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October 8, 2012 @ 4:38 pm
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/2 Votes

Bucs' Byham May Come Up Big In Run Blocking

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


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Signed by Tampa Bay last week, the addition of tight end Nate Byham was overlooked by many, but Byham may be a key contributor to the Bucs' running game the remainder of the season. 
So far this season, the Buccaneers’ use of their tight ends has been a quandary.

Heading into OTA’s in the spring, many thought last year’s fourth round pick in the draft, Luke Stocker, who was billed as a complete tight end would be a sufficient compliment to Kellen Winslow. Shortly after the organized activities began in May, Winslow was traded to Seattle after reportedly having too much resistance to new head coach Greg Schiano’s heavily disciplined regime. Later that night, Tampa Bay signed Dallas Clark, one of the most successful receiving tight ends in the NFL over the past decade.

From the outside, it appeared as though the Buccaneer coaching staff had visions of a two-tight end set as a mainstay in the offensive playbook with the combination of Clark and Stocker. At the final roster deadline, the Bucs opted to keep undrafted rookie Danny Noble as the third tight end, sending 2012 seventh-round selection Drake Dunsmore to the practice squad, and Zach Pianalto out of the organization completely.

So far, we have yet to see much production from either Clark or Stocker, outside of a drive with just under four minutes left in the Giants game when Clark was targeted three consecutive times for a total of 36 yards.

Looking at New York’s offense, it is clear that they don’t use their tight ends as frequently as many other teams have around the NFL. The Giants rely heavily on their wideouts and use their TEs for blocking.

In the first quarter of the season, both Clark and Stocker have struggled with run blocking, which may have contributed to the signing of Nate Byham, a true blocking tight end.

Byham was selected by San Francisco in the sixth round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Pittsburgh. In his four-year Panther career, Byham caught only 47 passes, but the 49ers drafted him specifically as a blocker. Byham had five receptions for 27 yards as a rookie in 14 games, and surprisingly had great hands during San Francisco’s training camp before going down with a knee injury last season and spent the entirety of 2011 on IR. In mid-August, the 49ers released Byham. Last week, Tampa Bay reunited Byham with his former position coach at Pitt, Brian Angelichio, as the fourth active tight end on the roster.

The move itself was overlooked by many, considering the amount of roster moves the Bucs have made since August 31; but the signing of Byham could potentially be one of the most important additions of them all.

Although Tampa Bay’s offense has been considered a mirror image of the Giant’s – more appropriately running back D.J. Ware, who spent the first five years with New York, called it a “big brother – little brother” comparison – the Bucs wanted to establish themselves as a run-first team. Most thought the connotation would mean the Bucs would primarily run the ball, but so far, the Buccaneers have struggled with the rushing attack, ranked 23rd in the league with an average of 91 yards on the ground per contest.

To improve the ground game, the Bucs will be relying on Byham to help the line open up running lanes for rookie Doug Martin, who averages 3.5 yards per attempt. The addition of a true inline blocking tight end should most importantly increase Martin’s per carry average.

Byham spoke to PewterReport.com during open locker room on Monday about his addition to the Bucs, the week of the bye, and getting the extra time to get acclimated to the playbook.

“It’s a great advantage.” Byham said. “I get an extra four or five days to learn the offense rather than coming in on a Tuesday and having to play that Sunday. I got another week of studying, so when I’m out here practicing right now, it’s not like I’m learning it [for] the first time this morning, I’ve been going over it for five days so it’s actually pretty good to know I can finally rep it.”

Considering the Bucs already had three tight ends on the roster and one on the practice squad, most tight ends would be surprised when they received the call from Tampa Bay. Byham on the other hand understands he has a skillset beneficial to the Buccaneers and feels he can add to the Bucs' blocking scheme.

“I know what my knack is, I know what my strength is. I’m not going to run a 4.3 (40 yard dash), I’m not going to stretch the field like some other guys. My knack is blocking people and that’s how I contribute. So that’s what I expected coming in and I got the opportunity to sign and hopefully I get the opportunity to play soon and contribute.”

Although the Bucs’ newest addition doesn’t have many catches in the NFL under his belt, make no mistake – the 6-4, 264 pound Byham has reliable hands.

“Yeah I can catch the ball (laughs).” Byham said. “Every offense I’ve been in – when I was at Pitt, I was with an All-American H-Back (Dorin) Dickerson, who ran a 4.3 and stretch the field, and he got more of the credit and passes. Then when I got drafted I went to San Francisco and was with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, two guys who are just known for being able to stretch the field, therefore, I’ve always been kind of under-looked in the passing game but I can contribute as well.”

And now Byham is in Tampa with Dallas Clark.

“It’s good though.” Byham said. “Because I learn from these guys and I’m able to contribute when that one play is called where I’m expected to make a play or touch the ball and I know what I’m doing and I can do it.”

Schiano has been coy when asked if the tight ends will be more involved in the offense in the final 12 games of the season, but fans may see a heavy dose of Byham to bolster the run-blocking. Against Kansas City’s 21st ranked rushing defense, Sunday could be a turning point in the Bucs' ground game. 
Last modified on Monday, 08 October 2012 17:37

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  • avatar

    what some may not realize,Nate lined up at the fb position as well as the te for the 49ers in 2010 and was successful at both.
  • avatar

    Lets see what will develope. I like what Tampa is trying to do. And I know Tampa is sending their scouting dept assign to the college ranks will be looking for another big Tight Ends. If they have to get that TE in Rd-1,2 or three GO FOR IT, again I hope they get that OT from Wisc in Rd-1 another RB in Rd-3 or a WR. GO BUCS
  • avatar

    georgehicks, i like your enthusiasm but you seem to be forgetting that we desperately need to rebuild our D-Line and DB corps in the draft next year. I am pretty sure we will be going Defense early and often in the draft next year. Hopefully this TE can contribute. I like how this team doesn't hesitate to shuffle guys in or out if they are not producing...that's how it should be.
  • avatar

    Stocker is a good tight end who the Bucs don't know how to use. He might not be the blocker that Byham is but is a good receiver who they don't throw the ball to him enough. The reason our running game isn't working yet other than Joseph out, is our predictable play caller in Sullivan. Houston is twice the running team we are and yet last night they threw the ball the first 5 plays before trying a run. Sullivan doesn't know the meaning of using the pass to set up the run game! Until you get someone who knows how to call plays and then get Freeman to look at someone other than his primary receiver, this offense is going to struggle.
  • avatar

    I like the idea of grabbing 2nd & 3rd string players from really good teams that are deep at a specific position to fill our depth chart. Certainly Stocker is not the answer @ TE. Currently, the Bucs are solely relying on Jax & Williams in the passing game. Freeman needs more targets & TE is a position that really needs to be upgraded in the offseason. Hopefully Trueblood will be the answer at RG...Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    This team is developing a toughness that maybe they never had except perhaps on defense when Sapp and Lynch were there. They just have to "grit" it out and they will be fine.
  • avatar

    Cute play on the player's name Macabee. I'm sure your joke went completely unnoticed by our posting brethren, but Scubog appreciates a little humor. All we need is Rod "Toast" Jones and we've got a nice breakfast sandwich. There sure is a revolving door spinning over there at One Buc Place; but at least they're trying. I'm just not looking for a street FA to be much help right away. I had high hopes for Stocker when he was drafted, but so far he has been either under-utilized or he just isn't very good. I personally think this coaching staff is limiting the use of available talent. I'm not ready to put the "bust" label on Stocker though. After all, he's a 4th round pick who is starting.
  • avatar

    Thanks, PR. Solid second level analysis. I like the way the team is handling the running game right now - it's clear that we are recognizing a weakness and trying to fix it. Looking at Trueblood at RG and signing Byham. Hopefully, if we can improve our success to the right side, and perhaps make a conscious choice to focus on running to our stronger side (the left), we can see greater success for the running game going forward.
  • avatar

    Byham reminds me alot of the steelers health miller...great blocking te and reliable hands...hopefully we picked up a valuable gem that can come in and have an immediate impact. Of course...if Freeman continues to play like a deer lost in the headlights...they're doomed. GO BUCS!!!!!
  • avatar

    Nice read and I like the signing. We HAVE to get the running game going to maximize Josh's chances to succeed. and I certainly agree the Bye came at the right time for this team.
  • avatar

    If they put Trueblood at right guard and this guy at tight end we may finally be able to plow some people over running to the right. Lord willing.
  • avatar

    I thought the Buc's were not happy when we had Winslow that the the defense knew that when Winslow was on the field they knew it was a pass. Now we go out a get a TE to use as a blocker coming back from IR. The defense should know it's a run if Byham is on the field. I guess we can call Stocker another missed draft pick that we traded up for, a BUST!
  • avatar

    I want to believe, but too many changes, too few results. It's like investing in the commodities market today. I don't know whether to Byham or sell eggs!
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