If Scott Chandler makes a catch for the Buffalo Bills, it’s a good bet it’s going to be productive.
The fifth-year tight end has 32 catches this season, 27 of which have produced a first down. That first-down percentage of 84.4 ranks fourth in the NFL. Chandler’s only catch Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars went for his sixth touchdown of the season, making him the first tight end in team history to have at least six touchdown catches in consecutive seasons.
“He’s making a lot of big plays for us and we need his consistency to keep our offense moving,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “He’s made plays for the last two years, as a matter of fact, and I’d like to keep incorporating him even more. We had a couple situations [Sunday] where we were trying to get him the ball a few more times and it just didn’t work out via protection or blitz or whatever it was. But he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
Chandler’s importance in the offense was accentuated when slot receiver David Nelson was lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered in the season opener. Nelson was a favorite safety valve for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a role Chandler was eager to accept.
“I think that’s what you want to be as a tight end,” he said. “You want to be someone who your quarterback feels he can go to in critical situations. That’s great that we can build that rapport. Hopefully we can continue to execute.”
“He’s really developed into a nice weapon for me,” Fitzpatrick said. “A guy that’s just reliable, very consistent and poses problems for teams especially in the red zone just in terms of the height, the big body and all of that stuff. He’s really turned into a threat down there.”
Chandler has been in on about 85 percent of the team’s snaps. He’s one of only two Buffalo receivers, along with Stevie Johnson, to have at least one catch in every game this season.
He’s working to shed the label of being solely a pass catcher, though.
“It’s something where I feel like I’ve improved a lot, but it’s somewhere that I can still improve,” he said of his run blocking. “It’s all part of trying to help the team win, becoming the best player you can be. I was behind a guy, Jason Witten, who’s as complete a tight end as I’ve been around. He’s the ultimate team player and a great all-around tight end. He took a lot of pride in blocking and that’s the kind of player I want to be.”
The player Chandler is chasing in the Buffalo record book is also the one helping him try to get there. Gailey hired former Bills tight end Pete Metzelaars to coach the position this season, a huge benefit for Chandler.
“In the offseason you try and look at things you can improve on. In the passing game, I talked about getting in and out of breaks. In the running game, keeping my feet going,” Chandler said. “I think that was a big point of emphasis for me. Pete’s helped me a lot with that. You he’s a long, tall guy. Obviously was a great blocker. He’s a guy I’ve been able to learn a lot from.”
Metzelaars and Chandler both stand 6-foot-7, making for an easy comparison between the two.
“I think he was probably a guy who was a little stronger than I am, but you can learn a lot from guys who know how to play with leverage and use our physical abilities, long arms and stuff like that, to our advantage,” Chandler said. “He knows what it takes to get to the mountain top and he knows what it takes in Buffalo, and that’s important. He’s got a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, so you want to soak up as much as you can.”
Metzelaars is the Bills’ career leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end, with 25. Chandler is almost halfway there, with 12 in the last two seasons. If he’s able to make a seventh touchdown catch this year, he’ll break a three-way tie with Metzelaars and Jay Riermersma for the franchise single-season record.
“You don’t really focus on that stuff. I think last year I had six through seven games, and then I didn’t have another one. You’re worried about helping your team, and if that means scoring touchdowns, then great,” Chandler said. “It’s not something you think about during the season, but it’ll be something that when I’m done playing I’ll look back on. If I get it, I’ll be pretty excited. You start to focus on those things during the season, though, then you’re worried about the wrong things.”