Cole Turner was literally the last man off the field for Wednesday’s minicamp session in Ashburn.
Maybe that’s because tight ends coach Juan Castillo likes to hold ‘practice No. 2’ for his unit after the final horn blows, as one team official quipped—or maybe it’s because as a rookie, Turner wants to show his coaches and teammates that he’s the type of guy that puts in the extra work. He has to, after all, in order to get a share of snaps in a crowded tight end space in Washington.
Turner stands at a towering 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, and with curly shoulder-length hair, you might expect him to be a bit eccentric in his demeanor. In speaking with him, though, he comes off as mild-mannered and softspoken. He gives off the vibes of a mellow bass player rather than a rambunctious lead singer.
“I read the night before [games] usually, try to relax a little bit,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “Right now I’m reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.”
Though Turner is calm, cool and collected, he enters his rookie season as a Commander with high expectations. He was drafted in the fifth round out of Nevada this past April, but with veteran tight end Logan Thomas working his way back from an ACL injury sustained in Week 13 of last year, Turner has an opportunity to get more reps in practice.
Whether that leads to snaps during the regular season remains to be seen. Turner, though, has been soaking in as much information as he can from his teammate in preparation for his first season.
“Logan’s like a big brother to everyone in the room,” Turner said. “A guy that’s been around, been to a couple different places and been successful in multiple spots, he can help you out in a lot of ways. He’s not someone who’s shy or trying to hold anything back. He’s been amazing.”
Thomas has been Washington’s TE1 for the past two seasons, though he was limited to just six games last year due to various injuries. He played quarterback at Virginia Tech but made the switch, thanks in part to his 6’6” frame, to tight end once landing in the NFL.
Turner knows that feeling. He originally enrolled at Nevada as a wide receiver, but switched to TE after two seasons where he went on to receive conference honors in both his junior and senior seasons. Learning from another guy who made the switch, he says, can add an entirely new dimension to the potential of the Commanders’ tight end space.
“I think it kinda gives him a QB’s perspective on the game, so it allows him to see different angles, different ways a quarterback would see it, you know? It’s helpful when we’re in film room and he interjects and he says his two cents because he’s played both positions. So he’s been really helpful. He’s like another coach out there.”
Washington has a good problem at tight end, much like they do at running back, in that they have several guys who can contribute to the offense in different ways. Turner is more polished than second-year man John Bates in catching and route-running, but Bates has shown to be a more capable blocker.
Behind the trio of Thomas, Turner and Bates, Sammis Reyes and Antonio Gandy-Golden (who, like Turner, switched from WR to TE) bolster the room. It’s a crowded space, but that does nothing but increase competition—and incentive.
“I don’t think any of us have an idea [how the depth chart will shake out], but at the end of the day, competition’s never hurt anyone,” Turner said. “We all want to win games at the end of the day. There’s enough balls to go around, a lot of snaps every single game…we have a lot of guys with a lot of different skillsets, so we can learn from each other and push each other to be better.”
One of Turner’s calling cards at the collegiate level which he hopes can translate to the pros is his red zone efficiency. He said last month that he thinks he can ‘immediately’ help out in the red zone for the Burgundy & Gold, and doubled down on that stance after several weeks of OTAs and minicamp, but his expertise is in no way limited to the last 20 yards of the gridiron.
It’d be a welcome sight for the Commanders, though, as they posted the league’s seventh-worst red zone touchdown efficiency last season.
“I think I can help in the red zone and anywhere on the field that they need me,” Turner said. “I just want to get out there and create a role for myself and help the team in any way possible. Hopefully that is the red zone, you know that’s where I feel comfortable, but I’ll do anything at the end of the day.”
Logan Thomas mentioned earlier this week that Washington that he has loved what he’s seen from the younger tight ends in Washington. They ‘came in ready to work and ready to get better’ as he put it. Could the Commanders enjoy success by potentially deploying a tight-end-by-committee approach to begin the season? Maybe, for as though the coaching staff hasn’t indicated that approach, they’ve also echoed excitement about the crowded space.
Cole Turner is no different.
“I don’t see why we can’t compete to be the best position group in the whole league,” Turner said. “I don’t see why we can’t be a team that goes deep in the playoffs and makes a Super Bowl run.”