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Commanders 2022 rookie spotlight: Chris Paul, OL, Tulsa

Hogs Haven spotlights the Commanders 2022 undrafted free agents and late round draft picks between now and training camp.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Washington currently has 14 UDFAs and a pair of 7th round drafted rookies on the roster, but that list of players is subject to a lot of change. In previous years, we’ve put together profiles of players only to see them cut by the team a day before the profile was set to publish (or a day after it did publish). In fact, in just the 4 weeks or so since the 2022 draft, we have already seen a lot of churn in this part of the roster among both UDFAs and veteran free agents.

These articles about the bottom-of-the-roster players are not intended to suggest that any given player is bound for glory; rather, the articles are intended to celebrate the ongoing fight of each player to extend his NFL dream.

For those of you who appreciate the fight of the underdog, I hope you enjoy today’s article and the others that will follow in this “2022 UDFA Spotlight” series.


Chris Paul, OL, Tulsa

Pro Football Network did a wonderful article on Chris Paul about 2 weeks before the draft. I’ve edited out a few parts of the interview, but it was so informative and well-written that I found it hard to trim down very much.

[Chris Paul] started playing [football] in middle school and quickly took a liking. But early on, Paul wasn’t sure how far he’d go in the sport. He needed to learn a lot and had plenty of room to grow.

“When I got into high school, I still wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted to be,” Paul said. “It took a lot of me just really putting my head down, day in and day out, showing up with a positive attitude, to really see where I could take myself.”

It wasn’t easy, and that confidence was hard to maintain. But when Paul’s junior year hit, it all clicked. “That’s when it set in for me. ‘Okay, hold on, I’m good at this. I’m talented. This can take me places.’”

Staying patient and preparing for the moment

Paul was forced to redshirt his first year when he arrived at Tulsa. His experience in high school, where he had to work for his opportunities, helped him adjust to the college scene. He didn’t let the redshirt year dishearten him. Instead, he used it to his advantage.

“I took it as more of a developmental year, learning from the guys ahead of me,” Paul said. “I didn’t know when my number would be called. I’m a person who’s extremely hyper-critical of myself, so I don’t really point fingers or do the blame game. If you’re not where you want to be, you need to work harder.”

That’s what Paul did. Through 2017 and spring camp in 2018, he kept working. And soon enough, he got his shot — but at a new position.

“Four days before the first game of the season, my position coach called me to the office and said, ‘Hey, Chris, I know you’ve never played guard, but you’re gonna be our right guard.’ There was no surprise associated with that because I’d worked hard. And I started to see that the way I approach things helped it come to fruition.”

An emphasis on being versatile

Paul took his transition to guard in stride. Not only that, but he never relinquished a starting role from that point forward. In 2018, he started eight games at right guard. In 2019, he started 12 at left guard. But through 2020 and 2021, Paul was the Golden Hurricane’s starting right tackle.

Paul’s physical talent helped him adjust to a multitude of roles, but the Tulsa OT says his IQ and knowledge of the offense were even more essential in ensuring his ability to move across the line.

“You have to know your offense,” Paul emphasized. “Guys get dinged up, and you might need to rotate certain ways. So it’s very important to know what’s going on across the board. Right after my first season playing in 2018, I felt like I knew what everyone was doing across the line. So having that football IQ definitely helps with that versatility as well. So if your number is called, it’s seamless.”

It’s also important to know the minutia of how technique differs at guard and tackle and between the left and right sides. That knowledge is another quality that gives Paul a leg up.

“At tackle, in pass protection, the punches are not right at the same time. I usually punch with my outside hand, get that leverage, then connect my inside hand. You have to be more patient. And in the run game, you need to strike, sink, and drive. Whereas with guard, the lineman is right there in front of me. I like guard from that standpoint. I have longer arms, so in pass protection, it’s usually an instant punch, and I can punch with both hands at the same time.”

Earning an invite to the 2022 Senior Bowl

Midway through the season, Paul’s coach called him to the coach’s office. Paul, a team leader who frequently communicated with his coach, viewed it as a routine stop. But when he walked in and saw the box with the Reese’s Senior Bowl logo, he realized another milestone was on the way.

“It wasn’t something that was too far out of reach,” Paul clarified. “But it was definitely nice to see that and really embrace that moment.”

Paul was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he embraced his opportunity in front of NFL scouts. Arriving at the event as a relative unknown, Paul left as one of the top performers on the offensive line. And he left a strong impression on evaluators against an equally strong group of defensive linemen.

“That group of guys was definitely stacked. It was great to utilize my technique and fundamentals against those guys. On Day 3, I was excited that I had the opportunity to move to the interior and take reps at guard. That felt really comfortable.”


Related article:

Here’s hoping drafting Chris Paul is a slam dunk for the Commanders


A rewarding journey, in more ways than one

Paul’s growth as a football player has been exponential. But it’s clear speaking to him that his growth as a man is what he holds above all. Paul accredits his strong foundation to his Nigerian heritage and says it guided him through his days in college.

“Being Nigerian, getting that holistic picture of what your college experience looks like was really important to me and really important to my parents and family. It wasn’t just about football. They wanted to make sure I went to school and was able to pursue something that I was interested in.”

At Tulsa, Paul was in the Computer Information Systems undergraduate program. He was also in the cybersecurity space. But his impact stretched beyond even schooling. In June 2020, he was appointed as the American Athletic Conference’s national representative, representing the entire conference for the NCAA — over 7,000 student-athletes. It was a tremendous responsibility, and one Paul was nothing but grateful for.

“It challenged my leadership development. [Before I was appointed], I was a great ambassador for my university, my team. But this made it that much bigger. Now, when I speak, I’m not just representing myself. I represent the over 7,000 student-athletes in our conference. I have to make sure I’m not just saying what I feel. I have to take into account how others feel, how my peers feel. When I’m voting on legislation, it’s not my vote. I have to collect feedback from our student-athletes.

“It definitely challenged my leadership development, and it’s provided me with opportunities that go beyond measure.”


Related article:

Washington’s offensive line has been very good for the past two years; expect it again in 2022


Focusing on football and making the future count

Paul will undoubtedly impact the community when his football career is over. He’s been a student leader at every junction. In his spare time, he writes and produces alternative R&B music. But right now, football is the only thing on Paul’s mind.

He showcased his talents at the Senior Bowl and tested exceptionally well at the NFL Combine. At 6’4″, 323 pounds, with 33 5/8″ arms, Paul logged a 4.89 40-yard dash, a 27″ vertical, and a 109″ broad jump.

Paul’s Combine performance was not only a testament to his natural athleticism but also his preparation. He put in a great deal of training in preparation for the Combine, knowing how important it was to make the event count.

“[In training], you’re drilling technique. Specific drills over and over again for two months. Drills that you can only do once and you’ll never do again. It’s crazy how much technique can change your times.”

At the Combine, Paul wasn’t alone. He had his teammate Tyler Smith there as well. Paul says Smith’s presence helped him in Indianapolis. Just as they did on and off the football field at Tulsa, the two fed off of one another through drills.

“Tyler’s my guy,” Paul said. “I cannot wait to see what his journey looks like because he’s so talented. Out of this world.”

“I set a lot of goals that look like short-term goals and lead to long-term goals. I always say that there is no ceiling. There’s no point you can reach where you’ve made it. There’s always something to improve, and that’s what I love most about this game. It is constant progression.”

As you can see, Paul is an interesting guy and a hard worker. As a 7th round draft pick, he faces long odds of being an immediate contributor on the field, but Ron Rivera is an unabashed believer in offensive line depth, and has said repeatedly in his tenure as head coach of the Redskins, Football Team and Commanders that he always targets at least 10 offensive linemen, with a preference for veterans, but a proven willingness to have a rookie or two in the mix.

Based on the make up of the 53-man roster we’ve seen from Rivera over his first two seasons in DC, I think there’s a realistic chance that Chris Paul could make the team as part of the regular roster.

Here’s a look at how a 10-man depth chart that includes Chris Paul might make sense:

  1. Leno
  2. Norwell
  3. Roullier
  4. Turner
  5. Cosmi
  6. Lucas
  7. Schweitzer
  8. Charles
  9. Larsen or Ismael
  10. Paul

Looked at this way, it appears as if Paul needs to beat out either Larsen or Ismael for a roster spot, and also outplay Nolan Laufenberg, Beau Benzschawel, Deion Calhoun, and Tyrese Robinson, all of whom will be fighting for a spot on the roster, and three of whom have NFL experience, but none of whom was drafted by Ron Rivera.

Of course, with Rivera’s preference for veteran players, there’s a very real possibility that the coaches try to keep Chris Paul on the Practice Squad and develop him there while a more experienced player fills that final spot on the regular roster.


Click here for to see other UDFA profiles on Hogs Haven


The film room - Frye’s Film breakdown

In this section, we’ll offer a look at the player’s style, skills and limitations in a short film review written by Joshua Frye, who has volunteered to do the heavy lifting in this series. The effort that goes into these film studies can be enormous, so I hope you’ll appreciate what Joshua is contributing to this series.

Joshua says that, as a Redskins fan, he grew up with a team that wasn’t winning on the field, and that this lack of success made him look for something other than Superbowls to keep him connected. He focused on the draft. So, even from a young age, Josh watched college football, doing his best to evaluate players, and he read extensively — books written by coaches and personnel evaluators. Joshua adds that he would love to become a professional scout someday.

J Frye: Here Chris Paul is lined up at RT. You’ll see a flaw that people have found in his game, which is his lack of foot quickness. He gets beat on the edge early and commits a big sin in crossing his legs to try and catch up. Luckily, the QB steps up and avoids the sack, and he’s able to use his length to guide the rusher over the top.


J Frye: The other issue I noticed with Chris was he can hug defenders which obviously can draw some holding calls.


J Frye: Here are 2 plays that I think demonstrate Paul’s strengths in pass pro. He doesn’t have the quickest feet, and, without that to lean on, he needs to be technical and efficient.

You’ll notice in the top video that Paul uses a kick step, and the defender changes his to an inside rush. Chris does an excellent job mirroring the defender and getting his hands quickly on him quickly and washing him inside, while keeping a wide base, which neutralizes all momentum on the rush.

In the second video, Chris gets an excellent first step for his kick step on this outside rush. He again maintains a nice wide base and is able to neutralize this rush with great hand fighting — winning his way to the DE’s jersey numbers, which eliminates the momentum of his pass rush.


J Frye: Chris Paul could use more of a mean streak to his run game bocking. He’s just not a people mover, at least not at this point of his football career. He seems to like to use his big base and wall out defenders.

In the top film clip, he’s pulling from right to left, and will have a nice shot at a defender, who took the free look upfield instead of getting his base to take on the block. The defensive tackle doesn’t make a play because Chris is able to get to him and wall him out.

In the bottom play, you’ll see that Tulsa has an extra linemen (78) and Chris is lined up just inside of him. This is another example of Chris just allowing defenders to play themselves out of position while he creates a wall for his RB. Unfortunately OSU has a good play call here and has 2 free rushers — one off the edge and one up the gut. Its not really something wrong in his game, so much as you’d just like to see a meaner side to his game.


Summary

J Frye: Overall, I like Chris Paul as a developmental player, though, despite the flexibility he showed at Tulsa, I see him more likely as a guard in the NFL than on the edge at tackle. I see him in a depth role for probably 2 years, maybe only one, depending on how fast and how much he develops. He has good technique and is able to pick to up stunts very well. He could work on getting more of a push in the run game, and sharpening his hand placement and foot quickness, which he has the athleticism to do. I think, Chris Paul, in the long run, will fit into the interior at one of the guard spots.

Poll

How excited are you that Chris Paul was drafted by the Commanders?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    5 - Very excited!
    (30 votes)
  • 58%
    4 - Looks good...for a 7th round pick
    (223 votes)
  • 29%
    3 - I’m okay; let’s wait and see
    (111 votes)
  • 3%
    2 - I’m doubtful about this guy’s prospects
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    1 - This guy doesn’t belong in an NFL training camp
    (1 vote)
378 votes total Vote Now