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As He Bulks Back Up, Niles Paul Could Play Fullback, Too

Posted Mar 23, 2016

Without a true fullback on the roster, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes tight end Niles Paul could play that role, among many others, during the 2016 season.

Without a true fullback on the roster, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes tight end Niles Paul could play that role, among many others, during the 2016 season.

The return of Niles Paul will do more than just add another pass-catching threat at tight end for the Washington Redskins.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden on Wednesday indicated that Paul, and perhaps another tight end on the roster as well, could play some snaps at fullback for Washington this upcoming season.

“Yeah, I think that’s ideal, I think you can gain a spot on offense also,” Gruden said at the NFC Coaches Breakfast at the NFL Owners Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. “You can either dress a fourth tight end-fullback or dress three tight ends, one of those tight ends can play some fullback. Then you can open up another spot for either a sixth wide receiver possibly, or a special teams guy, maybe a third quarterback if you need one, a fourth running back or some defensive players, an extra corner or special team player.”

For the first time since the 2010 season, the Redskins will be without the services of Darrel Young, who had been the Redskins’ fullback -- and a quite successful one at that. He helped the 2012 version of the Redskins lead the league in rushing while also being a sneaky pass catcher over the years.

In 2013, he had one of the most memorable individual performances in recent franchise history, as he tallied three rushing touchdowns – including an overtime game-winner – against the San Diego Chargers.

But in Gruden’s offense, especially during the 2015 season, Young’s role was minimized. He played just 110 of 1,068 offensive snaps.

Paul, of course, won’t just be a fill-in fullback (although he did play there some in 2013 when Young was injured), as the Redskins expect big things out of him opposite Jordan Reed.

Paul, a University of Nebraska product, was actually the team’s No. 1 tight end during the preseason last year before breaking his ankle in the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.

“He’s another one who will be out probably until training camp I would think, but it’s just a matter of him getting his strength back in his leg and obviously getting his weight back up to where it was,” Gruden said. “He was close to 255-260 pounds I think before he got hurt and he was strong as an ox and we’ve just got to make sure he gets back to that strength level and see where he is. But it was a big loss for us when we lost him, not just for the tight end spot, but for special teams and Niles is so versatile. He can play the fullback, he can move tight end and split them outside and he can do a little bit of everything, so I would think training camp would be the right spot for him.”

Paul experienced quite a bit of personal success during the 2014 season, recording a career-high 507 receiving yards.

After signing a new three-year contract last offseason, Paul added bulking up as one of his goals.

He certainly hit that mark, and as he tries to get back to a larger size and heavier weight, Gruden sees no issue in Paul getting there, taking on new duties in the process.

I wouldn’t put anything past Niles, he’s one of the hardest working guys we’ve got and in the weight room he loves it,” Gruden said. “So I think it is realistic with Niles, probably not realistic with the ordinary human being.”

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