Throughout an NFL roster, there are players beyond the superstars that hold extreme value for their clubs. The unsung heroes whose names may not be mentioned nearly as much as some of their teammates.
It’s these role players and timely situational specialists that are more valuable than they are popular on a national scale outside their fan base.
When looking at the Miami Dolphins roster, you can look at several position groups where examples of these players continue to simply do their jobs.
The tight end room for Miami has been successful to an extent the past several years with the battery of Mike Gesicki and his partner-in-crime, Durham Smythe. While it’s Gesicki who gets the fanfare as well as the franchise tag recently, it’s Smythe, who compliments his best friend, that will make this tight end group efficient in 2022.
Smythe has proven just that in his last few seasons as a pro, following being drafted out of Notre Dame in the same selection process as Gesicki. The Dolphins spent their fourth-round pick on Smythe in 2018 and recently re-signed him this offseason to the tune of two years and $7 million.
The efficiency mentioned earlier, especially in 2020 and 2021, translated to an 89.7% and 82.9% catch rate in those seasons, respectively. His career rate is 76.8% and, to take it a step further, it’s Smythe’s timeliness of his receptions that truly shows his value to the Dolphins.
Something else of note is his consistent upward trend in his yards per target. Increasing yearly in his output, Smythe has gone from 4.5 to 4.6 to 7.2 and last season finished with 8.7 yards per target. Mix in a few other factors in this equation like a maturing quarterback, an improved offensive line and a coaching staff that’s built to make tight ends, Smythe may have his best season yet…and the same goes for Gesicki.
Of course, the volume will go to Gesicki, but don’t discount the progression of Smythe as well, as both players will be under the coaching of a new position coach, Jon Embree.
Embree has a laundry list of outstanding tight ends as well as projects who have had career seasons while he was their coach. Smythe should benefit from his tutelage and, like Gesicki, should increase the touchdown production.
Smythe only has a pair of scores from the 2020 season to his record, but that should certainly change in 2022, as the Dolphins will more than likely spend a bit more time targeting the tight ends in a plus territory as well as the red zone, which is something that was lacking in the last few seasons.
Along with his blocking, leadership and seeming dedication to keeping Gesicki entertained, Smythe should see yet another spike in production in 2022.
Smythe finished 2021 catching 34 of his 41 targets, with 15 leading to first downs. He produced 357 yards and played in all 17 games last season. In 2020, the quarterback rating when he was targeted was 119.5, and last season, it was a respectable 92.8.
A fresh offensive staff, a newly minted contract and a positional guru at his disposal should equal a loud season from an otherwise quiet key to the Dolphins’ offense.