The Chiefs first signaled their intent to improve at tight end in recent months when they acquired Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce to go along with the injured incumbent starter, Tony Moeaki.
Since then, the Chiefs have revealed plenty of two-tight end formations during their offseason program and spent plenty of time at least trying to throw the ball to both Fasano and Kelce. The signs are everywhere that the tight end as a pass receiver is back in the Chiefs offense under new coach Andy Reid.
“I think the offense is very friendly for a tight end,” said Fasano, signed from Miami as a free agent. ”You can tell they’re becoming a very valuable position in this offense. We ultimately determine (how many passes they catch) by how we play, if we make plays, exploit mismatches. The tight ends have a good opportunity in this offense.”
The Chiefs will need big receiving numbers from the tight ends this year because, other than Dwayne Bowe, they have little in proven ability at wide receiver. This marks a change for the Chiefs, who since trading Tony Gonzalez before the 2009 season got 46, 61, 35 and 44 catches from their tight ends in the four years since.
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Gonzalez would often have that many receptions by midseason and nobody is suggesting the Chiefs tight ends, individually or even collectively, will put up better numbers than Gonzalez would.
But the Chiefs are confident they can do better than they’ve done since he was traded.
“We’re an attacking style of offense, fast-paced,” Fasano said. ”I think we have a lot of weapons. I think the opportunity is there. Whether it plays out or not, I just hope to be an asset to the offense.”
Fasano, who had the only two-touchdown game of his NFL career against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago, hasn’t been a prolific pass receiver in his seven seasons with the Cowboys and Dolphins. His best season happened last year, when he caught 41 passes and scored five touchdowns.
If offseason practice is an indication, Fasano may be featured more as a receiver this season.
“Hopefully, that will be a little more consistent here,” he said.
Fasano signed with the Chiefs knowing that the tight end often had big numbers when the Eagles offenses were guided by Reid.
”I grew up in New Jersey and was actually a Giants fan, so I watched him beat the Giants a lot with the Eagles and I saw a lot of tight ends have success,” Fasano said. “As soon as they came into play in free agency, I dove into them a little bit deeper and I think they are very friendly.
”I’ve been asked to block a bunch in my career and also been called upon to be a reliable receiver. All that stuff makes up a good tight end and from what I suspect that tight end is going to be needed in this offense.”
The Chiefs then selected Kelce in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. He emerged as a receiving threat in his last college season with Cincinnati, where he caught 45 passes with eight touchdowns.
The Chiefs have lined up Kelce, who is fast for a tight end, in a variety of different spots in search of a favorable matchup. He at one point in practice last week caught passes on three straight plays, including one deep down the middle.
“He gives you another offensive threat, somebody that the defense will have to honor by speed and athletic ability,” Reid said. ”They moved him (in college) all around so he doesn’t have to play in line. You can move him out as a wide receiver in that position and he’s a legitimate receiver from that spot.“
Reid compared Kelce to former Giants, Saints and Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey in terms of style of play and potential impact. Shockey caught 74 passes as a rookie for New York in 2002 and at least 40 in nine of his 10 NFL seasons, so it may be a lot for the Chiefs to expect numbers like that from Kelce.
But Kelce wasn’t shying away from the comparison.
”I would like to think I’m a different breed of player, someone that can get after a guy in the run game, but at the same time catch a ball and go 80 to the house,” Kelce said. “I think the Chiefs are going to get someone who is very versatile and if I had to possibly choose one guy (to compare himself to), I would choose Jeremy Shockey just the way he plays with passion and energy. I think that would be an awesome comparison.”
Moeaki has been little more than a spectator at offseason practice after having arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of last season. Reid said it was unlikely that Moeaki would be able to practice in the final two weeks of the offseason program and he even hedged a little when asked if Moeaki would be ready by the start of training camp in two months.
“We’ll see,” Reid said. ”Right now I’m thinking he will be but we’ll see how that goes. He’s working like crazy.”