The Redskins' 2016 six-man tight end group is deep and experienced, as Jordan Reed is joined by Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Vernon Davis, Marcel Jensen and Derek Carrier to form the talented group.
At just 25 years old, Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed's best days appear to be ahead of him.
That's a scary thought for opposing defenses that have to deal with the quick-rising superstar.
"I don't think he's hit his ceiling," Redskins tight end coach Wes Phillips said. "For my money, he's maybe the most exciting player in this league. He does something every day of practice that makes the whole team just say, 'Wow.' And these are NFL guys, these are elite athletes, and for him to be able to do that, it really brings a spark to the team. Not only do we get a big play from him but it really gets guys juiced up and ready to go."
Reed, of course, had a breakout season in 2015, as he led the Redskins in all major receiving categories, totaling 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on 87 receptions.
This offseason, the Redskins rewarded Reed with a multi-year contract extension. Now he's expected to be a centerpiece of Washington's lethal passing attack for years to come.
"He was obviously playing great throughout the season -- especially late in the year -- and he's really just picked up from there," Phillips said. "He's doing a great job on his routes. He's working very hard in the run game to improve some of the areas we've focused on, so I'm really pleased with him."
Reed's admitted on multiple occasions this offseason that his run blocking needs to improve, although Phillips believes he's a "better run blocker than people give him credit for."
"There's not a whole lot of guys that are setting franchise records that are doing what he does in the run game," Phillips said. "There's certain clips where guys [are] on the edge and we just missed. Some bad looking clips that stick out in people's minds and we've got to eliminate those with the right footwork [and] the right technique, but he's very aware of that and he's working very hard to improve."
Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen are excited to return
While Reed had one of the best seasons by a tight end in recent memory during the 2015 campaign, Paul and Paulsen – both of whom were expected to contribute significantly as well – missed the season with year-long injuries suffered in August.
Now back on the field, both want to be involved in the offense as much as they can.
"We're fortunate to have two great guys like that who were trying to be around and still stay involved and still making sure they were mentally kind of staying into the game, so that really helped them not losing too much going in with all the rehab they've done," Phillips said. "Having those guys back is huge for us. There's an attitude they bring to the team, there's a leadership they bring to the team, so we're really happy about that."
While both veterans are capable of being solid passing game threats, particularly Paul, their biggest contributions may come in the running game.
"I think if you said what is our base concept of run plays, it would be the wide-zone scheme, and in the wide-zone scheme if you're running to the strong side, the tight end is at the point of attack," Phillips said. "So whether it's a man block on a Sam linebacker at the ball or it's a combination block with the tackle, we've got to be very effective at edge."
Vernon Davis has been 'great'
One of the Redskins' biggest additions of the offseason was the signing of Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler.
The Washington Redskins announced on Thursday, March 31, 2016, the signing of free agent tight end Vernon Davis. Here's a gallery of photos from his career.
Davis – who is coming off a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos – has recorded at least 790 receiving yards in four different seasons and twice caught 13 touchdowns while with the San Francisco 49ers.
Although the University of Maryland product is on the backside of his career, he provides the Redskins an experienced target.
"Vernon is a really good person in the room and, of course, we know how athletic he is still at, I believe, 32 years old," Phillips said. "He's really a genetic anomaly. He can really run [and] he's very powerful in the run game. He's transitioned really well in the room with the group of tight ends we have, we're really pleased."
Marcel Jensen has shown improvement
At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Jensen is the biggest tight end on Washington's roster.
But the 26-year-old may also be the most raw player among the group, as he's bounced between practice squads during his two NFL seasons.
After appearing in the Redskins' 2015 regular season finale, Jensen has progressed well in Phillips' eyes.
"You know, for a big guy he's got very good hands, he's got a great catch radius for the quarterbacks, we like that," Phillips said. "And then in the run game, he's a -pound man. If we can get him to understand how to use that mass that he has, and the length that he has, then he's going to be a really effective run blocker."
Derek Carrier is working hard to get back on the field**
A late preseason addition for the Redskins following Paul and Paulsen going down with season-ending injuries, Carrier started all 12 of his appearances last season, collecting 17 receptions for 141 yards and his first career touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons.
But in a late season game at the Chicago Bears, Carrier himself suffered a season-ending injury, tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Carrier is still rehabbing his knee, but with his work ethic Phillips expects him to make an on-field return, perhaps as early as training camp.
"Derek's one of the hardest workers on our team," Phillips said. "He's a gym rat. He's in [the gym] all the time, every day. He's really progressing well, he probably could have participated [in minicamp]. I don't know all the medical details but I know that they're really pleased with where he's at and we expect him to be full speed once training camp starts."