By Chad Jensen
(247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos suffered a significant loss this past week, as first-year tight end Jake Butt tore his ACL in a non-contact walk-through drill. Considering Butt’s injury history (third career ACL tear), it was nothing short of a football calamity, though Butt himself remains resolved to come back even stronger.
Losing Butt hurts in a lot of ways, but especially in the present, as he’s been the No. 1 targeted tight end in the Broncos offense. Although Jeff Heuerman has been the nominal starter, it’s been Butt who’s been more involved in the offense, especially as a receiver.
Throw all that out the window — at least for 2018. The Broncos now have to adjust, which means Heuerman will receive a bigger piece of the pie, as will Matt LaCosse.
LaCosse was the unlikely darkhorse who made the Broncos 53-man roster out of training camp that few saw coming. Before camp started, most analysts had Austin Traylor pegged as the third tight end, but LaCosse out-played him when the lights were on.
LaCosse finished the preseason with four receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Scoring in two different games, the fourth-year tight end set himself apart as a receiver in Denver’s offense.
Moving forward, LaCosse becomes the team’s No. 2 tight end, with Brian Parker bringing up the rear (called up from the practice squad late last week). Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave has a plan in place to get LaCosse more involved.
“Matt’s done a nice job in preseason, he made some plays for us,” Musgrave said on Friday. “I know he has a prominent special-teams role also on our team. So, he’s important to us and we’ll utilize him more than we had planned.”
LaCosse saw a small handful of offensive snaps in the first three games, but most of his action has come on special teams. He’ll be playing a lot more on offense moving forward.
Jeff Heuerman might be the most immediate beneficiary of Butt’s injury, but don’t sleep on LaCosse. Entering the league as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois in 2015, LaCosse would go on to appear in 10 games for the Giants.
He’s a quintessential ‘move’ tight end who can be shifted around the formation. He’s got underrated skills as a receiver, but he’ll have to hone his chops as a blocker if he wants to hold onto the No. 2 spot behind Heuerman.
Then again, it’s not like Jake Butt had made a lot of headway as a blocker before getting hurt. But the more you can do, the more valuable you become, the more you’ll see the field and the more secure your role will be.
Look at the bright side. The Kansas City Chiefs have very little tape on LaCosse, and the same goes for all of the remaining opponents on Denver’s schedule. The onus is on Bill Musgrave to use that ignorance to Denver’s advantage.