Redskins Position Battle: TE will be hotly contested

Chris Lingebach
April 03, 2020 - 1:56 pm

One area where the Redskins have a backlog on the roster is at tight end, a position group that's situated to be hotly contested come training camp.

It's worth taking a closer look after Washington's sneaky additions of Richard Rodgers and Logan Thomas in free agency.

Former Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen recently reviewed film of their tight end group and shared his observations with 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.

"I think it's important to understand where the Redskins are," Logan Paulsen said. "Everyone's like 'oh, they're gonna draft some guy,' and in my opinion, this is a very weak tight end draft. There are some good players, but they've all kind of got flaws to their game, so I don't think you're gonna find a guy in this year's draft necessarily that's gonna come in and be the guy for you."

Redskins Tight Ends: Jeremy Sprinkle, Richard Rodgers, Hale Hentges, Logan Thomas, Caleb Wilson

Jeremy Sprinkle | 6'5" 255 lbs. | 25

Sprinkle had never really developed into the receiving threat the Redskins hoped he would since selecting him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That is until 2019, when he hauled in 26 balls for 241 yards and one touchdown. Was it just a fluke, or can Sprinkle be counted on as a viable target in Scott Turner's offense? That's what they hope to find out in camp.

"I think he had his struggles last year," Paulsen said. "And to be fair, the offense that the Redskins were running last year is really challenging for a traditional blocking Y. Like a guy like myself, who's almost 280 pounds and runs a 5-flat 40, I would excel in the run game in this offense. That's not who Sprinkle is. He's 255. He's 6'6".

"They were kind of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole a little bit and I think that led to some of his, I don't want to say poor play, but kind of subpar play in the run game."

Asked if Sprinkle could be a better fit in Ron Rivera's offense, Paulsen said, "So I'm a big believer that like, Sean McVay told me one time (that) 95 percent of your roster is scheme, right? There's four or five guys who can play on any team and be a Pro Bowl player. I think Trent Williams is one of those guys.

"But most other guys are scheme. So I don't think Sprinkle fits in with this scheme, but I will say if he is willing – and he's shown that he is a somewhat willing blocker – to improve his technique and to improve some other areas, maybe get a little stronger in the weight room, I do think he could be successful."

"I also think taking advantage of what he does well in the pass game is really important," he said. "He's not the most sudden guy, like twitchy guy, necessarily, but he runs well for how big he is. He catches the ball at the high point nicely. Not all the time, but he has that skill set.

"There is a potential. I see why they've kind of stuck with him for as long as they have. Like yes, is he at times really frustrating to watch? Absolutely. But I do think there are some traits there that could allow him to grow and become a much better player."

Richard Rodgers | 6'4" 257 lbs. | 28

Rodgers' most notable career highlight came during Week 13 of the 2015 season when he hauled in an impossibly long Hail Mary pass from Aaron Rodgers to beat the Lions as time expired. This former third-round pick was an adequate pass-catcher through his first four seasons, hauling in 120 receptions for 1,166 yards and 13 touchdowns in Green Bay from 2014 to 2017. 

He's struggled to stay on the field the past two seasons, though, and his numbers have flat-lined accordingly, with just one catch for seven yards in eight games. The Redskins are banking on a healthy Rodgers reviving his career in Washington.

"There's another example of a guy who's been hurt a little bit, but has played a lot of good football," Paulsen said. "So to me, I see him as like, if the Sprinkle thing doesn't work with Ron Rivera and that offense and this new staff, they have a guy who's played a lot of football, caught some balls in the NFL, and is a really solid kind of in-between F-Y tight end that gives you some flexibility on offense. If the Sprinkle thing doesn't work out."

Hale Hentges | 6'4" 245 lbs. | 23

An undrafted free agent in 2019, Hentges made his bones as a run-blocking tight end at Alabama, helping clear a path for Derrick Henry during his Heisman Trophy campaign in 2015. Hentges initially made the Colts 53-man roster out of training camp, but was released by early October, at which point Washington scooped him up.

He played 11 games for the Redskins last season with four starts, catching eight balls for 103 yards and one touchdown. He caught his first career TD from Dwayne Haskins in the Redskins' Week 16 loss to the Giants.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for guys like Hentges," Paulsen said. "He's a little outmatched at times athletically, but he plays really, really hard and I love that about guys. The way he plays I think makes up for a lot of his lack of measurables, if that makes sense. Like he's always willing to kind of throw his face in there.

"He's not gonna be your third-down guy, but he, in my opinion, with some training could be a three, maybe some day be a two, if he gets a little bit bigger. But I like him kind of because he reminds me of myself a little bit. He's an overachiever and I love guys like that, guys who kind of carve their own way into the NFL and write their own story, so to speak."

"In terms of what he does in the run game," he continued, "when he comes up against a bigger, stronger, faster dude, it's gonna be a tough matchup for him but he's always willing to fight and he's not gonna go down without a fight, and I love that about his play style."

Logan Thomas | 6'6" 250 lbs. | 28

A quarterback coming out of college at Virginia Tech, Thomas converted to tight end at the NFL level three years into his professional career. He's gradually compiled better and better seasons since then, culminating with his 16 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown for the Lions in 2019. The hope for the Redskins is that Thomas is still ascending.

"A guy who is on an ascending trajectory," Paulsen described him. "He is improving each season that he plays... and every season he gets a little bit better, he gets a little bit more comfortable, like last year in Detroit. He's not a perfect player necessarily but they'd move him around."

Outside of tight end, Paulsen noted Detroit lined Thomas up in the backfield, in the slot and at wide receiver.

"When you talk to position coaches in the NFL, they always say how important that positional flexibility is in the modern day NFL," he said. "You know, you want a guy who can block, but you also don't want a guy who's gonna be hand-in-the-dirt and can't do anything else. I think he gives you that.

"He ran like a 4.66 at the combine, which would have been the second-fastest time for tight ends this year. He's got nice long arms. Big, tall kid. He's a little tight in the hips, but I'm excited about what I see from him on tape in terms for room for growth. He's (28 years old) – I know that's a little late in the game, but he hasn't been playing the position that long."

"So to me, the Redskins went a little bargain bin shopping and found somebody who could be something. Like I see like a poor man's Greg Olsen in Ron Rivera's offense."

Caleb Wilson | 6'4" 240 lbs. | 23

Wilson was the last pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and spent his rookie season on the Cardinals' practice squad, until the Redskins signed him to their active roster in December. He has yet to catch a pass in the NFL and thus remains a relatively unknown quantity, with no film to review.

Logan Paulsen's analysis begins at the 0:00 mark below.

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