A good receiving tight end in the NFL can be a difference maker for a team’s offense. It is a premium skill which adds both another weapon to the aerial arsenal as well as an easily exploitable matchup nightmare which can wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
So, the collective gasp which followed the news that two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas had left the Denver Broncos for the apparently greener pastures of the Jacksonville Jaguars was warranted. After all, Thomas had been an offensive juggernaut for the Broncos at tight end and finding someone outside the organization to replicate his level of production would be a near impossibility due to an already slim market for tight ends.
So, the Broncos looked inward and found that the answer to their tight end quandary had been in front of them the entire time in the form of Virgil Green. Actually, not only is Green the solution to the problem, but he will also prove to be a much better all-around option at the position than his Jacksonville contemporary.
First of all, Green has a notable advantage over Thomas in blocking. During his time in Denver, there were moments that made one wonder whether or not Thomas could even block the sun out of his eyes let alone a defensive end. Green, though, is about as adept a blocker as any in the NFL. He uses his massive, Hulk-like frame incredibly efficiently and can stymie even the best edge rushers.
This skill alone already makes Green a more valuable offensive asset than Thomas simply because, with star quarterback Peyton Manning looking as fragile as ever, an extra blocker to protect oncoming rushers can be the difference between seeing Manning or backup quarterback Brock Osweiler breaking the huddle.
Still, what makes Green an upgrade at the position is his willingness to work on his receiving skills. In fact, he spent the better part of the offseason refining his pass catching ability which even included an invite to Manning’s offseason passing camp at Duke.
Green sees the potential for him to succeed within head coach Gary Kubiak’s tight end-friendly scheme and has done all in his power to turn that potential into a reality come the regular season.
Plus, it’s not like the skills aren’t there for Green to become a lethal offensive weapon. When he was drafted in 2011, he was one of the faster tight ends with a 4.64 second 40-yard dash and boasted an three and a half foot vertical leap. The learning curve won’t be steep, and he should be able to hit the ground running with his receiving skills once camp starts up at the end of July.
If Green can put it all together and build a solid rapport with Manning, you may just find Broncos fans saying “Julius who?” for countless game days to come.