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The Washington Commanders' offseason workout program is over, which means that all the coaches and players scattered to the wind for the next five weeks until training camp begins in late July.
It's hard to glean much from this point in the year, when the most we have to go on are noncontact practices with players only wearing jerseys and helmets, but we did learn some things about what Washington could look like in 2023. We now know that Sam Howell has a good shot of being the starter for Week 1; the tight end group could be one of the most productive on the team; and the secondary looks to be brimming with talent.
There are still some questions that simply cannot be answered until the regular season begins. That isn't going to stop us from speculating on them.
For the next five weeks, Commanders.com will be examining one burning question about each position group on Washington's roster. Here are the position groups we've covered so far:
Next up are the tight ends.
Can the Commanders get more production from their depth at tight end?
Ron Rivera’s staff and scouting department do not get enough credit for what they have done to address the tight end position since 2020.
Prior to Rivera taking over as the head coach, Washington's tight ends were a non-factor in just about every way. Granted, not much about the 2019 version of the team was great, but the trio of Jeremy Sprinkle, Vernon Davis and Hale Hentges only managed a combined 467 yards on 44 receptions.
Three seasons later, one could argue that the tight end group is one of the most solid on the roster. The gamble they made on Logan Thomas, who had never been a No. 1 option in his career, paid off even with his injuries; John Bates has proven himself as one of the better blockers in the league at his position; Cole Turner has promise as a threat in the passing game; and Curtis Hodges is a project that could have plenty of upside with the right development.
We know what Thomas can be when he is healthy (by the way, it looks like he will be based on what we saw during OTAs), but it's time for the players behind him to turn their potential into production. They will be asked to do more this season, and there will be several opportunities for them to do so.
"Obviously in this offense, it's always been a tight end friendly offense," said offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "Those guys, they show up, they're making plays and the quarterbacks have been doing a great job of locating them in the passing game. So far, so good."
Thomas was the biggest standout among the tight ends this offseason, but Turner was a close second. Washington drafted him last year because of his skills as a receiver, particularly near the red zone, where almost all of his touchdowns in his college career came from.
Washington didn't get to see much of that outside of training camp, thanks to Turner tweaking his hamstring, but he looked strong and fast during OTA and minicamp practices. He worked with both Howell and Jacoby Brissett in drills, and he used his 6-foot-6 frame to make several impressive grabs.
"I feel like I'm at a better spot now than I was before," Turner said.
Turner still has work to do. He needs to keep improving his skills as a blocker, which was something he dedicated a decent portion of his time to last year. But Bieniemy's offense should allow him to highlight the best parts of his game.
"He's one of those guys that's kind of built for an offense like this," Thomas said.
Hodges is another player who has something to prove in his second season. He came into training camp last year as an undrafted free agent and impressed his coaches with his abilities as a pass-catcher. Much like Turner, however, the Commanders never got to see what Hodges could be in the regular season since he missed the entire season on Injured Reserve.
Hodges has the physical tools to be an impact player. He's listed at 6-foot-8, tying Cornelius Lucas as the tallest player on the roster. He also had a decent final season with Arizona State in 2021, catching 20 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns.
Hodges is also eager to get his development back on track.
"I'm feeling good," Hodges said. "I feel healthy. I'm feeling confident. Just trying to work on things I missed out on last year."
That leaves Bates, who isn't much of a factor in the passing game but can be a solid option when necessary. He has a career catch rate of 73.3% with 357 yards on 34 receptions, 15 of which resulted in a first down.
Most of Bates' value comes from what he can do at the line of scrimmage in the run game. However, he was a target for quarterbacks during red zone drills this offseason, so he may get more opportunities in that area of the field as well.
Even though Thomas hasn't been able to stay on the field as often as he would like over the last two seasons, he still accounts for almost two-thirds of the production from Washington's tight ends since 2020. He's the team's No. 1 tight end, so that is to be expected. Still, it would be nice to see more from the depth at the position, and assuming the group stays healthy, they could add more layers to what is potentially an exciting offense.