Washington tight end Cole Turner has more off-season buzz after some off-season practices. As a rookie last year, Turner also made waves after OTA's and minicamps, which spotlighted him heading into training camp. His 6'6" frame, in addition to his impressive catch radius, excited coaches, media, and fans with the in-game mismatches that he could create.
Unfortunately for everyone, and more importantly, Turner, he endured several significant injuries that caused him to miss all of the preseason and seven regular season games. First, he suffered a hamstring injury in training camp that kept him on the sideline until October 9th, when Washington played the Tennessee Titans. In a presser on the first day of minicamp, Turner said that he tore his hamstring. Not soon after, he sustained a concussion against the Green Bay Packers that caused him to miss the next three games against Indianapolis, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, respectively.
With ten games played, nine targets, and two receptions on the season, it would be easy to look past Turner and what he could provide to the offense. It was even easier to do so before tight end Armani Rogers was lost for the season. But Turner has plenty of upside, especially as a receiving threat. If he continues to impress Bieniemy in his practice performances, there is a good possibility that he can quickly become the fan favorite again.
Here are some reps from Turner's rookie season that exemplified how he can be utilized as a weapon.
Tight / Nasty Alignment
- You see Cole Turner's ability to separate from tight alignments in these reps. In the first clip, Turner recognized the coverage and leverage of the defender responsible for him. With a good feel for the linebacker next to him, Turner quickly broke inside once he cleared him with depth. Like the first play, Turner attacked the defender's outside hip after recognizing it was man coverage. This allowed him the necessary separation inside to win if he was Carson Wentz's primary read on this play. Lastly, Turner shows good change of direction and coverage processing, exploiting the honey-hole of the cover two zone.
Wide / Boundary alignments
- You will see from the first two clips that Turner is also comfortable as an isolated boundary receiver. He has effective pressure steps and hand usage that help him defeat leverage or DB contact. In the first clip, Turner settled in the honey hole again, a zone void of the cover-six defense. Turner also showed his ability to win against Press in the second clip on a critical fourth down for the Commanders. Turner got a clean release off the line of scrimmage because of his foot quickness on his move to win at the line of scrimmage and immediately create an opportunity for Wentz. In the last clip, you see what Turner could provide in Bieniemy’s offense if he continues excelling in training camp and preseason.
- Turner also showed a good ability to separate as an in-line tight end. While first-level routes aren’t as exciting as making plays on the second and third levels, Turner showed natural instincts and good processing, finding zone voids in the middle of the defense on shallow crossers and quick curl routes. Lastly, Turner also showed a massive catch radius and good physical toughness at the catch point on one of the few catchable targets he had last season.
As we continue getting ready for the 2023 season, in addition to his versatility as a tight end, what is noticeable with Turner is how seriously he has taken the off-season. In preparation for the season, Turner shed body fat this off-season and has also stood out to his coaches for his ability to pick up Bieniemy’s offense.
“He’s been here almost the entire offseason on a voluntary basis doing the things that he needs to do and develop,” Rivera said on Turner during yesterday’s presser. “One thing is, you’ve seen this, he’s got a really good grasp of the offense so far. He’s still learning it, but he’s learning it quickly and doing the things that we need to have him do to be able to help us go forward.”
Cole Turner said he went from 14 percent body fat to 9 percent body fat this offseason. He has looked good this spring.— John Keim (@john_keim) June 6, 2023
During yesterday's presser, Rivera also highlighted the importance of Bieniemy utilizing Turner and other tight ends at multiple tight end positions.
“For the tight ends, there’s the Y, there’s the U or the F, depending on how you wanna look at it. There’s like about four or five different tight end positions. That and having him be able to play one and go to the other and play it as well, I think that’s the thing that we’re looking at.” - Rivera on when he can tell that a player is ready to go to another level, tight ends specifically.
In the clips above, we saw Turner effectively working as the Commanders Y, U, and F. Turner also occasionally saw reps as the H under former offensive coordinator Scott Turner. As some of us mentioned last year, his versatility can give him a great opportunity within this offense.