Niles Paul continues to prove that he's more than just a tight end to the Redskins, lining up all over the offense while also playing a vital role on the special teams unit.
Washington Redskins tight ends coach Wes Phillips joked in the offseason that seven-year veteran Niles Paul has "super healing powers like Wolverine." After all, it was only a few months removed from Paul suffering a season-ending torn labrum that wiped away the second half of his 2016 campaign, but he looked completely healthy.
Fast forward nearly three months after Phillips' comments and Paul has continued to be one of the top performers for the Redskins during training camp and the preseason.
With Jordan Reed missing all of training camp, Paul saw more action with the first-team offense during practices and took advantage of the opportunity, highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown reception during a two-minute drill last week.
But Paul's contributions go beyond serving the No. 3 tight end role. The former standout college wide receiver can line up wide. He was a special teams captain last season. And he's been lining up at fullback quite a bit, too, as Washington hasn't had a true fullback on the active roster since Darrel Young in 2015.
"He's another guy, he's like Ryan Grant in that we can ask him to do anything," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He'll play in-the-core Y, we'll put him at fullback, he lines up outside. His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions – a tight end, the move tight end.
"You've got to know all the blocking schemes, you've got to know all the pass patterns and you've got to know a lot of the protections. So he's handled everything effortlessly with great effort, and [has] been very productive. I'm anxious to see Niles play more."
So far during the preseason, Paul has flashed his all-around skillset. During the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens, the 29-year-old secured a block on charging defensive lineman towards quarterback Kirk Cousins on a play action pass.
Paul's block afforded Cousins extra time to hit running back Rob Kelley on a completion.
Then during last week's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Paul recorded both a fumble recovery on a muffed punt and a touchdown reception on a 16-yard completion from quarterback Colt McCoy.
On the fumble recovery, rookie cornerback Fabian Moreau's slide into Packers returner Trevor Davis – who failed to secure possession off Tress Way's punt – forcing the football free before Paul recovered it early in the first quarter.
Then in the third quarter, Paul displayed his athleticism, as the 6-foot-1, 242 pounder adjusted to a ball thrown to his back shoulder before diving to grab the ball in the end zone.
"I'm just out here playing ball with my brothers and that's all I can think about," Paul said. "Just how blessed I am to play football and do something that I love. Try not to get caught up in the hype of the game, but that's all I was thinking about."
While Paul may not be featured like fellow tight end Jordan Reed in Gruden's offense, he's happy to be back on the field making plays after two seasons cut short by injuries.
"I'm very excited," Paul said. "Obviously we have to make it through these next couple two preseason games and then we will focus on Philly."