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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Tight end questions behind Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Tight end questions behind Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

3rd Tight End

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are roster locks. Reed is arguably the best pass catching tight end in football, and Davis is much more than a veteran backup. The duo give Jay Gruden a myriad of options in the team's two tight end sets, and create matchup problems for linebackers and safeties.

After Reed and Davis, the depth chart gets interesting. Derek Carrier and Niles Paul both saw action last season but have each been dealing with injuries. Carrier opened the 2016 season on the PUP list, and Paul was sent to IR after a gruesome injury Week 8 in London. 

Washington has only carried three tight ends on its roster for the last several years, which already makes for a logjam at the position. Drafting Jeremy Sprinkle out of Arkansas in the fifth round creates even more competition behind Reed and Davis. Sprinkle is the biggest of the bunch and known for his blocking on the college level, and will carry the cheapest price tag.

And the winner is...

Finlay: Assuming all tight end options make it through training camp healthy, Sprinkle seems to be the leader for the third tight end spot. Why? Money. Paul is due nearly $2 million this fall and has played just eight games over the last two seasons. Carrier will cost just over $1 million on the Redskins books. Sprinkle will likely cost half of Carrier and a quarter of Paul's salary. Of course, if Sprinkle does not seem capable in camp, that could change the dynamic, but don't expect that to happen. The rookie proved a highly effective blocker on a run-first team in the SEC, while also flashing good hands as a receiver. Plus, he's got serious size at 6-foot-5 and 252 lbs. Jay Gruden talked about wanting his team to get bigger, and Sprinkle is bigger than both Carrier and Paul. Remember how often the Redskins like to deploy their three tight end jumbo set, and then imagine Sprinkle running onto the field for the formation. The biggest area where Sprinkle needs to prove himself, and quickly, is on special teams. Paul was a special teams standout when healthy.  

Tandler: I would think long and hard before cutting Niles Paul loose. He has been the heart and soul of the Redskins' special teams since he stepped on the field as a rookie. When he has had the chance, he has been productive as a receiver. In 2014, the last time he was fully healthy for a season, he was Reed's backup and he caught 39 passes for 507 yards despite a three-ring circus (RGIII, Colt McCoy, Kirk Cousins) at quarterback. And it's not really fair to call him injury prone. He suffered a broken ankle in a pileup during the 2015 preseason and last year he suffered a shoulder injury trying to make a leaping grab in London. 

In the grand scheme of the NFL's $167 million salary cap, the $1.875 savings that would come from moving on from Paul barely qualifies as a drop in the bucket. While I think that the Redskins need to keep Sprinkle, they should carve out a fourth tight end roster spot for Paul. They did it in 2013 when the drafted Reed when Paul, Logan Paulsen, and Fred Davis were already on the roster. Perhaps they could go with one fewer at the running back spot or at wide receiver. One way or another, if Paul is healthy they should be creative and find a way to keep him around. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler