In Kevin Seifert's recent article "Leaving the past far behind," focusing on new Viking TE Visanthe Shiancoe (fun name), Seifert points out the problem the Vikings had at the tight end position last season:
"Vikings tight ends caught 59 passes last season, but they averaged 8 yards per reception and none went for longer than 24 yards."
The Vikings had no playmakers at the TE position, and make no mistake, that includes Jermaine Wiggins. It doesn't take that much for a TE to get 8 yards a catch; it's far below what other competent TEs can do (and don't blame Childress's offense: Wiggins yards per reception were negligibly different from '05 to '06).
Production doesn't mean a lot of catches; it means making plays that help the team. A tight end averaging 8 yards per catch really isn't doing a lot to help the offense move the ball downfield.
Can we expect more plays downfield from Viking TEs in 2007? Looking at the numbers, it doesn't appear so. Just look at the TEs currently listed on the Viking roster: Jeff Dugan, Braden Jones, Jim Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Stephen Spach. Combined, these five tight ends have 204 career receptions for 1,631 yards--about 8 yards per catch. There's nothing in the previous performances of these players to suggest the Vikes now have a downfield threat at TE.
But Seifert quotes head coach Brad Childress, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and Shiancoe himself talking about the high expectations for Shiancoe this season.
The Vikings are good in almost every aspect of football; they have good offensive linemen, running backs, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, and special teamers. The players involved in the passing game, however, have no record to give us confidence. The quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends may be productive this season, but it's a prospect based much more on hope than on reason.
Shiancoe is like every other player involved in the passing game: thin resume but signs of potential. Let's hope that he can start a productive resume in 2007.