Training camp preview: Scouting the Vikings' tight ends
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Each weekday until the Minnesota Vikings report to training camp on July 29, 1500ESPN.com's Tom Pelissero breaks down the roster at another position, based on offseason practice observations and conversations with coaches, scouts and personnel people around the NFL. Day 5: Tight ends.
On the roster (5)
Lock: Visanthe Shiancoe.
Good bet: Jimmy Kleinsasser.
Shiancoe (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is dependable and set career highs last season in receptions (56) and touchdowns (11). His reported request for a new contract that makes him one of the NFL's five highest-paid tight ends seems outlandish, though, especially given his age (30). He's due $2.7 million this season and $3.2 million in 2011. Kleinsasser (6-3, 272) isn't getting younger either and no longer is any threat as a receiver (27 catches, one touchdown since 2006). But he's a blue-collar, grunt-work type who remains an exceptional run blocker at age 33 and has two years left on his deal. So does Dugan (6-4, 258), another blocking specialist who has the versatility to play fullback but always has been just a guy. A seventh-round pick from Penn State, Shuler (6-4, 247) has a balanced skill-set and a pedigree -- his father, Mickey Sr., caught 462 passes for 5,100 yards and 37 touchdowns in 14 NFL seasons -- that bode well for his development. Mills (6-1, 235) hasn't appeared in a game since November 2008 and might be down to his last shot.
The Vikings have tried to mix in another receiving tight end for years and haven't found one -- unless you include Mills, who set receiving records at Tulsa but has caught seven balls while playing only nine games in four NFL seasons. At age 29, Dugan is what he is, and that all means opportunity for Shuler, who didn't get many chances in college but showed in offseason practices he can bring something in the passing game as well as blocking.
One NFL scout's take on ... rookie Mickey Shuler
"We looked at him a little bit as a late-round possibility. He's got the bloodlines and he's a tough, tenacious kid. Not a lot of production at Penn State, but he's got tenacity and got pretty decent size to him. He can be a late-round backup that gives you some depth."
Shiancoe owes Brett Favre for making the tight end a larger part of coach Brad Childress' offense last season. The bottom line, scouts say, is the Vikings have nothing that really scares defenses at the position. But if Shiancoe puts up similar numbers this season, it may be tough not to give him what he wants on a new deal.