Bleacher Report deems this Commanders TE the team’s ‘best-kept secret’
By Jerry Trotta
As presently constructed, the Washington Commanders‘ roster is talented enough to qualify for the playoffs. At the same time, though, several roles on the team either remain unfilled or have question marks that need answering.
Though upgraded, quarterback is currently the biggest question mark, followed by linebacker and depth in the secondary. Tight end poses some concern, but it can become a strength of the team down the road when Logan Thomas returns.
In his last full season (2020), Thomas was a monster, finishing third at the position in targets (110) and receptions (72) while adding 670 receiving yards and six touchdowns, which ranked seventh and ninth amongst TEs, respectively.
Unfortunately, Thomas was unable to replicate that career year in 2021, as a hamstring and torn ACL limited him to six games. Thomas’ absence had a troubling affect on the offense, but it did allow fourth-round pick John Bates to assume a bigger-than-expected role.
To his credit, the then-rookie didn’t blink and his underrated season didn’t go unnoticed by national NFL writers.
In a recent article, Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report highlighted every team’s “best-kept secret” heading into 2022. Bates got the nod for Washington.
Bleacher Report named John Bates the Commanders’ “best-kept secret” heading into the 2022 season.
Here’s what Moton said about the second-year TE.
"“New Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz may have an underrated offensive weapon in John Bates, who filled in for tight end Logan Thomas in the starting lineup last year.While Bates accumulated low-scale receiving numbers, he showed the ability to contribute in the passing game as a rookie who didn’t log more than 22 catches in a single term on the collegiate level.The Commanders could tap into Bates’ potential in a pass-catching role as Thomas goes into his age-31 term following an injury-riddled campaign, which may usher in a changing of the guard at the position . . . “"
Moton makes a great point about Bates’ offensive role, or lack thereof, in college at Boise State. Over four years with the Broncos, Bates totaled 47 catches for 579 yards and two touchdowns, albeit in just a 23-game sample size. As a rookie, he managed 20 catches for 249 yards and a TD while often serving as the No. 2 tight end behind Ricky Seals-Jones and the No. 3 when Thomas was in the lineup.
Despite lacking explosiveness, Bates’ 12.8 yards per reception finished ninth in the league amongst tight ends, highlighting his knack to find pockets of space. His 249 receiving yards finished third amongst rookie tight ends and his 87.6 run-blocking grade from PFF ranked first at the position.
Bates’ rookie campaign was a full-blown success. Period. Very rarely do Day 3 tight ends make a seamless transition to the NFL, let alone ones that had limited roles as pass-catchers in college. While Cole Holcomb and Kam Curl would’ve been worthy picks for the Commanders’ “best-kept secret,” we have zero qualms with Bates taking the cake after he was the team’s best rookie performer in 2021.
Let’s hope for more of the same in Year 2!