The standards for tight ends have changed dramatically over the past decade or so. Back in the day, it wasn’t very common that you saw a tight end release off of the line of scrimmage and go run a route, today it happens on every passing down unless you need an extra blocker because the defense is having a good day. Tight ends have become physical monsters that are nearly impossible to cover because they are too big for a defensive back and too fast and athletic for the average linebacker. It seems like almost every team has found it essential to have a tight end that an create mismatches in the passing game. The Saints have Graham, The Falcons have Gonzalez, and the Chargers have Gates. And if you thought one tight end just wasn’t enough you can think again because two tight ends can just give defenses headaches, The Patriots have been very successful with Gronkowski and Hernandez and the Bengals are hoping to be successful with Gresham and newly acquired Eifert. Another team hoping to have the next best tight end duo is the St. Louis Rams who have Lace Kendricks and newly acquired Jared Cook.
Sam Bradford didn’t have enough weapons last season, so far this year it seems like he cant get enough. The Rams reunited Jared Cook with his old coach Jeff Fisher this offseason. Cook will add a whole other dimension to the passing game, and give Sam a reliable target in the seams. The Rams also have Lance Kendricks who really started to shine last season and show what he can do. If both players play like they are expected and Cook shows what he can do with a good quarterback and Kendricks continues to develop as he did last year, there is no doubt these two could be one of the best groups in the league.
Cook will more than likely play a larger role in the passing game and be more of the receiving tight end. Jared Cook is 6’5 248 pounds which is only one inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Gronkowski and he is the same height and 12 pounds heavier than Calvin Johnson. Cook wanted to be paid like a receiver and there is a reason why. Cook had 44 receptions for 523 yards last season which ranked him 30th among tight ends(http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/te2012). Remember, Cook had Jake Locker throwing him the football who has been a sub par quarterback so far in his career. In 2011, with Mat Hasselbeck throwing the football, Cook had 82 receptions for 759 yards and three touchdowns and ranked 13th among tight ends. There is no doubt Cook could become Sam Bradford’s new favorite target and will have an immediate impact in the red zone. Cook will also more than likely get more of the attention from the defense which could open things up for either Kendricks on the other side or Tavon Austin underneath. Cook was a great pickup for the Rams this offseason. He and Bradford could help each other have a career year next season.
Lance Kendricks, the other Rams tight end, showed lots of promise last season having 42 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Kendricks also ranked 11th among tight ends last season. Kendricks had the best game of his young career last season against the Buccaneers where he had 119 yards receiving and a touchdown at the beginning of the second half which extended the Rams lead. It looks as if Kendricks will play more of the blocking tight end role as well as get reps at full back once again this season. Don’t expect Cook to not get any action in the passing game however. Cook will more than likely get the majority of the attention from the defense which should open things up for Kendricks. Expect Kendricks to improve even more this next season.
The tight end duo of Billy Bajema and Daniel Fells will no longer cut it. The Rams have significantly improved the tight end position which could prove to be a difference maker in games. With the two Rams tight ends producing mismatches, Bradford should be able to find them open multiple times per game. The tight end spot has changed dramatically over the past decade, and with teams utilizing tight ends more and more, the Rams have decided to follow suit.