When I did this analysis a year ago, I wrote that tight ends coach George Henshaw would have fewer headaches than any other position coach for the Titans. His group seemed to be the strongest, most stable of any on the team. The 2005 Titans tight ends caught 149 passes, the second-best of all time, behind only the 1984 Chargers tight ends featuring Kellen Winslow.
How wrong that prediction was.
Shortly thereafter, Henshaw was informed his contract would not be renewed and the 2006 tight ends would go on to have a miserable season. The top three would all end the season on Injured Reserve.
Erron Kinney, the veteran starter, never made it on the field and may never again. He injured his knee in training camp and we were told he'd probably be back in time for the season opener. That never happened and the weeks went on without him, while he continued to consume a valuable roster spot. He was finally put on IR and underwent microfracture surgery last fall, considered a last resort for a player.
Kinney was a strong blocker and reliable receiver. Not a flashy guy, and not athletic like his backups Troupe and Scaife, but a solid TE.
Ben Troupe really stunk the joint up last year before he went on IR. A second-round draft pick, and the first pick of the Titans in the 2004 draft, Troupe caught only 13 passes last year, after grabbing 55 in 2005.
Bo Scaife had a so-so decent year, nothing special, before breaking his ankle. The problem is, you expect to see a player make big improvements in his game in his second season. With Kinney sidelined, Scaife had more opportunities, but didn't show the expected improvement or production.
Scaife made a great one-handed diving catch for a touchdown against Miami last year, which made some highlights. Dan Marino did the highlights call on the CBS halftime show and pronounced his name "Suck-aife."
So the Titans were left with a couple of replacements picked up off the waiver wire. Ben Hartsock, a former Colt, proved to be an able blocker but didn't get many balls thrown his way.
Casey Cramer is a decent H-back, but isn't a tight end. He was a valuable special teams player, though. He'll probably be best remembered for his blocked punt against Washington.
Rookie Cooper Wallace was promoted from the practice squad at season's end. He looks like he could develop into a good blocker. I'm not sure about him catching passes.
Kinney probably won't be back until next year (2008), if at all. It won't surprise me to see the Titans draft a blocking tight end or even sign one in free agency to replace Kinney. Jeff Fisher loves to run the football, and what better way than to have a good inline blocking TE to go with a lead blocker like FB Ahmard Hall.
Troupe and Scaife will both be back this year, despite their lack of production last season. Hartsock, Cramer, and Wallace should all compete for a roster spot in training camp this summer. I give Hartsock the best chance of the three of making the 53-man roster for Opening Day.
Finally, about George Henshaw. A lot of people wondered why his contract wasn't renewed. I have my own theory about this, but can't prove it. Here goes:
One of Henshaw's sons played safety for West Virginia and was a teammate of Pacman Jones. When the Titans were looking at drafting Pacman, they asked Henshaw to call his son for the skinny. Henshaw's son told his dad that Pac was a good guy and a good teammate, and the Titans went no further in doing a background investigation. When Pacman began having off-the-field incidents that brought the Titans a lot of unwanted negative publicity, Henshaw was blamed for not giving them an accurate scouting report on Pac.
He got the axe but landed on his feet in New Orleans as their running backs coach. Deuce McAllister had a successful return after knee surgery and with Reggie Bush falling into the Saints' laps in the draft, Henshaw didn't have to do much but stay out of their way.
Here's a comparison of the stats between 2005 and 2006.
Player Year Rec Yds TDs 1stD
Kinney 2005 55 543 2 24
Kinney 2006 0 0 0 0
Troupe 2005 55 530 4 31
Troupe 2006 13 150 2 8
Scaife 2005 37 273 2 17
Scaife 2006 29 370 2 18
Total 2005 147 1346 8 72
Total 2006 42 520 4 26