Training Camp Preview - Tight Ends
Washington Football Team position group previews w/ Bryan Manning:
One year ago, the Washington Football Team was paying more to tight ends than any team in the league. Washington’s top two tight ends, Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, combined to count $15.8 million against the salary cap.
What did Washington get out of Reed and Davis?
A combined four games played that ended with 10 receptions for 123 yards and one pretty exciting touchdown reception by Davis in the season opener against Philadelphia.
That’s it. 10 receptions for almost $16 million.
Third-year veteran Jeremy Sprinkle moved into the starting role and led Washington tight ends with 26 receptions for 241 yards and a touchdown.
In the offseason, one of the primary goals of the new coaching staff was to upgrade the tight end position. That began with the release of Reed and the retirement of Davis. Reed was fantastic when healthy, but he was rarely healthy. Davis had an outstanding career, however, it was clear he was ready to move on and the team needed to spend more wisely at the position.
New head coach Ron Rivera went hard for former Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper in free agency. Hooper eventually chose Cleveland over Washington. So, how aggressive was Washington?
The Washington Football Team instead turned to veteran Logan Thomas at tight end. The former Virginia Tech quarterback moved to tight end in 2016 and spent time with Buffalo and Detroit over the last few years. It was last season in Detroit where Thomas emerged as a starting-caliber player.
Hot Read: The Loss of Logan
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Thomas signed a two-year deal with Washington and immediately became the team’s top tight end. He started 16 games for Detroit in 2019; however, he had just 16 receptions.
Unfortunately for Washington and Thomas, bad news arrived on Wednesday when Thomas was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s uncertain if Thomas tested positive for COVID-19 or if it was someone in his family, but he might have to quarantine for at least 10 days and then has to be cleared by the team doctor to return.
While being sidelined early in camp was a tough break for Thomas and the team, the hope remains he will be ready in around two weeks.
Thomas wasn’t the only veteran Washington signed this offseason. The team signed Richard Rodgers, who spent the last two seasons in Philadelphia. Sadly for Rodgers, injuries were the theme of his existence in Philadelphia, as he played in a total of seven games in two years.
He spent the first four seasons of his career with Green Bay and showed promise. In 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes and eight touchdowns.
Primarily a receiver, it will be tough to expect Rodgers to recapture that type of success as it appears to be more of an outlier than the norm.
Washington returned Sprinkle at tight end in 2020. He is nothing more than a serviceable backup and the coaching staff is undoubtedly aware of his limitations. Sprinkle is an average blocker who often has trouble hanging onto the football.
Also returning is Hale Hentges. An undrafted free agent out of Alabama, Hentges signed with Washington last October after being released by the Colts. He quickly moved into the lineup.
A solid blocker, Hentges received more playing time under interim coach Bill Callahan who favored a more run-oriented approach. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder proved he could catch the ball when given an opportunity, as he finished with eight receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Hentges, much like Sprinkle, is best utilized as a second tight end. He can play a significant role on this team in 2020.
Marcus Baugh was another offseason addition for Washington. At 25, Baugh is young and spent time in Carolina with Rivera and this coaching staff. He was also a college teammate of quarterback Dwayne Haskins and receiver Terry McLaurin at Ohio State.
Caleb Wilson, a second-year tight end out of UCLA, is also on the roster. He signed off the Arizona practice squad last December and possessed potential as a receiving tight end.
Finally, the player that has fans most excited is undrafted free agent tight end Thaddeus Moss. The son of Randy Moss was the starting tight end for the national champion LSU Tigers in 2019.
If you are expecting Moss to be Randy Moss 2.0 you’ll be highly disappointed. At 6-foot-3, 249 pounds, Moss is as physical as anyone at tight end. He is a powerful blocker who can help improve the running game because he isn’t afraid to mix it up with defensive linemen. He is also a capable receiver, too.
The lack of a preseason could hurt Moss. However, the lack of depth at his position should play in his favor. He will become a favorite of the coaching staff and his teammates because he isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.
Much like at wide receiver, expect Rivera and his staff to keep an eye open for available veterans over the next few weeks.
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Bryan Manning writes about the Washington Football Team for 'Washington Football' and contributes to "All Hokies" on SI.com. He has covered the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football and college basketball for almost 10 years for various outlets such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today SMG, and others. For his day job, Bryan works in engineering for a major communications company.