By Adam Aniba
After an impressive 2020 season, Ron Rivera had high hopes for tight end Logan Thomas ('20 72 rec 670 yds & 6 tds). After playing in 15 games last season, Thomas struggled to stay healthy and will go to IR after playing in only 6 games. Thomas has been extremely valuable over the last two weeks, catching touchdowns in each of the last two matchups.
Washington is left with journeyman tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (23 rec 230 yds 2 tds) and rookies John Bates & Sammis Reyes for the remainder of the season. Seals-Jones is a college receiver, who converted to tight end and can be a productive red zone weapon when he utilizes his size advantage. Reyes, who never played organized football until this season, has a long way to go and is primarily used on special teams.
That brings us to Washington's 124th overall selection, Boise State, tight end, John Bates. Although Bates only has 12 rec for 116 yds through twelve games, the rookie has been on the field for every game thus far and fans should expect his role to evolve in the offense.
Bates' calling card during his time at Boise State was his run-blocking ability. His ability as a run-blocker has been encouraging and coaches have noticed. Tight Ends' Coach Pete Hoener has done an excellent job developing Logan Thomas and fans should expect to see weekly gains from Bates.
Situationally, Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner utilizes his tight ends in multidimensional roles. Regardless of where his tight ends line up in the formation, they are all potential receivers on any given play. Of course, they're also imperative to the success of the run game, but compared to his predecessors, Turner has had more success disguising the role of his tight ends in the pass/run game.
In 2021 Washington is in the top 5 league wide, when it comes to targeting tight ends in the red zone. Although Seals-Jones is in line to start against Dallas, with Thomas out, Bates will need to be a factor in the passing game and not just contribute as a blocker.
While at Boise State, Bates was the primary blocking tight end and only recorded 47 rec 579 yds 2 tds in his four years as a Bronco. Although Bates isn't the smoothest route runner, he's shown more awareness and a wide-catch radius as a receiver during his time in Washington.
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke continues to utilize his elusiveness when the pocket breaks down and he'll need more help from his rookie tight end. Teams will continue to key on Terry McLaurin and the other Washington receivers/running backs in the passing game, opening up opportunities for the tight ends. At 6'6 259 lbs, Bates is a load to bring down in the open field and his ability to be a weapon in the red zone will be needed for the stretch run vs NFC East teams.