The young tight ends on Atlanta's roster didn't go a long way on Thursday night toward clearing up the third tight end position on the roster. After starting tight end Tony Gonzalez and solid backup Michael Palmer, things are a little unclear.
There are four young tight ends on the roster fighting for that final spot and if one did some positive things, but a few made some mistakes that will challenge their chances to make the final roster.
Tommy Gallarda, on the practice squad last season, had one catch for four yards. Things were a little more challenging for the other candidates. Adam Nissley's long catch on the evening was for a 16-yard gain, but an injury suffered on that play had him limping off the field. Falcons head coach Mike Smith did not offer a comment on Nissley's injury following the game.
LaMark Brown, who is making the transition from wide receiver to tight end in camp, was targeted twice, but didn't come away with a catch. Late in the third quarter he missed a pass from quarterback Dominique Davis that resulted in an interception.
"It's a ball I should have gotten to," Brown said after the game. "I came out of my route, relaxed a little bit, I stretched out at the last minute. It went off my hands and I knew I had to make the tackle. I turned up field and went to go get him."
Aron White's two catches for 22 yards looks nice, but after a seven-yard pass completion in the fourth quarter he fumbled the ball and Baltimore recovered. White had only been in the game for a few snaps before that play came.
"When I finally got in there, I felt pretty good out there running and stuff," White said. "I came out the first play hot and caught the ball for a couple of yards. I came out the second play, broke my route off good and then caught the ball and turned up. The linebacker knocked it out. Nobody is perfect and nobody is going to do things right all the time. There's no excuse for making mistakes like that. Ball security is something I'll be focused on this week. That's something you can't do in this league, you'll be out of it fast."
Brown and White in particular felt they didn't help their cause with their mistakes, but there's two sides to every story. Both felt they also did some positives in the game and that's what they're going to move forward with.
"I feel like I did things that are positive and also you look at that one mistake and it's big," White said. "You only get so many opportunities in this league to prove yourself when you're in a position like I am. It definitely didn't feel good. I feel like I hurt my chances dropping that ball out, but at the same time I think they saw me get out and run against some good competition."
With the health of Nissley hanging in the balance, the competition at tight end will come down to Gallarda and possibly which player, Brown or White, can recover from Thursday night's mistakes. Both young tight ends saw the first preseason game as a great opportunity to get their feet wet in the NFL and become more familiar with the speed of the game and get an eye-opening experience at what it's like to block in the league.
The player that can limit his mistakes moving forward and capitalize on the few opportunities he'll see is the player the coaches will go with at the third backup.
"It was good on the whole, but I have a sour taste in my mouth for coughing that up," White said. "I'm going to dwell on that tonight and come out tomorrow and try to put it behind me."