Tight Ends Unify In Shorthanded Situation

Posted Dec 19, 2012

Mastrud, Miller and Egnew ready for action.

Tight end already is considered one of the most demanding positions on the field, and the Miami Dolphins will be testing that position even more this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Charles Clay’s season-ending knee injury suffered last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars leaves Head Coach Joe Philbin with just four tight ends on the active roster. Of those four, only two (Anthony Fasano and Jeron Mastrud) have seen any playing time this season as rookie Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller have been inactive.

“I think first of all Mastrud played really well in kind of an improvised situation last Sunday and the younger guys have been practicing well,” said Fasano, who has caught 36 passes for 289 yards and five touchdowns this season. “They’ve been preparing like they had to play every week prior and now it just becomes more important.”

Egnew credits Fasano with being like an extra coach on the field during practice and in the meeting rooms, but he has spent the majority of his time with tight ends coach Dan Campbell. The third-round draft pick out of Missouri has kept his nose in the playbook and his eyes on the film and on Campbell so he can be ready if called upon.

There are two key aspects of the tight end position that have to be mastered and that’s being able to catch passes and pass and run block. Egnew’s success in college came more as a receiver, so he and Campbell have been working on that quite a bit.

“I would say I’ve definitely improved in the run game because Coach Campbell has been trying to teach me up and pass down to me some of the run fundamentals he was good at as a player,” Egnew said. “Going against our defense and guys like Cameron Wake has helped. He’s one of the best you can go against and it sharpens your skills and in our room, Anthony’s a fundamental player. He gives me tips all the time so what I try and do is watch him and do the things that are in his skill set and not really in mine and try and learn from him.”

Inside the tight ends meeting room is where the players really try to round out their game and understand everyone else’s role. For the most part, Fasano, Mastrud, Miller and Egnew share some of the same characteristics and can be interchangeable.

Clay had become more of a hybrid H-back and tight end, lining up in the backfield more frequently as a fullback and also sometimes occupying the slot or even lining up wide. So now that he is on Injured Reserve, how his exact role is going to be filled is a key question.

“Charles is a different player than most of us,” Miller said. “He’s really versatile and can do a lot of different things, so I don’t think it’s just going to be one guy stepping in to do everything that Charles did. I think it’s going to be a little bit of the fullback and some wide receivers and tight ends combining to take over for what he did. It’ll be a group effort but we’re definitely ready for it.”

The two biggest tight ends are Mastrud (6-foot-6, 262 pounds) and Miller (6-5, 260), with Egnew (6-5, 255) and Fasano (6-4, 255) closer in size. Clay is 6-3 and 250 so he could handle some of the receiver duties that came his way.

Philbin spoke highly of Fasano’s versatility against the Jaguars with his team-high six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. He also was part of the blocking group in front of running back Reggie Bush that helped him rush for 104 yards on 21 carries and is the leader of the entire tight end group.

“Anthony had a very productive day the other day and Mastrud got in there and contributed nicely,” Philbin said. “We’ll see how this week unfolds with some of the other guys but it’s a good group. We’re putting together our plan for the Buffalo Bills and we’ll decide by the end of the week based on a lot of factors who will be the 46 guys that we dress. It’s really as simple as that.”

Mastrud echoed what Egnew and Miller had to say about how they go about preparing for games and how they approach each week mentally.

“It’s everyone’s job regardless of what position it is to be ready to step up and play if somebody goes down,” Mastrud said. “You get paid to play and not to just wear a jersey, so it’s just paying attention in meetings, getting mental reps if you’re not getting the reps in practice and doing what you’re called upon to do.”

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