Rookie tight end Jeremy Sprinkle spent the majority of the season at the bottom of the depth chart, but learned a lot from his veteran group and took some promising steps forward down the stretch.
In his rookie year with the Washington Redskins, tight end Jeremy Sprinkle saw most of his playing time in the latter half of the regular season, but he took advantage and became a reliable option down the stretch.
Sprinkle only saw the field twice -- in Weeks 3 and 4 – but as injuries continued to rise, the Arkansas native played in nine consecutive games through the end of the season, starting in three, and showing glimpses of his future as an NFL blocker and pass catcher.
His breakout performance came Week 11 against the New Orleans Saints. The game ended in a 34-31 loss for the Redskins -- a bittersweet result for the rookie, who caught his first career touchdown with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
In his 11 total games played, he recorded two receptions for 13 yards and one touchdown, leaned upon mostly during running downs.
"I think he's got to continue to develop without a doubt – all his skills, really, his blocking skills, his route running, his knowledge of the syste," head coach Jay Gruden said at the end of the season. " I think he's on pace where I thought he would be at this time, he's just got to continue to develop, which he will. He's going to get a lot stronger in the weight room too, which I like."
Sprinkle previously played for Arkansas, where he caught 11 touchdowns, an Arkansas record for career touchdowns by a tight end. In his four years with the Razorbacks, Sprinkle recorded 71 receptions for 921 yards and appeared in the 2017 Senior Bowl.
The Redskins drafted the Arkansas alum in the fifth round of last year's draft, and during his first season he settled into his limited role, mosly in three tight end sets. Most of the lessons Sprinkle has learned in his rookie year in the league derive from the transition from college ball to the pros.
"Time management, managing what you do away from the stadium as well as what you do here by making the most of your time," Sprinkle said of what he's learned so far. "Also, staying in the playbook away from here, and I feel like more of the responsibility is on you as a player being a pro compared to college where you have meetings and things like that, where you have to be certain places. In the NFL they put more of the responsibility on you as the player."
This shift is also apparent in the offseason. Sprinkle is learning that being a professional in the winter, spring and summer concerns independent accountability.
"I feel like it's just more on us," Sprinkle said.
Sprinkle is also learning from his other tight ends: "Any little detail that I can pick up on. Just watching them in practice, just watching film, you know, seeing things they do and just try to incorporate things they do into my game."
With the first time to rest his 6-foot-5, 252-pound body, Sprinkle is optimistic about the next step he and the team can take in the NFL.
"I feel like we'll be even better, just keep getting better," Sprinkle said. "This year we had a lot of injuries so I feel like that kind of held up back but we still had a pretty good year and I just feel like going into the future that it's just to keep getting better and better."