Niles Pauls debut at tight end last Thursday against the Bills had its ups and downs. Paul, who was a wide receiver last year, was generally happy with his blocking.However, the second-year player was targeted for passes five times and made only one reception for 11 yards. He said that he was extremely disappointed in his performance catching passes.I had some drops, he said. Theres no excuse for that, its just me dropping the ball.Thats the bad news. The good news is that he thinks he has a solution.Ive got to get back to basics, he said.Last year his routine was to catch 50 passes before every practice and 100 after. This year, he focused on his blocking and got out of the habit of working on his pass catching.It almost seemed like I spent so much time focusing on blocking that I forget Im still a receiver at the end of the day, Paul said.He resumed his pass-catching regime last Saturday. We will see if going back to basics improves the results.
Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Interior offensive line
On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick
Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long
As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.
RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down
The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.
Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).
Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.
On the bubble: Roullier
In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.
MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense
Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick
You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.
After losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency, the Redskins signed Terrelle Pryor to a one-year deal. Washington hopes Pryor can offset at least half of the loss from Jackson and Garçon, but the team and player likely want even more production.
True or false: Terrelle Pryor will lead the Redskins in receiving yards.
JP Finlay: True
Terrelle Pryor posted impressive stats last season in Cleveland, but they're also tough to project from for the 2017 season. Clearly the best wideout among the Browns options, Pryor was thrown to more than 140 times en route to his 77 catch, 1,007-yard season.
Considering he caught about half of the balls thrown his way, he might not be the elite receiver many are expecting. On the flip side, considering he caught even half the balls the terrible Browns QBs were throwing, he could be poised for an explosion in the Redskins mature offensive scheme run by Kirk Cousins.
The hardest part of locking in Pryor as the Redskins leading pass catcher in 2017 will be the internal competition he's going to face. Jamison Crowder looks poised for his first 1,000-yard season after getting 847 yards in 2016.
Jordan Reed certainly has the talent to lead the Redskins in receiving yards. His issue is health. Over the last two seasons, Reed has missed four games, but chatter around the team suggests Reed may line up more in the slot this year to try and limit some of the physicality playing on the line of scrimmage.
For me, this is a two horse race. Crowder will start fast, like he did in 2016, especially considering Cousins already has a ton of trust and familiarity with Crowder. Through the first nine games of last season, Crowder posted 535 receiving yards. Something similar would not be a surprise, but Crowder's last four games of 2016 he had just nine catches for 80 yards.
Eventually though, when defenses start to key on Crowder, Pryor will get his chances. Maybe not as many as he got in Cleveland, but better opportunities in a better offense.
Rich Tandler: False
I liked the Pryor signing but I’m not as bullish on his prospects as Finlay and some others are.
For one thing, it sounds great to be a “1,000-yard receiver” but that’s not exactly a singular accomplishment. Last year 21 other receivers gained more yards receiving than Pryor.
Yes, he deserves some extra credit because it was his first year as a full-time receiver. But something tells me that if Pryor had signed with, say, the Eagles, Redskins fans would be saying that now that other teams have a season of film on him they will figure out to stop him.
But the other thing about his 2016 season was that the Browns quarterbacks (yes, all five of them) had no other viable targets at wide receiver. Quarterbacks threw to him 140 times, almost twice as often as the next Browns wide receiver. Rookie Corey Coleman was second among the team’s receivers with 73 targets and 413 yards and Andrew Hawkins had 324 yards. They did have TE Gary Barnidge, who had 612 yards. Still, that wasn’t exactly a target-rich environment for RG3, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, and company.
It also should be noted that Pryor caught just 55 percent of the passes thrown his way. That was 159th in the NFL.
The situation is different in Washington. As JP noted, Crowder and Reed are both capable of 1,000-yard seasons. Given the trust that Kirk Cousins has in both of them, I think that Crowder definitely will get targeted more often than Pryor and Reed will be if he stays on the field. I think that while Pryor will be a strong contributor, the chances are that one of the holdovers will lead the team in receiving yards.
Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!