While Jordan Reed struggled through an injury-filled year, 33-year-old Vernon Davis recorded nearly 700 receiving yards with Niles Paul once again being a jack of all trades.
As the Redskins head into the offseason looking to get back to their winning ways, Redskins.com will provide position-by-position reflections from the 2017 squad.
Up next: the tight ends.
REVIEW OF THE UNIT:
While the Redskins headed into the 2017 season with two relatively new faces expected to be the starting wide receivers in Terrelle Pryor Sr., a free agent signing, and Josh Doctson, a 2016 first-round pick who missed 14 games as a rookie, Washington returned its top three tight ends.
At the top of the depth chart, of course, is Jordan Reed, a 2016 Pro Bowler who ranks among the best players at the tight end position. After a breakout season in 2015 in which he led Washington in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Reed received a multi-year contract extension in May 2016.
While he was limited to 12 games, the 2013 third-round pick still recorded nearly 700 receiving yards with six touchdowns while earning his first Pro Bowl nod.
2017, however, was the most trying season of his career, marred by numerous injuries. After missing the entirety of training camp and the preseason with a toe injury, Reed was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) in time for the regular season.
But Reed didn't look like himself for much of the year outside of a two-touchdown performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7. In total, Reed appeared in just six games, recording career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (211) before a hamstring injury ended his season prematurely.
"[I'm] just looking forwards towards my goals and my dreams and focusing on that stuff and not just all of the negative going on right now," Reed said during his rehab. "Also, just being appreciative of all the blessing that God blessed me with and my two daughters and my family, I get to see them every day. So, it's still a blessing to wake up and be a part of the Redskins. I'm going to keep working hard and keep doing what I can do."
With Reed sidelined for much of the year, the Redskins called on Vernon Davis to step up and the 12-year veteran delivered in a big way.
After re-signing with Washington in the offseason, Davis recorded 43 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns. Davis (15.1) also finished the season second in yards per catch among qualified NFL tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, 15.7).
And while Davis, 33, is one of only a handful of tight ends with double-digit years of NFL experience, he became the oldest NFL tight end to average at least 15.0 yards per reception (min. 15 receptions) since Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Smith (16.5 at age 34) in 1974, according to Redskins Public Relations.
Along with Davis, the Redskins also got contributions out of do-it-all veteran Niles Paul and rookie Jeremy Sprinkle.
While Paul recorded just 13 receptions for 94 yards, his importance to the Redskins goes beyond the stat sheet. He was once again a special teams captain while taking on the role of fullback when Washington's offense required one.
As for Sprinkle, the 2017 fifth-round pick's first career reception was a seven-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GROUP:
After his most difficult season to date, the Redskins are hoping Reed can return healthy for a bounce back campaign in 2018.
"When he is available, he is a difference maker," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "I mean, it's just a fact. He's just – the third down, first down, second down, the play-actions, all that stuff and he's getting better in the running game because he is stronger. To have a tight end that can do that in the running game – a little bit in the running game – but have such an impact in the passing game where you can move him in the slot, outside, line him up in the core against linebackers and safeties and win those matchups, [it] is tough to replace because there are not many guys who can do what he can do.
"But as far as counting on him next year, we have to assume that he is going to be ready and he is going to get himself ready to play and he is going to play 16 games. That's the only way to go about it. Hopefully the injuries are in the past. He is going to rehab and get his body in great shape again and be ready for OTAs and training camp and have a 16-game season where he can dominate and get back to the Pro Bowl."
While Reed, Davis and Sprinkle and under contract for the 2017 season, Paul is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent once again. After completing his rookie contract, Paul was re-signed to a three-year deal in 2015.
If given the opportunity, he wants to extend his stay in Washington.