The Dolphins tight end room isn’t filled with a ton of high-end names despite the team throwing a lot of money and draft picks at it over the past couple of seasons. There were the misguided Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron experiments. Charles Clay had a couple of good seasons but ended up heading to Buffalo once his contract expired.
In 2018, Miami selected Penn State TE Mike Gesicki with the 42nd overall pick in the second round. He was an athletic freak coming out of school and looked to be a good bet to end the Dolphins search for a starting-caliber TE. Gesicki struggled his rookie season under former head coach Adam Gase who asked Gesicki to block way more than he should’ve based on his skillset.
Enter Brian Flores who has this revolutionary philosophy of allowing players to play to their strengths instead of forcing them to do things they weren’t good at. Gesicki flourished under Flores last season recording 51 catches on 81 targets, 570 yards, and five touchdowns one of which helped end the Patriots’ dynasty.
While Gesicki is a potent receiving threat, he’s still not a good blocker and probably never will be. His proverbial backup for the 2020 season may not be something on a lot of Dolphins’ fans radars but it should be. Miami ranked 7th in the NFL in running 12 personnel (one RB and 2 TEs) packages 24% of the time and had more than one TE on the field 30% of the time. So, whoever is designated as the Dolphins “blocking TE” for the 2020 season will play plenty of snaps and will likely have an impact in the running game.
That player will probably log some starts as well. Although Gesicki logged the most snaps, he only started in five games last season which was down from seven during his rookie season.
Miami has three primary contenders for this all-important niche position. Durham Smythe, Chris Myarick, and the recently acquired Adam Shaheen. Let’s take a look at these three players and see which guy has the best chance to fill a need for Miami in 2020.
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— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) July 30, 2020
Surprisingly, Miami selected Smythe the same year they selected Gesicki. He was a fourth-round selection out of Notre Dame that made little sense at the time. Not only did Miami invest a high pick in Gesicki, but Smythe wasn’t considered to be anything more than a late day three-player by any draft analyst, including myself.
None the less, Smythe was drafted and was expected to be the blocking complement to Gesicki right away. Sadly, he hasn’t been able to establish himself as a reliable blocker or add much to the Dolphins passing game.
Still, it is clear the Dolphins view him as a potential blocker partner for Gesicki. Smythe played 51 percent of his total snaps as the right inline TE and 36 percent of his snaps as the left inline TE. Smythe recorded just 4.1 of his snaps in the slot last season.
When Smythe was on the field last season he only ran routes 58 percent of the time which may seem like a lot until you see Gesicki ran a route 97 percent of the time. Of the 138 routes Smythe ran last season he was only targeted 14 times.
With all this time spent blocking you would think Smythe would be a solid blocker. Well, PFF only gave him a 52.7 player grade for the season. His receiving numbers certainly brought that number down, but it needs to be higher if Smythe wants to fill this role full time.
When I watched Smythe on film, I saw a player who just wasn’t strong enough to make any real impact. His best blocking plays are stalemates or plays where he gets a running start in the backfield. At best, he gets in the way and at worst he’s losing the rep and allowing penetration.
The bright side to all of this is Smythe did show improvement from his rookie season to last season. His PFF run blocking numbers went up 11 points. If he can continue on that trajectory he could lock down a spot long term.
I would wager most Dolphins don’t even know who Chris Myarick is. Well, allow me to introduce you to him. Myarick was a UDFA signee from Temple University after the 2019 draft. He spent the 2019 season on the practice squad for the most part and saw all of his action during the preseason.
I had a chance to cover Myarick for one season at Temple. In fact, I remember speaking to him after his pro day where he talked about how he thought he could help teams by being a good blocker. If you pop on the Temple film from his senior season, you will see Myarick was tasked with being an inline blocker on almost all of his reps.
In an attempt to see what Myarick could bring to the table as an inline blocker for Miami in 2020 I scoured NFL GamePass for his preseason reps. What you see is someone who is tough enough to hold up in trenches. He has good hand placement and frequently showed he could uproot guys out of his gap.
He earned an 89.6 offensive grade from PFF last preseason and caught all eight of his receiving targets.
While all of that sounds great there is some important context to remember. Myarick did all of this in the preseason against bad competition. Additionally, Miami had opportunities to call him up last season and didn’t.
Myarick taking this spot would be a huge upset but his work in limited reps is a glimpse into some untapped potential.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) July 30, 2020
The Dolphins’ recent acquisition of Shaheen was actually the inspiration for this article. It’s not often you see a team go after a player like this unless they see something they like or feel he can fill a valuable spot on the team.
Shaheen was a second-round pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2017 draft out of Ashland University. As a prospect, he was billed similarly to Mike Gesicki in a lot of ways. He was a big athletic freak with good ball skills with some blocking upside.
Things never really came together in Chicago for Shaheen who only recorded 26 catches, 249 yards, and four touchdowns during his three seasons in the Windy City. Personally, I am more interested in what he can do as a blocker.
Shaheen played inline 65 percent of the time for the Bears but was rarely asked to block. He was asked to run routes 85 percent of the time last year which means the Bears coaching staff didn’t trust him much as a blocker.
According to PFF, Shaheen’s best season as a run blocker was his rookie season in 2017. Since then, he’s seen a steady decline in his run blocking prowess. This doesn’t exactly bode well for Shaheen sharing the field with Mike Gesicki this coming season.
When I watched some of his blocking reps from last season I saw a player who has all the size in the world to make an impact but lacks technique. It doesn’t seem like he’s made big enough strides since leaving Ashland three years ago.
If you couldn’t tell, none of these options fill me with much confidence. My official prediction is Miami will break up the TE positions into two roles. One will be for the pass catchers and the other will be for the inline blockers.
Obviously Gesicki would be the “starter” for the receiving group, but his backup would be Shaheen. The “starter” for the blocking group would be Smythe, and his backup would be Myarick.
It will probably be listed on the depth chart as Gesicki, Smythe, Shaheen, Myarick but if Gesicki were to get hurt Shaheen would pick up his reps in the slot or outside before Smythe would. This is the way it should be. Players should be put in positions to win rather than forced to do things they aren’t capable of.
You may not think this matters too much but a TE who can block in the run game can be an excellent weapon. Miami is trying to find theirs, but I don’t know if they have yet.