Countdown to camp: A look at the tight ends

Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez is upended by Saints defenders after catching a pass. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez is upended by Saints defenders after catching a pass. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Birdland  – With the opening of the Falcons‘ training camp on Thursday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will take a look at some key positions every day. Today: the tight ends.

The 10-day “Countdown to Camp” series started out with the defensive line and was followed by the linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, offensive line, special-teams units and wide receivers.

The players report for training camp Wednesday and take the field for the first practice at 10:40 a.m. the next day.

THE REALLY BIG QUESTION: Can future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez continue to play at a high level?

How many catches and touchdowns will tight end Tony Gonzalez have this season in the new offense?

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Tight end Tony Gonzalez signed a one-year $6.9 million contract extension late last season.

The player who some consider the greatest to ever play his position, didn’t want a distraction going into the playoffs and had already made up his mind to comeback for what could be his final season in the NFL.

He went into seclusion this offseason and has not made any pronouncements about his future plans. But it’s likely safe to treat 2012 as his last lap around the league.

Gonzalez, 36, is set to enter his 16th season and has shown no signs of slowing down. In 2011 he caught 80 passes for 875 yards (10.9 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. His yard per catch average ranked ninth in the league for tight ends with at least 60 catches and third amongst the group with 80 or more catches.

His 1,149 receptions are the second most in NFL history as he trails only the great Jerry Rice (1,549). His

Falcons tight end Michael Palmer (81) has the ball knocked loose on a hard hit by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Sean Considine (37) as Jaguars cornerback Terrell Whitehead follows up the play. Associated Press

Falcons tight end Michael Palmer (81) has the ball knocked loose on a hard hit by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Sean Considine (37) as Jaguars cornerback Terrell Whitehead follows up the play. Associated Press

13,338 yards rank 11th all-time.

Gonzalez was excused from the team’s mandatory minicamp because of the death of his stepfather of 25 years. Gonzalez has mostly stayed in California over the offseason, but was on hand for a couple of organized team activity sessions.

Tight ends coach Chris Scelfo has been in communications with him and they’ve gone over all of the schematic changes in the new offense.

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is looking forward to working with Gonzalez.

 “I can’t wait to be around him and spend more time with him,” Koetter said. “Tony is proven and knows what he needs to do. …Tony is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. We are not re-inventing football out here.”

Michael Palmer, who’s set to enter his third year in league, wants to claim the No. 2 position.

LaMark Brown, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley and Aron White are on the roster.

FIVE GOALS FOR THE TIGHT ENDS IN 2012

1. Block better in short yardage situation.

2. Improve their yards after the catch.

3. Provide more explosive plays.

4. Be effective in the redzone.

5. Continue to find the soft spots in zone coverages.

Here’s a look at the tight ends:

Tony Gonzalez:  He went to his 12th Pro Bowl last season. He needs five more touchdown catches to reach 100 for his career. He has caught at least 60 passes in each of the past 13 seasons.

Michael Palmer: He has improved his in-line blocking and could be ready for a bigger role as the No. 2 tight end.

LaMark Brown: He has great size at 6-3, 226. He transferred from Kansas State.

Tommy Gallarda: He’s considered a blocking tight end.  He spent most of last season on the practice squad. He was originally signed by Jacksonville coming out of Boise State.

Adam Nissley: He’s blocking tight end prospect at 6-5, 263. He played at South Forsyth High in Cumming.

Aron White: He  finished his college career at Georgia with 34 catches for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Training camp Dates, Practice Times (public availability)

Thursday, July 26 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, July 27 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, July 28 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, July 29 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, July 30 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, July 31 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, August 1 Players’ Day Off

Thursday, August 2 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, August 3 Practice 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

KIA Motors “Friday Night Lights” at Peachtree Ridge High School

6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, August 4 Players’ Day Off

Sunday, August 5 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 6 Walkthrough 11:10 – 11:55 a.m. (closed to the public)

Combined Practice w/ Tennessee Titans

Coahulla Creek High School – Dalton, GA — 4:30 – 7:15 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, August 7 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, August 8 Pregame Walkthrough – No Media Availability

Thursday, August 9 Falcons vs. Baltimore Ravens, Georgia Dome, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, August 10 Players’ Day Off

Saturday, August 11 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, August 12 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 13 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

Tuesday, August 14 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (closed to the public)

Wednesday, August 15 Pregame Walkthrough – No Media Availability

Thursday, August 16 Falcons vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Georgia Dome, 8 p.m. – FOX (National Broadcast)

Friday, August 17 Players’ Day Off

Saturday, August 18 Walkthrough 10:40 – 11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

Sunday, August 19 Walkthrough 10:15 – 11:45 a.m. (closed to the public)

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–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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49 comments Add your comment

Mikefalcon63

July 24th, 2012
5:39 am

The LaMark Brown kid intrigues me based on the highlight videos on you tube. He could easily become something like a Colston except more versatile if he can block linebackers in the run game. This is definitely a kid I am pulling for in training camp. He has some athleticism. Problem is he is also an UDFA and they rarely get a legit shot in camp.

BC

July 24th, 2012
5:57 am

Better keep Palmer as a #2 and a guy like Nissley on the practice squad. Need those big blockers.

Marcus

July 24th, 2012
6:12 am

DOL,
I would be interested to see the top TE prospects for 2013. I think this area is the most ripe for fresh blood, just ahead of the LB corps (finding a young stud SLB to go with ‘Spoon and Dent). Gonzalez’ greatness covers up a lot of the depth/talent issues, esp. in the resurgence of the position.

I am still kinda :-/ we passed on Gronkowski, J. Graham, and A. Hernandez all in the 2010 draft.

Scott Anderson

July 24th, 2012
6:13 am

Gonzalez used to be a good player.

he has been woeful the last few years. Hate to have to rely on him these days. He can still catch over the middle at times but his days of catching 50 balls a year are over.

Move on Falcons. You are going to have to draft a tight end when the need is going to be there for a quality running back to replace Turner two step and down man. Falcons 8-8

BobbyDawg

July 24th, 2012
7:07 am

It’s just too dam hot to be working out in Flowery Branch Ga. I fish and golf in that area and lately it’s been too hot for either. I think Mr. Blank should move the training facility up to about Helen Ga. Down in one of those valleys with a lot of shade. “GO FALCONS” !

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JSS

July 24th, 2012
7:17 am

Tony González can catch 70 balls in his sleep. The problem is he can no longer split a deep zone! That is vital in the modern NFL, especially if he is going to be on the same side of the formation as White and Douglas… It was painfully evident in the Bears game, the Packers, and when Michael Boley actively took him away in the playoff game…

Please stop bringing up Palmer, he’ll never averaged more than 40 or 50 catches in a season in a perfect world.

Jimmy Crack

July 24th, 2012
7:30 am

LaMark Brown is an animal. His strength is off the chart. He’s like a faster, taller Ovie Mughelli with soft hands who runs great routes. He will hopefully make the 53-man roster as a back up TE based on his ST play, where he could replace Dent as the Special Teams ace. I definitely see him playing some TE this season.

JSS

July 24th, 2012
7:35 am

Lamark Brown is very intriguing from the standpoint that he could be like a poor man’s version of Green Bay’s Finley or or Aaron Hernandez…

The problem is this team has yet to show that they are capable of developing raw talent in the passing game…

BobbyDawg

July 24th, 2012
7:41 am

Julio Jones would make a great tight end, probably better than anybody else on the team except Gonzo.

ronhen24

July 24th, 2012
7:53 am

Who is this idiot? Falcants have ZERO chance of making it to the playoffs

SeenThisB4

July 24th, 2012
8:09 am

Tip of the hat to Gonzo, he’s had a stellar 15 year career, a true first ballot, Hall-of-Famer. Too bad he’s never tasted a NFL playoff victory, and won’t this year either.

There’s not much behind Tony Geriatric on the depth roster. You all may want to keep your fingers crossed that he stays healthy during the season!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
8:53 am

Jimmy Crack and JSS — Yeah, LaMark Brown looks good. He has an awesome highlight tape out there on youtube.

Mikey

July 24th, 2012
8:53 am

I’m so happy to see Gonzo for one more year. If he is operating at 75% he is still better than 90% of TEs in the league. Plus I just like seeing all-time great players… he is one of the best in my lifetime so I always enjoy seeing him. I do want to see LaMark Brown in action. His videos are fantastic and from them I must say, he has great concentration and litterally takes the ball away from the defense; even if he is triple covered. I like that a LOT in a TE. I’m not sure what you meant by “great size”. At 226 lbs, he is VERY light for a TE. His video however demonstrates his unique ability to make a linebacker look bad. I wonder if he can add weight if used at the TE position? I’m looking forward to watching him in camp and sincerely hope that the Falcons give him a hard look. He demonstrates rare receiving/take-away ability in his video. It appears that like Gonzo, if he goes south and the QB throws south, it will be a completion. That really helps on long third downs.

SeenThisB4

July 24th, 2012
8:56 am

Hey DLed: Not exactly a flattering picture of Michael Palmer in your story, but considering it, shouldn’t goal 1 for the tight ends be the same as goal 1 for the WRs?

NFCCHAMPSLIVEINGA

July 24th, 2012
9:00 am

Gonzo, does not have to stretch the field, that’s the job of JJ11, RW84 & HD83. Gonzo has great size, clutch hands, & 15 years of experience. There is a reason why he is still productive and able to play at a high level. The Atlanta team now is playoff-caliber. For the last few years, Atlanta has been in the mix as a playoff team when December rolls around. Again baring serious injuries, this team will be in the mix again this year. Even with BVG & MM running the offense and defense last year, this team still finished 10-6, and lost 2 games by 3 points, with a PREDICTABLE scheme. Let the haters, hate.

CDFALCONS

July 24th, 2012
9:03 am

The Falcons can and will win the Division. here is the reason why, The Aint’s don’t have their Head coach, Brees will be the head coach and QB please…don’t start………Done deal Falcon’s will defeat the Aint’s twice this coming season. no need to talk about the Buc’s new head coach, Panther’s maybe a problem but still have a very young QB. SO IF I WERE A SAINT I WILL NOT OPEN MY MOUTH “FISH”.

SeenThisB4

July 24th, 2012
9:08 am

Gonzo has also slowed down significantly from his prime, he’s older and more brittle. He also has the heaviest anchor in the NFCS weighing him down: Matt Ryan, the reason the falcan’ts won’t win the division.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
9:08 am

Seen – No, the main TE was 100 percent on catchable balls last year. He doesn’t drop anything.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
9:10 am

Marcus — They also heavily scouted Gresham, Pettigrew and Brady. Other needs moved them away from TE.

Tight Ends for the 2013 Draft
1. *Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, 6-6/251
2. Joseph Fauria, UCLA ,6-7/258
3. *Zach Ertz, Stanford, 6-6/249
4. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State, 6-5/245
5. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, 6-5/250

There will be more tight ends for scouts to choose from in next year’s draft. The athletic Eifert and Fauria are potential first-round picks, while Ertz, Stoneburner and Lutzenkirchen are all likely to be starting in the NFL sooner than later.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8289ff57/article/2013-nfl-draft-top-five-prospects-by-position

JSS

July 24th, 2012
9:18 am

Fauria is the only one worth real consideration; unfortunately he has played with terrible QBs and for nut Neuheisel… No one know if his talents have permanently damaged…

MaxxFalcon

July 24th, 2012
9:23 am

LaMark Brown has great size for a WR, but not TE

JSS

July 24th, 2012
9:30 am

Well, he plays bigger than 6′3″ like Hernandez…

NFCCHAMPSLIVEINGA

July 24th, 2012
9:43 am

D-led, I know that next years free agency is a while away, but is their any truth that the Falcons have any interest and plan to make a play for Titans TE, Jared Cook as a possible replacement for TG88?

BIGBEN42

July 24th, 2012
9:49 am

LaMark Brown—Has a great video and Hi-Lite tapes.All players that have played any length of time can put together a great Hi-Lite tape.That’s why they call them Hi-Lite tapes. I’m just sayin.

North FLA Falcon

July 24th, 2012
10:19 am

Gonzalez runs smart routes and has very reliable hands, but basically he catches the ball and then falls down. Let’s develop Palmer and Brown this year. Matt R is a check down guy so TE is very important in this system.

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues its "Countdown to Camp" series with a look at the tight [...]

Jerseyfalcon

July 24th, 2012
11:44 am

okay i never understood this…LaDarius Green, the kid who got drafted to Sd this year, was considered ” too small” ( 6′6 238-240) for a tight end by the writers at AJC…but now an undrafted LaMark Brown has “great size” Meanwhile he’s only 6′3 226?!?!?! Isn’t that Julio Jones size and he’s a wide out!!! Why can’t they put Brown as a WR not a TE?

Chub Rock

July 24th, 2012
12:12 pm

There are different types of TE’s. When people say Green was too small they probably meant as a traditional in-line TE that blocks and runs routes. Green is more of a move TE that lines up in the slot like a WR. LaMark Brown is more of an H-Back/move TE. He has good speed and could be a problem in space but would probably struggle to block and get off the line of scrimmage from the in-line position. IMO it all depends on what the Falcons are looking for in their 3rd TE. If blocking is the focus I see Nissley or Daniel Graham getting the nod. If more of an offensive weapon is the focus then the H-Back/move TE like Brown may get the nod. Daniel Graham is more of a blocking TE so when the Falcons brought him in for a workout they seemed to show more of a focus on the 3rd TE being a blocking TE. Graham can get you 10-15 catches a year in a pinch.

Flacons never learn

July 24th, 2012
12:36 pm

How bad is UR team if UR best TE is 67 years old?

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues its “Countdown to Camp” series with a look at the tight [...]

Big Ray

July 24th, 2012
12:57 pm

Gonzalez will be fine. The simple fact is that we should not NEED him to catch 80 balls again this season. And I don’t think we will, because that speaks to an offense that is not as diverse as the talent we have suggests it is, and Koetter/Smith have to know that THIS is a good way to get fired…before the season even ends.

Palmer is workable. He can block, he can also catch the ball. He’s not going to be a star, I don’t think. But a blocking TE who can make some catches, I can see him doing that.

Lamark Brown is one of those guys we need to take a real hard look at. He’s not built to be a blocker, but he’s got speed and athleticism. Dude can be one of those quicker TEs that really stretches the defense.

I think pure blocking TEs are a dime a dozen. So for that reason, I’m not interested in Gallarda or Nissley. I’d rather have a guy who can block fine, but can also be a receiving threat. Pure blocking TEs are not much good unless you’re determined to run the ball 900 times a game…something we should be getting away from.

Aaron White – hmmm. He could be the darkhorse.

http://gritsblitz.com/2012-articles/may/falcons-rookie-camp-darkhorse-aron-white.html

Big Ray

July 24th, 2012
1:02 pm

How bad is UR team if UR best TE is 67 years old?

How bad is the rest of he NFL when they can’t stop that TE from going for 80 catches, 875 yards, and 7 TDs? ESPN stats show that the old-a$$ TE was ranked 5th best among TEs, and two of the four who outperformed him were on the same team (New England).

So by my count, 28 other teams in the NFL don’t have a TE as good as the elderly guy on our squad.

Tell me, how does toejam on your tonsils feel? Because you couldn’t have crammed your foot any further into your mouth than you just did….

Big Ray

July 24th, 2012
1:05 pm

Lamark Brown is very intriguing from the standpoint that he could be like a poor man’s version of Green Bay’s Finley or or Aaron Hernandez…

The problem is this team has yet to show that they are capable of developing raw talent in the passing game…

A very damn valid point, and one that I hope the addition of Dirk Koetter at offensive coordinator will eliminate. However, it all depends on whether or not Mike Smith can keep his grubby little hands off the offense.

Mike Franklin

July 24th, 2012
1:09 pm

A lot off-topic but… when are we gonna get an update on the Tatupu injury?

Cleveland Ave. Turk

July 24th, 2012
1:38 pm

All we need Gonzo for is third downs and Red zone. Who cares how many yards or catches he makes.long as hes effective in those areas. We need a playoff win NOT stats.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
1:46 pm

Mike Franklin – We are working on that update for you. We’ve made several requests to the Falcons and have calls in to his agent.

Cleveland Ave. Turk

July 24th, 2012
1:51 pm

Shot out to terrance mathis,wallace francis, scott case, the hammer, oj santiago, tommy nobis, dan reeves, andre rison, william andrews.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
1:53 pm

BIGBEN42 – That’s what tight ends coach Chris Scelfo told me when I made a comment to him about Brown’s “highlight” tape. However, some are more impressive than others.

Cleveland Ave. Turk

July 24th, 2012
1:55 pm

Roddy white up until today is the best player to ever suit up in a falcons uni. Deion iz second. Tuggle third. And matt ryan fourth.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
1:56 pm

NFCCHAMPSLIVEINGA – I talked to my Mike Reinfeldt about Jared when the Titans played here last year. I don’t think they are going to let the former North Gwinnett star walk.

Cleveland Ave. Turk

July 24th, 2012
1:57 pm

D.Led from your vantage point does tjis team really seem ready to take the next step.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 24th, 2012
2:06 pm

Cleveland Ave. Turk — I want to see how the 0-line performs in pads and who wins the open competitions. Also, I want to see how the defense performs under new DC Mike Nolan.

Cleveland Ave. Turk

July 24th, 2012
2:35 pm

Preach!!!…hopefully it all goes well. Thanks D. Led

Michael M.

July 24th, 2012
4:10 pm

With Grandpa Gonzales the Falcons still have one of the best tight ends in the NFL today. Too bad some of the younger tight ends in the business aren’t taking their notes from him. I see at least 8 touchdowns from the brute this Season.

to real

July 24th, 2012
4:36 pm

88 is tha best TE to eva play dis game without question dis is tha year he not only wins his first playoff game but makes a deep playoff run dis is our year our time our division tha road to tha SB once again will cum da dome

bama falcon fan

July 24th, 2012
6:43 pm

Sorry but the Gonzales ship sailed years ago. He is best a marginal player. Falcons continue to waste opportunities in free agents and draft to fill TE slot. DOL my assessment of Falcons TE position is BELOW AVG. – Only Offense position above AVG. are our Wide Rec. – Our RB’s are AVG at best – QB is avg. – OL is poor. I fear a 6-10 season but I am hoping for better.

blake

July 24th, 2012
8:28 pm

I will be watching A. White. He was the #1 TE in the nation coming out of High school. but didnt get a lot of PT only because Orsen Charles. White could be a very good TE in the league

[...] Countdown to camp: A look at the tight ends Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez is upended by Saints defenders after catching a pass. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com. Birdland – With the opening of the Falcons' training camp on Thursday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will take a look at some key … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]