Training Camp Preview: Tight End
This will be one of the shorter preview, not really too much to say here. The starter is clear … Chris Cooley will be the Redskins premier Tight End. The bigger, more looming question surrounding tight end is the contract extension status of for Cooley.
The Washington Times and the Washington Post had articles in June making reference to contract extensions discussions between the Redskins and Cooley. To me, this is pretty alarming. Why? Look at past history. Whenever extensions were signed, such as Jansen, there was no indication, just kind of appeared out of the blue, and when it was public that the team was negotiating extensions, those players eventually departed, such as Ryan Clark, Antonio Pierce, Fred Smoot, Stephen Davis, Darryl Gardner, etc… These are examples of players the Redskins publicly acknoweldged extension discussions, but never had deals closed. Let’s hope Cooley does not follow the same path. I am in no way saying the Redskins do not plan on keeping and extending Cooley, I am just taking a peak at past practices under this front office.
Back to the preview, Cooley is the starter, will be expected to catch anywhere between 55 and 80 passes this season, has steadily, each year, progressed in blocking skills, but still at times has problems holding on to the football. That is the single biggest facet of the game that Cooley could take tremendous strides in improving. Fact is, Cooley can be a lethal weapon for the Redskins and has been in the past, when used correctly.
Beyond Cooley, the Redskins will be looking for solid blocking from backup tight ends. Blocking tight ends are critical in Gibbs oriented offenses. The Redskins will frequent two TE schemes that require superb blocking packages. The Redskins were known for years for having some of the best blocking tight ends to assist the running game. We can remember the likes of Don Warren, hR’s Rick ‘Doc’ Walker, and Walter Rasby, all super blockers not expected to be the big pass receivers. Don Warren played for the Redskins from 1979 to 1992 and caught only 224 passes. Thats an average of about 17 catches per year, yet Warren was one of the fan favorites for Redskins fans because of what he meant and what he brought to the Redskins offense in terms of blocking.
The backup is likely to be Todd Yoder, who the Redskins worked pretty hard to resign in the off-season. Yoder came to the Redskins last season and played in 14 games and pretty much solidified the backup TE position by using his superior blocking skills to suit the offense well. In 14 games, Yoder caught just one pass, a 4 yard TD reception. But Yoder is gauged on what he brings blocking wise, while receiving is left to Cooley. The Redskins proved his importnace by inking Yoder to a 3 year deal in March.
The Redskins will likely carry three TEs, which means the remaining position will be fought out between Brian Bell, rookie draft pick Tyler Ecker and Eric Edwards. Bell is a rookie out of Kent State and is a local kid who attended Dematha High School. While at Ken State, Bell caught 60 passes for 654 yards and 5 touchdowns. Although anything can happen in TC, Bell is not expected to challenge for a final roster spot.
Eric Edwards is in his second season out of LSU. Edwards is known as a solid blocker with good hands. He played in 10 games with the Arizona Cardinals where he caught 17 passes for 184 yards and a TD. He signed with the Redskins in January as an unrestricted free agent. Edwards is a big TE at 6′5″ and 257 LBs.
Finally, TE Tyler Ecker was a seventh round draft choice for the Redskins this season and the first and only Redskins pick at this point to have signed. Ecker played in 45 games with starting 8 of those games at Michigan. Ecker caught 55 passes for 677 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Here are a few scouting reports on Ecker’s strengths and weaknesses ..
NFL Draft Countdown put up a Strength and Weakness review on Ecker. They call him an average blocker and claim he has excellent hands, good receiver, but lacks speed and burst. Here is the NFL.com profile…
Positives: Could handle at least another 30 pounds of bulk for a potential move to the offensive line … Solid pass protector who has a quick kick slide to get back and mirror edge rushers … Lacks ideal strength as a position blocker, but uses his frame well to occupy the defender … Has initial quickness off the snap … Uses his size efficiently to get a good line release and has the functional upper-body power to defeat the press … Negatives: Very inconsistent catching the ball, ball-concentration skills are lacking (hears the defender’s feet) … Slow to get into his patterns and will round his cuts … Lacks the second gear to separate after the catch Must improve the timing on his leaps, … Needs to do a better job of getting his shoulders square …lacks cut blocking ability … He is a marginal catcher who lacks natural hands … He will fight for a roster spot in camp
Ecker has to be impressive in camp to nail down an active roster spot. He must show that his blocking skill can improve over the course of camp. Going into camp, I would say Ecker has the opportunity to compete for the third spot, but must be pretty impressive. He was a good pick in the seventh round.
hR PREDICITION: Backup: Todd Yoder — Third TE: Eric Edwards — PS: Tyler Ecker