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Redskins position preview: Talent and depth at tight end

Redskins position preview: Talent and depth at tight end

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?

Up today…

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.

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197