John Clayton's latest "Inside the Huddle" video leads with the Baltimore Ravens' expected shift to an offense featuring multiple tight ends more prominently.
We could see some evolution in the NFC West as well.
Among the considerations:
Arizona Cardinals: The Indianapolis Colts ranked among the NFL's top 10 teams for most plays using at least two tight ends last season. Bruce Arians, the Cardinals' new head coach and offensive play caller, was running the Colts' offense then. Arians favors tight ends over fullbacks, so Arizona should see its tight end usage increase without biting into playing time for the Cardinals' talented wide receivers. Rob Housler led NFC West tight ends in receptions last season, but his impact was muted within a struggling offense. He and veteran Jeff King are the top two tight ends. Arians figures to use both of them together and in various places, including the backfield.
Most Plays, 2+ TEs
St. Louis Rams: Jared Cook's arrival in free agency changes the position fundamentally for the Rams. The team transitioned away from using a fullback last season. Cook will figure prominently into the offense as a receiving tight end, lining up in the slot and on the perimeter. He and incumbent tight end Lance Kendricks figure to play extensively together in a one-back offense featuring three-plus wideouts with regularity.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers lost some flexibility when second tight end Delanie Walker departed in free agency. Using a second-round choice for tight end Vance McDonald signaled the team's intention to continue using a second tight end in tandem with mainstay Vernon Davis. Using additional tight ends frequently could carry additional appeal while veteran receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham recover from injuries. Crabtree figures to miss much of the season. Manningham is expected to be available earlier. McDonald has a big opportunity.
Yards Per Pass Attempt, 2+ TEs
Seattle Seahawks: Zach Miller will continue to play just about all the time, but it's fair to question how much playing time secondary tight ends Luke Willson and Sean McGrath might command. Percy Harvin's arrival puts the Seahawks in better position to use three wide receivers. Like the 49ers, the Seahawks also operate from a two-back offense at times. Using additional wide receivers and running backs leaves less room on the field for tight ends, at least in theory. The Seahawks aren't going to stray from their offensive philosophy, but there are some personnel-related matters to sort out during training camp, including how much a second tight end might play.