Rookie tight end Sammis Reyes has a great story, making him an easy player to root for, but prior to the first preseason game, I didn’t think that Reyes, who had never played in a competitive football game before Thursday night against the Patriots, had any real chance of making the roster in 2020. I think his chances took a gigantic leap with his performance in his first-ever football game.
For one thing, Reyes didn’t just play a limited role on a few offensive snaps to ‘get his feet wet’; according to Pro Football Focus, he took the field on 40 snaps, lining up as both an in-line tight end and as a slot receiver, and he played on 7 special teams snaps, in the kick return squad, punt coverage team and extra point kick team.
Interestingly, in a media session the day after the game, when he presumably had had a chance to review some game film, Ron Rivera said that the rookie Reyes might be the Football Team’s most physical blocker, and he added, “We saw the results yesterday of what he can grow into.”
It was easy to see why Reyes drew praise for his blocking. In the clip below, Reyes (No. 80) is lined up as a stand-up tight end on the left side of the line, nearest the camera. At the snap, the big tight end immediately engages his man driving him from the left hash mark across the right hash mark and then into the turf of Gillette Stadium.
Sammis Reyes is a people mover. pic.twitter.com/tIGSZJ386W— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 13, 2021
While this took place in the 3rd quarter of a preseason game when the players on the field typically comprise the third-string, this sort of dominance in his first NFL outing against any competition is encouraging.
Pro Football Focus seemed to be as impressed as Coach Rivera. The ratings website gave Reyes an overall grade of 69.8, with no grade below 65, and a run blocking grade of 76.2.
If Reyes had simply shown himself to be a competent blocker in his first-ever football game, I would have been encouraged, but he also contributed in the passing game. While neither reception was a thing of beauty, Reyes caught two passes for 25 yards on three targets. One of his receptions went for 21 yards on a 1st & 10 play in Washington’s only touchdown drive of the game.
This is all pretty impressive for a guy stepping onto an NFL game field for the first time. Frankly, it’s a lot more than I expected from him. If Reyes can build on this foundation, then I think he could actually earn the opportunity to make the 53-man roster.
If he does, I think he’ll be partnered with last year’s breakout player and clear starter, Logan Thomas, and 4th round draft pick from Boise State, John Bates.
Rookie TE John Bates doing exactly what he did in college. Showing nice hands and body control to make good catches up the seam. Got bumped off his release quite a bit, but still a solid catch. pic.twitter.com/S9ohaG3CRW— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) August 13, 2021
Reyes stands 6’7” and weighs 240 pounds. His background is reminiscent of players like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, all of whom played Division I basketball before developing into high level NFL tight ends. One local player, Mo Allie-Cox from VCU, played 4 years of basketball for the Rams before entering the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, where he learned to play tight end and has been thriving since his entry into the league in 2017.
Like Allie-Cox, Reyes had never played college football before. Reyes grew up in Chile before he moved to the United States at the age of 14, when he starred as a basketball player at North Broward Prep in Florida. He was encouraged by the football coaches to play both sports, and went through a few practices as a tight end. He was primarily interested in basketball, however, and had concerns about getting injured on the football field and harming his basketball career. He never appeared in a game for the team.
“I wanted to go to the NBA; that was my dream my entire childhood, and of course it never happened,” Reyes told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “So when I was 23, my current agent, my family and my close friends, they were like, ... ‘You’ve got to give this football thing a shot. You’re fast, you’re strong, you’re powerful.’ So my friends, my best friends, and everybody around me convinced me to give it a shot.”
Reyes eventually went to Tulane, where he played Division I basketball. Now, similar to VCU forward turned Indianapolis Colts TE Mo Allie-Cox, he is actively trying to make the switch to the NFL.
Reyes attempted to enter the NFL through the International Pathway program, which provides foreign athletes with an opportunity to join an NFL team and compete at the professional level. Reyes spent 10 weeks training at the IMG Academy in Florida and then worked out in front of scouts at the University of Florida’s Pro Day at the end of March.
The Washington front office and coaches were so impressed with the young player that they decided to sign him even before the program had ended. While I have been impressed with the young man’s story from the start, I had never, before Thursday night, conceded that he had any real chance of making an NFL roster this season. What I saw in the first preseason game, however, changed my mind.
Reyes is progressing faster than I thought he could. Sure, he was against 3rd-tier competition, but those players have been playing football for their entire lives. Yes, he bobbled both his catches, but he caught them. On top of it all, he lined up at multiple offensive positions and three phases of special teams in the first competitive football game of his life.
We’ve heard all along that Reyes’ dedication and willingness to study would give him a chance. I always expected that chance to truly materialize in 2022. I’m starting to believe that it may come in three more weeks, when NFL rosters are formed.