Thanks to the NBA Finals/Free Agency and the World Cup the summer sporting doldrums have seemed to fly by, and we’re now officially one week away from Training Camps kicking off across the NFL.
To catch you up to speed on all things Saints, each day we’ll preview a different position and give you an idea of what to keep an eye on while you watch reports coming out of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Thursday, we take a look at the tight ends.
It’s essentially Jimmy Graham or bust for the Saints when it comes to their prospects at tight end, at least as it relates to receiving production.
Ben Watson is the only other tight end on the current roster that has played more than two years in the NFL, and two of the guys are flat out rookies. Assuming Graham doesn’t hold out, he’ll make the roster and be the starting tight end (umm…duh). Watson will also certainly make the squad and return to his role as a blocking tight end in two tight end sets, as well as presenting an option for Brees in the flat from time to time.
From there, your guess is truly as good as mine. Some experts speculate that the Saints will attempt to run more two tight end sets this year, which would mean they would likely bring four tight ends to the Week 1 roster. However, from purely a talent standpoint it seems like there is more talent at wide receiver than at tight end, and capping the number of receivers you can have on the active roster because you’re handcuffed by non-productive tight ends seems a bit silly.
There are three tight ends currently on the roster (not named Graham or Watson): Josh Hill, Je’Ron Hamm, and Nic Jacobs.
Last year the third string tight end was Hill, a serviceable player more useful in run blocking situations than running routes. He would be the easy pick to take up the mantle again, however as our John Sigler wrote a few weeks ago I think the Saints have their eye on a different type of player.
Sigler and I agree that Je’Ron Hamm should make the roster, whether that means taking four tight ends into Week 1 or Hamm jumping Hill on the depth chart. Hamm is physically very similar to Jimmy Graham at 6-foot-3 and 236 lbs., and he has an outstanding wingspan (33 inches) and 9.25 inches wide hands. He’s one of the new age hybrid wide receiver / tight ends; in fact, he played wide receiver during his three years at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He’s a bit rough around the edges, but with time he could be the next great receiving tight end for the Saints (just in case the Jimmy Graham deal goes south).
As of now, here’s how I see the depth chart looking for the tight end position in Week 1:
1.) Jimmy Graham
2.) Ben Watson
3.) Je’Ron Hamm
I think if Hamm has a good Training Camp and preseason he’ll beat out Josh Hill based purely on athletic ability. That’s assuming, of course, that he can at least show a little bit of promise as a blocker. Past Hamm, you could see Hill make the squad as a special teams ace and deep back up, and you’ll likely see Nic Jacobs optioned to the practice squad to develop.