Time to get tight


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Jan 22, 2006
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Time to Get Tight
Aug 10, 2006, 8:45:53 AM by Bob Gretz - FAQ

RIVER FALLS, WI – I’m dredging up a concept that several years ago I tried to convince Al Saunders he should use in the Chiefs offense.

Saunders ignored me. He proved he didn’t need my help in producing yards and points as the Chiefs offensive coordinator. But Al is gone to the Redskins and Mike Solari is now the play caller and chief game planner for the offense.

Solari doesn’t need my help either. He’ll be just fine handling the attack for Herm Edwards. I think those who doubt him are going to look foolish when this season plays out. The Chiefs will be different offensively, but they will still be productive.

But after watching two weeks of training camp practices, I’m compelled to resurrect my plea that the Chiefs need to use a three tight-end set as their primary offensive scheme.

I’m not talking about on third-and-short plays; everybody in the league uses three tights in those situations, with the third TE usually being an offensive lineman. I’m talking about having three tights lined up for 1st-and-10, and 2nd-and-5, even 3rd-and-long, everywhere on the field in every situation. I’m talking about having Tony Gonzalez, Jason Dunn and Kris Wilson with Larry Johnson at running back and Eddie Kennison/Samie Parker/Dante Hall at wide receiver.

Every offensive coordinator wants to introduce doubt into the minds of the defense. The most basic is this: if the guys trying to stop the ball aren’t quite sure what’s coming their way – run or pass – then it’s easier for the offense to be successful. With the Chiefs current offensive tools, they can do that all the time with the three tight end set.

Say it’s 1st-and-10 the ball is at the 50-yard line and the Chiefs lineup with three tight ends, L.J. and a wide receiver. Is this a running formation, or a passing formation? The best thing about this alignment with these particular players at this particular time is that it can be both.

If the defense comes out and crowds the box with eight men, then it becomes a passing play, and Gonzalez and Wilson join the receiver in the pattern. If the defense plays the pass and keeps their safeties deep, then Dunn, Gonzalez and Wilson lead the charge and L.J. takes off on a running play with three very mobile blockers helping out, along with the offensive line.

The wildcard in this grouping is Wilson. We know Gonzalez can catch the ball; he’s one of the most productive catchers at tight end in NFL history. He’s also become a better than average blocker. Dunn is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and he can catch the occasional pass (remember he caught 17 passes in 2004.)

Wilson remains largely untested because he was injured his rookie season (2004) and forgotten in his second year (2005.) He has but three catches in 17 games. But in this training camp, Wilson has been consistent in his play and production. He’s also been asked in this camp to play a number of different positions: tight end, fullback and F-Back, which most teams label the H-Back. He has responded well and has made an impression on the head coach and the offensive staff.

The parts are there to make this type of attack happen. Johnson’s running style is better suited to having an extra blocker on the line of scrimmage, rather than a fullback leading the way. Wilson’s versatility can have him lining up in the backfield as well. Gonzalez can do that too.

On the surface, this seems like an alignment geared to the run, but with Gonzalez and Wilson, that doesn’t need to be the case. Line them up tight, then split them out into the slot and there are defenses that are going to have a lot of problems matching up.

For this to work, the lynchpin is Wilson. He must continue on the path he’s taken in this training camp. If he can stay healthy and continue to handle the multiple loads put on him, and if he’s not forgotten as he was last season, then the Chiefs offense can be just as productive, but in a very different way than it has been in the past.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.
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