We are six days away from training camp, and there are plenty of new faces gracing the Washington Football Team's roster. So Washingtonfootball.com is breaking down each position as the team prepares for Year 2 of Ron Rivera’s regime. Here are the positions we've covered so far:
Next up are the tight ends. Logan Thomas was the main story of the position last year after Rivera and Pete Hoener invested in his development. Hoener believes Thomas proved he was one of the Top 7 complete tight ends in the league, and his numbers showed it. He had 72 catches for 670 yards and six touchdowns, which more than doubled the entirety of his production in the previous three seasons.
There was a steep dropoff outside of Thomas in 2020; the remaining tight ends on the roster mustered 18 yards on three catches. So, Washington has collected seven tight ends -- five of which weren't on the roster last year -- to build a more complete position. The group ranges from more experienced players like Ricky Seals-Jones to rookies like John Bates and Sammis Reyes.
Thomas will be a mainstay again, but this year, Washington's priority is to find him more complementary weapons.
- Jeremy Sprinkle
- Marcus Baugh
-- More than just a blocking tight end: Many expected Bates to be just another piece among Washington's tight ends when the team drafted him in the fourth round. But that was before they saw what he could do in the passing game. His college stats don't show it -- 47 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns -- but Boise State tight end coach Kent Riddle praised his ability to make contested catches. Reporters didn't see that during OTAs and minicamp, but they were treated to seeing him move efficiently downfield during individual drills. He isn't flashy, Riddle said, but he's reliable. That's all Washington cares about.
"He just makes plays," said former teammate Riley Smith. "And a big part of it is that mental game that he plays. He knows what the defense is doing before he even runs his route. And so he goes out and he just finds a way to get open."
-- Hoener's blueprint for a well-rounded group: Having a No. 1 tight end like Thomas is a good place to start, but there's more to a position than the first option. The rest of the position needs to bring value, which is what Hoener wants to find. He wants his No. 2 to be the "next-best" in terms of being a complete tight end and be solid as a run-blocker and a pass-catcher. The other options serve as role players; some play in the backfield, others are better blockers. But the point is that they need to serve a specific role, and luckily there are plenty of options to choose from.
"We need someone to come through in that manner," Hoener said. "We'll find somebody."
-- Thomas' next steps: Hoener has already said there aren't many tight ends who have Thomas' tools. Given that Hoener has coached some of the better players at the position in recent memory, that's some high praise. Now that he's made the statement that he can be included among the best at his position, the next step is to separate himself even further. The extra time in the offseason has already been helpful. Hoener has seen him improve in every aspect from blocking to having a better understanding of the passing game. With training camp only a few days away, Rivera and Hoener expect that to continue.
"He is doing great," Rivera said. "He's developing, he's growing into the role even more so. It's fun to watch him, he's got the good skillset and he is a guy that contributes a lot for us."
What To Watch
-- How many players will make the cut?: Washington kept three tight ends last year, so it's fair to assume that might be the same case in 2021. However, it's worth noting that there is a mix of talent and raw potential in this year's group. Yelder and Seals-Jones both had flashes of success with the Chiefs; the same could be said for Swoopes, who only has two catches but was with the Seahawks for three seasons. Reyes, who is getting on field experience for the first time, has tools the coaches are interested in developing, should he make the roster. Temarrick Hemingway has appeared in 28 games over the course of his career
Washington wants more from its tight ends; it's why so many are on the roster for training camp. It's possible the team keeps four on the roster, although there is more talent at other positions on offense as well. Either way, the options outside of Thomas will be fighting for limited spots.