The Washington Redskins had an OTA practice today that was open to the media, so we're keeping an eye out for reports from that. But in the meantime, here's a notebook from Rich Campbell that deals, in part, with the issue of fan-favorite tight end Chris Cooley and his chances of making the team. As we've discussed here a few times, Cooley is making a lot of money this year ($6.23 million) and trying to return from hand and knee injuries, and the team is converting wide receiver Niles Paul to tight end to see if he might emerge as a possible replacement. Fred Davis is the team's top tight end now, but Mike Shanahan likes to use two-tight end sets, and Davis' emergence doesn't rob Cooley of a potential roster spot. What could do that is his salary or his physical condition. Rich writes that Cooley himself admits that he's not as fast as he used to be, but there are also factors working in his favor:
Cooley isn’t a lights out blocker, but he has proven to be the best blocking tight end the Redskins have on their roster. He's at least two inches taller than Paul, so that likely includes a reach advantage. Paul also doesn’t have extensive experience blocking defensive ends and setting the edge in the running game. Shanahan's outside zone scheme requires tight ends who can block, and that bodes well for Cooley’s chances of making the team. Those hoping Cooley sticks should have been happy to hear of his awareness that he has a great challenge in front of him. Acknowledging that is an important element of his comeback. He knows he has a lot of work to do, and he sounds determined to do it.
I think it would help Cooley if he'd agree to a pay cut, but it sounds as though the Redskins are a ways away from even deciding whether they have to discuss that. They first need to know (a) whether he can play, (b) how effective he can be, and (c) whether someone like Paul, who's playing the position for the first time, can really be a legitimate replacement. Cooley probably makes the team if he avoids further injury or any kind of physical setbacks, because Shanahan feels the offense worked its best last season with Davis and Cooley both on the field. But his spot on the roster isn't a sure thing, and might not be for a while.