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Jersey Numbers: Tight Ends

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to look at several different positions (I can’t yet promise all) to identify the best players wearing each jersey number at each position. If this goes as planned, we’ll then compile a list of the best player wearing each jersey number in the league.

If you have quibbles, or want to add someone I forgot, leave a comment and we’ll update this post. And please have patience – this is a big job.

We started this project with wide receivers in this post. Now we move to tight ends. In general, tight ends wear numbers between 80 and 89, but several also wear numbers in the 40s.

40 – Jim Kleinsasser, Vikings – It’s hard to tell whether Kleinsasser is a true tight end or more of a fullback/H-back, but he plays on the line enough to earn the nod here. Kleinsasser doesn’t get the ball much, but he remains a solid blocker deep into a solid career.

41 – Spencer Havner, Packers – OK, so Havner is the only tight end wearing 41. But we have to give a few props to a player who was playing linebacker until about three or four weeks ago and now suddenly has three touchdowns in the past two games.

44 – Dallas Clark, Colts – Clark is probably the best receiving tight end in the league at the moment. He’s not just reliable – he’s explosive down the middle of the field. He’s emerged as the complement to Reggie Wayne in the Colts’ prolific passing game, and Clark is just now hitting his prime.

45 – Leonard Pope, Chiefs – The former Cardinals starter landed in K.C. this year with a new jersey number. Pope has never played up to his immense physical gifts, but he is still a threat simply because of his size and speed.

46 – Daniel Fells, Rams – Fells is the only tight end wearing 46, but like Havner he has three touchdowns on the season. Of course, one came on a fake field goal, and the other two came from Kyle Boller in one game on the same play call, but three is three. Other notable 46: Delanie Walker, 49ers

47 – Chris Cooley, Redskins – Cooley is hurt at the moment, but he has proven to be a terrific pass catcher in Washington in recent years despite playing with subpar quarterbacks throughout his tenure. He’s also a serviceable blocker and a fan favorite because of his outsized personality. He’s one of the few home-grown players who has really paid off for the Redskins. Other notable 47s: Jeff King, Panthers, Billy Bajema, Rams; Travis Beckum, Giants; Gijon Robinson, Colts

80 – Bo Scaife, Titans – Scaife is the Titans’ most important receiver because he has great size and provides a great interior target. Tennessee recognized his value when it tagged Scaife as its franchise player this past offseason. That’s enough reason to give Scaife the nod at 80 over Zach Miller of the Raiders, who’s a great young receiver. Other notable 80: Derek Schouman, Bills

81 – Owen Daniels, Texans – Before he suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, Daniels was the most productive tight end in the league. That marked the third straight season he was one of the league’s most dangerous targets. That’s enough to earn him honors for this number over Minnesota’s Visanthe Shiancoe, who has blossomed as a receiving threat the last two seasons. Other notable 81s: Dustin Keller, Jets; Joey Haynos, Dolphins

82 – Jason Witten, Cowboys – Witten isn’t having his most sterling of seasons, but he has long been one of the league’s two or three elite receiving threats from the tight end position. He may be the receiver Cowboys opponents need to concentrate on stopping most. He’s an All-Pro level tight end, which puts him above young studs Kellen Winslow of the Buccaneers and Greg Olsen of the Bears at this number. Other notable 82s: Alex Smith, Eagles; L.J. Smith, Ravens

83 – Heath Miller, Steelers – Miller is a tall target who can really catch the ball, and that makes him a great mid-field target in a Pittsburgh offense where ball control is still important. Miller is also having a bit of a bounce-back year numbers-wise, which makes it even easier to give him the nod at 83 over the declining Alge Crumpler of Tennessee. Other notable 83: Jeff Dugan, Vikings

84 – Benjamin Watson, Patriots – The Patriots have never seemed completely satisfied with Watson, a former first-round pick, at tight end, but Watson continues to put up good touchdown numbers. He also has the longest touchdown reception in Patriots playoff history, a 63-yarder against Jacksonville in the 2005 season. So he gets the nod over Randy McMichael of the Rams, who has had some decent seasons, and rookie first-rounder Brandon Pettigrew of the Lions. Other notable 84: Robert Royal, Browns

85 – Antonio Gates, Chargers – Gates, who didn’t play football but basketball in college, has been one of the preeminent receiving tight ends in the league over the past decade or so. Injuries have slowed him a step or two, but he’s still really good. One day, Vernon Davis of the 49ers will claim this number, but that won’t happen until Gates retires. Other notable 85: David Thomas, Saints

86 – Todd Heap, Ravens – Heap is another tight end having a renaissance year this season, reminding all of us how good of a receiver he has been in his career. Like Heath Miller, his size is his biggest asset as a receiver. Other notable 86s: Donald Lee, Packers; Fred Davis, Redskins; Daniel Coats, Bengals; Chris Baker, Patriots

87 – Brent Celek, Eagles – Celek had a good game or two before this season, but he has seized his opportunity this season and established himself as a better-than-average receiver at tight end already. He brings an explosiveness to the position that the Eagles never got from L.J. Smith. Other notable 87: Kellen Davis, Bears

88 – Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – T-Gon is another of the classic tight ends of this era, and like Gates he had a basketball background. Gonzalez is still a prolific receiver, and his veteran presence has made the Falcons’ offense much more dangerous. He’s clearly the choice here over Jeremy Shockey of New Orleans and many others. Other notable 88s: JerMichael Finley, Packers; Tony Scheffler, Broncos; Dante Rosario, Panthers; J.P. Foschi, Bengals; Desmond Clark, Bears

89 – Daniel Graham, Broncos– This is a close call between Graham, who’s known more for his blocking than for his receiving, and young tight ends like Kevin Boss of the Giants, John Carlson of Seattle, and Marcedes Lewis of the Jaguars. We’ll give Graham the nod based on the longevity of his career and his blocking prowess. Other notable 89s: Will Heller, Lions; Sean Ryan, Chiefs; Matt Spaeth, Steelers; Ben Patrick, Cardinals; Shawn Nelson, Bills

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Week 2 Moves

We do a weekly update on major NFL transactions. We’ll include signings, releases, and also players who are put on injured reserve, because they are lost for the year. You can check out the Week 1 transactions here.

Additions

Chargers (add DT Alfonso Boone) – Boone comes in to help the effort to replace NT Jamal Williams, who was put on IR after Week 1. He played for current Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Chicago, so Rivera knows Boone’s strengths and weaknesses enough to put him in a role he can succeed in.

Ravens (add TE Tony Curtis) – Baltimore added Curtis, who showed a few flashes of potential in Philly, as a backup tight end. Curtis will help fill in for his ex-Eagle teammate L.J. Smith, who just can’t seem to stay healthy.

Browns (add TE Greg Estandia) – The Browns gave up on ’08 fourth-rounder Martin Rucker (whom they traded an ’09 third-rounder to draft) and picked up Estandia, who was released in Jacksonville to make way for rookie Zach Miller. Estandia, a third-year player,  is 6-foot-8 and has 19 catches over the past two years, so he brings some more veteran experience behind Steve Heiden and Robert Royal.

Panthers (add DT Antwan Burton) – Carolina, which had already lost starting DT Maake Kemeoatu in the offseason, lost replacement Louis Leonard to a broken ankle in Week 2 vs. Atlanta. Leonard is now on IR. To fill his roster spot, Carolina added Burton, who was with St. Louis and Kansas City last season and who last played for Denver in ’07. The Panthers will need Burton to at least play in a rotation, but expecting him to do more than fill space is unrealistic.

Packers (add S Matt Giordano) – Giordano, a four-year pro, replaces Aaron Rouse, who started against Cincinnati in Week 2 as a fill-in but was just a backup. With Nick Collins banged up and Atari Bigby out for a few weeks, the Packers will need Giordano to step in and play right away at least in a role.

Patriots (trade for OLB Prescott Burgess) – The Patriots traded a seventh-round pick to add Burgess, who has played in Baltimore the last two years. Burgess has played primarily on special teams in his three-year career but could help fill in with a Patriots LB corps that’s thinner with the departures of Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel and the injury to Jerod Mayo. That’s worth the shot of a seventh-round pick to New England.

Texans (add S Bernard Pollard) – Pollard started in Kansas City last year, but he was caught up in the Chiefs’ roster turnover this season. Now he moves to Houston to play for his former Chiefs’ secondary coach. Pollard is a physical player who can definitely help on special teams if not in the secondary.

Buccaneers (add S Corey Lynch and CB Marcus Hamilton) – With its secondary in flux after the injury to Jermaine Phillips and the suspension of Tanard Jackson, Tampa Bay brought in reinforcements. Lynch and Hamilton don’t have big resumes, but they at least add depth.

Titans (add P Reggie Hodges) – With veteran Craig Hentrich hurting, Tennessee needed a fill-in punter. Hodges punted for the Jets last year. He’s not great, but he’s OK in the short term.

Subtractions

Falcons (put DT Peria Jerry on IR) – Jerry, the Falcons’ first-round pick out of Ole Miss, suffered a knee injury against Carolina that will cost him the rest of the season. That’s a big blow to the Falcons, who don’t have great D-line depth. Atlanta promoted Vance Walker off the practice squad to take Jerry’s roster spot, but Walker (a local product out of Georgia Tech) can’t fill Jerry’s shoes.

Jaguars (put WR Troy Williamson on IR, demote WR Nate Hughes to practice squad) – Williamson, a former first-round bust in Minnesota, had a solid preseason and had earned a role in the Jags’ WR rotation, but a torn labrum against Arizona ended his season. The Jags also demoted Hughes, who dropped two passes in the end zone against the Cardinals, and signed Tiquan Underwood for depth. The changes mean that rookies Jarrett Dillard and Mike Thomas will have to step up and play behind Torry Holt and Mike Sims-Walker.

Buccaneers (put S Jermaine Phillips on IR) – Phillips suffered a broken thumb, and instead of waiting 6-8 weeks for his return, the Bucs shelved him for the season. That’s a big blow for a team that’s already missing starting safety Tanard Jackson with a league suspension and that has looked simply awful in pass coverage through two games this season.

Bills (put TE Derek Schouman and ORT Brad Butler on IR) – Butler, the Bills’ starting right tackle, suffered a knee injury that will cost him the rest of the season. That’s a big deal because Butler was one of just two OL starters in Buffalo with game experience prior to 2009. The Bills did add Jamon Meredith off the Packers’ practice squad to take Butler’s roster spot. Schouman, the team’s No. 2 tight end, also suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Redskins (put OG Randy Thomas on IR) – Thomas, the Redskins’ starter at right guard, suffered a right triceps injury and will miss the season. That’s a huge blow for the Redskins, because none of Washington’s backup offensive linemen played even a snap in 2008. It’ll be hard for the Redskins to replace Thomas’ solid run-blocking presence on the interior of their O-line.

Texans (put OG Chester Pitts on IR) – Pitts has been a dependable blocker for Houston, starting 114 consecutive games – which is every game in team history. The Texans have been working on improving their offensive line, which was abysmal early in their history, but depth is still a concern.

Giants (put S Kenny Phillips on IR) – Phillips, a former first-round pick who was emerging as an impact guy in his second season, intercepted two passes vs. Dallas in Week 2, returning one for a touchdown. But he also has been fighting a balky knee that will now shelve him for the year. That’s a big blow for the Giants’ young and talented secondary. To replace Phillips, the Giants claimed Aaron Rouse off waivers from Green Bay. Rouse started in Week 2 against Cincinnati but struggled. Still, he adds depth for the Giants.

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