With the addition of rookie Austin Hooper, there will be some competition at the tight end position.
Jacob Tamme was brought in via free agency a year ago to give Matt Ryan another big-bodied tight end to throw the football to. Sporadic spells of production led to a season of 657 receiving yards and a touchdown for Tamme, and the Falcons decided to add another weapon in the draft.
Tamme will now compete with rookie Austin Hooper for the starting job. Hooper (6-foot-4, 254 pounds), is bigger than Tamme (6-foot-3, 230 pounds), but the veteran ran a quicker 40-yard dash.
Hooper has good hands and can safely secure balls in traffic down the field, but will need to add more physicality to his game as a pass catcher to win in situations when his speed won’t cut it.
Tamme will almost certainly begin camp as the starter. The 31-year-old has a year of experience in Kyle Shanahan’s system and has already established some chemistry with Ryan. Hooper will need to prove he is better than Tamme during camp. It’s the veteran’s job to lose. He certainly feels that way, and expects to improve this season, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of AJC.com.
"“I really feel like my best years are still in front of me,” Tamme said. “Which is a good feeling to have at this point in my career. That’s an exciting thing for me.”"
Hooper is already behind the eight ball as he missed most of the offseason program due to the league’s academic policy. The rookie attended the Falcons’ mandatory minicamp, but will have to quickly get up to speed and implement what he has learned through an iPad for most of the summer.
"“The information was great, but nothing can really substitute for actual reps here in the humidity and heat against some of the best players in the world,” Hooper said."
Advantage Tamme, it would seem.
Both players will see the field in 2016, and the Falcons could even operate in more two tight end sets this season. But with the addition of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pair with Julio Jones and second-year Justin Hardy, the quickest way onto the field is to begin the season atop the depth chart.
Hooper will be viewed as the long-term starter, but will he do enough in training camp to leapfrog Tamme?
Time will tell.