Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Jacob Tamme rides out winds of change
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Change, former Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith has often said, is "the only thing that stays the same" in the NFL.
Those who can't deal with that idea as they go about their football business "find themselves on the other side of the wall and they can't get back in."
There are those among this year's Broncos who have lived with change, wrestled with it, dealt with it, and still flourished with the team. A player such as Knowshon Moreno, who went from being a game-day inactive eight times in 2012 to the first choice at running back this season, is now on the doorstep of his first career 1,000-yard season.
With Wes Welker out of the lineup, Jacob Tamme's role in the offense should grow.
"I'm just ready for whatever I'm asked to do," Tamme said. "It changes sometimes, it varies from time to time, so be prepared to do what's needed. That's kind of how I go about things, take care of what I need to take care of and not worry about the rest of it."
With Wes Welker ruled out for Thursday night's game against the San Diego Chargers due to a concussion -- his second concussion in the past four games -- Tamme figures to become a far bigger piece of the Broncos' puzzle on offense. It's a role Tamme had last season, before Welker was signed.
In 2012, when Tamme essentially worked out of the slot like a third wide receiver, he finished with 52 receptions, including a nine-catch day in a late-season win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After Welker joined the Broncos last March, Tamme's role in the offense went from regular contributor to spotty at best. Tamme didn't play more than 10 snaps on offense in any of the first 10 games of the season.
"You just prepare, do the work," Tamme said. "Something that's been a focus here from the beginning at the position, they want people who can do a lot of things at tight end. I feel like I can do a lot of different things, play in a lot of different spots."
But with Welker taking most of the snaps that were once Tamme's in the offense, Tamme simply went about the business of leading the team in special-teams tackles. He has nine, two more than special-teams captain David Bruton.
Tamme has played 285 plays on special teams through 13 games compared to 101 special-teams snaps all of last season. And on offense he has played 154 snaps so far this season (15.4 percent) compared to 528 plays on offense (46.2 percent) all of last season.
"You want guys on your team to understand it takes everybody, every day, to win," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "It's part of building a team, from staff, coaches and players, everybody has to participate and contribute. Sometimes that requires different things, sometimes it's more of one thing and less of another. If you don't work through that as a team, and keep moving, you're going to have a hard time being successful, I don't care what you're doing."
But it isn't like Tamme hasn't experienced this kind of ebb and flow before. During his time with the Indianapolis Colts he went from three catches in 2009 to 67 receptions in 2010 when Dallas Clark was injured. This season, the two tight ends the Broncos signed in free agency, Tamme and Joel Dreessen, have seen their playing time in the offense reduced, not only by Welker's arrival, but by tight end Julius Thomas' emergence.
In Thomas' most extensive playing time in his career -- he spent most of two seasons dealing with an ankle injury he suffered on his first NFL reception as a rookie -- he has 50 receptions to go with 11 touchdowns. Thomas' combination of size, speed and athleticism, to go with the trust Peyton Manning has in the third-year player in tight situations, has made him the go-to tight end in the lineup when the Broncos go to their third-wide-receiver look.
When Thomas missed two games with a right knee injury, Virgil Green got the starts and most of the work in Thomas' place against New England and Kansas City. But with Welker out things change. It figures to be Tamme in the lineup with Thomas much of the time and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas in the two wide receiver spots.
"[Tamme's] role has changed this year,'' Manning said. " … Obviously Julius has played well this year and Tamme hasn't had as much playing time, but he's had a great attitude. And when his number has been called he's come in there and been outstanding and has a chance to play more down the home stretch here and a real credit to him."
"He's a big part of the offense,'' said Demaryius Thomas. "I feel like you could spread Jacob out to any position because he has good speed, he's smart, he runs great routes and he knows every position on the field. So I think you can put him anywhere on the field to help the offense out and I think that helps us."