Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz likes to throw himself into tight ends.
In Wentz’s much talked about 2017 season, tight end Zach Ertz was his primary target, and even after his starting quarterback left at the end of the season, he finished as the team leader in receptions and yards and second in receiving touchdowns.
That fact lends credence to the theory that if the Chiefs want to get the most out of their new quarterback, tight ends will be big contributors in 2022.
Logan Thomas, who started at tight end, finished 2021 with just 196 receiving yards, but also had three touchdowns and appeared in just six games while battling injuries all year.
So while we’ll all be looking to see exactly how much Thomas can contribute in training camp and the preseason, let’s turn our attention — for now — to three guys who have competed in early offseason programs with a lot to prove when camp rolls around. collects in less than two weeks.
A 4th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Bates came to the NFL out of Boise State expecting to contribute mostly as a blocker after having just two career receiving touchdowns in college.
What he actually did was secure 20 catches for 249 yards and one touchdown while starting eight games as a rookie due to injuries at the position.
Bates certainly looked better as a pass catcher than anyone expected, and as far as fourth-round picks go, it 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 relationship Bates built with Wentz in the preseason will be crucial for the team to get off to a solid start after the regular season is coming.
COLE TURNER (D)
Unlike Bates, the report on Nevada’s Cole Turner entering this year’s NFL Draft was more of a pass catcher than a blocker.
“He’s a pass-catching tight end who needs to reach the weights and add the functional strength needed to make plays through contact,” NFL.com’s NFL.com draft profile of Turner said. “He has talent, but is inconsistent in completing tough catches and needs to prove he can become a legitimate every-catch threat against NFL defenders, not just because of a height discrepancy in the red zone.”
Rated as a 7th-round pick or even a priority undrafted free agent, Washington clearly saw more in him, selecting him in the fifth round along with North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell.
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The former receiver was the standout player of 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 what we’ll be looking to gauge when training camp begins.
Antonio Gandy-Golden’s move from wide receiver to tight end represents his last chance to secure a roster spot and become a team contributor.
In two seasons while appearing in 10 games, AGG has just one catch.
And while we immediately put him in the receiving tight end category with this move, he’ll need to show some ability as a blocker as well if he wants to land an 11th game in maroon and gold.
“It’s pretty tough right now because we’re not in pads, but we want to make sure he knows those (blocking) assignments,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said of Gundy-Golden’s move to tight end. “We know his skill set as a receiver. This is the size we really like. Being a guy that can run and play primarily the U or F position for us. We feel pretty good about what he’s bringing to the table right now, but it’s going to come down to his ability to block.”
Rivera is absolutely correct in that we haven’t really been able to gauge his ability to block from the tight end position. Something that requires a lot more strength and commitment than blocking like a receiver usually does.
If he can prove himself there, then his knowledge of the rules 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 coming season.
Of course, we can’t forget the career path and development of Sammis Reyes, who we have yet to see in action this year in the league.
Everyone will want to keep an eye on his progress as well, although we don’t yet know if he’ll be able to participate in the start of camp or not.
Plenty of talent in the Commanders tight end, albeit somewhat untested and with a lot of questions to answer.
All of them potentially have the ability to mesh with Wentz early and become major players in the team’s success this season.