Welcome back to the Burgundy and Gold Report. With Training Camp set to begin July 26th, roster speculation is the buzz among Redskins Nation. In the previous post, I wrote why the Skins should select Va Tech CB/S Adonis Alexander in the Supplemental Draft. Well to my delight, the Redskins didn’t disappoint and selected Alexander with their 6th round selection. That pick will come off their 2019 Draft haul, which is predicted to grow with potential compensatory picks. Today we focus on the tight end position.
Tight Ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis will be counted on to stay healthy and produce, but what about depth at Tight End? Well with veteran tight end Niles Paul moving on to Jacksonville, a door opened for 2017 5th round TE Jeremy Sprinkle. The former Razorback looks to take a step forward in 2018. Although the Sprinkle only had 2 catches for 13 yards and 1 TD in his rookie season, that had more to do with Coach Gruden’s adjustments, play calling and Cousins lack of trust in the rookie. The Redskins just can’t go into another season, hoping Reed will play more games or Davis lasting the entire season and playing at a high level. After watching hours of Sprinkle’s Arkansas tape, one thing was apparent and that is he’s much more than just a blocking tight end.
The Burgundy and Gold Report conducted a social media Poll, posing the question; With Jordan Reed’s injury history and Vernon Davis’s age, should Jermey Sprinkle be more involved in the offense? The poll had over two hundred participates and over 90% agreed, Sprinkle needs more opportunities going forward. Although Sprinkle is not viewed as an uber athletic tight end, he does have the ability to stretch the field as a pass catcher and hunker down when it’s time to run block. So without further ado, let’s get to the 3 Reasons to Like Sprinkle.
#1 Natural Hands
Although the former Arkansas Tight End didn’t didn’t set the the world on fire during his rookie season, it’s too early to expect immediate contributions from the third string Tight End. The fact that the Redskins didn’t even select a late round Tight End in the draft, spoke volumes about their confidence in Sprinkle. If Reed plays 12 games this season, Skins fans should count their blessings. So that leaves veteran Vernon Davis as the leader of the group once again. Although I love Davis’s ability stepping in for Reed as TE #1, that just isn’t the role he’s suited for at this point in his career. After going through some Arkansas film and the viewing the small sample size he has with Washington, I see a player who’s arrow is pointing up. In saying that, the former Razorback has shown he can be more than a blocking tight end and has natural hands.
During his final two years at Arkansas Sprinkle registered nearly 800 yards on 70 rec for 11 TD’s with a 13.0 ypc average. In no way was he the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd option in Arkansas passing offense, but Sprinkle just has a knack for finding openings in zones and excelling in the red zone. His film shows a hands catcher, that always seemed to be looking to gain extra yards after contact. Compared to previous Redskin blocking Tight Ends, he’s a significant upgrade.
#2 Asset in the Run Game
Last year I wrote an article, mentioning the importance of Sprinkle needing to get in the weight room and bulk up. Well early reports are he’s viewed as gym rat and has looked phenomenal in the offseason! Coaches and players have mentioned he looks bigger, but seems significantly stronger and more agile. That should pay off big time, in regards to the run game. You see Coach Jay Gruden relies on his tight ends to assist in the run game, not a fullback. They’re expected to set the edges and block down field. Personally I don’t like the run scheme at all, but that could be adjusted with the new talent. Either way, Sprinkle instantly seems like the best blocking tight end on the current roster and that’s not saying much. The Redskins other tight ends are passing catching threats for sure and willing blockers, but they just don’t have that skill set. On the other hand, Sprinkle is a good blocker and just needs more experience and refinement. The added strength should help out tremendously, especially helping the Skins running backs when blocking downfield on longer runs. I’m anticipating Guice taking a long TD to the house in Week #1, so the wait might not be long!
#3 Receiving Ability
As previously mentioned, Sprinkle only registered 2 catches for 13 yards and 1 TD during rookie season. Additionally the former Razorback was targeted less than ten times all season by Cousins. That had more to do with play calling and Cousins predictability, as opposed to Sprinkle not being open (which he was often). The health of Reed going forward, will be the determining factor regarding Sprinkle’s playing time. Reed simply can no longer be counted on and any game he’s active will be a bonus! Prior to the 2017 season, Gruden mentioned that he wanted to use a lot more three tight end sets. Hopefully that plan remains in place. Unfortunately injuries derailed that plan last year.
Vernon Davis really stuck it out in ’17, when dealing with multiple nagging injuries during the second half of the season. When his hand was swelled up like a balloon for weeks, he just kept going and obviously was a shell of himself. The Skins just can’t keep counting on aging veterans to save them! In saying that, this should be Davis’s last year in Washington and the same could be said for Reed if he doesn’t shake the injury bug. So that leaves Sprinkle, who has a golden opportunity to shine as a receiver, not just a blocking tight end.
Drafting Derrius Guice was a wise move by the Redskins and will add another dimension to this offense. The threat of true play action, just wasn’t there for Washington in 2018. Teams dared the Redskins to run the ball consistently and when they did it wasn’t pretty. Sprinkle has the ability to get physical with DB’s and find holes in the defense, as Reed and Davis have done routinely over the years. Alex Smith will be far more effective with his run/pass deception, as opposed to Cousins. Smith is a seasoned veteran in the league, his ability to take the hand off back from the running back at the last moment is second to none in the league! Sprinkle may not put up huge passing numbers this year, but utilizing his skill in play action as well as in the Red Zone should pay off big time! Watching his film at Arkansas showed me a team player who’s willing to do all the dirty work in the trenches. In saying that, once his team was in the red zone, a switch seemed to go off in the youngster’s brain! On multiple occasions I witnessed Sprinkle disengage his block, throw his man to the ground and break to the end zone with precision. He does have a mean streak and it’s always evident in short yardage situations. As a receiving option, Sprinkle might be the 4th or even the 5th option for the Redskins, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help this team.
In the end I view Sprinkle as a willing blocker, as well as an athlete who can make plays with the ball in his hands. 2018 is a big season for the second year tight end. This might be a small window to showcase what he can do with the first team unit. Word is Coach Gruden will bring Reed along slowly during Training Camp, which will give Sprinkle more snaps with the first team and more importantly his new quarterback. I for one am excited to see what this kid can do!
Thanks for checking out another Burgundy and Gold Report. Stay Tuned for more player analysis, free agent updates and Pre-Training Camp news!
Written By Adam Aniba
*Photos Credit of zimbio.com, 247sports.com and ge ttyimages.com