Here are some numbers from Washington's tight ends last season: the group had 75 receptions on 116 targets for 688 yards and six touchdowns. Nearly all of that production came from Logan Thomas.
Washington is all in on making its offense more explosive, which means those numbers from the tight ends ain't gonna fly in 2021. As good as Thomas was -- he was tied for the second-most targets on the team -- he's going to need some help.
Clearly head coach Ron Rivera and the front office agree, as five of Washington's seven tight ends were not on the roster last season. It's a mix and match of youth and experience, and to former Washington tight end Logan Paulsen, it's the makings of a more well-rounded group.
"I think it's really interesting," Paulsen told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson. "I think they've got two guys in particular that I think could be really nice...complementary players."
The two players Paulsen is referring to would be Ricky Seals-Jones and Deon Yelder. Seals-Jones, who has 773 yards and eight touchdowns in his career, only appeared in two games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, but Paulsen is a fan of the former wide receiver because of his athleticism and liked the way he moved during OTAs and minicamp.
"If I'm a coach," Paulsen said, "That's a guy that I think, 'Man, maybe we can get [Seals-Jones and Thomas] on the field at the same time."
Yelder, while not as experienced as Seals-Jones, is a three-year pro who has "followed a nice progression" in Paulsen's eyes. Although he only has a limited sample size -- only 10 receptions in the past two seasons -- he's caught two-thirds of his targets and flashed some talent in 2019 against the Detroit Lions when he caught a pair of passes for 43 yards.
"Both guys are very talented...at different stages of their career," Paulsen said. "If one of those guys can [have] the lightbulb come on and they can figure it out, I think that gives you a nice-rounded group."
If Washington keeps four tight ends on the roster as it did last season, that should leave room for players like John Bates and Sammis Reyes to carve out smaller roles while they begin their development. In Bates, Paulsen sees a player who fills an immediate need for a unit that could use a consistent blocker. And considering Bates is already so polished in that area, the coaches likely won't need to spend much time getting him up to speed.
"He was super polished as a blocker," Paulsen said. "His footwork, his hands are things that a lot of college players don't have."
Reyes will have more work to do as someone who has hardly any experience playing the game. Paulsen worked with Reyes to prepare him for the NFL, so he knows the Chilean's potential better than most. The tremendous athleticism and physical build is all there, Paulsen said, but there is still a lot for him to learn, even if he contributes in certain packages. So, the biggest thing for Reyes will be to start small and adjust to playing special teams.
"When you're that third or fourth guy...you have to be a contributor on special teams," Paulsen said. "I think he could do really well covering kicks, punts, holding up on a punt, all those things that if he can get really comfortable with that, I think there's a really good chance he makes the roster."
Regardless of who steps up, Thomas cannot be the only tight end who makes a meaningful contribution to the offense. He needs one or even two running mates who can take the pressure off of him and be another option as blocker or pass-catcher. Fortunately, there's plenty of candidates to choose from.