Earlier this offseason, the Redskins.com staff reviewed the 2011 production of the tight end unit. With training camp kicking off in just a few days, it's time to preview the current state of the Redskins' tight ends.
With last year's emergence of Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, and the Patriots' Gronkowski-Hernandez duo, the playmaker tight end has become the NFL's must-have commodity.
The Redskins are fortunate to have two of their own in Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, but may have found a future starter in converted receiver Niles Paul. Training camp should feature great competition at the tight end position, as the team tries to find the right combination of blockers and receivers.
ROSTER SUBTRACTION(S): Rob Myers (waived).
OFFSEASON ADDITION(S): Beau Reliford (undrafted free agent)
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
At this point in their respective careers, a changing of the guard has likely already happened with Cooley and Davis.
For his career, Cooley started 101 of the 108 contests he appeared in, not missing a healthy start since his rookie season. However, Davis started five games alongside Cooley last year and another seven in his place after Cooley was lost to injury.
If both players stay healthy, two tight end sets could be the base offense in 2012.
Despite Davis's suspension to end the season, the Redskins brought him back with the franchise tag this offseason. If he can replicate his 2011 production over a 16-game schedule, he'll be a bargain.
After the season last year, Cooley described his injuries as potentially career-threatening, had he tried to return. After losing significant weight this offseason, Cooley hopes to keep his knee healthy and find the speed he had earlier in his career.
In Paul, the Redskins hope to find the next Shannon Sharpe, a converted wide receiver during head coach Mike Shanahan's time in Denver. Paul has good hands and 4.5-speed, but will need to show that he can block defensive ends at the line of scrimmage.
The Redskins retained blocking tight ends Logan Paulsen and Richard Quinn this offseason, and will likely need one on the roster for special teams and goal line packages.
Former Florida State Seminole Beau Reliford signed with the Redskins after the draft, and brings serious size (6-5, 256 pounds) to an undersized unit. He's considered to be raw, but intriguing.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ideally, the Redskins will have three viable receiving threats, with Paul making the transition behind Cooley and Davis.
Regardless of Cooley's status, Davis is expected to retain his top status this year, and can provide a crucial outlet for Robert Griffin III.
Davis's presence in the lineup will draw attention on defense, which should create more opportunities for Cooley to get open. If Paulsen, Quinn and Reliford do well in training camp, there may be an opportunity for a fourth tight end on the roster as well.