The Washington Football Team coaches have had their eyes on Logan Thomas since they made him one of their top targets in free agency, believing he has shown flashes of the same athletic ability as 14-year veteran Greg Olsen.
For the past month, Dwayne Haskins Jr. has had his eyes focused on Thomas as well, particularly in the red zone, and the two have developed a knack for scoring touchdowns in practice.
"I just want to be somebody [Haskins is] confident in to make a play," Thomas told reporters Aug. 28. "I think that's the reason we have such a connection because if he throws it to me, nothing bad is going to happen. It's either going to be a catch or an incompletion. I think that's the way you've got to look at it."
Thomas developed a bond with Haskins in training camp despite working with him for only four weeks. Although he is still adjusting to Washington's offense, he has provided Haskins with a reliable option outside of go-to targets like Terry McLaurin. The hope is for that budding relationship, along with Thomas' growing skillset, to carry over into the regular season.
"That's what you're looking for," said head coach Ron Rivera. "You're looking for him to develop that rapport with the receivers. You want him to have that kind of feel. …You've got to have that kind of rapport where things sometimes aren't just about what's said in the huddle, but about what's looked at on the field."
Rivera's initial impression of Thomas in April was that he was still learning the position but possessed a unique skillset. There were other tight ends with more experience on the free agent market, but Rivera said tight ends coach Pete Hoener "felt very strongly" about Thomas' abilities because of his intelligence and savviness.
Thomas was the starting tight end when Washington started holding padded practices, and since then he has been praised for his growth and efforts to earn a starting job.
"The interesting thing is, the guy's really only been a tight end for, what, three seasons now? You see the growth," Rivera said. "You see him going out there and learning, picking things up. I love his effort. I love how hard he works. I love the accountability. When he makes a mistake he goes right over to Coach Pete and they talk about it."
Thomas was named the starting tight end when Washington released its first unofficial depth chart. To players like J.D. McKissic, who has known Thomas since their days together with the Detroit Lions, the news is not a surprise.
"I see a guy who's finally getting his opportunity to be that guy," he said. "When I first got there Week 1, I thought Logan was the guy when I first got there. Unfortunately, he wasn't, but you could just tell he could be that No. 1 tight end on this team and could've been in Detroit also."
Washington is looking for a "complete" tight end who can run block, pass block, run routes and get down the field quickly, Rivera said. He believes the team had one in Vernon Davis, who he said was "as complete as it gets." However, Davis missed most of the 2019 season and retired at the end of the year.
Does Rivera think Washington has another complete tight end this year? Thomas has been making his case for weeks that it does, and his performance in the red zone caught Rivera's attention.
"You see him kind of developing the rapport you'd love with Dwayne," Rivera said Aug. 24. "I think Dwayne's hit him something like five times in the red zone and in the end zone in the last three days. So, you know they're building that kind of rapport, which is great."
Thomas knows how important a tight end can be to a young quarterback because he himself used to line up under center. A fourth-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, Thomas spent his first season backing up Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Thomas called the tight end position one of the most important positions on the field based on their wide-ranging responsibilities.
"Obviously, you want to be that guy that they know if something breaks down, you just flick it out to them and they'll get you the couple tough, hard yards that put you in," he said. "If it's like a third-and-short, it makes third down a little bit easier."
And when it comes to fulfilling Rivera's need for a complete tight end, Thomas wants to provide that and more for Haskins.
"You want to be the guy that can catch a ball downfield and make a play as well. I think the tight end position in general is just a position that you've got to do everything. You've got to have the confidence from everybody as well."
Tight ends were not among Haskins' favorite targets in his rookie year. From Week 9 to his injury in Week 16 against the New York Giants, Haskins targeted Jeremy Sprinkle and Hale Hentges -- Washington's primary tight ends last year -- 18 times, resulting in 11 receptions and two touchdowns.
Thomas plans on changing that as he continues to establish himself as the top tight end in Washington.
"I want to play that year out the best I can and hopefully earn something for the next year," he said. "It just so happens that I've bounced around. Whether it's fortunate or unfortunate, either way, I'm blessed to be here on the Washington Football Team. I'm thankful. Hopefully I have a good year and I'm able to stay around here for years to come."