- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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During the summer, Chris Cooley couldn't beat out Logan Paulsen or converted wide receiver Niles Paul for a Washington Redskins backup tight end spot behind Fred Davis. So the news that the Redskins have brought Cooley back in the wake of Davis' season-ending Achilles injury isn't exactly the banner NFL headline of the day. And I doubt there's going to be any kind of stampede in your fantasy league to snag Cooley off the waiver wire. He is not the player he was when he used to catch 70-80 passes a season, and he's not going to replicate the numbers of Davis, who's a more dynamic weapon and was leading the Redskins in receptions even though he was only the 23rd-most targeted tight end in the league.
However, I think Cooley can still fill a role for the Redskins, and for a couple of somewhat unique reasons. First, it's the only place he wants to be. He's a lifelong Redskins fan who roots for the team the way a fan does, which is the root of his popularity among those fans. He claims to have turned down opportunities elsewhere after the Redskins released him because he didn't want to play for any other team. Whether that claim is true or not, we'll never know, but it bolsters the Captain Chaos legend and further endears him to the team and its fans.
Second, Cooley is a smart, selfless player who knows the offense and can only help as Robert Griffin III and his young tight ends and receivers continue to develop in it. Even if Cooley is the third tight end on the depth chart behind Paul and Paulsen, he's made it clear that he's fine staying in the background and helping those guys get better. He was one of the first to call Paul in the offseason when the news broke that Paul was being converted to his position (and thereby endangering Cooley's own status on the team), and Paul's development as a tight end should benefit from having Cooley around.
Finally, if he does see the field, Cooley is likely to help as a blocker. Davis' blocking had improved, but it doesn't look as though it'll ever be his strong suit. Paul looks timid at times (as many would be) when asked to block opposing defensive ends. Cooley has no fear of such assignments and will throw himself into them with abandon. If the concern was that Paul/Paulsen was not yet a reliable enough combination at tight end with Davis sidelined, Cooley's addition to the mix can help with that.
The Redskins' coaching staff likes Cooley and was impressed with the condition in which he kept himself this offseason in an effort to prove to them he could stay healthy. He was cut as part of a numbers game, due to his high salary and their desire to develop Paul as a tight end -- not because the team wanted to be rid of him. Now that he's back, there's every reason to think he can help the Redskins' dynamic offense in his own specific ways.
Now, if he could only play safety, then they'd really have something.
11hEric D. Williams