Despite missing the final eight games of last season with a shoulder injury, Redskins tight end Niles Paul was one of the most active players for Washington during offseason workouts.
When the players are just in jerseys and shorts during offseason workouts, it sometimes makes it difficult to gauge where players are in their offseason growth.
That wasn't the case for Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul, who has fully recovered from a late October shoulder injury, this year though, as he looked every bit the do-it-all role the coaching staff has envisioned for him.
"I think he's got a super healing [power] like Wolverine or something," said tight ends coach Wes Phillips with a smile. "But no he does a lot roles for us. He can play all the different tight end positions that we ask him to play. He plays fullback role as well for us, he's done an excellent job there. Niles is just toughness, leadership, attitude and hard work. I mean, all the things that you would want from a guy and then some, he's got great athletic ability. He can still run."
Paul is the second longest tenured member of the Redskins' offense behind only 2010 first-round pick Trent Williams. Despite suffering back-to-back season-ending injuries the past two years, Paul benefits from his longevity, most notably his on-field connection with quarterback Trent Williams.
During Paul's best stretch of his career in terms of offensive production – Weeks 2-4 of the 2014 season when he caught 17 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown – it was Cousins who was under center.
"He understands me, he knows this offense, he remembers it back to when, shoot, I was a rookie and we were running a lot of these same plays," Cousins said of Paul. "I know his skill set as well and I thought he was very productive this spring. He probably did even more than I thought he would. With Jordan's [Reed] absence, it opened up a door for a Derek Carrier and Niles Paul and [Jeremy] Sprinkle to get a lot of reps and I thought Niles stepped up to the plate and did a really good job. That's encouraging because injuries are bound to happen. It's a part of the game, so when you know you have depth like that, that really is a great thing for a team."
Check out behind the scenes images from tight end Niles Paul's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
Paul is one of six tight ends the Redskins are currently carrying on the 90-man roster, joining Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Derek Carrier, Jeremy Sprinkle and Manasseh Garner.
For Paul and Carrier in particular, this offseason has been important as they compete to solidify their roster spots behind Reed and Davis.
So far, both veterans have impressed.
"You could have said that either one of those guys was the MVP of OTAs in my mind," Phillips said. "I've got a whole group of guys that are all about getting better in every phase of their game, not just the passes that you see caught out there, the run game, the hands, the footwork. These guys are locked in and we had a really productive spring as far as improving but also them being able to show what they can do."
If Paul can string together similar performances in training camp and then then the regular season, the Redskins will have a quite but key contributor back in the fold.
"He's the hardest working guy here and he's performed very well," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He does some tight end, he does some fullback, he can split outside, very versatile. He's also a key member of our special teams. He's done excellent."