This past year, tight ends Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis and Brent Celek were players who took their games to the next level. Most of the guys who could breakout this year didn’t have many opportunities previously so it will be interesting to see if any of them turn out to be diamonds in the rough.
Zach Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars: As a converted quarterback out of Nebraska-Omaha, Miller did fairly well adjusting to the position. He is very athletic as he showed on a 62 yard catch against the Texans and got better as the year went on. Miller saved his best game for last as he scored his first two career touchdowns against the Browns in week 17. The Jaguars have always said they want to get the tight ends involved in the offense and with the way Marcedes Lewis played last year and the promise Miller showed, there is no time better than the present.
Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans: Cook was the workout warrior of the 2009 combine checking in at 6’5 with a 41 inch vertical and running a 4.50 forty. However, that didn’t carry over to the games as he only recorded nine catches on the year. Cook now has a year under his belt and with his impressive attributes should become one of Vince Young’s favorite targets. It wouldn’t be surprising if he caught 40 passes this year.
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: Before having his season end with a torn ACL, Pettigrew was showing promise as a receiver recording two games where he had 70 yards or more. He is a very strong blocker and is a key piece in the Lions rebuilding stage. The Lions acquired multiple weapons on offense in Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Jahvid Best to go along with Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford. With it appearing likely that the Lions will be playing from behind frequently, Pettigrew could be able to catch 50 passes this year.
Gary Barnidge, Carolina Panthers: Other than Steve Smith, the Panthers haven’t had many options in the passing game which is why it is surprising that they don’t use Barnidge more often. While he only caught 12 passes last year he averaged over 20 yards a catch which is ridiculous for a tight end. He has very good hands and at 6’5 could be the big target the Panthers have been looking for to compliment Smith in the receiving game.