When we first learned the flex tight end was making its
return, my reaction was that of disinterest, after all, if “flex tight end” can
be manned by Jordan Shipley, is it even a real thing?
In a pass first, pass second, Colt improvise third, offense,
the flex position became Alcatraz for overgrown wide receivers, rather than talented
ones. The staff did a horrible job of evaluating the position and an even worse
job of developing and implementing it.
There really wasn’t a coherent plan. If you don’t plan on running
the ball, or are unable to, you might as
well scrap the flex for a more spread viable receiver. The position was a
train-wreck that not even Bruce Willis in Unbreakable could survive. This was
at a time when no perimeter players bought into blocking, thus giving the
position little efficacy. I grant the point that Blaine Irby’s injury hurt the
value of the position, but my points remain.
A lot has changed in Austin, and it’s turned my previously
skeptical view of fTE into that of optimism. FTE!
With Texas showing the ability to attack the edge in the run
game with both jet motion and pin and pull, the position could become extremely
valuable. Previously Texas didn’t have
any edge pieces that were willing to sell out for their teammates. Pawns thought
they were kings, but, since Darrell Wyatt was hired, the wide receiver group
has improved exponentially in this regard.
While tight end development is charged to Bruce Chambers,
two of his new flex pieces are coming over from wide receiver in John Harris
and Myles Onyegbule. Whether they’re tight ends or wide receivers is a game of
semantics when it comes to lining up wide and blocking down.
During the Bubonic Plague of Texas tight end play, the fan
base would of been happy to have two overgrown wide receivers that were at the
very least willing blockers. Now, with M.J. McFarland seemingly ready to
emerge, Harris and Onyegbule will likely serve as role players.
McFarland, from a baseline talent perspective, is exactly
what this position calls for, and he should blossom as readiness meets
opportunity. By no means was he an accomplished blocker last year, but he was
mainly attached. Blocking a defensive end is entirely different from locating
and blocking smaller defenders in space, something M.J. should excel at from
his flexed positioning.
Pin and pull was effective last year. It should be improved
this year with a bigger physical presence in the slot.
That brings me to another blocking duty, bubble screens.
screens. We all still see them in our nightmares, I know. With the personnel
Texas can employ, I’m looking forward to our old friend. I think.
Imagine trips formation with Davis out wide, Daje in the
short slot and McFarland (or Geoff Swaim) splitting the difference. The ball is
snapped, Daje swings wide and accepts the easy throw, Davis and McFarland
locate their targets in space, Daje makes the free defender(s) miss. Cannon
In previous years these types of plays didn’t work well, but
only because the receivers didn’t block very well, the ball carrier wasn’t the
most dynamic, and the play call was as predictable as a ‘Mack must go’ rant.
Other than that, the play had a chance.
All this (hopefully) effective blocking leads to easy calls
to take advantage of teams overplaying tendency; such as slants and tight end
Like you, I need to see this first, but if I squint hard
enough, I think I can see the makings of successful usage.
Valued reader PFD receives credit for getting my wheels
turning about the possibilities of the return of the flex position, but the
coaching staff’s recent interest in Edna Karr (New Orleans, LA.) prospect
Anthony Jones tells me they’re serious about employing the position in the
You don’t use Darius Terrell types for your fTE position,
you use Jermichael Finley’s for your FTE!
Now I’m not saying Jones is Finley, but that’s the template
you look for in modern football. In the 6-5/6-6 range, Jones and Finley are
both short on head room and predictably familiar with the hardcourt.
At their height, and McFarland’s as well, it’s hard to find
players that have the movement skills required to play in the open field.
Basketball helps harness the coordination and diagonal agility necessary to
excel in space (ball skills are a plus too, unless your name is Lexi Wangmene).
You can do agility drills to your heart’s content, but guys at their size that
move naturally are born, not created in a training center.
This is very minimal tape of Jones, but it’s quite evident
to me this is a player worth pursuing: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1640266/#highlights/24157558
By early next season we’ll have an idea of whether or not
the staff has the vision to pull off the flex position properly, but as of now,
they appear to have every intention of making the switch work for the long
haul, and this time with an actual chance of success.