Redskins Left Searching For Answers at Tight End With Paul, Paulsen Out For Season

by Brian McNally

RICHMOND – Redskins tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul will miss the 2015 season, coach Jay Gruden said on Saturday.

Paulsen will have surgery on Monday for torn ligaments in his right big toe. Paul will undergo surgery, too, for the left ankle dislocation and fractured fibula he sustained in the preseason win in Cleveland on Thursday.

Paulsen had visited a foot specialist in Charlotte last Tuesday before the decision was made to undergo surgery. Paul’s injury was so serious that Gruden declared him out for the year on Thursday after the game, though a date for surgery hasn’t been scheduled yet.

In one fell swoop, Washington’s depth at tight end was obliterated. Jordan Reed, second on the depth chart and the team’s best pass-catcher at the position, missed Thursday’s game with a sore hamstring. He did not participate in practice again on Saturday, but says he hopes to return one of the next three days and play against the Detroit Lions on Thursday at FedEx Field.

“We are going to rely heavily on Jordan, obviously, and whoever else can step up into that role with him,” Gruden said.
Who that is remains a mystery, though. Je’Ron Hamm had taken repetitions with the first team at practice last week with Reed and Paulsen out hurt. Even he can’t escape injury, though. Hamm took a finger to the eye on Thursday.

Hamm, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina, 26, an undrafted free agent from BYU, are the remaining in-house options for Washington. Hamm and Dixon were both on the practice squad last year.

Reed’s durability is an issue. He has played in 20 of 26 possible games during his two NFL seasons. That lack of trust allowed Paul to leap Reed to the top of the team’s depth chart at tight end this summer. At least in the Redskins’ base offense with one tight end, a running back and a fullback on the field.

“It’s a little bit of a concern, but [Reed is] a young guy,” Gruden said. “He’s done a good job of getting his body bigger and in better shape. He just had an unfortunate twinge, but I think he’ll be okay.”

That remains to be seen. Washington will work out tight ends in the coming days just to add a body or two to the position group. Tight ends coach Wes Phillips was working with just the three players at practice on Saturday.

The Redskins gave that group some help by pushing tackle Tom Compton – in a fight to make the roster on the offensive line – over to tight end. Compton is considered a swing tackle who can play either side of the center and Washington used him a few times at tight end last year.

“I doubt [Compton] will catch any passes down the middle of the seam,” Gruden cracked. “But he can get in there and block and he can run block and do all the things a tight end needs to do without running routes.”

Gruden noted there are other NFL teams that have tinkered with using a lineman to play tight end. Of course, to do so they have to report as eligible every time they check into a game – even if they stay on the field for consecutive plays.

Using Compton in short bursts is fine. But it’s not ideal. And the Redskins know it. If Hamm, Mahina or Dixon aren’t a solution in a reserve role – or if Reed just can’t stay healthy – they’ll have to bring in a player from the outside that can play a role and not just fill in or sit on the practice squad.

Gruden did say that Hamm and Dixon have improved their blocking this summer, but admitted that facing teams with good defensive fronts in Detroit and Baltimore the next two weeks will put that theory to the test.

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally and 106.7 The Fan on Twitter.

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