Through July, I will be running positional breakdowns for the Washington Redskins. Each assessment will be broken down into four areas: Past Statistics, Experience/Potential, Positional Competition, and Intangibles.
Today I’ll be taking a look at the Tight Ends and Fullbacks on the Redskins’ roster for the 2009 Season. 2008 was a Pro Bowl campaign for Chris Cooley as well as Mike Sellers, so many believe that it was a successful year. However, depth at both of these positions has been called into question, and filling the gaps behind the two pro bowlers will be a big priority in the preseason.
Cooley was arguably one of the top three or four tight ends in the game last season, as he finished towards the top of the league in receptions (2nd with 83), yards (4th with 849), yards per game (5th with 53.1) and first downs (4th with 43). Although Cooley set career highs in catches and yards, he has publicly acknowledged that he feels he could do much better, and was extremely disappointed with only catching one touchdown on the entire season. He could use a little improvement in yards per catch (49th), as well as fumbles (tied 1st), but it’s hard to argue with the kind of consistency that Captain Chaos brings to the table. Fred Davis’s season was extremely disappointing (as documented here), and I won’t go through the specifics again, but he must pick up his numbers from his rookie season if he plans on avoiding ‘bust’ status. Todd Yoder only finished the season with eight catches and one touchdown, but he’s one of the most consistent blockers on the roster and a great locker room guy.
Mike Sellers was the only true fullback used on the roster in 2008, and he came out with reasonably pedestrian statistics, considering he only had six carries for 24 yards and one touchdown (as well as 12 catches for 98 yards and another TD). However, Sellers’ value was in his blocking for Clinton Portis, who had one of his best seasons as a Redskin running behind Sellers.
Cooley is now entering his sixth season as a pro, and seems to be improving (albeit slightly) each season. His route running has been strong and he continues to take his job seriously, even though he doesn’t always take life seriously. Now one of the longest tenured Redskins, Cooley must begin to take on a leadership role and try to help out guys like Fred Davis in order to give Jason Campbell more weapons. Davis has spectacular athleticism and all the tools to be a dominant tight end in the NFL, but his reps will be limited as long as Cooley is in front of him on the depth chart. I don’t see Cooley relinquishing his spot to Sleepy Fred anytime soon, but Davis could improve enough to scare defenses when the Redskins run a two-tight end set. Yoder is now in his tenth season, so don’t expect his role or production to change too much unless it’s diminished due to Davis’s play, and Robert Agnone (Rookie UFA out of Delaware) frankly has an extremely small chance of making the team at all.
At fullback, Sellers is only entering his tenth season (not counting his CFL career), but he just turned 34 on Tuesday and doesn’t look to be bringing anything new to the table anytime soon. He is a bruiser, so you have to think his body isn’t far from showing some wear and tear (although I still wouldn’t want to hit him). Vinny drafted rookie Eddie Williams for the purpose of learning the ropes from Sellers, and seems to have a bit of potential. Williams played tight end, fullback and h-back at Idaho and was relatively effective both running and catching the ball out of the backfield. He has good size (6’1” 245lbs) and should be a nice fit for the offense in the next couple of seasons if he can impress the coaching staff.
The most intrigue here lies between Davis and Yoder. They serve two very different purposes in the offense for Jim Zorn, but if Davis improves a great deal before the season, we’ll see Yoder lose some reps to the second year player. As much as the Redskins like Yoder for his character, it would be ideal to see Davis flourish and see the field more in 2009. At fullback, Sellers shouldn’t have to worry about losing his job this season, but he should work hard to try and develop Williams into a guy that deserves a practice squad spot.
As mentioned before, Cooley is now entering his sixth year, and is one of the longest tenured Redskins. At this point, he should start to see himself in a leadership role. I don’t expect that Cooley is one of the ‘rah-rah’ types in the locker room, but his work ethic on the field and close relationships with his teammates should pay dividends for the offense this season. He remains Jason Campbell’s safety blanket, and his calming presence will continue to help his quarterback’s development. He’s easily the most popular player on the team, and as long as he has a good year, he will continue to put butts in the seats and keep the fans pacified. Sellers is also a leader in the locker room, albeit a little louder than Cooley, and will need to be a mentor to Williams this season. This is one of the best character positions on the entire Redskins roster.
Tight End is a position with a lot of potential within Jim Zorn’s offense, and they should continue to excel this season. Cooley will have a more difficult time making the Pro Bowl this season with guys like Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzalez switching over to the NFC, but he should still make a strong case for himself. Look for him to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder this season, especially in the red zone. I have a feeling that he’s very anxious to prove that he’s still one of the top tight ends in the conference. Fred Davis will have a better campaign, but he must improve his overall work ethic to expect to see the field a lot more. Sellers should have another good season, but it may go unnoticed if the offensive line in front of him does not hold up. These should be two quality positions week-in and week-out for Jim Zorn’s offense.