Confidence Level: 8
Finally we get to talk about a position of (nearly) unambiguous strength as we continue to previewing each position as follow up to my hopeless 53-man roster prediction back in July.
Tight Ends (2 keepers)
Keepers: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis
Cuts: Logan Paulsen, Lee Vickers
Fred Davis was one of the few pleasant surprises of 2009. While filling in during the first injury Chris Cooley has ever had, Davis stepped right in and shows he has the ability to be a top flight NFL tight end. Davis’ athleticism was never in question, but it was gratifying to see the timing and chemistry he had with Campbell – he was clearly running the routes correctly and Jason trusted Davis would be where he needed to be. Now if he can continue to trust his speed in the open field rather than go all Tinkerbell on us like last year, he brings some serious playmaking ability to the table.
Cooley, meanwhile, should pick up right where he left off. He is not the fastest or biggest guy out there, but he knows his craft. He is a master route runner and knows how to find the openings in the defense. Perhaps my favorite aspect of Cooley’s game is his open-field running ability. As mentioned, he doesn’t blow you away with raw speed. But he understands angles and manages to avoid contact for as long as possible, and then he has exceptional balance that makes him nearly impossible to take down with a glancing blow – and he is very good at adjusting at the last second to make would-be tackles into glancing blows.
The one weakness here is that neither Cooley nor Davis is an effective blocker, and unfortunately blocking is still half of a tight end’s job. Cooley was personally responsible for many of the failed running plays last year as he failed to hold the edge even minimally, and he seems to lack the ability to get himself squared up in front of a pass rusher. Davis was a bit better – he was able to fan outside well enough to redirect some pass rushers out of the play, and was significantly more effective than Cooley in run blocking. Unfortunately, however, he is still a below average blocker and only looked good in comparison to Cooley, who I'm afraid is just awful at it. So this would be a major limitation of the presumed two TE formations – they would not create the credible threat of a power running play. Opponents probably wouldn’t have to defend them any differently than if the Redskins had extra WRs on the field.
Of course there will still be a need for blocking from the TE position, but it’s not yet certain where that would come from. There are two blocking TEs competing for roster spots: Logan Paulson and Lee Vicker. However, fullback Dennis Morris played TE in college and of course Sellers spent a lot of time during the Zorn years either lining up at TE or motioning there before the snap. The reason I am only picking the two pass-catchers to make the team is that I am hoping Sellers and/or Morris can be used in an H-back role and move to TE when the extra bulk is needed, thus freeing up a roster spot for other positions where depth is desperately needed.
Upcoming previews: Quarterbacks, Special teams
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