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No end in sight for Bills' TE drought

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Posted April 27, 2011 @ 7:21 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The NFL has turned into a quarterback's league, and one of the things that has helped develop the passing game over the years has been the transformation of the tight end position. These guys are not asked to just block and be red-zone options any more, some of them are key weapons in the passing game.

The Bills consistently have missed the boat on this trend.

Jay Riemersma, who totaled more than 2,300 receiving yards in his six seasons with the Bills, is the last quality, pass-catching tight end the Bills have had. In the past decade, Riemersma's 590 receiving yards in 2001 are the most by a Bills tight end. In fact, you have to go back to 1993 to find a tight end who totaled more than 600 yards receiving in Buffalo — Pete Metzelaars.

Last season in the NFL, 12 tight ends had more than 600 receiving yards.

But since Riemersma left the team in 2002, the Bills have failed to replace his receiving ability, which wasn't All-Pro to begin with. The team has drafted five tight ends since 2002 — Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Nelson is the only one currently on the roster. Euhus, Fine and Schouman barely made a dent in the receiving game, and Everett suffered a life-threatening spinal cord injury in 2007 ending his career.

Last season, Bills tight ends combined for 187 receiving yards, led by Jonathan Stupar's 111. Veteran David Martin was a solid receiver for the Dolphins in 2008, but had just seven catches last season.

The way we hear it, the Bills thought they got it right when they drafted Nelson in 2009, and the jury still could be out on him. Nelson was suspended for the first four games of 2010 and then finished the season on injured reserve with migraines. He played in five games. The ’11 campaign likely is a make or break year for Nelson to show that he's a long-term solution to the team's struggles at the position.

The Bills could look to try again through the draft to improve the position. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaker years in recent history for TE prospects. As one daily observer pointed out, in the Buffalo climate, a good blocking and catching tight end could bolster the offense. Even though the team would benefit from a pass-catching, seam-stretching tight end to keep up with the rest of the league (and the AFC East), the O-line's poor play in recent seasons might have left the Bills more inclined to add a tight end who is a better blocker.

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