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Could Smythe Become No. 1 Tight End for Dolphins?

Tight end Durham Smythe could be in line for an expanded role for the Miami Dolphins after re-signing as an unrestricted free agent

Durham Smythe is leaning on the popular phrase “adapt or die” as he enters his fifth NFL season. The tight end signed a two-year deal to return to the Miami Dolphins under his third head coach, which comes with yet another new scheme.

Smythe had to adapt last season, too, as he was utilized in the receiving game a lot more. He finished fifth on the team in catches with a career high of 34. He also finished with career highs in targets (41) and yards (357).

However, Mike McDaniel’s scheme will ask Smythe to go back to his blocking roots more than it will ask him to catch passes.

“I mean, in this league, it’s adapt or die,” Smythe said. “That’s what it is. It’s a year-to-year basis type thing. I think overall everyone tries to be wholesome in regards to being able to produce in the run game and the pass game. But like I said, it’s a year-to-year basis. You have to prove what you can do every year this time of year and then continue to prove it during the season. So we’ll just roll with the punches there.”

SMYTHE PSYCHED ABOUT NEW OFFENSE

Coming from the 49ers and the Shanahan coaching tree, McDaniel has been around a lot of productive tight ends including George Kittle and Austin Hooper.

Smythe is excited to play for a coach who understands the importance of the tight end and has worked it into his scheme.

“Yes, it’s exciting,” Smythe said. “This scheme is something that I haven’t really been a part of since college, and I love it. I love being at the point of attack in the run game, and there’s a lot of things that you can do with a tight end off of that. So it’s exciting, I think our room in general is pretty excited about being a focal point of the offense. It’s a responsibility that, as a group, we’re pretty excited about it.”

While Smythe’s experience as a blocker makes him a natural fit in McDaniel’s scheme, it poses more of a challenge for fellow tight end Mike Gesicki.

SMYTHE AND GESICKI AND DIFFERENT CONTRACT SITUATIONS

Gesicki is one of the NFL’s better receiving tight ends but has never been a successful blocker going back to his time in college. Additionally, Gesicki will play the 2022 season on the franchise tag after he and the team did not agree to a new deal this offseason.

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Smythe also was a free agent this past offseason, but he re-signed with the Dolphins with a two-year contract.

Smythe knows the situation Gesicki is in and is offering the same advice he’s been telling himself.

“I say all the time – like I said previously, it’s adapt or die, year-to-year basis, you have to prove it every year,” Smythe said. “But with (Gesicki), if he can show that he can produce in one offense last year, another offense this year and be productive overall as a tight end, the price is just going up. So that’s what I tell him every day. If he can continue on a positive trend path, it’s just going to pay dividends in the long run for him. I’m excited for him.”

Gesicki becoming a functional blocker might not be a great development for Smythe. While teams can employ multiple tight ends, historically, the Shanahan offense uses a lot of 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end) and 21 personnel (two running backs and one tight end).

With McDaniel as the offensive coordinator last season, the 49ers used 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) just 10 percent of the time, according to Sharp Football Stats.

On the other hand, Miami led the NFL by a wide margin in 12 personnel, using the grouping 61 percent of the time.

McDaniel likely will incorporate more two-tight-end looks to use Gesicki’s receiving skills with Smythe’s blocking skills, but it won’t be like last season.

Gesicki played the most snaps among Dolphins tight ends last year, with 828 compared to 716 for Smythe, though Smythe technically had more starts (12-9).

It's entirely possible we could see in 2022, based on the increased emphasis on the running game with McDaniel's arrival, a situation where Smythe actually ends up with the most snaps among Dolphins tight ends.

No matter how the reps end up shaking out, Smythe is excited to be a veteran this season.

“I guess in general, you’re off your rookie contract,” Smythe said. “You’re a vet in this league when you’re in Year Five. I’m excited about the team we have and everything, so I think Year Five will be a fun one.”