2017 Broncos Season, Tight Ends

The Pre-Season began on Thursday, but much is left to do. I continue my look at position groups with tight ends. The Broncos completed 17 passes on Thursday night, but not a single one went to a tight end. In fact, as a unit, tight ends were only targeted two times. That continues the struggle in determining what to do with this position group.

On The Roster:
* Virgil Green
* AJ Derby
* Jeff Heuerman
* Jake Butt (Rookie)
* Steve Scheu
* Austin Traylor

A Look Back at 2016: The Broncos' offense wasn't great as a unit in 2016, but particularly disappointing was the tight end unit. The Broncos had expected greater production when the season began, and even made and in-season trade to acquire AJ Derby, hoping for more pass production. But it didn't really materialize. Virgil Green has never developed into a reliable receiver, and Jeff Heuerman, after missing his rookie year with a knee injury, played in 12 games in 2016 but recorded just nine receptions on 17 targets. Derby, acquired from the Patriots because of his prowess as a receiver, caught 16 passes for 160 yards in six games, but also made some critical drops. Green, meanwhile, led with 22 receptions for 237 yards and a touchdown. Hardly inspiring numbers.

What Changes in 2017: That is the eternal question. The potential for change remains, but will it? The Broncos also spent a draft pick on Jake Butt, the Michigan star who could be the long-term answer at tight end. But he's on the PUP at the moment as he recovers from a serious injury sustained during the Wolverines' bowl game. Will this be the year Heuerman lives up to his third round draft billing? Will Derby emerge as a pass receiver? Will Green make the roster? All the same questions from last year remain and now the Broncos are in a new offense. But judging by week one, tight end remains a question.

Who Makes The Roster: Like all the position groups, this is a tough call. The Broncos may also need spots at other positions, and have to make cuts here. Another factor is the health of Butt. My suspicion is he may begin the season on PUP, or at least won't be healthy enough to play. Unless Scheu and Traylor make a big impression, I think they are cut before the final roster. I think Green, Derby and Heuerman all make the final roster with Butt ailing. However, if he gets healthy and can be a factor, it comes down to Green and Derby. Many have long suspected Green will be cut and I think that might be possibility if the Broncos like what they see from Heuerman, Derby and Butt.


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