Niles Paul and the making of a tight end

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
1:45
PM ET
This idea the Washington Redskins had to take second-year receiver Niles Paul and turn him into a tight end is an interesting one. It's inspired, Mike Shanahan has said, by the success he had in the past with players like Desmond Clark and Byron Chamberlain making similar transitions. Shanahan saw Paul as faster than those guys and more physical than the rest of his receivers. And with the health and role of veteran Chris Cooley in question this offseason, he decided to try and convert Paul to tight end. Paul was on board, though a little hesitant at first about the idea of trying to block people like Justin Tuck and DeMarcus Ware. And so the conversion is underway.

Interesting, though, because the wide receiver position and the tight end position are obviously quite different. And as is often the case at the NFL level, the differences are myriad and minute. So I found this interesting by John Keim today on what Paul has been noticing as he's worked in new spots in the offense, such as the "Tiger" position, which is what the Redskins call the H-back spot:
"I can't see the ball nor can I hear what's going on," he said. "It's something I have to adjust to. It's definitely a little different."

The solution, courtesy of tight ends coach Sean McVay: get a little lower in his stance.

"I have to key the ball and look and see what's going on with the defense and I have to know what the snap count is on on top of that," Paul said. "It's a lot going on that I'm not used to. I'm still getting adjusted."

At receiver, Paul didn't always have to know the snap count. He'd eye the ball and go when it was snapped. Simple. At Tiger he can't get off late at all.

"If I'm off late I can cause a wrinkle or crease in the O-line," he said. "I know that. I have to get off the ball in time. It's just different."

Lots of potential here with Paul, and you get the sense the Redskins coaches hope he can emerge as the No. 2 tight end behind Fred Davis. That would leave a reduced role for Cooley, who's willing to do whatever it takes to stay on the team and worked at fullback last week with Darrel Young hurt. If Paul can develop and parlay the physical traits the Redskins like about him into success at his new position, it would give the Redskins depth at tight end and a tough choice to make regarding Cooley, a longtime fan favorite who desperately wants to stay.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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