Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take another position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2016 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp.
Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. This much, however, is not in question: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized in early September. So who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Tight end
On the roster: Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis, Logan Paulsen, Marcel Jensen, Derek Carrier (injured)
Likely to make the 53: Reed, Paul, Davis, Paulsen
It’s hard to imagine that going into training camp last year it was Paul, not Reed, who was on the top of the tight end depth chart. Paul was being rewarded for doing a good job filling in for an oft-injured Reed in 2014 while Reed, who missed a combined 12 games in his first two seasons was getting a message that he needed to stay healthy. While he had tremendous physical skills the most important ability is availability.
What a difference a year makes. Reed is at the top of the depth chart. Paul is doing well recovering from the major ankle injury but there is a new face in the tight end meeting room. Davis will take some snaps that would have gone to Paul, both in relief of Reed and in multiple tight end sets.
Reed will line up as a traditional tight end and in the slot. No matter where he lines up he will be a matchup nightmare. The chances are very good that he will lead the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches as he did in 2015. A Pro Bowl selection could be in his future as well.
Paul will still have a role consisting of some snaps at tight end, serving as the fullback on the dozen or so plays per game that the team uses one, and contributing on special teams. It probably won’t get him near his career highs of 39 receptions for 507 yards he had in 2014 but he should be a very versatile, valuable member of the team.
Many are thinking of Davis as strictly a pass catcher but he can contribute as a blocker, too. “He is definitely a valuable tight end because he is good in the core and the running game,” said Jay Gruden during OTAs. “He obviously can run down the seams very fast and put pressure on the defense in that regard also but really I see him [doing] both.”
Paulsen was out all of last year with a toe injury. His return this year surprised some but he is the best blocker among the tight ends and a good special teams contributor. He’s not a 100-percent lock to make the roster as the fourth tight end but if they can make room for him he’ll get a spot.
Battling for a job: Jensen, Carrier
Carrier suffered a torn ACL and MCL in mid December and he did not participate at all in the offseason program. Gruden said that his prospects for being ready for the start if training camp are “a question mark”. It would not be surprising to see him start the season on the PUP list.
The Redskins signed Jensen away from the Bills practice squad late last year. They probably would like to keep the 6-6, 270-lb. player on their practice squad and develop him to see if he can make the 53 in 2017. During OTAs he made some nice grabs but he also had a few drops.