More pass blocking. Why pass blocking? The NFL is a passing league, and the St. Louis Rams with a deadly accurate young QB in Sam Bradford and a pass-first offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels means passing. After examining the pass blocking acumen of the offensive line, PFF today turns is focus to tight ends. And just what does it reveal for the Rams? Well, it might just shed a little insight for those looking to handicap the race for the team's final tight end spots.
Last week, the overall pass protection numbers for NFL teams revealed that Josh McDaniels' Denver Broncos lead the league in using skill players in pass protection, to the tune of 587 cumulative snaps. More than 300 of those snaps went to two of his tight ends, Daniel Graham and Dan Gronkowski. Graham had a league high 241 snaps in pass protection, and did pretty well to the tune of a 2.07 pass blocking efficiency rating.
And what about the Rams? Tight ends Billy Bajema (76 snaps) and Daniel Fells (98 snaps) ranked among the 15 worst in the league in pass protection, with 5.92 and a 6.38 marks, respectively. Fells allowed 8 pressures and Bajema allowed 6 last year. Over the last three years, Bajema has been among the 15 worst tight ends in pass blocking allowing 10 pressures on 137 snaps for a PBE rating of 5.84.
It's notable that 6 of the 10 pressures Bajema allowed came last season. It could imply a decline, or maybe it was just a rough year. Bajema's been known more for his blocking work in the running game.
Tight ends will again figure heavily into Josh McDaniels' offense. However, this year, the focus seems to be on their ability as receivers, as he looks to emulate his old boss' success with the two-TE system. Those tight ends also figure to see plenty of blocking duty as the Rams will be pass often, perhaps as much as 60 percent of the time. That fact combined with McDaniels' history seems to point to plenty of blocking duty for the tight ends. It's also worth noting that McDaniels has a long history of carrying just three tight ends on his roster.
Obviously, Lance Kendricks and Michael Hoomanawanui, known to possess a little blocking ability of his own, will have roster spots, barring some unforeseen circumstance. The battle for the third spot comes down to Bajema, Fells and Fendi Onobun. If blocking ability is the deciding factor - that's what the third TE did in New England's system last year - it's really a toss up between Fells and Bajema. Picking between the two is a tough guess. Fells was used more in pass blocking, but neither really stood out in that role. Onobun doesn't seem to look the part.
Once again, no easy answers.