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Help wanted at tight end

By Chris Brown – Lead Journalist

For the Bills the tight end position has been a struggle to fill with one solid all-around talent, and not just recently. Outside of Pete Metzelaars there aren't too many tight ends in Buffalo's 50-year history that excelled at the position for an extended period of time.

Once again the Bills are in search of an all-encompassing answer at the position to help diversify an offense still trying to get into the upper echelon of NFL attacks. That search became even more pressing with the release of Robert Royal earlier this week.

"We're going to be looking at tight ends and if a guy that we like is there, whether it's free agency, whether it's in the draft you'd like to add to the mix," said offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.

The main issue has been production in the passing game, or lack thereof. Buffalo's tight ends have made their share of catches, but game breaking plays and touchdowns have not been seen from the position with any regularity the past few seasons. Bills head coach Dick Jauron knows they need more out of that position.

"Generally the guy lined up at tight end is in a spot that's closest to the quarterback and the throws are shorter, which means it should be an easier throw," Jauron said. "It's got to be accurate because it's in tight spots, but we've got to utilize that. I believe that Trent (Edwards) is a quarterback that can and will utilize that."

Schonert doesn't have a problem with the young players he currently has at his disposal at the position, but it's evident he wants more options beyond Derek Fine, Derek Schouman and practice squader Jonathan Stupar.

"We've got young guys right now and we like our guys and they got a lot of experience last year," Schonert said. "We had two guys playing that really hadn't played before in both Dereks. Jon Stupar has some athleticism. He's a good big-sized kid from Virginia, but we do need another tight end. We only have three right now. We need four, maybe five."

Obviously a complete tight end would be the preference, but finding those on the open market and even in the draft is uncommon.

"They are rare," said Schonert. "A lot of these tight ends you look at in the draft, they don't even line up next to the tackle. They're all spread out and like a wide receiver."

That makes it more difficult to evaluate tight end prospects for the pro game having never seen a good portion of them block in a game setting. It's led some teams to change their approach in terms of the kind of talent they're looking to acquire at tight end.

Buffalo would prefer a tight end that's a strong blocker and can offer some big play ability. Finding it is another thing.

"We'll look," said Jauron. "We like our young guys. They are fairly well-rounded. I do believe they'll all be efficient in our passing game, maybe more. But yeah, it's hard to find a guy. The guys that are great pass catchers are often not strong on the other end."

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