Contrary to 2017, the tight ends room at Redskins Park remained primarily healthy in 2018.
A group primed for a breakout year led by vets Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the chemistry between the two star tight ends never seemed to develop with Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, and the rotating door of quarterbacks for Washington this season.
Injuries in the final few games allowed contributions from younger talent in the likes of 2017 fifth-round selection Jeremy Sprinkle, who took on a much larger role in the offense during the home stretch.
Matt Flanagan and J.P. Holtz, late season practice squad call ups, provided valuable time on special teams and in the offensive rotation for head coach Jay Gruden's offense.
Here’s a look at the unit’s season:
In a season that predicated itself on the health of the quarterback, Alex Smith’s injury and the team’s struggle to recover in the wake of his absence haltered Washington's progression as a unit.
As the Redskins began 2018 with a relatively similar group as 2017, with the addition of deep threat Paul Richardson Jr., the Redskins returned their top three tight ends.
At the top of the depth chart was Jordan Reed, the sixth-year man out of Florida and 2016 Pro Bowler, who looked to 2018 to build off of his success from prior seasons, and looked to continue to prove himself as one of the elite tight ends and offensive weapons in the NFL. After a breakout season in 2015 where he led the Redskins in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, Reed signed a contract extension prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Reed stayed healthy for most of the 2018 season, playing in 13 games, his most since 2015. The 2013 third-round selection went on to tally 54 receptions for 558 yards, with two touchdowns.
Reed was active for all but two games during the year, ending the season on IR due to a nagging toe injury. He was not himself for a majority of the year, however, recording only two touchdowns, the second lowest total of his career. He also did not record a 100-yard receiving game, his last coming in Week 16 of the 2015 season at Philadelphia (129). Throughout the strenuous season, Reed continued to push through.
In Week 8 of the 2018 season, Reed hauled in his 300th reception becoming the 10th Redskin all-time to accomplish the feat. He also became the second fastest tight end to record 300 receptions in NFL history behind Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow.
'I like Jordan a lot," Gruden said. "I think he is an excellent player, he is a difference maker on offense. Tight ends that can win in zone and man coverage are hard to find. When you get that matchup, it is very easy for a quarterback to find. The passes that don't have to be 35 yards down the field, they can be eight-to-10 yard intermediate-type passes that he can run after the catch, his blocking has improved and is going to continue to get better the stronger that he gets. We just have to get him healthy, but he is a dynamic player, a great athlete, works extremely hard, a great kid, never late and he's a big part of the success of this football team moving forward in my opinion."
Alongside Reed was 13-year man and Maryland Terrapin alum Vernon Davis. Davis, a two-time Pro Bowler himself, paired up with Reed to provide one of the most dangerous tight end duos in the NFL.
Davis finished 2018 with 25 receptions for 367 yards along with two touchdowns. The 34-year old continued to surprise not only his Redskins coaches and teammates, but his opponents, well-aware of his freak athleticism at his age.
“We all should get on Vernon Davis’ diet. I mean,really. The guy’s a freak." Gruden said. "He’s the most impressive guy I’ve been around really as far as taking care of his body, and whatever he’s doing, he needs to tell all our young guys to do it because he’s amazing.He’s running around like a 20-year-old kid."
In his first three seasons in the burgundy and gold, Davis has delivered 96 catches and 1,380 yards. At age 32-34 in those seasons, he ranks second only to Redskins legend Jerry Smith in receptions among tight ends age 30 or older in team history and first in receiving yards, according to records provided by Pro Football Reference. Davis took sole possession of seventh on the NFL’s all-time career touchdown reception list among tight ends, passing Redskins great Jerry Smith after hauling in a 22-yard touchdown reception in the Redskins, 23-17 win vs. the Carolina Panthers in Week 6.
He now ranks in the Top 10 in NFL history in career receptions,receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end. After scoring a 53-yard touchdown against Dallas in Week 12 he tied Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe for the sixth most touchdown receptions for a tight end in NFL history.
Jeremy Sprinkle settled nicely into his role when both Reed and Davis were inactive for the final two weeks of the season. He flashed major upside, while also recording his second career touchdown Week 15 in Jacksonville. Even though Sprinkle's role limited him to much of a blocking tight end for most of the year, he caught five passes for 41 yards working with Josh Johnson. At 6-foot-5, 252 pounds he also provides a massive red zone target that could grow into being a major weapon for the Redskins offense in the coming seasons.
Matt Flanagan initially was signed onto the roster as an undrafted college free-agent in May. He was added to the roster late in the season and only saw limited action in three games while catching just one pass for 14 yards.
J.P Holtz, one of Washington's preseason standouts, was only on the 53-man roster for the last game of the season against Philadelphia but was listed as inactive. He looks to 2019 to earn his spot in the tight end rotation and flash the upside he showed throughout the 2018 preseason.
The Redskins have everyone in this group under contract for next season.
However, new tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and the Redskins coaching staff could make changes to save cap room, or to boost other positions.They may also stick with the group they have, which again looks to be one of the best groups in the NFL should everyone stay healthy.