Niles Paul had just recently moved up the Washington Redskins depth chart and was shaping up as the team’s starting tight end. His stay at the top didn’t last very long.
Per reports, Paul suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns, when a player rolled up on his leg. Paul sustained an “ankle fracture dislocation” and per head coach Jay Gruden, will miss the entire 2015 NFL season.
Paul burst onto the scene a year ago, when he helped fill in for injured tight end Jordan Reed and amassed 39 receptions, 507 receiving yards and a touchdown. Due to his solid play and other injuries at the position in camp, Paul was handed the starting gig.
With Paul down, the Redskins are suddenly in a tough spot at tight end. Jordan Reed has struggled to stay healthy throughout his two-year career and already has hamstring issues in camp. However, Reed is a top shelf talent and currently is the only reasonably healthy tight end the Redskins have. Paul is off the table and third string tight end Logan Paulsen is also feared to be lost for the year with a toe injury.
That leaves Washington with the increasingly unreliable Jordan Reed, while they also may be forced to pursue outside sources. Not many big name tight ends are available out on the open market, as most have already latched on with teams to try to win a roster spot. Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley had recently been entertaining the thought of making an NFL comeback, while the likes of Michael Egnew and Zach Miller could be worth a look.
If Washington doesn’t look at what’s out in free agency, they’ll be crossing their fingers Reed can get and stay healthy for the entire year. Reed has endured a rough history with concussions and has also had some nagging leg injuries in his short career. Reed is worth the trouble, however, as he’s a terrific size/speed weapon when healthy.
With or without Reed, someone else in Washington’s camp will eventually have to step up – especially if Paulsen is also done for the year. Je’Ron Hamm, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina round out the remainder of Washington’s tight end depth chart, but until now none were serious candidates to make the team. Hamm was also injured on Thursday night (leg), leaving possibly one spit for Dixon and Mahina to fight for. Mahina may have the slight upper hand due to solid pass-catching ability, but neither is a talent to hang your hat on. The Redskins are obviously going to have to hope Jordan Reed can finally stay healthy for a full season, or possibly entertain the idea of swinging a trade.