As Tim Graham at the Buffalo News wrote recently, the Buffalo Bills' Scott Chandler has a chance this season to enter into team lore as the tenth best receiving tight end in team history. Joking aside, if Chandler can stay healthy and put up numbers close to his output in the 2011 campaign (38 catches, 6 touchdowns), it would be quite a development for a team as historically starved at the tight end position as the Buffalo Bills are.
How bad have Bills' tight ends been? Well one way to measure it is a quick read of all the tight ends who have worn a Bills' uniform during this prolonged playoff famine. Who's ready for a trip down the dark and forgotten memory lane of Bills tight ends? Here they are: Jay Riemersma, Sheldon Jackson, Bobby Collins, Dan O'Leary, Dave Moore, Ryan Neufeld, Mark Campbell, Tim Euhus, Robert Royal, Brad Cieslak, Kevin Everett, Michael Gaines, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine, Jonathan Stupar, David Martin, Shawn Nelson, Scott Chandler, Mike Caussin, and Lee Smith.
The next Pete Metzelaars has been elusive as the nest Jim Kelly. At least Pete Metzelaars himself seems poised to groom his successor as the team's newly installed tight end coach.
In Scott Chandler, Metzelaars has a block of clay similar to his own form. Chandler is a tall and lumbering target with an above-average pair of hands and apparent willingness to do the dirty blocking work that tight ends were always charged with until the Shannon Sharpes and Antonio Gates began appearing and reinventing the position. In 2011, Chandler earned his keep as a reliable short-yardage and goal line option for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chandler's 6'7'' frame gets easier to find, apparently, when the field gets more crowded.
Still, the Bills clearly lack at the position what gradually more and more teams possess: a hybrid receiver-tight end who uses their size less in the blocking game and more in the passing game. They're faster than most linebackers, and bigger than most defensive backs, thus exposing mismatches down the seams.
Anyone who's watched the Bills play the last decade should know exactly who I'm talking about, the guys who have torched the Bills for huge yards over and over and over again. WARNING, here comes another list. Think: Rob Gronkowski, Ben Watson, Dustin Keller, Jermaine Gresham, Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley, Aaron Hernandez.
OK, I'm getting depressed. It seems like the offensive game plan when you're playing the Bills is relatively simple. Throw to the tight end, a lot. They can't cover them.
Not all of these aforementioned tight ends are the receiver hybrid type I'm really getting at, the Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham types, but my point is that the Bills don't have one of those guys, you know, the kind of guy every other elite passing team has.
I know Scott Chandler can play a productive role on the team as a blocker, a short yardage and goal line option, and he'll catch the occasional pass down the seam for 20 yards, but he's never going to burst into the open and make anyone think he could outrun people. So while it's great Metzelaars is coaching Chandler up to be a tight end circa 1992, I'd like to see a Bills tight end whose chest is barely broad enough for his giant jersey numbers of 80-something.
But as I'm inclined to hope and drink the Kool-Aid all offseason long about how there's a chance for every player with upside to reach his potential and exceed it, I could see Chandler really doing well this year. If he catches 50 passes, 8 touchdowns, and covers 600 yards? Hell, put'em on the Wall of Fame.