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John Bates: a film review - 9 plays against Utah State

Boise State v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Washington Football Team drafted TE John Bates in the fourth round this weekend, and they got a guy who can be an immediate contributor on the field. He is a high-effort tight end who plays through to the whistle. Bates is a wiling and competent blocker who can get the job done in both the run game and passing game.

Despite low statistical production, he is a capable pass receiver who seems to have sure hands and who fights for every yard. As a receiver, he actually reminded me of our own Logan Thomas.

I wrote a brief article yesterday outlining why I liked the selection of Bates for the Washington roster. Today, I thought I’d show you some plays from the 2020 season opener for Boise State against Utah State.

Unfortunately, Boise State’s uniforms are the same color as the field they are playing on, making it hard to see the action at times, and this is the TV broadcast, not the all-22, but I think the film is clear enough for our purposes.

With just 32 games in his career due to a COVID-shortened junior year, Bates is still a young and developing player who will get stronger and better in an NFL program as a full time professional player, but he is NFL ready, and should step in easily to the TE2 role behind Logan Thomas, and will likely develop the necessary skills to have a successful career in the NFL.

Bates is number 85 and has a white towel on his left hip.

Play 1

This is a routine play; Bates lines up on the left side; running play to the right. Bates’ block is effective, though the play goes nowhere. Bates plays to the whistle and takes his man to the ground.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 2

Another running play; Bates is lined up behind the line on the right. He will go right down the middle between the center and right guard as a lead blocker and lay a nice hit on the linebacker. Unfortunately, the RG (#55) gets beaten and the defensive lineman makes the tackle, but Bates did his job.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 3

This is a 1st & 10 play on the second offensive series. Bates motions from a wide split to the right side of the line and set back slightly. He helps the RT with a chip block that knocks the defender out of the play, then turns and makes himself available as a receiver. The QB scrambles, so Bates goes looking for work, and makes a block near the first down marker that isn’t highly effective, but probably adds a yard to the result of the play.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 4

On 2nd & 3, Bates is lined up as an in-line TE on the left side of the line. This is a simple pass blocking assignment, and he stonewalls his man. His blocking is easier to see in the second GIF, with the camera behind the end zone.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 5

This was Bates’ first reception of the game (he ended up with 5 catches for 44 yards). He’s lined up wide to the left; he will run a quick out pattern then get YAC and a first down.

On the play that followed this one, Boise State used a 2TE set, and Bates was running wide open about 15 yards downfield but the QB took the safer throw to the backup TE (#3). I didn’t include the play, but it indicates that Bates could have been more productive as a receiver if he had been targeted more in the Boise State offense.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 6

On this running play, Bates has to block down a bit on the defensive lineman. Initially, it looks like a good block as the DL is knocked backwards, and Bates moves immediately to the second-level, but the man he initially blocked recovers his balance and makes the tackle for a very short gain. This counts as a bad play for Bates.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021


I love this play by Bates; he reminds me a bit of Logan Thomas here. He starts out split wide to the left, then motions across the formation and sets up as an in-line tight end on the right. He makes a chip block on the defensive lineman, then fakes a block on the linebacker who is flowing to his defensive left. Bates finds the open spot, makes himself available to the QB who throws the ball to him. Bates fights his way through three tacklers, getting 3 yards after contact and stretches the ball for the goal line, coming up about a foot short. This is the kind of huge effort play that made me a fan of Logan Thomas a season ago, and I suspect that most people who look at Bates’ statistical numbers instead of watching his game film don’t realize that this is what he’s capable of.

This is another 2TE set, with #3 lined up on the left side. He comes across the field behind the line of scrimmage and fights through traffic to get open. I think the play was designed to go to him, but the QB hit Bates in the middle of the field for an almost-touchdown.

Bates’ effort is particularly apparent on the end zone replay in the second GIF.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

Play 8

On this short yardage touchdown run, Bates is the in-line tight end on the left in a jumbo package that gets jumbo-er when the guy lined up in the backfield as a lead blocker motions up to the line. Bates fires off the ball and drives the defender halfway through the end zone, blocking to the whistle. The running back scores easily.

Play 9

On this play, Bates is in-line on the right side of the offense. He absolutely buries the defensive player, mercilessly blocking him to the ground.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 3, 2021

I had initially planned to show 12 plays, but my nephew wanted me to play catch with a baseball and kick a soccer ball around, and my girlfriend wanted to go for a walk together. Four hours later, I don’t have the energy to spend another hour teeing up three more plays.

I think there’s enough here. These nine plays are all from the first quarter of a recent 2020 game. We see run blocking, pass blocking and receiving on display. Bates’s blocking is still more effort than technique, but technique can be taught; effort can’t. I imagine that Pete Hoener will have a good time helping the young man enhance his natural ability with better technique.

John Bates is actually a better receiver than I had thought from looking at his highlight film. He appears to have sure hands, puts the ball away quickly and securely, is unphased by getting hit, and fights for every yard. I’ve mentioned it twice above, but I’ll say for the third time that his receiving puts me in mind of Logan Thomas.

Ron Rivera said this week that the team begins its draft preparation by assessing character in an effort to weed out the players that the coaching staff doesn’t believe fit the culture they are trying to build.

From that smaller pool, the second criterion is on-field play. This means that the Washington front office may not be considering players that draft analysts rate higher for athleticism or production, but the synergy that comes from a roster of high energy and high character players is a very real ingredient in playing winning football. Bates appears, when I watch him on film, to be exactly the kind of guy that I want on the roster of my favorite football team.

I’m perfectly thrilled with the John Bates selection, and this short film review reinforces my initial impression. The WFT enhanced the roster with his selection, and we will see a lot of good football from the young man in 2021.