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Camp Battles: Tight Ends

Redskins’ fans have had many worries in the past, but one of them has not been the tight end position. Chris Cooley has been the guy, period. Last season that changed, but fans discovered that the team had another card they were keeping close to the vest, Fred Davis. Of course that hope was crushed as Davis was suspended for the final four games and has since been busy playing out his own off the field soap opera. So now what? Training camp is less than two weeks away and the TE camp battle should feature some fierce competition, especially now that Niles Paul has been added to the mix. Let’s take a look at the entire TE picture heading into camp.

 

Beau Reliford: (6-6) Reliford was signed as an undrafted rookie in this year’s draft. He was a three-year starter for Florida State at TE who played in 42 career games and started 24. He was instrumental in the Seminole’s rushing attack in a three-year stretch helping them average 151.8 rushing yards per game. Reliford totaled 36 career catches for 376 yards (10.4 ypc) and three touchdowns. He is truly a blocking TE. Blocking is going to play a big role in who makes the team this year. He’s definitely a huge target and should provide some great competition at TE.

 

Richard Quinn: (6-4) The Denver Broncos traded two 3rd round picks to get Quinn (64th pick overall), a TE out of North Carolina who was known as a blocker well below the draft radar. He didn’t make much of an impact in two seasons (even as a blocking tight end), but was expected to have a decent role under John Fox before injuring his MCL. Quinn played in 15 games his rookie year but had no receptions. It was much the same in 2010 for Quinn until he caught his first NFL pass in a December game against the Oakland Raiders when he and Tim Tebow connected on a nine-yard reception. That would be his only reception in two seasons with Denver. The Denver Broncos and Quinn reached an injury settlement and parted ways (similar to the Malcolm Kelly situation). The Redskins signed Quinn to help fill the void left by losing Chris Cooley and Fred Davis in 2011. He’s still on the team, so the Redskins do have interest in him. Quinn has garnered a great deal of attention, but has yet to deliver. This may just be the year he lives up to the hype.

 

Niles Paul: (6-1) Paul had just 2 catches for 25 yards in his rookie season as a wide receiver. He was labeled as lacking concentration at Nebraska (his home state) because he had quite a few miscues. He did improve greatly in that area in his senior year. Paul went from a star of the state of Nebraska to catching two passes in the NFL. Many players might become disgruntled after going through such a change, but Paul worked hard on blocking and became a very noticeable blocking receiver. He was also a dominating force on Special Teams. Paul’s hard work has put him in a perfect position. There is a difference between blocking as a wide receiver and blocking as a TE, but I see Paul answering the call and flourishing in his new role. He will have a much easier time maintaining a TE’s weight as opposed to a WR’s weight. In my opinion Paul is the next star TE for the Redskins.

 

Logan Paulsen: (6-5) Paulsen was an undrafted rookie in 2010. He hasn’t played enough to really see how good or bad he is. Late in 2011 he did play more with Davis out and Cooley hurt but, he did have trouble with holding penalties at times. I think that can be attributed to having been the number 3 TE and being thrown into the number 1 spot and a lack of experience. I will point out that he has been a starting TE in the NFL and he has been able to stay on the team.

 

Fred Davis: (6-4) Davis was a 2nd round draft pick (48th overall) out of USC. Recruited by USC as a wide receiver, he showed solid speed and raw athletic ability but lacked the route-running skills and ball-catching ability of other receivers and was convinced to switch to TE. Davis had 59 catches and 796 yards in 2011, 12th in the NFL through 12 games. He has a history of being late or missing team meetings. Jim Zorn had issues with putting Davis on the field saying, “It really is a matter of [Davis] doing his assignments correctly. It’s a trust factor. It’s not a speed factor. It’s not an ability factor. But it makes no sense for me to put a guy out there who can run real fast, but is not going in the right direction. Or in some cases not even go out. It’s not that he forgot it’s just that it didn’t register.” The same stories came out while he was at USC. That makes me wonder just how long has Davis been getting high and are we sure he’s done with it? Combine all of this with his odd off the field situation with Makini R. Chaka and it becomes obvious that Davis has to prove that he can focus on football onlyDavis showed last year that he can catch passes and does well after the catch. Davis has a chance to turn everything around and be an elite TE in the NFL, but he is the only person who can turn it around.

 

Chris Cooley: (6-3) There is a knock on Cooley because of his injuries in 2011, but trust me; he is one of the best in the game. Just over a season ago in 2010, he had 77 catches and 849 yards. That was 2nd in the NFL to Jason Witten. Cooley is a star and as long as his leg is good he will show that level of play again. He’s had no issues with the injury through OTA’s this year. He is the top TE on the team, a complete player, blocking and receiving and he is and has always been a fan favorite and a great contributor to the community. Cooley has stated he would rather retire from the game than go to another team and I, for one, hope he thrives and ends his career as a Redskin.

Last season the Redskins kept 3 TE’s (Cooley, Davis, Paulsen) and one FB (Darrel Young). Cooley did play some FB last season and there has been a rumor that Alfred Morris could be retained as a FB. I could see the team keeping 4 TE’s this year and running a lot of 2 TE sets. If they do, I don’t see them keeping two fullbacks unless one of them can play TE. Of course there is always the effect being able to play special teams figures into the story. So who makes the team?

I can’t see Cooley, Davis or Paul not making the team. So, that leaves one spot for Quinn, Reliford or Paulsen. In that group I believe Reliford ‘s blocking abilities will help him rise up above Quinn and Paulsen and make the team. Either way, this year’s camp battle featuring TE’s will be something to see play out. What do you think?

Let me know @monkeyhouserock on twitter.

 

Rodge Stumbaugh

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