2018 Redskins Position Previews: Tight End

With 2018 training camp only days away, we begin the annual Redskins Position Previews. We will look at every position on the team, the players vying for jobs, and try to figure out who will still be wearing a burgundy and gold uniform when the regular season begins — and what their role will be.

Projected starters are in bold.

We begin continue today with Tight End.

ON THE ROSTER: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Matt Flanagan, Manasseh Garner, Garrett Hudson

NEW: None

DEPARTED: Niles Paul

ANALYSIS: “The Redskins offense would be so great if only…”

“Jordan Reed is one of the best tight ends in football if he can…”

So, if you’ve been a Redskins fan the last five years, you’ve probably begun multiple sentences like that. When healthy, Jordan Reed is a rare receiving threat at tight end who can beat virtually any coverage and has the hands and speed you love to have at the position. He’s an ideal move tight end. Except for one thing — he can’t stay healthy. Reed has never played a full 16-game season and to the surprise of absolutely nobody he will come into the 2018 training camp injured and probabl not ready to play.

The Skins don’t want to give up on Reed — at least, not yet — because he’s so talented and the offense is so much better with him than without him. The Skins need Reed to be the player he was in 2015, when he played in 14 games — the most in his career- and caught 87 passes for 952  yards (10.9) and 11 TD. Last season Reed played in only six game and scored only two TD. The entire offense suffered for it.

This is a huge year for Reed and he must feel enormous pressure to stay healthy and play well because while he is under contract for 2019, the bonus money will have been paid to him by the end of this season and Washington would actually save over $6 million if they cut Reed before the start of the 2019 season. In other words, if Reed stays healthy and produces in 2018, the Skins will bring him back. If he does not, the Skins will cut him and Reed will lose $25 million that are scheduled to be paid to him over the remainder of the contract.

Veteran Vernon Davis had a second solid year in Washington, catching 43 passes for 648 yards (15.1) and 3 TD. Davis is a decent blocker and a pretty good receiver who runs excellent routes, but at this point in his career, he’s much better as the #2 tight end than as the starter. When the Skins put two tight ends on the field and those tight ends are named Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the offense is a lot more unpredictable, dangerous, and productive. The healthier Jordan Reed is, the better Davis will be.

Jeremy Sprinkle was a fifth round draft pick rookie last year and saw very limited action from scrimmage, catching only two passes, though one went for a touchdown. Sprinkle played in 11 games and he needs to improve as a receiving threat to get more playing time this year. He’s a pretty good blocker, but has room to improve in that category, as well.

The rest of the tight ends on the roster probably have no chance ot make the team, barring injury, but Garrett Hudson looked like a catching machine during OTAs and he might have a chance at a practice squad role.

STRONGER OR WEAKER?: Whether or not the Skins are stronger or weaker at tighte end compared to last year depends entirely on the health of Jordan Reed. Can he give the team at least 14 games this season? If so, the Skins are much better. If Reed gives the team half a season or less the team is almost certainly worse, as Father Time will continue to erode the skills of even a veteran as savvy as Vernon Davis.

LAST WORDS: It’s not complicated — if Reed is healthy, the position is among the strongest in the NFL and the offense should be elite. If Reed is not healthy this is a below average position group and the offense will suffer for it.

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