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Miami Dolphins

The Rookies: Mike Gesicki

Travis Wingfield

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Akin to every position in an Adam Gase-led offense, the tight end is responsible for honing specific roles. Unique from other offenses, tight ends are asked to wear a variety of hats in this multi-faceted scheme.

During his run as a coach in the National Football League, Gase has had premier tight ends every stop along the way – until he got to Miami. From Marcus Pollard to the illustrious twosomes of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker or Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller, the position requires an element of dynamics.

Since arriving in Miami, Gase has spiked the tight end punchbowl with a pair of underwhelming options. Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas flamed out after just one year in the program. The Dolphins decided enough was enough and invested heavily into the position this off-season.

Enter Mike Gesicki.

Isolating the Y position in 11-personnel creates a match-up of tight end versus linebacker, or safety, on the backside of the formation. Here is the Y-iso concept in its most elementary form:

If it were as simple as lining up and executing, every team would run this formation into the ground. The key is to have an athletic tight end capable of running the entire route tree – essentially a supped-up wide receiver (think Jimmy Graham).

Ryan Tannehill explained the responsibilities of the tight end in this offense back in 2016.

“We definitely need both roles from our tight ends. There’s going to be a lot of situations where they’re going to be pass blocking and run blocking, and then we’re going to be putting them all the way on the outside and trying to create a mismatch out there. They have to be a full player — a complete player — and be able to run routes, not just tight end routes, not just corners and flats. They have to be able to run receiver routes as well.”

Running routes to the flat or the corner requires minimal wiggle or shake. They are essentially “feel” routes where the player recognizes the soft spot and works till he’s open. Other routes, such as double-moves, seams, back-shoulders, fades or comebacks, require working towards a landmark. For this delicate, precise passing-attack to work, the receiver has to set his defender up before the ball is delivered.

Julius Thomas had every opportunity for a big 2017 season in Miami. His sluggish get-off, lack of explosion at the top of the route, and lackluster effort at the catch-point severely crippled the Dolphins’ offense.

At season’s end, the Dolphins gave A.J. Derby a crack. In Kansas City, the Chiefs opted to go with a cornerback matched man-up against Derby. In this instance, since he is unlikely to create separation, the tight end needs to gain leverage and make a contested catch. Below, you’ll see that didn’t happen.

This is where Gesicki’s rare blend of size and athleticism come into play. His background as a hooper and volleyball player are well-documented, but its more than an interesting footnote. As College Football Analyst Joe Klatt detailed on draft day, volleyball players must generate power with their feet already suspended in air. This is where Gesicki’s innate ability to pluck jump balls births such a dangerous weapon.

Typically, that skill-set only comes into play in the red-zone. While that’s a boon for Miami, in an area the team has struggled for years, Gesicki wasn’t selected to be pigeonholed. He’s going to play 800 snaps and feature as a key-cog in this remade Miami offense.

In the first GIF of this piece, his savvy route-running was showcased. He presses the toes of the defensive back, puts the kid on his heels and completely turns him around. The pass didn’t travel Gesicki’s way, but the scouting department is certain to love that particular rep.

It should come as little surprise that Gesicki tested through the roof in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine. The third highest ranked tight end in the history of the Relative Athletic Scorecard Rankings, Gesicki is picture-perfect in gym shorts.

There are two parts to playing tight end and the blocking must be addressed. Tannehill mentioned the importance of run blocking and pass protection for the tight end in this offense. As Lance Zierlein writes, it’s not Gesicki’s strong-point.

The duty of the tight end on the edge is often as simple as a chip or a crack-back block, better known as a WHAM. Gesicki isn’t going to push anyone off the ball at the point of attack, but he does have a work-man like approach to creating leverage and doing enough to seal off his gap.

According to our friends at Pro Football Focus, Gesicki’s measurements translate to tangible football production. The aforementioned volleyball background and skills to attack the ball in the air are evident by his contested catch rate. No tight end had a better production on balls that were challenged by the defense (9-for-12 (75%)) than Gesicki.

His four touchdown receptions from the slot ranked third among college tight ends in 2017.

It’ll be up to Adam Gase, and his offensive staff, to devise a plan to get the most of this athletic marvel. In the last two seasons, Julius Thomas and Dion Sims have eclipsed 60% of the team’s offensive reps at tight end. Finally, with a player that fits the prototype now in-house, Miami can install the offense that captivated Stephen Ross to Coach Gase in the first place.

If Tannehill and Gesicki establish chemistry early on, the rookie can pack his bags for a trip to the pro-bowl.

@WingfieldNFL (For more Mike Gesicki GIFs, go to my Twitter timeline).

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