Something I heard ESPN's John Clayton say the other day has really resonated with me and really brought to light an aspect of the Buffalo Bills' offense which may be contributing to our ineptitude on that side of the ball more than we realize. If my memory serves me accurately, Clayton noted that defenses in 2009 are bracketing number one wide recievers with a defensive back and a safety more than ever this year and that as a result, teams are channeling their offenses through tight ends at a record pace. According to Clayton, eight tight ends this season are on pace for 80 receptions, while 12 more are on pace for 70 catches. In essence, two thirds of teams this season are likely to have their tight ends emerge as their leader in receptions.
Is it possible that it is no coincidence that our offensive struggles truly became apparent after the season-ending injury to Derek Schouman, who during the Bucs game was emerging as our receptions leader?
It's been evident since Week 1 that we are struggling to get the ball to our superb receivers, with Trent Edwards obtaining the nickname "Captain Checkdown" because of all his dinks and dunks to Fred Jackson and then later on, Marshawn Lynch. Of course, in our case - and I have been outspoken about this - our offense is inept because we have the worst offensive line in the league, but is it not possible that Captain Checkdown can become effective if he starts using a tight end capable of coming through for him like Ben Watson, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Anthony Fasano, Zach Miller, Dallas Clark and dozens more are for their quarterbacks? Obviously, with our offensive line problem, I am very aware that someone like Derek Fine and even Shawn Nelson, are supposed to be vitally needed to help block. However, its clear at this point that a tight end can do little to stem the tide through our porous line - the problems are simply too large for a tight end to help.
It may be time to set Shawn Nelson loose strictly as a receiving tight end and keep him in for a majority of the snaps in this role. We need to get creative and throw the kitchen sink at our offense and we can start by using Shawn as he was meant to be used - as a receiver. Trent Edwards obviously does not have the time - and in the eyes of some fans, the will or ability - to throw the ball downfield right now. Well, if this is the QB we have to rally around to try and turn the season around, we might as well play to his tendencies, even if they are undesirable. We know our running backs are great receivers, and if we throw Nelson out on routes consistently, it could help give Trent more checkdown options. You never know - it could even result in teams pulling safeties off of Lee Evans and Terrell Owens.
Tight ends are rapidly evolving into offensive weapons which are integral parts to a potent offense. Let's use Nelson as a receiver exclusively; our offensive line is not going to get better with a tight end blocking, and if we are going to give Trent two seconds to make a read, we might as well give him more check down options.