Minnesota’s Tight Ends Have Been Underwhelming

The offense, for the most part, has played really well so far. Recently, I wrote about how Kirk Cousins has been Minnesota’s best player overall. Partner that reality with Dalvin Cook’s brilliance, K.J. Osborn’s emergence, and the offensive line flirting with competence and you’ve got an offense that is doing well.

Unfortunately, there remains one clear weak point: the tight end position.

We’re missing Irv Smith Jr., so that obviously impacts things. We were all expecting him to be a true difference maker out there. Even still, we should be getting more from this group. Take a look at the basic stats:

– Tyler Conklin: 6 receptions, 56 yards
– Chris Herndon: 0 receptions
– Ben Ellefson: 0 receptions

I recognize that Ellefson is here for his blocking abilities, so let’s not hold his stats (or lack thereof) against him. His role involves allowing other players to find running lanes and to keep Kirk clean. Conklin, moreover, is fighting for touches with Cook, Thielen, Jefferson, and Osborn. At best, he’s our fifth option in the passing game, so I’m not too discouraged about his numbers, though I do think he’s capable of more.

The most discouraging name on that list is Herndon. When Smith went down, Spielman made the move for New York’s talented TE. The hope was not necessarily that he’d be a one-for-one replacement for Smith but that he could be someone who certainly helps lessen the sting. So far, that hasn’t been the case.

Now, it’s only been two games, so time will tell if Herndon ends up making an impact. The early return on Minnesota’s investment hasn’t been particularly encouraging, though.

Balance, as we all know, is central to Minnesota’s offensive identity. Zim wants that side of the ball to be unpredictable, a goal he pursues by ensuring his OC strikes a balance not only between the run and pass but also the among various play makers. Getting the tight ends a little more involved would be a welcome step forward for the offense.