What scenarios could emerge for the Washington Commanders' tight-end room during a make-or-break campaign in 2023?
Ever since the era of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis ended back in 2019, it seems as if the Washington Commanders have entered each season with more questions than answers at tight end. 2023 looks no different.
The top two pass-catching threats – Logan Thomas and Cole Turner – are coming off injury-affected years. Two in-line blockers – Curtis Hodges and Brandon Dillon – have virtually zero experience at the NFL level. And exciting young prospect Armani Rogers tore his Achilles back in May and is out for the season. Only starting in-line tight end John Bates seems like a sure thing.
Let’s take a quick look at the five tight ends currently on the roster with best-case and worst-case projections for each. In alphabetical order.
John Bates - Commanders TE
The third-year man from Boise State is about as steady as they come. Though things could change under a potentially tight end-friendly offense run by Eric Bieniemy, it is likely that John Bates will again function as the second option, usually lining up just outside the tackle, blocking, and occasionally slipping out on a pass route.
The biggest concern about Bates is that he seemed to regress slightly as a hard-charging pass catcher between his rookie season – when he memorably ran through Leighton Vander Esch – and his second year, where he seemed a total afterthought. Still, he has already proven to be a steady-if-unspectacular second tight end.
BEST CASE: Bates plays approximately 50 percent of the offensive snaps, provides strong blocking, and catches 30 balls resulting in 15 first downs and three touchdowns.
WORST CASE: Bates plays approximately 50% of the offensive snaps, provides mediocre blocking, and catches 10 balls resulting in three first downs and zero touchdowns.
REALISTIC CASE: Bates plays approximately 50% of the offensive snaps, provides adequate blocking, and catches 20 balls resulting in eight first downs and one touchdown. But he also has one highlight reel play where he bulldozes Nakobe Dean during another Commanders' upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.
I don’t know if that’s technically “realistic,” but it wouldn’t surprise me.