Falcons head coach Mike Smith has often said the absence of one player is an opportunity for another, and in the case of tight end Chase Coffman, it's quite true.
After being selected in the third round in 2009 by the Bengals, Coffman's career began with misfortune of his own. Injuries slowed the development of what appeared to be one of the best pass-catching tight ends in that year's draft and after he was released after the 2010 season, Coffman joined the Falcons practice squad last year.
Once tight end Tommy Gallarda went down in November with a season-ending injury, Coffman was promoted to the 53-man roster and his new opportunity began.
With starting tight end Tony Gonzalez excused from minicamp and out for all of the OTAs, Coffman had another opportunity, this time to take a number of reps with the first- team offense.
Finally healthy and with a shot at increased reps, Coffman has responded in a big way. He was highly consistent throughout the offseason and minicamp, making catch after catch and routinely showing his ability to make grabs in traffic and in tight spaces.
Thursday's final practice of minicamp saw more of the same from Coffman and Smith was pleased with the work his young tight end has put in throughout the offseason.
"Chase has had a really good offseason," Smith said. "He's had a lot of opportunities to get some snaps in. He's made the most of it. He made a couple of really great catches today. We were specifically working on the red zone area and as you know our tight end is highly involved in the red zone. I thought he did a good job."
Last year's backup tight end Michael Palmer has moved on in free agency and the Falcons spent a fourth-round pick on tight end Levine Toilolo, currently the tallest tight end in the NFL. Toilolo missed some of OTAs as he finished up his degree at Stanford, giving Coffman even more of an opportunity this offseason.
Last season, Coffman caught one pass in the five regular season games he played in. He had a big 16-yard reception late in the playoff win over Seattle and he's turned that experience into a real opportunity. Coffman will compete with Gallarda, Toilolo, Colin Cloherty and Andrew Szczerba to round out the tight end position behind Gonzalez.