Redskins Training Camp Preview: Tight End
Today we continue our annual survey of the Redskins roster, seeking to determine which players are most likely to make the final 2013 team and which are not. We will look at every position on the roster and today we cover tight end.
ON THE ROSTER: Fred Davis, Emmanuel, Ogbuehi, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed
STARTER: Fred Davis
BACKUP: Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed
ON THE BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Emmanuel Ogbuehi
ANALYSIS: A position of considerable weakness for the Redskins last year, after Fred Davis was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles Tendon in the first half of game 7, could be a position of strength in 2013. Davis is back and will presumably be healthy by the time the season starts. The injury and his drug suspension history lessened league interest in Davis over the offseason and he was forced to sign a very team-friendly deal that basically works oout to a one-year tryout to see if he can produce, stay healthy and not get caught with weed.
Davis was leading the team with 24 catches when his season ended and the Redskins are hoping he can regain the form he had in 2011, when he was on pace for over 1000 receiving yards before the drug suspension that cost him the final four games of 2011. At 27, Davis should be entering the prime of his career and because of his contract situation he should be very motivated to have a big year in 2013. He’s a decent blocker these days and remains a dangerous receiver with the ability to slip behind defenders and make big plays down the field. He was RG3‘s favorite receiver in 2012 before the injury so a ton of production this season is very possible.
Last year was a learning experience for Niles Paul. At least, that’s what Redskins fans hope. Paul, a 5th round draft pick as a wide receiver, moved to tight end last year and strugged with the transition. He disappeared for large stretches of the season, but did play pretty well against New Orleans, Pittsburgh and in the first Dallas game. On the other hand, he did not play well against the Vikings or in either Giants game, so there was at least as much bad as good for Paul last year. Truth be told, probably more bad. He struggled to get open and with dropping the football, as evidenced by the fact that he caught only 8 passes in 15 targets. He did have a knack for making big plays, though, averaging 19 yards per reception on those 8 grabs. Paul has to demonsrate he’s far more comfortable with blocking and he has to get over the dropsies this year. Otherwise, the Redskins will probably move on in 2014. Paul clearly has some potential or the Redskins would not be sticking with him, but in his third year in the league it is probably time to produce.
Logan Paulsen was re-signed in the offseason and a spot on the roster seems assured for him. He caught a career-high 25 passes in 2012, mostly after becoming the starter in week 8 and demonstrated some decent hands. He played well against Atlanta and Cleveland and in the second Philadelphia game, but was terrible against the Vikings, the Ravens and in both Cowboys games. In other words, it was an up and down season for him, particularly as a blocker. Paulsen was an undrafted free agent and he is what he is. Staying in the NFL this long is his biggest achievement. He’s fine as a backup, but the offense could have achieved much more with a better receiver in the lineup all last year. That, and Davis’ vulnerabilities, are probably why the Redskins drafted Jordan Reed in the third round in 2013.
There are many things to like about Jordan Reed. He’s a superb athlete, having come to Florida as a quarterback. He’s got great hands, is a good route-runner, gets excellent breaks off the line of scrimmage and is extremely dangerous in the open field after the catch. As a pass-catching tight end, he should be a real keeper. On the other hand, he’s raw, undersized and will probably never be more than a mediocre move blocker. As a in-line blocker, he’s almost hopeless. That’s okay, though, since he was drafted to power block for the run game, he was drafted to expand RG3‘s options in the pass game. Reed was the leading receiver for the Gators in 2012 and would have even better stats if his quarterback had been better. He can probably make some contributions fairly quickly as a receiver, but it is likely Reed will be rather limited this season by his blocking and learning the pro game. His value will probably come in 2014, when the Redskins have to make a big decision on Fred Davis.
PREDICTION: Davis wins the starting job, backed up by Paul and Paulsen. Reed will also make the team, but probably not see the field much until the second half of the season. If Davis has a big year, he’ll get a big contract and, more important for Redskins fans, the Washington offense should be scarily potent with a productive tight end in 2013.