Logan Thomas has repeatedly stated that he is aiming to come back by week one of the regular season. He very well may be ready, but in the meantime, training camp will be underway shortly, and Washington has a plethora of inexperienced tight ends looking to make their way onto the roster. John Bates and Sammis Reyes are both entering their second season; however, Cole Turner, Armani Rodgers, and Curtis Hodges are rookies. Furthermore, Antonio Gandy-Golden is a first-year tight end, playing his previous two seasons as a receiver for Washington. With Thomas’ status unclear for now, Washington needs to identify who can fill his role within this group.
What exactly did Thomas bring to the offense? He had 72 catches on 110 targets in 2020, and in six games during an injury-riddled 2021 season, he had 18 catches on 25 targets. Thomas was a primary receiving target on the short and intermediate levels of the defense but also a Red Zone threat. Thomas also ran third-level routes (Go/Seam/Corner/Over) to stretch defenses from the slot and flexed wide. The run game is not his strength, but his versatility as a receiver and his ability at the catch point made him an essential piece to the offense. Luckily, Washington can fall back on a couple of contingency plans while Thomas continues to recover.
Cole Turner should be Washington’s number one plan in the absence of Thomas. He comes into the NFL as a primary receiving threat. He has experience playing as an X, boundary receiver, slot, H-back, and in-line tight end. His athleticism, competitiveness, and height advantage make him an attractive option for any tight-end-loving quarterback. More importantly, his most significant attribute will be on the plus side of the field for Washington and, of course, the red zone. “I’m more of a possession receiver type of guy,” Turner told Washington Commanders’ analyst Logan Paulsen. “A guy in the red zone who’s going to compete, line up anywhere, and make plays from any spot on the field.”
His offensive coordinator Scott Turner also weighed in on Cole Turner. “So far, he’s playing fast, using his size and showing his size and his ability to go catch the ball.” Scott Turner also mentioned that Cole would need to focus more than just his responsibilities in any given play if he wants to move around the field.
Hearing that Scott Turner has already had some form of conversation about Cole moving around the field, it’s already an idea for the Commanders. Still, it is up to Cole to show he understands what they are asking of him mentally while also making plays on the field to be trusted as a viable Logan Thomas contingency plan. If foot speed and in-line blocking do not hinder his ability on the pro level to see the field and make plays, I am sure he sees plenty of targets as a rookie.
The idea of AGG was first brought to my attention by Hogs Haven’s own Mark Tyler, and it is an excellent thought process. AGG’s concentration and receiving ability did not disappear; he showed off his natural receiving skills during off-season practices. AGG is heading into his third season in the NFL, playing just ten games out of a possible 34; the inability to win and separate as a route-runner has hurt AGG in his first two seasons.
AGG isn’t slow enough to play tight end, though, and that’s what he and his coaches recognized this year, allowing him an opportunity to revive his career. At the combine, Gandy-Golden weighed 223 pounds; due to the conversion, he now weighs 240. I don’t expect a significant drop-off in foot speed with the added weight, and he should be able to present mismatches for Washington as a flex or H-back option.
AGG is a solid contingency plan that Rivera and Turner already have familiarity with; however, the added hurdle for him will be showing he is capable of blocking as well. If he can get the technique down and understand the run scheme from an in-line perspective, his role can grow within Washington’s offense as the season progresses.
Any love for John Bates?
There’s plenty to appreciate with Bates, but his best asset is his blocking, while his receiving skills are complementary to that. While it is part of today’s game to use the tight end down the seam, which Bates does, his best ability is finding the zone voids on the short level of the field and creating opportunities for his quarterback.
Everything will come down to training camp and preseason for the entire position group, and I’m sure Rodgers and Hodges will have input in this battle, too. There are not many position battles this season compared to the previous years, but the tight end group is something we all should be paying attention to.
Who’s a part of your Logan Thomas contingency plan?