Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz enjoys throwing tight ends.
In Wentz’s oft-talked-about 2017 season, Zach Ertz was his primary target, and even with the starting quarterback leaving at the end of the season, he finished as the team leader in receptions and yards, and second in touchdown receptions.
That fact supports the theory that if the Chiefs get the most they can out of their new quarterback, the tight ends will be big contributors in 2022.
Starting tight end Logan Thomas finished 2021 with just 196 receiving yards, but he also had three touchdowns and appeared in just six games as he battled injuries all year.
So while we’ll all be looking to see how much Thomas can contribute in training camp and the preseason, let’s turn our attention — for now — to the three guys who have competed in early offseason programs, with plenty to proven yet when camp meets in less than two weeks.
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Bates entered the NFL out of Boise State expected to contribute primarily as a blocker after having just two career touchdowns in college.
What he actually did was 20 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown starting eight games as a rookie due to injuries at the position.
Bates definitely looked better as a pass catcher than anyone expected, and with a fourth round pick, this was a slam dunk in his rookie season.
He looks poised to pick up where he left off last season, and if Thomas can’t hit full speed to start the year, the bond Bates builds with Wentz in the preseason will be critical for the team to get off to a strong start after comes the regular season.
COLE TURNER (R)
Unlike Bates, the coverage for Nevada’s Cole Turner entering this year’s NFL draft was more of a catcher than a blocker.
“He’s a tight end who needs to hit the weights and add the functional strength needed to play through contact,” Turner’s NFL.com draft profile said. “He has talent, but isn’t consistent in finishing tough catches and needs to prove he can become a legitimate every-down threat against NFL defenders and not just a height mismatch in the red zone.”
Rated as a 7th rounder, or even a priority undrafted free agent, Washington saw more in him, selecting him in the fifth round along with North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell.
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The former wide receiver was the standout player from the team’s rookie camp after making several tough catches that showcased his concentration, hands and body control.
He looked strong again during OTA practices and later in the team’s mandatory minicamp.
One question he has yet to answer is his ability to play through contact, and that’s one we’ll be looking to evaluate when training camp begins.
Antonio Gandy-Golden’s move from wide receiver to tight end represents his latest shot at securing a roster spot with the Commanders and becoming a contributor on the team.
Through two seasons, appearing in 10 games, AGG has just one catch.
And while we immediately put him in the ‘tight end’ category with this move, he’ll need to show some ability as a blocker as well if he’s going to land a Game 11 in burgundy and gold.
“It’s kind of tough right now because we’re not up to par, but we want to make sure he knows those (blocking) assignments,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said of the Gandy-Golden endgame move. “We know his ability as a receiver. It’s the size that we really like. Being a guy that can run and basically play the U or F position for us. We feel really good about what he’s bringing to the table right now. but it will depend on his ability to block.”
Rivera is absolutely right that we haven’t been able to evaluate his ability to block from the tight end position. Something that requires a lot more strength and commitment than blocking like a receiver tends to.
If he can prove himself there, then his knowledge of the playbook and years of NFL experience give him an edge over the likes of Turner, who will obviously need to prove himself as a blocker and receiver to get reps this next season.
Of course, we also can’t forget the career path and development of Sammis Reyes, who we have yet to see in practice this league year.
Everyone will want to keep an eye on his progress as well, although we don’t know if he’ll be able to participate in early camp or not.
Plenty of talent in the Commanders core, albeit somewhat untested and with a lot of questions to answer.
With all of them potentially having the ability to connect with Wentz early and become key players in the team’s success this season.