle injury all season, and the Broncos cut him in early November.

Final grade: D

Henry Krieger-Coble

The rookie out of Iowa had just one catch for 13 yards, coming in the Broncos’ Week 16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He may have been skipped in the NFL Draft, but the Broncos were impressed by the abilities of Krieger-Coble. He is undersized to play tight end in the NFL, at just 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, and will need to add some serious strength in the weight room. Yet, Gary Kubiak really liked his ability to run very good routes, and he showed very good hands when catching the ball. Will Krieger-Coble be able to garner the attention of the new coaching staff as well?

Final grade: Incomplete

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