NFL teams are using 2 tight ends less frequently, but those that do still find it effective

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills opened last season using a lot of two-tight end sets with Dawson Knox lining up on the opposite end of the line from rookie Dalton Kincaid.

That changed when offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired in midseason and the Bills went a little away from the set under interim (and now permanent) OC Joe Brady. It wasn’t just philosophical, however. Knox was eased back in after missing five games with a wrist injury.

Brady also could install more two-tight end sets to create more balance so quarterback Josh Allen doesn’t take so much of the offense on his shoulder and legs. Establishing more of an effective ground game behind that formation is a possibility.

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“When you have guys like Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox, it gives you a lot,” Brady said. “It opens up a lot of doors because they can play outside, block in line. … We’d love to grow that package and just get them comfortable and putting them in different situations, different spots that they haven’t been in and see how they kind of respond to it.”

Fewer than 8,000 plays in the NFL last season included two tight ends. That continued a general trend since 2012, when the total dropped below 10,000 as teams began to go to three- and four-receiver sets to spread out defenses and take advantage of rules changes that benefit offenses.

Since such plays are being run less often, teams that employ a double-tight end look gain a potential advantage.

Teams run at a nearly 50% higher rate with two tight ends on the field but pass much more effectively in those scenarios against defenses less equipped to stop offenses through the air. Teams with two tight ends average 6.57 yards per drop back compared to 5.41 with one or none.

The Packers were third in the league last season with 345 plays run using two-tight end sets. They were also third with a 54.8% success rate, defined by a team’s progress toward picking up a first down or scoring a touchdown.

The divisional rival Detroit Lions weren’t far behind with 274 such plays, ranking ninth, with a league-best 57.3% success rate.

The Lions, coming off their first two-win postseason since 1957, were active in free agency and aggressive in the draft this offseason in the hopes of reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in team history.

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