WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — When news broke the Washington Redskins were transitioning Niles Paul to tight end, a lot of people were surprised. Even the wide receiver was a little astounded by it, but perhaps he shouldn’t have been.
The truth is the coaching staff began Paul’s transition at the end of last season when he returned from a turf toe injury.
It just wasn’t until earlier this month that Head Coach Mike Shanahan informed last year’s fifth-round draft choice that the change would be permanent.
“[I played] the last couple games last year at tight end, but was kind of flexed out and never put my hand in the dirt,” Paul told 106.7 The Fan’s LaVar and Dukes Friday afternoon. “[Coach Shanahan] just felt like I could be a great benefit to the team if I made the switch.”
Such a switch carries with it significant risk. Typically players in this position will either sink or swim. Very few wind up somewhere in the middle.
Realizing the adversity and challenge in front of him, Paul is relishing the opportunity to prove himself. He told coach Shanahan that he was willing to do whatever it took to make the team during their phone conversation.
“I’m interested myself to see how the move pans out,” said Paul who is still very much in the learning stage. “I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing, but I’ve never in my life sank.”
The 6-foot-1 Nebraska product is listed at 224 pounds on the NFL’s website. His stature is a bit on the small side for tight ends in the league. Franchise tag recipient Fred Davis is listed as being 6 feet 4 inches tall and 258 pounds while Chris Cooley is billed at 6-3, 255. Logan Paulsen, whom Paul will also battle for playing time, is the largest of the team’s tight ends at 6-foot-5 and 268 pounds.
As it turns out Paul is already transitioning into a bigger body.
“Right now I’m sitting at 234 and my body fat is pretty much the same,” he said. “I feel comfortable at the weight. I don’t think I’m any slower or anything like that.”
Paul added that’s pretty much his natural weight.
In addition to bulking up in size, Paul is going to have to bulk up his knowledge of the position–a process that is also already underway. The second-year player has been picking the brains of Cooley, Davis and Paulsen during the offseason workouts this week.
While helping Paul with his study sessions, the group is also helping ease whatever concerns he has about making the switch.
“We were watching film … and Logan was blocking this humongous D and I was just like, ‘This is what they want me to do?!’ ” he joked. “And Cooley and Fred kind of eased my mind and said it was all about getting in position.”
Paul is confident that he already knows the bulk of the routes he will be running. As he explained to LaVar and Dukes, the offensive plan is “essentially all the same” when it comes to concepts for receivers and tight ends. The biggest change for him will be in three-receiver sets and on certain blocking assignments.
“The thing about the passing plays isn’t the issue,” Paul stated. “It’s the man reaches and the combo blocks I’m going to have to do instead of the zone reads I was doing at wide receiver.”
With Paul moving to tight end and a large financial investment having been made in Davis, there are some who wonder whether there will be enough room on the roster to carry four tight ends. When asked about it Paul tread lightly with his response.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Right now I’m at the learning stage… I’m a competitor, so I’m going to compete no matter what I do. So I’m just trying to find my way on the field any way I can.”