-When Jordan Reed was on the field last year he showed himself to be the best rookie tight end in the league, and the potential to be considered a top 10 pass catching tight end. Despite the Redskins offensive woes last season, Reed consistently made big plays, and was becoming a real threat that defenses had to account for. Unfortunately injuries limited his success and cut his season short. While normally that wouldn’t be much of a big deal, but Reed has a history of injury issues dating back to college. Reed missed time at Florida for a multitude of injuries, and though much of the missed time was during the offseason program, it establishes a troubling pattern. That pattern continued for the Redskins as Reed missed a lot of time during OTA’s and mini-camps last season, and his injuries continued during the season. Even before he was shut down for the season, Reed saw injuries slow him down in a couple games. Though the Redskins obviously hope this isn’t a real pattern, there has to be at least some concern that they can never really count on him for 16 weeks.
If the Redskins could count on him all season their prognosis would definitely be much better for this position. Even though the injury question marks are there, it doesn’t mean this is a position of concern. Having Reed for 12 or 13 games still can bring a lot of value to this offense, as he has shown to be a weapon who can make defenses pay for not respecting him. Reed is a great combination of speed, quickness and catching ability. He also represents the Redskins biggest target and should be a factor inside the Red Zone. If Reed can further develop and stay relatively healthy, the Redskins could be set at tight end for some time.
-The depth behind Reed isn’t great, but it’s also not horrible. Logan Paulsen has shown him self to be a capable number 2 TE, as he did a nice job filling Fred Davis’s shoes back in 2012. Unfortunately Paulsen has also shown himself to be pretty inconsistent as he struggled last to replicate his success. Even his blocking (which is supposed to be his calling card) would disappear at times, making him a tough guy to count on. As a number two blocking TE though he can be adequate for this season. Niles Paul doesn’t offer much value on offense, though he shows good effort and solid results when blocking. Where he does add considerable value is his play as a special teamer. He was one of the few Redskins special teamers who actually made some plays last year, and now with a new coach and teammates around him he should even be more effective. Ted Bosler was a 7th round pick of the Redskins this year. He’s got impressive size and could be groomed to eventually replace Paulsen as the number 2 TE, but he’s got a ways to go. He’s not a strong blocker and his receiving ability is probably below where you want it right now. Mike Caussin has been in the league a couple years now, but has unfortunately dealt with some injuries. If he’s healthy he could add further depth to this unit. Bosler and Caussin though could both find it tough to make this squad as the Redskins might not be inclined to keep four tight ends. Bosler could be stashed on the practice squad and be given a chance to develop.
-Obviously the key to the tight end outlook is Jordan Reed and more specifically how healthy he is. While getting more consistency from Logan Paulsen and better play from Niles Paul will be nice, they aren’t going to move the needle too much overall. Reed though is a guy who can make quite and impact and how he goes, could have major ramifications on the entire offense. As much as the hype is on the receiver trio of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Andre Roberts, Reed is arguably the most important to the success of the passing game. The Redskins aren’t likely to be in 3 wide receiver sets for as much as people might think (the Bengals were among the league’s lowest in 3 wide sets last season), Reed on the other hand should be on the field quite a bit and as a tight end he’s more involved in the run game as well. If he proves to be a nightmare for linebackers to try to cover than teams will be forced to either sacrifice safety help over the top (opening things up for Jackson) or play more nickel (opening things up for Morris). Another factor with Reed is he’s going to work the middle of the field more and will generally run shorter and intermediate routes. With the questions surrounding the offensive line, he’s the guy who can be the safety valve for RGIII when he gets into trouble. If Reed can develop into that upper tier tight end that he’s shown he has the potential of becoming, the offense could really be running on all cylinders and be one of the better units in the league.