In the wake of the signings of Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan, the roles of the holdover wide receivers from last year is set to undergo a shakeup. Some of the biggest question marks revolve around 2011 fifth-round draft choice Niles Paul.
Mike Shanahan singled him out for special praise on a few occasions last year. “He has a chance to be an excellent football player,” the coach said. “That’s why he continued to play more.”
After playing sparingly on offense the first three games of the year, Paul played 22 snaps agains the Rams in Week 4 last year and was a regular in the lineup for most of the rest of the season. He was hampered by a turf toe injury that caused him to miss three games and limited him in two others.
But for many of his snaps, Paul could have worn a number in the 60’s or 70’s. On the season, the Redskins passed on about 60% of their plays. They passed 47 percent of the time that Paul was on the field.
Paul held his own blocking in the 85 plays he was asked to do so, according to the snap-by-snap analysis by the folks at ProFootball Focus.
It was difficult to give him a pass catching grade, however. In 75 pass plays, Paul was targeted just five times. Paul’s two receptions on the year came the first two times he was targeted. Those came late in the game at Carolina and the two catches went for 25 yards. One of them was a nice, diving stab and it looked like he might see the ball a little more the rest of the way. But he was only targeted three more times in the last 10 games.
In looking at this, we need to keep in mind that Paul was a rookie who played without the benefit of an offseason program to help him get his feet under him. It has to be a lot easier to come in cold and block and play special teams than it is to learn the intricacies of the NFL passing game.
With a full slate of offseason work, OTA’s, minicamp, and training camp, Paul will get an opportunity to earn a spot. It appears that Garçon and Morgan will get a lot of playing time based on what the Redskins are paying them. Jabar Gaffney should have a prominent role as someone to give the team’s rookie quarterback an target experienced in the offense.
After those three things are wide open. Paul will have the chance to fight for snaps with Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, and others.
It will be interesting to see how things turn out.