Sometimes a rifle is the best tool for the job. A shooter with skill and accuracy can aim the weapon and put the bullet right where he wants it to go.
Then again, there’s the shotgun approach; just aim the weapon in the general direction you want to fire and pull the trigger. The pellets spread out in a broad pattern, and you hope that one or more of them strike the target, giving you the result you hoped for or needed. As long as that happens, it doesn’t matter much that the rest of the pellets missed.
Drafting hybrid RB/WR Antonio Gibson seems to me to be a rifle shot. The Redskins knew exactly the skills they wanted for Scott Turner’s offense, exactly the guy who had that set of skills, and when he would be available in the draft, and they went and got him. Bullseye.
The organization seems to be taking the shotgun approach to the tight end position for 2020, bringing seven players to camp — at least five of whom have a legitimate shot at making the roster at a position that will likely see 3 or 4 players on the eventual regular season depth chart. None of the seven, however, is a clear-cut starting-quality tight end; each of them comes with concerns and question marks.
Four of them were drafted into the NFL, but only one of them by the Redskins. One, Logan Thomas, was a quarterback in college and for his first few seasons as a pro. Richard Rodgers, selected in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft, has the best pedigree, but, due to injury, had only one reception in 2018 and didn’t log a single offensive stat (beyond snap count) in 2019. Caleb Wilson was 2019’s “Mr. Irrelevant” — the last player selected in the draft. The other three players all entered the NFL as undrafted free agents in 2019 or 2020. It looks like the coaches are planning to throw them all on the field and hope that some cream rises.
Let’s see who these seven guys are.
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 245
- Age: 23
- College: Alabama
Hentges played for two NFL teams last season as a rookie. Having spent his college career primarily as a blocker at Alabama, he was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent, and made the initial 53-man roster as part of a 4-man TE corps headlined by Eric Ebron, with Jack Doyle at #2. As a VCU alumnus, I have a special spot in my heart for the other member of that group — Moe Allie-Cox — who was a star forward on the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team before beginning his NFL career as a tight end.
In Week 5 of the ‘19 season, the Colts needed to promote a defensive back to the regular roster, and, to make room for him, waived Hentges, who hadn’t played in the first four games, with plans to (re)sign the tight end to the Practice Squad. The Redskins, who were without the services of Jordan Reed, the starting TE who had been concussed in the third preseason game against the Falcons, swooped in and claimed Hentges, signing him to Washington’s 53-man roster behind Vernon Davis and Jeremy Sprinkle. Davis, of course, saw his season (and career) come to an end when he suffered a concussion in mid-November, leading to expanded opportunity for Hentges.
After catching just two passes for 13 yards through Week 15 of his rookie season (despite averaging around 19 snaps per game), Hentges was given a chance to become part of the passing offense in the final two weeks of 2019. He responded by pulling in 6 passes on 9 targets for 90 yards and a touchdown. Projected across a 16-game season, that would be the equivalent of 720 yards and 8 TDs.
Hentges seems to be a competent blocker, and his PFF grades indicate improvement from the beginning of his rookie year to the end. His pass blocking grades were all below 70.0 prior to Week 12, and all above 70.0 after Week 12. His receiving grades for the final two weeks were 82.3 and 74.4, indicating that, as both a blocker and pass catcher, Hentges may have what it takes to play in the NFL.
The sample size is still quite small for the former Crimson Tide TE, who has played just 230 offensive snaps in the NFL, but the late-season showing was promising, and he seems to be in the right place (the Redskins) to have the opportunity to prove that he’s capable of even more in 2020.
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 255
- Age: 25
- College: Arkansas
As the #3 TE on the depth chart behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, I always felt that Sprinkle was probably the right guy — he seemed good enough to come off the bench in case of an injury and not lose the game for you.
However, last year, when he had to step up and play a significant role in the offense, I thought it showed why he was a good #3 receiver, by which I mean that he didn’t seem to have the mental toughness to deliver consistently when needed; he didn’t look like anyone’s top-of-the-depth-chart tight end.
Concussions suffered by Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis gave the third-year tight end what every NFL player asks for — a chance to prove himself on the field. While he wasn’t awful, he made too many critical errors to say that he succeeded. Sprinkle dropped a touchdown pass that hit him in the hands. Sprinkle failed to pull in at least one key third-down pass that hit him in the hands. Sprinkle’s performance in 2019 when the spotlight was on him seemed to confirm his spot as a backup and special teams guy who has value to the team, but limited value.
Sprinkle played on offense in every game in 2019, getting a total of 601 offensive snaps (around 37 per game). From Weeks 11 to 17, he had between 42 and 49 offensive snaps per game. He was on the field a lot. He finished with 26 receptions on 40 targets, and was charged with only two drops, but they were big drops. His overall production was unimpressive — 241 yards and a touchdown.
To me, it felt like Sprinkle got his audition in 2019, and didn’t do enough to get a call-back, but with a new coaching staff and a tight end group with a lot of questions, Sprinkle may get another chance to prove himself in 2020. My feeling is that he won’t do enough to become the star of the show, but might prove that he has just enough to be a backup singer or earn a place in the chorus.
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 249
- Age: 22
- College: LSU
Thaddeus Moss has a lot going for him; he played for the National Champion LSU Tigers, and his dad is the famous Randy Moss, the former wide receiver who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was widely expected to be a late-round draft pick in 2020, but, after a Jones fracture was discovered in his foot during the combine, he ended up undrafted. He signed with the Washington Redskins, where he joins his best friend, Saahdiq Charles, the former LSU left tackle who was drafted by Washington in the 4th round.
There are reasons to be excited about Moss and his potential impact with the Redskins. Our own Mark Tyler called Moss, “ the most complete tight end in this relatively weak  tight end class”, citing his excellent blocking skills and ability to catch “almost everything thrown in his zip code.” Mark also praised Moss’ positional flexibility and discussed his value to the offense given Scott Turner’s philosophies.
[W]here I see his niche is as a true H-back in 20 or 21 personnel. He can operate out of the backfield as an off-set fullback who can be a lead blocker on iso, as a hip player who can seal the edge on a toss or be kept in for max protection, or be sent in motion to create mismatches for opposing defenses in the passing game. Because of his versatility in an H-back roll, if opposing defenses simply try to stack the box against the run, Turner should be able to create a lot of mismatches in the passing game.
The reasons listed above are why I was so high on Moss as a prospect, and why I was thrilled when we signed him as an undrafted free agent after the draft. I believe, as things currently stand, he’s the best tight end on our football team.
In the Hog’s Haven UDFA profile on Moss, Joshua Frye summarized his film analysis of Moss this way:
Just like most Skins fans I can see Thaddeus Moss making the team. He’s young, he’s a willing blocker, and has reliable hands, which is supported by his “no drops” and 85% catch rate this past season. But also he only had 55 targets, he’s not very eye popping in the passing game, and he wasn’t a threat vertically at all at LSU. Moss will need a year to round himself out and become more of a legitimate threat in the passing game. I think he’ll be our 3rd tight end.
The enthusiasm, muted as it might at times be, of the guys who study film has me excited. Moss seems to be similar to Hentges insofar as both are capable of blocking and catching passes, unlike the ‘joker’ tight ends that the Redskins have seemed to focus on in recent years. I get the feeling that Thad Moss may end up being one of the great value signings of the new era Redskins.
- Height: 6’6”
- Weight: 250
- Age: 29
- College: Virginia Tech
Rivera loosely compared Thomas to three-time Pro Bowler Greg Olsen, who played under Rivera in Carolina from 2011-19.
“You love to have a guy with Greg Olsen-type of ability, who is a primary ball-catcher, a guy that goes out and finds the hole, finds the crease, can separate when the ball is in the air at the right time, and that’s one of the things that Greg Olsen did very, very well for us,” Rivera said. “Logan Thomas is a guy that we see some glimpses of that type of athletic ability.”
The Andrew York analysis:
Logan Thomas was one of the top TE prospects in the nation coming out of high school, but was convinced to convert to QB at Virginia Tech, backing up another dual-threat QB in Tyrod Taylor in 2010. Thomas started the next 3 years at QB in college, putting up gaudy stats, but mostly against inferior teams.
Thomas had a dominant Combine, with testing very comparable to Rob Gronkowski, and was taken in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He was released by the Cardinals the very next year and bounced around from team to team until the Lions converted him back to TE in late 2016. He has since served as a backup TE primarily used as a blocker.
Watching Thomas play, he reminds me of a TE version of Terrelle Pryor. His athleticism is evident on the field, but he’s also very raw and lacks nuance in just about every aspect of the position.
As a pass catcher, his routes are raw and rounded, he doesn’t employ fakes or counters, and he doesn’t show much awareness of the soft spots of a coverage when choosing how to run his routes.
As a blocker, he stands up too quickly and loses leverage, is a tick slow in reacting as a pass blocker, and doesn’t do a good job getting his hands inside to maintain leverage. He compensates for all of this by being big, strong, and fast, but it only gets him so far. He can get separation as a pass catcher purely through his speed, but only when he’s matched up 1-on-1 against LBs. He’s long and strong enough to successfully block in the run and pass game despite often giving up leverage early, but he still does it at a slightly sub-par level.
Thomas and his intriguing athleticism could be a big lump of clay waiting to be molded. However, having already played 3 years as a TE in the NFL, I’m a bit skeptical that he will suddenly develop this year. Just as with Terrelle Pryor, I think there’s a reason some guys don’t seem to develop, regardless of what position they try. I’d love to be proven wrong. I see his greatest utility as a blocking TE who can occasionally add value in the passing game by faking a block and running uncovered for a short reception.
Thomas ended his college career as the top QB in several categories at Virginia Tech. In 4 years there, he put up over 9,000 yards and 50 TDs passing, and collected another 1,248 yards and 24 TDs with his feet.
The Redskins just signed Thomas to a 2-year deal worth over $6.1 million (with $2.2 million guaranteed), which is about triple the vet minimum for a player with his accrued experience, so the team must see something in him. To me, this feels an awful lot like last year’s deal with Ereck Flowers (without quite as much hand-wringing), where the team has at least some confidence that they can extract from the player a level of performance that makes outside observers look back a year later and ask, “What did they see that the rest of us missed?”
I’m incredibly pleased that they offered Thomas a multi-year deal (with a bit of an escape ramp) so that we don’t find ourselves having to make a potentially difficult decision about him next offseason. From my perspective, Thomas has virtually all of the tools to be - at least - a TE2 in the NFL with additional training and opportunity (which he is nearly assured of getting in DC). And, he simultaneously fills the team’s QB3 need without occupying an additional roster slot, providing more evidence of the depth of Ron Rivera’s commitment to player versatility.... Thomas’ acquisition already gives me comfort that we’ll be better at the position in 2020 than we were last year.
Logan Thomas’ contract is a strong indication that he is the closest thing to a lock that exists for the Redskins at the tight end position in 2020. He is still more potential than proven talent despite his 6-year tenure as an NFL player. He has a lot to prove.
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 257
- Age: 28
- College: University of California
You remember Richard Rodgers. He has one of the most famous pass receptions in NFL history. On December 3, 2015, in a Week 13 matchup against the Detroit Lions, Richard Rodgers caught a Hail Mary pass from Aaron Rodgers for 61 yards with 0:00 left to beat the Lions 27–23, after the game was extended due to a face mask penalty called on Detroit. The Hail Mary was quickly dubbed as “The Miracle in Motown.”
That play, which happened when Rodgers was a second-year player, has been the high point (pun intended) of the tight end’s career, which has otherwise been fairly pedestrian.
After finishing his rookie contract with just over 1,100 yards, and having missed just one game due to injury in his four years as a pro, Rodgers signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles worth around a million dollars. Bleeding Green Nation summed up his tenure in Philly this way:
With Trey Burton leaving to sign with the Chicago Bears, Rodgers was set to be the Eagles’ No. 3 tight end behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Rodgers was having a solid summer before suffering an injury that caused him to go on injured reserve. The Eagles eventually activated Rodgers off IR but he’d only go on to log one reception for seven yards. He mostly played special teams in addition to occasionally serving as a blocking tight end.
The Eagles re-signed Rodgers during the 2019 offseason. He won the home run derby at Carson Wentz’s charity softball game, which may go down as his most notable achievement in Philly. Rodgers suffered another injury during training camp and began the season on IR for the second year in a row before the Eagles cut him with an injury settlement. Rodgers re-signed with the Eagles on Christmas and appeared in the Eagles’ final two games as a special teams contributor.
Rodgers, the former 3rd round draft pick, arrives in Washington on a low risk contract with an $886K cap hit — the lowest possible for a 6-year veteran. The former Packer and Eagle is a study in contrasts, having gone from making a season highlight film catch in 2015 to only a single catch in 2018 and 19 combined. He reminds me of a gambler who’s had a long night at the blackjack table, with more bad luck than good, and down to his last chip. If the next few cards fall the right way, he could be back in the game; otherwise, this may be the last hand he plays.
Then again, if he doesn’t make the roster under Ron Rivera in DC, there may be a home for him with Mike McCarthy down in Dallas, where Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell top the TE depth chart.
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 245
- Age: 25
- College: Ohio State
For Baugh, signing with the Redskins means a lot of reunions — he is a former Ohio State player who used to line up across from Terry McLaurin and catch passes from Dwayne Haskins. In addition, he spent 2019 in Carolina playing pro football with the Panthers, so he knows the Redskins coaching staff pretty well.
Here’s the career summary from 247 Sports:
Baugh, 25, reunites with two former Buckeyes on offense in quarterback Dwayne Haskins (2016-18) and wide receiver Terry McLaurin (2014-18). While Haskins served as OSU’s backup quarterback, Baugh and McLaurin respectively started at tight end and wide receiver for the 2017 team that went 12-2 overall and 8-1 against Big Ten play, winning the conference along the way.
“My guy!” Haskins said Tuesday in a tweet. “#GoBucks.”
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder last appeared with the Carolina Panthers, who signed him April 30 before his release Feb. 22. He heads to the Redskins and reunites with new head coach Ron Rivera, who led the Panthers from 2011-19.
Baugh was placed on injured reserve at the end of the 2019 preseason Sept. 6 for an undisclosed ailment. He did not play a down in his year spent with the Panthers.
Prior to Carolina, Baugh spent last spring in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) with the San Diego Fleet. Through eight games, Baugh caught 13 passes on 27 targets for 208 yards (16.0 average) and two touchdowns.
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 240
- Age: 23
- College: UCLA
Here’s the Wikipedia version of Caleb Wilson’s college and pro career:
Wilson originally committed to play football at Old Dominion as a quarterback, but later joined USC as a walk-on tight end so he could play for his father, and took a redshirt year. After his redshirt year during which his father was fired, Wilson transferred to UCLA. Wilson played in all 12 games during his first year. In the season opener in his second year in 2017, Wilson had 15 receptions for 203 yards to help lead the Bruins to a school-record 34-point comeback in a 45–44 win over Texas A&M. His season ended prematurely after five starts when he injured his foot against Colorado.
As a junior in 2018, Wilson had a season-high 184 yards in the season finale against Stanford, and finished the year with UCLA single-season records for a tight end with 60 receptions and 965 receiving yards. He led all tight ends in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision in receptions per game (5.0), receiving yards per game (80.4) and receiving yards. Wilson was voted a second-team All-American by Sporting News, and was named first-team All-Pac-12, the only first-team selection for the Bruins, who finished the season with a 3–9 record. On December 6, 2018, Wilson announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Wilson was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round (254th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft, earning him the title Mr. Irrelevant as the final pick in the draft. He was waived on August 31, 2019. He was re-signed to their practice squad on September 1.
On December 13, 2019, Wilson was signed off the Cardinals’ practice squad to the active roster of the Washington Redskins.
Wilson finished his college career at UCLA as their single-season record holder for tight end receptions (60) and receiving yards (965). He was also named first team PAC 12 and second team All American in his junior year. He’s primarily a receiving TE, without a lot of value as a blocker, and there are questions about his level of effort. However, in a very crowded tight end room - and without any clarity on the depth the chart - Wilson will likely be given a fair shake to prove himself. If he can’t beat out Jeremy Sprinkle or Hale Hentges, he’ll probably be fortunate to end up on the practice squad.
How many tight ends will be on the Redskins after the cutdown to 53 players?
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Which of these players is LEAST LIKELY to survive the roster cut-down following the final preseason game?
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Which tight end will be listed as #1 on the team’s official depth chart for the opening game against the Eagles?
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