Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 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. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Tight end
On the roster: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Niles Paul, Jeremy Sprinkle, Derek Carrier, Manasseh Garner
Locks: Reed, Davis
Reed creates a lot of fear. Defensive coordinators don’t get much sleep as they try to prepare for the mismatches he creates. In addition, Redskins fans are terrified every time he takes a hard hit or takes an extra couple of seconds to get off the ground. The injury concerns are real. It’s not a coincidence that the Redskins slid from solid playoff contenders to being eliminated in Week 17 during a time when Reed was out and, when playing, struggling with a shoulder injury.
Davis is a very capable backup but last year he was more effective as a second tight end with Reed in the lineup. In the first 10 games of the season, Davis averaged 14.7 yards per catch and scored two touchdowns. After Reed’s shoulder injury, he averaged 11.2 per catch and didn’t get into the end zone. If Reed can stay healthy, the Redskins get his production and better numbers from Davis as well.
On the bubble: Paul, Sprinkle
Paul is probably close to being a lock but he must stay healthy and the organization must be convinced that he is worth his $2.2 million cap hit. As long as he remains a leader on special teams and is a capable fill-in at fullback he should be safe.
Sprinkle looked like, well, a fifth-round rookie during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The Redskins would like to have him on board to be the blocking tight end and the hope is that he will make sufficient progress during training camp to justify keeping him on the 53-man roster.
Long shots: Carrier, Garner
Carrier has had a rough go of it in his two seasons in Washington. He was acquired after training camp in 2015 to fill the hole created after season-ending injuries were suffered by Paul and Logan Paulsen. That season, he got some opportunities (411 snaps) but he only caught 17 passes for an 8.3-yard average. But he sustained a serious knee injury in December and he started last year on the PUP list. When Paul was put on IR, Carrier was moved to the active roster but he caught only 2 passes in eight games, even though Reed was dealing with his shoulder injury.