Home / World News / A Broncos tight end produced the team’s longest play of 2017. But consistency was hard to discover.

A Broncos tight end produced the team’s longest play of 2017. But consistency was hard to discover.

Editor’s note: Second of a series providing a position-by-position review of the Broncos in 2017 and looking ahead as the team enters the offseason. Today: tight ends.

For a fleeting moment, Jeff Heuerman looked more like The Terminator than a tight end.

Heuerman was lined up in a three-point stance during the third quarter of the Broncos’ game at Indianapolis on Dec. 14. At the snap, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound, third-year player out of Ohio State sprinted from his spot on the left side of the formation, put a quick move on safety Matthias Farley and cut toward the middle of the field. Quarterback Brock Osweiler delivered a strike and Huerman caught the ball at the apex of his post route.

It was a throw so perfect, Heuerman said, “I could have caught it with my teeth.”

The catch was just the first part of the highlight, though. Heuerman completed the 54-yard touchdown play by shoving safety Darius Butler aside and spinning with ease across the goal line. It was the longest play of the season for Denver, a key strike in their 25-13 victory that night. And it was the type of mismatch — the hulking and athletic tight end down the field against smaller defenders — the Broncos had hoped to produce all season.

In reality, it was a rare bright spot in another season that featured underwhelming production from the tight end spot.

Heuerman, a third-round pick of the Broncos in 2015 who missed all of his rookie season due to a knee injury, had the same number of catches in 2017 (nine) as he had in 2016, and he had only one more receiving yard (142) this season than last. Though he caught two touchdown passes, including the highlight play against Indianapolis, Heuerman failed to find consistency as the Broncos shuffled — twice — through three starting quarterbacks.

But Heuerman wasn’t the only Broncos tight end who failed to make a weekly impact on the offense. Veteran Virgil Green, now an unrestricted free agent, had eight fewer receptions in 2017 (14) than the previous season. A.J. Derby had 19 catches before he was waived in the middle of November. He, too, had failed to turn a big highlight — his one-handed touchdown catch against the Raiders on Oct. 1 — into consistent production.

The group entered 2017 eager to be a bigger part of the passing game after failing to produce much there during Denver’s 9-7 finish in 2016. Derby, Green, Heuerman and Austin Traylor, a former undrafted player out of Wisconsin who may have been Denver’s most consistent performer at the position in the final seven games of the season, finished with 50 combined catches. Compare that to the 13 teams who had one tight end catch at least that many passes. Though Denver’s group did its part to pave the way for running back C.J. Anderson to reach 1,000 yards rushing, the vision of creating more big plays in the air with the tight ends never materialized.

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