The tight end in football is a player that can block like an offensive lineman and catch passes like a wide receiver. Tight ends are bigger than wide receivers but smaller than offensive linemen. Because of the varied duties, few players are special enough to provide both specialties to a team, so most employ tight end specialists that can perform one function better than the other.
Tight ends line up on the outside of the offensive linemen, sometimes making them the last line of defense to block an edge rusher or a blitzing linebacker or safety. To help protect the quarterback, the tight end must get a good block on these players, meaning he must be as technically sound as the offensive tackle he lines up beside.
Run blocking is a little bit easier. Pass blocking means moving backward to set up and block a rusher. Run blocking means moving forward. Most tight ends will set up in a three-point stance, like an offensive lineman, and push forward at the snap. The goal is to help cut a path for the running back; this is why tight ends are usually heavier than wide receivers.
Some tight ends are excellent pass catchers, and are athletic enough to set a block and then go out for a pass. In this scenario, the tight end will take a step back, set up, put a block on the first available defender and then release upfield on a short route so he can catch a pass. If the quarterback gets in trouble, the tight end is usually one of the first players he looks for because of the tight end's proximity to his location. Some tight ends are so good that they can line up away from the offensive line and run routes like wide receivers.
West Coast Offense
Created by NFL coach Bill Walsh, the West Coast Offense is based on a short- and intermediate passing game. In this offense, the perfect tight end is a bit different. Ideally, coaches that run this offense want a tight end that's a bit smaller than the average tight end, has the speed to run routes all over the field and is still strong enough to block in run and pass situations. It is rare to find a tight end that can do all of that, which is why most teams employ tight ends that specialize in either blocking or receiving.
The average tight end is usually about 6 feet 4 inches and 250 pounds. There are larger and smaller players at this position, but generally a player this size has the speed and tenacity to play the position effectively. In the West Coast Offense, the tight ends are typically just a bit lighter, weighing in on average at 245 pounds.
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