Updated: Jan 21, 2021
In week 13, Washington’s offense needed to deliver against an undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers team who boasted one of the top defensive units in the league. The matchup was flexed to prime time on MNF which, under the Snyder era, has been historically bad for Washington. With Alex Smith‘s top target, Terry McLaurin, held in check against Pittsburgh (2 rec 12 yards no td’s) and starting back Antonio Gibson leaving the game in the 1st quarter with a toe injury, the Burgundy and Gold needed somebody to step up in a herculean way against the NFL’s top ranked passing defense.
Although Cam Sims and J.D. McKissic had monster games vs Pittsburgh (162 comb rec yards), Logan Thomas was Alex Smith‘s go-to target with 9 catches on 9 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. Thomas’ performance was the most yards the Steelers defense had given up to a tight end this season and statistically led all pass catchers on the night.
Developing Versatility Early On
Logan Thomas‘ time at Brookville High School (Campbell County, Virginia) is what would shape Thomas as the football player he’s become today. During his time at Brookville the WFT tight end played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back (80 tak and 4 ints). Thomas had his best year during his senior season completing 118 passes for 1,535 yards and 20 touchdowns, but his 842 rushing yards for 11 td’s would get him the golden ticket invite to the 2009 Army All American Bowl. Thomas would also earn All-State honors in track & field in the 110m and 300m hurdles, high jump, long jump and discus event. If that wasn’t enough, Thomas also found time to play basketball for Brookville High, later having his jersey retired in 2016.
Washington fans are well aware of Thomas history as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback from 2011-’13, but his 2 rec for 11 yards and 1 td during that span may come as a surprise after witnessing what he did this season. Thomas sat behind NFL journeymen Tyrod Taylor during his first season in 2010, learning behind one of the most exciting dual threat signal callers that season. He would go on the following year to lead his team to the 2011 ACC Championship finishing his career with a 26-14 record as the starter. As the Hokie starting quarterback, Thomas threw for 8,896 yards and 53 touchdowns and added another 1,337 yards on the ground with 24 td’s on 489 carries. His versatility would later help him make the position switch from quarterback to tight end.
Over the last 2+ decades, the position of tight end has been one that Washington has struggled to adequately fill. With the exception of both Jordan Reed and Chris Cooley who was hand picked by Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs, owner Dan Snyder has largely overlooked the position in free agency and avoided drafting one early. Although Reed was an explosive receiver, he offered little in the blocking game and struggled to stay healthy. Coming in to the 2020 season, The Burgundy and Gold Report had tight end as one of the top roster needs. To the surprise of many, Washington passed on drafting a tight end.
The signing of the converted quarterback received little fanfare, but some evaluators viewed Logan Thomas as a solid TE2-TE3 with above average blocking ability, who could possibly be developed into more under Ron Rivera. Thomas was an intriguing developmental prospect, but his early success in Scott Turner‘s offense has been nothing short of remarkable.
2016 marked his permanent switch to tight end when he was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad. He would go on to record 317 rec yards 1 td between ’17-’19 while bouncing around the league. Through eleven starts in Washington, Thomas has already surpassed his cumulative career stats and now has 43 rec for 426 yards 5 td’s with a 9.9 yards per catch average heading into the matchup vs San Francisco. Amongst tight ends, Thomas ranks 15th in the league in receiving yards and is tied for 6th in touchdowns.
In the Thanksgiving matchup vs Dallas, Thomas threw his first pass of the season for 28 yards. The play was one of multiple occasions that Thomas has lined up under center or in the backfield. His play has been a big reason why Washington has been more consistent on 3rd down.
A month ago, if you asked a Washington fan if they thought the three game stretch vs San Francisco, Seattle and Carolina were winnable games, you’d probably get a chuckle. After the win vs the previously undefeated Steelers, fans are believing in this team and Rivera’s direction. As teams continue to focus on top target Terry McLaurin, opportunities to utilize Thomas against opposing linebackers should be there.
As Washington heads into a tough three-game stretch, neck and neck with the Giants, the future and the direction of this offense is starting to seem more clear. After a rough start, OC Scott Turner has made the necessary in-game adjustments to put Alex Smith in position to succeed. Turner seems to have realized, with his talent and injury riddled offensive line, more pre-snap motions, running out of shotgun or utilizing jet action is the best way to get his skill players involved early. Thomas has been a key component to the success of Turner’s offensive vision.
Having an athletic tight end who can block is imperative to carry out Turner’s game plan. Logan Thomas does all the little things well, but can also be that receiving safety blanket that all quarterbacks need to have. It’s become evident that having two versatile tight ends is exactly what Turner’s offense needs. After Thomas, depth is an issue, with Jeremy Sprinkle likely on his way out of Washington after the season and a revolving door of practice squad call ups. With Thomas signed through 2021 at a modest $3.6 million salary, an extension should be on the horizon.
Heading into the offseason, QB, WR and LT top the list as needs on offense for Washington. The Burgundy and Gold Report will feature some talented prospects at those positions with tight end getting some extra attention in the coming months. Follow The Burgundy and Gold Report so you don’t miss any of our upcoming articles and podcast appearances.
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*Credit photos to Washingtonfootball.com and Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team and Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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