Jay Gruden would rather not have to use Tom Compton, an offensive tackle by trade, at tight end. The move does improve the blocking along the line but it reduces the number of potential receivers on the field from five to four and it tips the defense that the play is very likely to be a pass.
The Redskins are not in an ideal circumstance at the tight end position. Their top player at the position, Jordan Reed, is their one of their move dangerous and productive receivers. But his run blocking skills, although improved from previous years, leave a lot to be desired. The same can be said of Derek Carrier, who has been sidelined most of the last two games with an ankle injury.
Carrier’s injury isn’t the only one the Redskins have had to deal with at the position. Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen both were knocked out for the year with injuries before it ever started.
“If you want to run the ball, you need a tight end a lot of times,” said Gruden. And not having enough available with the right skill set and all-around tight ends being rare in free agency and in the draft forces Gruden to balance the pros and cons of using a player like Compton and, occasionally, back tackle Ty Nsekhe.
There are other ways of trying to get the job done. “There are some plays we don’t have to have a tight end,” said Gruden. “We can split out the tight end and try to get the box in our favor — count-wise — and try to gut the defense that-a-way, but when we need a tight end at the point of attack, some of the runs that we like to run with the double teams and all that stuff, you need a tight end that can hold it and Tom’s proven that he can do that.”
Another guy who has proven he can block well is fullback Darrel Young. But he didn’t play at all on offense against the Cowboys after playing a season-high 13 snaps the previous week against the Giants.
“We had a couple packages for DY, obviously,” said Gruden when asked about Young’s lack of participation against Dallas. “However, I think we chose with Derek Carrier out, we chose to use the bigger tight ends and use more of the two- and three-tight-end sets as opposed to the one-tight-end-and-one-fullback set, basically was the choice that we had. Basically, we had a couple ready to roll, but really we featured the two tight ends—the big tight end, the little tight end, the one back and three tight ends, two tight ends and one big guy—three big guys we were trying to feature more so and we just didn’t get DY involved.”
It’s hard to argue that the choices that Gruden, Sean McVay, and Bill Callahan did make in the running game have worked very well for the last two months. They are in one of the worst stretched of running game productivity in team history, with an average of less than three yards per carry in seven of their last eight games. This isn’t to say that they should abandon using Compton at tight end but something has to change.