Saturday, April 21, 2012

Niles Paul moves to tight end

For some reason I was initially caught off guard when I heard that Niles Paul was moving to tight end. But after only a moment's thought I was actually surprised by how obvious it seemed in retrospect, and in fact was sort of bothered that I hadn't thought of it beforehand.

Here's what he did well last year:

- Run block.

- Force fair catches as a gunner on punt coverage.

Here's what he didn't do:

- Get open on pass routes, pretty much ever.

Now if you know me, you know I like the guys who do the (so-called) little things like block and contribute on special teams. But the reality of the modern NFL and all it's specialized packages means that your entire depth chart is going to be forced to play from scrimmage at some point, so no one can get away with doing just the little things. As such, given the additions to the wide receiver corps Niles was going to have a hard time keeping his roster spot. So if you think he's a guy who can help the team, the challenge is to find a role which plays to his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.

There remains the question of whether Niles has ever gotten into a three point stance in his life, and if he would be able to hold up as a blocker on the line. But in the modern NFL, including the Redskins offense, multi-TE sets often have a tight end flexed, lined up in the slot, or in backfield motion as an H-back. So there is a lot of flexibility in how to use him.

And as a tight end he would of course be more often matched up against safeties or linebackers on his pass routes, so just maybe he could contribute as a pass catcher too. But if his impact in the passing game still proves to be minimal, that's less of a problem if he's the second tight end on the field instead of a wide receiver.

Now this doesn't mean Niles is safe, necessarily. Fred Davis is still around, getting a one year trial to see if he is worthy of a long term contract. And Chris Cooley may not be ready for the glue factory just yet. But there are big questions about both of those guys, especially in a long term sense. So while Niles will in all likelihood be competing against others for the third spot, there's nothing wrong with looking at as many options as possible that could eventually replace Cooley or Davis if needed.

This move sure seems to give Niles Paul the best chance to a) make the team and b) contribute on the field, so I'm all for it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Your assigned Wildcard week reading

I love playoff football. So, so much. January is my holy month.

Here's what I'm reading, and you should to, to prep for this week's games:

Smart Football

Start with Chris Brown's brief but useful preview post, and I strongly encourage you to click the the links to the older posts that get into the meaty scheme stuff.

Football Outsiders

Like every year, they use their unique stats to tease out the playoff teams' true strengths and weaknesses. NFC Preview, AFC Preview.

Pro Football Focus

These guys, of course, study individual player performances as closely as anyone. They identify three key matchups for each game that ESPN (excluding NFL Matchup of course) would probably never notice while fixating on which teams' veteran leaders want it more. Texans-Bengals, Saints-Lions, Giants-Falcons, Broncos-Steelers.

The Players' Page

Old friend Matt Bowen over at NFP gives us his usual brief but focused and substantive work, first with a "Five Things to Watch" post covering all the games, then with a diagram-y bit about how the Lions will attack Gregg Williams' defense when he goes into Cover-2.

Happy football everyone.

Update: Apparently circumstances didn't permit Shutdown Corner's Doug Farrar to do his usual podcast with Matchup's Greg Cosell this week, but when they return for the second round it will be a mandatory listen. It was great during the regular season, so I'm eager to see what they can do with only a few games to focus on.