#29 – Luke Willson

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Last year, we just had the one tight end listed, and that was Zach Miller at #11.  In hindsight, through the regular season, that feels pretty accurate.  But, this team really showed me something in the two playoff games, as Zach Miller exploded for a combined 12 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown, on a 15.8 yards-per-catch average.  Opposing defenses tend to key in on our running game and our play-action deep threats, which means there are vast swaths of uncovered territory in the middle of the field for a nimble tight end to expose other teams.  Or, at the very least, he’s just another thing for defenses to think about.

Well, Zach Miller hasn’t been quite right in the foot this offseason, and he’s started Training Camp on the PUP list.  With Anthony McCoy lost for 2013, that leaves us in a precarious spot.  By the start of this season, we very well could be looking at a fifth round draft pick as our #1 starting tight end.

Of course, if that’s the case, then God help us all.  And also, Luke Willson is ranked way too low on this particular list.  Truth be told, I have every expectation that Zach Miller will find a way onto the football field.  It might cost him the entire pre-season, but he’ll gut it out.  How effective will he be?  That’s another matter entirely.

Luke Willson is going to be thrown into the fire.  He’s GOING to be a part of this offense, even if it’s a relatively small part.  His upside is tremendous; he could slide right in line with an Aaron Hernandez, minus the Murdering Bastard part.  He’s tall, fast, and by all accounts has good hands.  He will need to work on his blocking, but I’m hearing he’s making a lot of progress there too.

Luke Willson most likely won’t be the starting tight end by week 1, but who’s to say he won’t be by week 17?  Foot injuries in football are the God damned worst.  They never go away!  Antonio Gates has had foot problems for damn near his whole career!  They’re nagging, they slow you down, but they’re not so bad that they force you out of the games.  They drive me crazy and I wish like Hell Zach Miller didn’t have them.  But, he does, and he’s starting to get up there in age a little bit, so now is the time to find his long-term replacement.  Luke Willson could very well be that guy.

I know I’m excited to see what he can do in pre-season games.  He could ease a lot of our minds by being a stud out of the gate, even if it is against 2nd & 3rd string defenses.

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