When the season began, no one was sure what to think of the depth at the tight end position. Some speculated that we should have drafted one of the three top draft choices at tight end like Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Jace Amaro. Then there were those who thought the team should have taken a flyer on injured former stars like Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller, which once upon a time, I was one of those advocates.
Finally, there were those who were convinced - after some coaxing by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's offensive philosophy - that former third-round draft pick Michael Egnew would finally break out and perform like he did at the University of Missouri as a pass-catching tight end. Unfortunately, Egnew failed to grasp the offense and couldn't play fast enough to beat out his competition and found himself cut.
But through that tight end competition, a surprise standout was found. Former Michigan State University tight end and fourth-round draft pick Dion Sims quickly showed himself to be capable of being a versatile and solid tight end, one that easily overshadowed the likes of Egnew, Gator Hoskins and Brett Brackett.
“I think evolved, grown, matured, developed, all those words would describe Dion." said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "He missed a little bit of time there with a toe injury. Before that, he had started really coming on. We were excited about it. Then he missed a little bit, but as he came back obviously he’s just gotten better."
This fact has been shown in his recent numbers, as Sims has suddenly emerged as a big target in the open field for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw to. In the two games that starting tight end Charles Clay has been out with a hamstring/knee injury, Sims has combined for a total of 8 receptions for 89 yards, and sometimes at crucial moments, such as last week's game against the Jets.
"His production has gone up, and when Charles (Clay) is out we do a couple of things to make up for that. We’ve played four receivers at the same time a little bit more during the last couple of games." said Lazor. "At the same time, Dion has played more plays than he had for us before. He’s become reliable. I think that he caught all four (passes) that were thrown to him. It isn’t easy, and big (catches) in the fourth quarter. I think that’s another player who’s confidence is going up, and our confidence in him is going up.”
That confidence is clearly showing. Sims was originally drafted to act as a way to help the offensive line, as blocking was his greatest skill at the time. Now Sims has shown that not only can he block - and quite effectively at that, as evidenced by Monday's performance - but he can also be a seam threat that the Dolphins can always use.
"He’s got very good hands, as last night was evidence. He made a couple of catches that were critical in the ball game. I like the trend that he is on." said head coach Joe Philbin. "The staff has a lot of confidence in him. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him. He’s getting better.”
It's possible that with the Dolphins' need to tighten their belts salary-cap wise, Sims might make a hard decision just a little bit easier. If Sims continues to develop at the rate that he is, he just might make Charles Clay somewhat expendable if his price tag becomes too high. Regardless of what happens with Clay, the future looks bright with an unexpected surprise in Sims waiting in the wings.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater