Position Battles: Tight End

Posted Aug 7, 2015

With a solid group of players, the Rams’ tight ends are in position to make major contributions to the offense in 2015.

With a solid group of players, the Rams’ tight ends are in position to make major contributions to the offense in 2015. With some tweaks to the offense from promoted offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and assistant head coach/offense Rob Boras, St. louis’ tight ends are poised to have a strong year.

Boras’ former position with the Rams was tight ends coach, and he is continuing to perform those duties as he expands his role to work with the entire offense. But when it comes to the TEs, they’re not necessarily battling it out because there is no one way to define what a player listed at the position does for the Rams.

“Each of the guys brings a different dimension to our offense,” Boras said. “We want to try to create matchups with them, obviously, in the passing game. But then they’re going to be a huge foundation of what we’re trying to do in the run game. So that’s the great thing about coaching and playing tight ends -- you’re involved in all facets of the offense.”

Jared Cook is a prime example of someone who can create numerous matchup problems for a defense. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, Cook can stretch the field, or run short routes to be the proverbial security blanket for quarterbacks.

“I’ve never been around a guy that can run that is as big as Jared and can run like Jared,” Boras said. “He’s going to create separation with his speed, but he also creates separation just because of his size. And those are fun guys to play with.”

Cook’s skill set also means his position can vary depending on the formation or play.

“He’s going to line up at split end, he lines up in the backfield, he’ll line up in the slot as well as the tight end,” Boras said. “And the big thing for Jared is, for three years now, he just keeps growing as a run blocker and as a protector because, obviously, on the field it can’t be a pass every time.”

One players who has excelled at blocking throughout his time with the Rams is Lance Kendricks.

“Lance is a great run blocker, probably one of the best I’ve been around,” Boras said. “He can make plays in the pass game, and he can protect. And that’s just a dying breed in the position, when you find a tight end that’s on the field all three downs.”

An unrestricted free agent this past offseason, Kendricks opted to return to the Rams because of the connections he shares with his teammates and coaches.

“This is year No. 4 for us together. That was important to me,” Kendricks said. “I feel comfortable playing under [Boras] and learning the offense under him along with coach Cig. So it’s been great so far and hopefully we can get off to a great start.”

But perhaps the Rams’ best known blocker is Cory Harkey. Heading into his fourth NFL season, the UCLA product is often leading the way for the Rams’ running backs. His physicality has enabled him to clear many holes effectively.

“Cory’s one of those guys who doesn’t try to avoid contact -- he’s looking for contact,” Boras said.

But along with his blocking prowess, Harkey has also been known to catch a few passes. In Week 14 last year, the tight end was on the receiving end of a fake field goal, two-point conversion pass from Johnny Hekker to increase the lead over Washington.

“You can’t just be content with being good at one thing,” Harkey said. “That’s kind of how I’ve always been. I’ve always been very prideful in my work. I want to be good at all things, obviously. I know my role on the team. I know what I have to do for this team to be successful.”

“Cory’s one of those lunch pail guys,” Boras said. “He’s going to be the first guy on the field, often the last to leave, and he’s going to do a lot of the dirty work. And hopefully we throw him a bone out in the flat, and you know Cory’s going to try to catch it and run somebody over.”

No matter the player, though, Boras said that all the tight ends have done a nice job of making a connection with new quarterback, Nick Foles.

“That’s the thing that we’ve talked about, is just developing that rapport,” Boras said. “They’re going to be on the field. And coaches can’t develop rapport for players. Players have to learn to develop rapport amongst themselves, and that’s been a big part. And with these first four practices, it’s gotten off to a good start.”