Over the next few weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2013 and evaluate the outlook for 2014.
Previously we looked at the inside linebackers, outside linebackers, the defensive line, cornerbacks, safeties, running backs, wide receivers, the interior offensive line and offensive tackles. Next up, tight ends. This afternoon, we’ll take a look at a key question facing the position and examine possible solutions, so be sure to return.
2013 starters: Fred Davis (2), Logan Paulsen (14), Jordan Reed (4), Niles Paul (2) Note: The Redskins started two tight ends in six games and three TE’s in one game.
Reserves: All tight ends started at least one game
Free agents: Davis
Rewind: The season started out with high expectations for Davis and question marks surrounding Reed. Davis disappointed, Reed did not.
Davis caught three passes in the first two games and then disappeared from the offense. He missed some time with an injured ankle but he also ended up in Mike Shanahan’s doghouse. He admitted to “dozing off” during meetings (while saying that other players did the same thing) and here also was talk that his practice habits were not up to snuff. For the variety of reasons he was inactive for six games, and was active but did not play in three others.
Everyone thought Reed had a chance to be pretty good but few thought he’d be as good as he was as soon as he was. He caught five passes in the season opener against the Eagles and kept rolling. Reed displayed both an ability to get open and for having what the coaches called a large catch radius. In other words, if you threw it in general vicinity of Reed, he’d haul it in. After eight games played he was on pace to catch about 90 passes for close to 1,000 yards before the concussion ended his season.
The fact that Reed finished second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards despite playing in only nine games was indicative of both Reed’s abilities and the overall weakness of the team’s offense.
Due to Davis’ problems and Reed’s injury, Paulsen ended up starting more games and playing more snaps than any other tight end. He was an effective blocker and caught a career-high 28 passes. Paul was mostly a special teams contributor.
Fast forward: As one might expect the spotlight at this position will be on Reed. You have to think that Jay Gruden is pumped to have a player with Reed’s talent at his disposal and that Reed is happy to be in Gruden’s offense. Jermaine Gresham made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances with Gruden in Cincinnati and it’s certainly possible that Reed could do the same.
Paulsen could end up playing less and catching more passes if the offense turns out to be more tight end friendly. Paul could play a greater role if Gruden wants to utilize his speed out of tight end alignments. Davis is unlikely to return.
Will the Redskins try to acquire another pass-catching tight end to pair with Reed? Gresham and Tyler Eifert were a very productive duo at the position that Gruden might want to establish here. Tarik El-Bashir and I will look at this question this afternoon.