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Redskins depth chart preview: Tight end

Redskins depth chart preview: Tight end

Over the past month, the Redskins’ depth chart has undergone a minor makeover as seven draft picks and more than a dozen college free agents have been welcomed into the fold. In the coming days, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will break down the revamped roster, position-by-position, and set up the key battles as OTAs ramp up.

Position: Tight end

On the roster: Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis, Logan Paulsen, Derek Carrier, Marcel Jensen, Michael Cooper

Likely to make the 53: Reed, Paul, Davis

Comment: Reed is now officially the lead dog of the group here, a status he earned both with his stats (led the team in all major receiving categories last year) and paycheck (his recently signed five-year, $48.4 million extension). His durability is always a concern; a concussion cost him two games last year and that particular issue needs to be monitored carefully. But as long as he’s healthy he creates matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.

Davis was a similar problem for defensive coordinators from starting a couple of years after Scot McCloughan drafted him through 2013. He was posted very pedestrian numbers in 2014 and 2015. Was that due to some physical decline by Davis or was it shaky quarterback situations in San Francisco and Denver? McCloughan firmly believes it was the latter and he is looking for Davis to keep defenses from ganging up on Reed.

Paul missed last year with a dislocated ankle that his doctor said was “the worst he’s ever seen.” His participation in OTAs is in doubt but he should be good to go for training camp. It’s easy to forget that Paul was ahead of Reed on the depth chart when he was injured. With Davis around, his pass-catching role may be diminished but he will play some tight end, some fullback, and contribute on special teams.

Battling for a job: Paulsen, Carrier, Jensen, Cooper

Comment: Will the Redskins carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster? They aren’t re-signing Darrel Young and that leaves a roster spot open. Paulsen, who missed last year with a toe injury, is the leading candidate to get that fourth roster spot. He can do a lot of the dirty work, blocking and playing special teams.

Carrier’s status depends on his health. He suffered a knee injury in Chicago in December. His status for training camp and even the start of the season is in doubt. He wasn’t very productive filling in for Paul and Paulsen last year but they didn’t trade for him until late August so he didn’t get much offseason time to work with the team. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll get much of that this year either.

The Redskins signed Jensen for the last two games of the season. He still has practice squad eligibility and that is his likely landing spot. Like most undrafted rookies Cooper faces an uphill battle.  

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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Right or wrong, Daniel Jones' performance turns up pressure on Redskins and Dwayne Haskins

Right or wrong, Daniel Jones' performance turns up pressure on Redskins and Dwayne Haskins

The Giants turned to their rookie quarterback Daniel Jones on Sunday, and he delivered a fantastic performance and got New York their first win of the year.

Whether it should or not, that turns up the pressure on Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. 

Jones turned in a tremendous game in his first ever NFL start, completing 22 of 36 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter. The New York tabloids will likely go nuts after Jones' effort, and while it's likely overkill, the former Duke Blue Devil looked completely in control of his game and the Giants offense. 

He was good, and right or wrong, that's going to lead a lot of people to look at the Redskins and their plan for Haskins. 

Let's be clear — current Washington starter Case Keenum has acquitted himself well through two games. He's gone for 600 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Redskins are 0-2,  but it hasn't been Kenum's fault. 

That said, Keenum hasn't been great either. He's missed some big opportunities down the field and held on to the ball a little too long  in a few spots that have finished in sacks. 

If Keenum wins Monday night against Chicago, the Redskins will stick with him Week 4 in New York. 

But should the Redskins lose, whether it's Keenum's fault or not, the pressure to go to Haskins will be immense. Washington would be wise to not cave to that pressure, but it's going to be intense. 

Remember, Jones went 6th overall to New York and Haskins went 15th overall to the Redskins. Many expected the Giants to take Haskins at 6, and he grew up in New Jersey rooting for Big Blue. That didn't happen, and Haskins got to come to the Redskins and stay in the D.C. area, where he played his high school football. 

The NFL hype machine can't be stopped. The Redskins know that. 

If Keenum doesn't win Monday night, and there could be a million reasons for a win or loss outside of his control, that hype machine will push hard for Haskins vs. Jones. 

The Redskins should ignore the hype, but sometimes, it just can't be stopped. 

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