Training camp is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its second season under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
It's always a positive sign for a rookie whenever he gets praise from his veteran teammates, particularly if it's from one of the better tight ends in the league today.
Every day is a new experience for fourth-round pick John Bates. He's dealt with the ramped-up speed of the NFL, comprehending the playbook and, of course, being on the receiving end of some intense coaching sessions from Pete Hoener. All that has helped Bates grow over the past month, and it's caught Logan Thomas’ attention.
"He's so smart," Thomas said. "He doesn't have to worry about what's going on in the playbook. He doesn't have to worry about how to get lined up with [what] the defense is going to do on this play. He understands all that stuff for him."
Many of Bates' traits, like his physicality, have never been in question. He was primarily known as a blocking tight end for Boise State, which is part of the reason why Washington used one of their Day 3 picks on him. It's what has helped him slowly work his way in with the starting offense in practice. He even earned himself some time with the starters in the preseason.
In the first game against the Patriots, Ron Rivera thought Bates blocked well, outside of a couple plays where his hand placement could have been better. Last week against the Bengals, Bates showed improvement, and he's starting to understand his role on the team.
"I like how he works, because he knows that the more he develops, the better he gets, the more he'll get an opportunity to play more and more," Rivera said. "He's done a nice job for us, he really has."
Bates is willing to learn from veterans like Thomas, too, which has paid off on the field. While the team was in Richmond, Virginia, at the start of training camp, he watched Thomas make an adjustment against a certain coverage to make the read easier for the quarterback. When it was Bates' turn to run the route, the rookie "ran it just like it was drawn."
"And you're starting to see him play more and more consistently and practice, more and more consistently," Rivera said.
Bates has intangibles that the coaches are excited to work with this season. He didn't make many receptions for the Broncos in college, but he's been praised for his hands and ability to make contested catches. As a blocker, Bates received the second-best grades in the run and pass game. Those traits give Rivera confidence that he can fill a role on offense.
To Thomas, Bates just needs to show that he can do the basics of the position. He needs to play physically, have good hand placement, use solid footwork and clear holes for running backs. And from what Thomas has seen, Bates has no problem handling any of that.
"I've been excited to work with John and actually just learning from him as well."