COMMENTARY | Last week, I wrote that rookie Jordan Reed was challenging veteran Fred Davis at tight end for the Washington Redskins. After Reed's performance in Week 3, Davis might be needing to steal his job back from the young gun.
After Davis twisted his ankle late in the Redskins' week of practice prior to their game against the Detroit Lions, he was listed as inactive for this past Sunday's game. That left the door wide open for Reed to steal the position away and he seized his opportunity.
Against the Lions, Reed had five receptions for 50 yards and he was targeted six times by quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin looked to Reed multiple times on first down when the rookie tight end was able to find the gap in the zone. On one third down reception, Reed made an athletic move hurdling one Lions' would-be tackler before being gang-tackled by a host of other Lions, leaving him just short of the mark to gain for the first down.
Even before the season began, the Redskins' coaches spoke very highly of the 2013 third round pick out of Florida. It was obvious that Fred Davis by no means had the position locked and that Reed was closer to him on the depth chart than maybe Davis thought. In the week leading up to the game against Detroit, Davis admitted to being frustrated with having to split playing time with the rookie.
When asked about Davis and Reed splitting time at tight end, head coach Mike Shanahan said that the decision on who plays when and how much depends on how the players practice. After Reed had considerably more snaps that Davis against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, it was obvious that there was a battle brewing for the tight end position.
At the end of the year, Davis will be a free agent and there aren't very many rumors going around regarding the Redskins re-signing him. Why should they? The price tag for Davis will be considerably higher than the current contract that they have Reed signed to. If Reed is the better option, then letting Davis go shouldn't be too difficult a decision to make.
Physically, the two players are very similar. Reed stands at 6-2 while Davis is 6-4. At 247-pounds, Davis outweighs Reed by just four pounds as Reed weighs 243 pounds. When it comes to overall performance, Reed is worth the risk. He blocks just as well as Davis, sometimes better, and he is an athletic tight end with good hands.
What doesn't help Davis much is the play of backup tight end, Logan Paulsen. The 6-5, 261-pound four-year veteran has been somewhat of an unsung hero for the Redskins. Last weekend against the Lions, Paulsen had four receptions for 51 yards, including a key reception to keep a drive alive late in the game. While filling in for the injured Davis in 2012, Paulsen had 286 receiving yards on 24 receptions. His big frame allows for him to be a big target for Griffin plus he can contribute in the running game as a blocker.
Financially, keeping Reed and Paulsen while letting go of Davis at season's end would their best move. Paulsen and Reed are both owed considerably less than what Davis will likely be asking for when the two teams enter contract negotiations.
Luckily for Davis, Reed suffered a quad contusion on Sunday in the second half and is unclear at this point when he'll return. If Davis can play this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders and Reed can't, then it'll be Davis' turn to make a case as to why he should be the teams starting tight end.
If you're looking for an in-season position battle, this is a good one to watch. Reed is trying to prove himself as a rookie in this league while Davis is fighting for his job. You can believe that they will be fighting hard in practice and in games to show the coaches why they should be the primary tight end for the Washington Redskins.
Brian Skinnell lives in the Washington D.C., metro-area and began covering the Redskins on his own blog titled "The Skinny On Sports". You can also check him out on RantSports.com and on a weekly NFL segment on Yahoo AM 730 Sports in Memphis, Tennessee . You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.
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