The regular season 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.
Life comes at you fast in the NFL. It's one of the many lessons Ricky Seals-Jones had to learn quickly during his rookie season.
Seals-Jones, the Washington Football Team's starting tight end while Logan Thomas is on Injured Reserve, was a solid complementary piece to Texas A&M's receiving corps in college with 10 touchdowns and more than 1,400 yards. He had every reason to believe that would be the case when the Arizona Cardinals gave him a call as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but the coaching staff had other plans for the former Aggie.
That was all well and good, but they could have at least told him before he stepped into the receiver room on his first day.
"I walked in the room, and the receiver coach was like, 'You good, rook?'" Seals-Jones said on "The Player's Club." "I was like, 'Yeah, what do you mean?' He said, 'Nah, you're in the other room.'"
It was certainly a shock for Seals-Jones, who had played receiver all his life. Instead of being in the same room as Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Greg Golden, he was learning how to be a tight end.
To say the transition was jarring would be an understatement. He had never even been in a three-point stance, and now he was going from matching up against defensive backs to playing in the box against linebackers and defensive ends. On top of that, he was playing in Bruce Arians' system, which hinged on running the ball, no matter how many players were in the box. It was a "do-or-die" mentality on run plays, he said, as he learned how to run block at the professional level.
There were times when Arians would tell the tight ends they were messing up the flow of practice. Seals-Jones knew that much; he barely understood most of the concepts.
"I was really out there trying to learn on the fly," Seals-Jones said.
Seals-Jones was essentially a fish out of water until he the Cardinals started minicamp, when he was introduced to Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas. They were his "O.G.'s" after that, because they were able to teach him the fundamentals of the position.
"You go from space to playing in the box," Seals-Jones said. "So you're footwork and your technique is more critical in that box than it is out in space."
Seals-Jones is still learning new things about the position in Year 5. He's still adjusting to playing closer to the box and nailing down the finer points of pass blocking. He's also going against players who outweigh him by 40 pounds, so his approach is to let them make their first move and harass them until the ball is thrown.
"A lot of guys want to fake-throw hands or bully [players]," Seals-Jones said. "And with me, I just treat it like I'm gonna be a gnat … I'm just gonna be on you to the point where you're like, 'Hey bro, get off me.'"
It's safe to say Seals-Jones has a better grasp on how to succeed as a tight end, based on how he has played for Washington this season. His spectacular grab against the New York Giants gave his team a one-point lead, and against the New Orleans Saints he caught five passes on eight targets for 41 yards.
The Washington Football Team returned to FedExField for a Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints and was defeated in a 33-22 loss. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
As unusual as Seals-Jones' experience was, it isn't the most unique on Washington's roster. Thomas made the switch from quarterback early in his career, and Sammis Reyes, a former basketball player, had never played the sport until this past summer. With a few years under him, Seals-Jones has been able to provide Reyes with the same kind of mentorship that Gresham and Niklas gave him.
"Granted, I've played football my whole life," Seals-Jones said. "But I've had a position change as well. So what [he's] going through is what I've been through … He can talk to us about it, because we've essentially been in his same shoes."
Seals-Jones hadn't even considered moving to tight end prior to being kicked out of the Cardinals' receiver room. Now, he's a key piece of Washington's offense. Clearly, the work put in to carve out a role in the NFL has paid off.