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Redskins position outlook: Blocking tight ends are hard to find

logan-paulsen-2.png

Redskins position outlook: Blocking tight ends are hard to find

Over the next few weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2015, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2016. Previously, we took a look at the defensive line, offensive tackles, and interior offensive line. Today, tight ends are up.

Tight end

Grade: C

2015 starter: Jordan Reed

Backups: Alex Smith, Marcel Jensen (Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Derek Carrier injured reserve)

Free agents: Smith, Paulsen

Rewind: Let’s start with what went right here. Reed moved from being a potential star into being a legitimate impact player. He led the team in all three major receiver categories with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 2013 third-round pick saved his best performance for the biggest game as he dominated the Eagles with 9 receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 16 division-clinching games in Philadelphia.

Beyond Reed there was very little productivity at the tight end position. Paul, who was coming off of a solid 2014 campaign, suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener and was lost for the season. Paulsen also went out before the season started with a toe injury. Those injuries prompted a trade for Carrier, who caught 17 passes before suffering a knee injury in Week 14. That led them to bringing in Smith, who played under Jay Gruden in Cincinnati. He provided some decent blocking down the stretch but he did not catch a pass.

Also taking snaps during the course of the year were former Seahawk Anthony McCoy, ex-practice squad player Je’Ron Hamm, and Jensen, who the Redskins signed off of the Bills’ practice squad a few days before Christmas.

It’s appropriate to mention tackle Tom Compton here, too. He frequently lined up as a tight end but served as an extra offensive tackle when the ball was snapped. With Paulsen out the Redskins didn’t have anyone who could fill the blocking tight end role and it remained an issue all season, forcing the team to utilize Compton in the role.

The grade of C is based on Reed receiving an A for his performance and the rest of the unit getting grades ranging from C-minus to D-minus.

Fast forward: The only question about Reed that is out there is whether he will play 2016 under the last year of his rookie contract and make $1.6 million or if he will get an extension and take home a considerably larger paycheck every week in addition to a nice signing bonus.

The day after the playoff loss to the Packers Paul spoke with reporters and said that he should be ready to go for the offseason program, which starts in April. It will be interesting to see what Gruden and Sean McVay can do with both Reed and Paul on the field at the same time.

Paulsen may or may not be back. There was talk that he may not have made the team last year had he not been injured; the organization wanted someone faster and more athletic. But that person is not out there right now and they have to ask themselves if they are better of with Paulsen, who can catch the ball, as the blocking tight end rather than Compton, who wasn’t targeted at all.

If Paulsen moves on the role of blocking tight end could prove to be difficult to fill. The free agent market is composed of some aging stars like Antonio Gates, some younger players who are primarily pass catchers like Jared Cook and Coby Fleener, and the usual assortment of players who are getting up there in age and/or have injury concerns.

The problem with finding a blocking tight end in college is that they are scarce as the popular spread offenses and their offshoots is that they generally don’t use big tight ends. It might be difficult to come up with an upgrade over Paulsen or perhaps even utilizing Compton as their blocker again. 

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Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

For months, draft conversation suggested that there wasn't an offensive tackle to pick in the Top 10. And after Bradley Chubb, there wasn't an edge defender worth a Top 10 pick either. 

All of a sudden, that conversation is changing. 

Late charges from Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Boston College defensive end Harold Landry and University of Texas San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport are starting to influence mock drafts.

On Wednesday, NFL Network's Peter Schrager predicted the 49ers to take McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick. Charley Casserly, in a mock draft with NBC Sports Washington on Monday, predicted the Chicago Bears take Davenport with the eighth overall pick. Reports on Landry are all over the place, but some guess he could break the Top 10 as well.

The thing to remember about the NFL: It's a passing league. Positions tied to the quarterback are the most important, and that means protecting the QB and getting after the QB is in high demand. No position will ever get over-drafted like quarterback, but it's not a surprise that teams might reach for players at tackle or edge rusher.

What does this mean for the Redskins holding the No. 13 pick?

It means great news. 

Washington will already benefit from four QBs going in the Top 10. That will likely push down an elite talent to their draft spot.

If McGlinchey, Davenport or Landry also crack the Top 10? Even better.

The Redskins need help at just about every position group on the defensive side of the ball. It's well documented how the team struggled against the run in 2017, but the defense also lost Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller this offseason. 

There will be a number of weapons available for Washington at 13, and that could include players like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James in addition to Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne. It might mean Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith lasts to 13 too. 

For the Redskins, Fitzpatrick or James at 13 seems like a steal. Both players present elite potential at the evolving position of nickel cornerback. They can play some corner, some safety, and James might even be able to play some linebacker. 

Regardless of the eventual destination for James or Fitzpatrick, if more surprise players sneak into the Top 10 on Thursday night, the better Washington's options become. And that includes the possibility of trading down, Vea or Payne, Smith or Edmunds.

More elite options at 13 only helps the Redskins. 

Redskins fans should be rooting for Mike McGlinchey, Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport early Thursday night. The folks in Ashburn will be. 

MORE 2018 NFL DRAFT:
- Mock Draft 9.0: Almost draft day
- Top Prospects: RB options for the Redskins
- Top Prospects: WR options for the Redskins
- Need To Know: Rich Tandler's Seven-Round Redskins Mock Draft
- Mega-Mock Predictions: DC Media choose No. 13 pick

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Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the third episode above and more here.

A position change. A school change. A season-ending injury. 

Those are the kinds of things that prevent an NFL career from ever starting. But none of those things stopped Trey Edmunds from reaching the league and contributing for the Saints as a rookie in 2017.

Trey, the oldest brother in a family that features 2018 prospects Tremaine and Terrell, came out of high school as a linebacker, but became a running back after enrolling at Virginia Tech. After three productive seasons with the Hokies, he transferred to finish up his career with Maryland, yet his senior season was cut short after fracturing his foot five games in to the schedule.

That injury was a big reason why the 2017 NFL Draft came and went without a phone call for Edmunds, so he signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in May. There, he played spot duty on special teams for much of his rookie campaign before his breakout moment in November:

Now, heading into his second pro year, Edmunds will reportedly have to fight for a roster spot in New Orleans again. But hey, adversity is something the 23-year-old is very familiar with, so don't bet against him.