BY PETER HAILEY
When the Redskins released their first depth chart of the 2015 season, a few eyebrows were raised when Niles Paul's name was listed ahead of Jordan Reed's at the tight end position, and questions soon followed.
How could Paul be ahead of Reed, when Reed is known for being such a mismatch in the passing game? Was the decision perhaps made because of Reed's injury woes?
But in his Monday press conference, head coach Jay Gruden let the media know that, while it's still the first depth chart of the year, the listing wasn't made for any other reason other than one simple fact: Paul has earned his spot ahead of Reed at this point in time.
"I think Niles Paul is probably a little more of a complete [tight end]," Gruden said. "When you're talking about blocking, also, and you're talking about your base offense, where you go one fullback, one running back, and one tight end, where the running game and pass blocking is very important for that -- Niles has emerged as the starter."
Washington's second-year coach has especially been impressed with Paul's dedication to getting stronger and becoming more of a well rounded offensive option.
"He's one of our strongest players," Gruden said. "He's self made. He works very hard in the weight room, very explosive. He's a very complete player right now. Hats off to him for putting the work in."
With that being said, Paul being named the starter doesn't mean that Reed still won't see the field a lot this year; Gruden plans to make use of #86's ability to space out wide and wreak havoc on smaller defensive backs or slower linebackers quite often.
"Jordan will play a lot in our three receiver sets, one tight end sets," he said. "He's probably the starter in that particular group."
Overall, the Redskins have two versatile threats at the position, each who have their own calling card: Reed, when healthy, is a tremendous receiver, while Paul is a solid blocker and good athlete. Gruden said that because his offense changes personnel so often, both will get a lot of playing time, and together, they'll look to solidify a unit that will be very important -- as protectors and as pass catchers -- for Robert Griffin III moving forward.