With two major weapons in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, the Washington Redskins on Sunday utilized multiple tight end sets for nearly 80 percent of their offensive plays, and Coach Mike Shanahan said you can expect to see plenty more of that this season.
Cooley played in the opener despite missing all of the preseason with a balky knee and only practiced fully one day last week. He recorded two catches for 21 yards while working his way back into the flow.
Meanwhile, Davis posted a career day with five catches and 105 yards.
Washington started the game with Cooley and Davis on the field, and they occasionally added Logan Paulsen to the mix for a three-tight end look.
Shanahan said those multiple tight end packages play to the Redskins’ strengths and also give their offense greater unpredictability. Both excellent route-runners with good speed, Cooley and Davis are capable of not only lining up as traditional tight ends, but also splitting out wide as receivers would.
“What a couple of tight ends enable you to do is present a different package to the defense,” the coach said. “They’re not sure if you’re in a three wide receiver set, four wide receiver set, two tight ends, or three tight ends. The more you can do, the more you can keep defenses off balance.”
Last season, the Redskins ran two tight-end sets frequently. But the majority of the time, only Cooley ran pass routes, and Davis was kept in to help with pass protection. On Sunday, both tight ends went out for passes at times. Other times they, along with Paulsen, were used to run block, something they say they relish just as much as they do pass-catching.
“It’s a big advantage. To be honest, Fred and I, and our tight end room expects for us to be the best group of tight ends in the league,” Cooley said. “To be anything less than the best wouldn’t be good enough for us. We have a commitment to being the best all-around football players. You can watch us block, you can watch us play. There’s no ‘I don’t want to do this part of the game, I don’t want to do that.’ We create an advantage because with us both in the game, you have to decide if you want to play in a base defense, if you want to play us in a nickel defense. We’re going to create a lot of big pass plays with us both in if you do decide to play us in the base, and we’ll also be able to run the ball in any sets. … We feel like we’re capable against any defense.”
Cooley said he was “very pleased” with what he was able to do on Sunday despite minimal practice time this preseason. Playing 20 pounds lighter helped improve his endurance on Sunday, and as he continues to work himself back into form, the two-time Pro Bowl selection believes his production will be as high as it ever has.
“To be honest, I think I can be one of the best tight ends in the league. I have no doubt about that,” Cooley said. “My work ethic will be there more than ever this year, and the goals that I have for myself are high, and I want to play well for this team.”