Replacing Fred Davis: How the Redskins Can Survive

NFL Washington Commanders

There is no doubt the loss of tight end Fred Davis hurts the Washington Redskins offense, but just exactly how difficult it is replacing Fred Davis is a bit more up for discussion. On one hand Davis leads the team in targets, catches and yards. On the other hand Davis had yet to find the end zone and Davis’s replacement on Sunday (Logan Paulsen) had a very strong game. Here is a look at how the back-up tight ends, the running backs and even the wide receivers can make up for the loss of Fred Davis.

Logan Paulsen:

-Paulsen stepped in for Fred Davis on Sunday and caught four of the five balls that he was targeted on for 76 yards including 26 yards after the catch. Paulsen isn’t as dynamic as Fred Davis, but showed himself to be just as capable in running the quick read option pass, that quarterback Robert Griffin III loves to utilize. The play has become a staple of the Redskins passing attack, and is based on the positioning and reaction of the linebacker covering the TE coming off the line. If he plays in too close reacting to the run fake, Griffin will throw the ball 8-10 yards to the TE. The key is for the tight end to be able to quickly get up the field and get a little separation. This will be an area to watch as to whether or not Paulsen can consistently do this. If so he can replace a large chunk of Fred Davis’s receiving portfolio so to speak. Paulsen likely won’t be much of a threat in yards after the catch, or at least as much as Davis was. Paulsen does offer better blocking than Davis so that should benefit running plays and wide receiver screens by having him on the field for a greater percentage of the time.

Chris Cooley:

He’s back, but how much he can contribute is a very real question. Cooley has probably lost a step to be considered for much of the deep routes that Davis would sometimes run. Though Griffin rarely threw to him on those routes, they did help clear things for something underneath or a scramble play. Like Paulsen it will be interesting to see how Cooley can run the quick read option route. The area that Cooley can help the Redskins the most is in the safety valve role. Cooley has always been a smart player, when it comes to getting open and finding weak spots in the coverage. He’s been really good in the past about working back to his quarterback when things begin to break down. That is something we haven’t seen much of from Fred Davis (both over the years and this season). Which is why when it is not a quick pass and Griffin gets in trouble he usually runs with it instead of risking an incomplete (or worse) pass. Cooley though could establish himself as that safety blanket, and a legit option to help avoid the need for Griffin to run as much.

Niles Paul:

Paul’s transition to tight end from wide receiver hasn’t been seamless, but he has shown some nice things as well. His blocking is already a plus, and the route that he ran on the Redskins first drive this past Sunday was textbook. While working in the slot versus cornerback (and college teammate) Prince Amukamara, Paul ran the inside slant and got leverage for what should have been an easy score. Unfortunately Robert Griffin III was a second late with the football, allowing Amukamara time to catch up. Paul has had some issues overall with drops, so it will be interesting to see what kinda opportunities he gets. Paul does have the skill set to create mis-matches in the secondary like Davis (even more so to a degree), but will have to prove he can be a consistent pass catcher.

Santana Moss:

Though Moss might be the smallest receiver on the team (Brandon Banks doesn’t count, since he has yet to prove he’s a receiver), but he could have a big impact filling in for Davis. The Redskins have opted to play Moss in the role of a slot receiver, which means he gets subbed out of a lot of packages. Now without Davis as much of a passing threat, throwing from two tight end sets as often can be more limiting. The Redskins should use this opportunity to get Moss more snaps, given that he has been their best receiver this season.

Darrel Young:

Similar to Moss, Darrel Young had seen only a limited number of snaps this year (though he saw a big jump after Davis went out). Young can be an effective weapon coming out of the backfield and should be utilized more now that Davis won’t be on the field. He can cause some problem for linebackers in 1-on-1 coverage, and needs to play a larger role.

Who do you see as the biggest beneficiary of Davis’s injury?

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