Vernon Davis calls Redskins' offense TE friendly, but it's more about Jordan Reed

After catching 38 passes last season, tight end Vernon Davis will be all smiles if he sees more passes coming his way in Washington. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

ASHBURN, Virginia -- The first pass on the practice field last week got Vernon Davis' attention, a pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Then Davis, the Washington Redskins tight end, saw the same scene repeat itself three more times in a row.

"I was like, 'wow this is incredible. Look at this, a tight end-friendly offense,'" Davis said. "I can do this. This is nice."

But is this a tight end-friendly offense? Or a friendly one for Reed? The Redskins could have solid depth at tight end if a) Davis can still play, and b) Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen are fully recovered and back to their old selves after missing last season because of injuries.

However, it’s still a Reed-powered passing attack. The Redskins use his ability to win one-on-one matchups, especially against linebackers, to hit quick throws. Washington will split Reed wide to create a one-on-one with a safety to create another issue. They can’t do the same thing with other tight ends. So it’s tough to say it’s just a function of hitting tight ends more than it is just using Reed’s talent.

So it’s hard to say it’s just a function of throwing to the tight ends.

But here is a look at the Redskins' passing game and tight ends the past two seasons (stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information):

  • We will find out this season whether Kirk Cousins will consistently throw downfield. Last season, from Weeks 10-17, his average yards per attempt was 9.41; it was 6.34 yards in the first eight games. But it should be noted the average air yards per attempt fell from 7.79 in the first eight games to 7.69 in the second. But the higher YPA stemmed in part from DeSean Jackson's return from injury and his impact on those throws. Some of that stemmed from Cousins feeling more comfortable with what he needs to do; coaches want him to be more aggressive. The question now becomes: Will he start out that way in 2016? Though Cousins has played in Washington for four years, he's still evolving as a quarterback. We don't know what his next step will entail, or if he will become more aggressive looking downfield.

  • In the past two years (in 2014, Colt McCoy and Robert Griffin III started a combined 11 games), Washington ranks 22nd in pass attempts to receivers compared to 14th on attempts to tight ends. Last season Cousins ranked sixth for pass attempts to tight ends. Among those ahead of him: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Drew Brees. But a shorter, quicker passing game takes advantage of Cousins’ strengths as a passer. He can make quick decisions, and though coaches say his arm is good, he also doesn’t have a cannon. A lot of the deeper throws, however, stem more from a reluctance to just unload the ball in the past rather than arm strength.

  • Cousins ranked second among quarterbacks with at least 80 attempts to tight ends in completion percentage on throws targeting this position at 76.5. That’s not surprising given the situations Reed was in; the Redskins do a good job moving him around and creating favorable situations. It’s also not surprising that Cousins’ throws to tight ends ranked 27th in average air yards per attempt; but their gains after the catch ranked ninth. You can view this in two ways: Cousins gets a lot of help from this position or Cousins is smart for realizing where he needs to go with the ball.

  • This will please Davis and the other tight ends: Washington ranks ninth the past two years combined for number of targets to tight ends. Among those higher: New England, New Orleans and Carolina. The Redskins, though, have more talent at receiver than those clubs, and that should become a bigger weapon for them. But they have not, will not and should not alter their use of Reed. But if he’s off the field? Then the receivers must be the priority.

  • Even with Jackson on the field the last half of the 2015 season, Cousins' attempts to receivers didn’t increase. In fact, he ranked 15th overall in pass attempts to receivers -- but 21st from Weeks 10-17. But consider that Cousins attempted fewer passes in general during this time (they were winning more, so there weren’t games where they had to play catch-up). Still, his percentage of throws to receivers went from 57.6 percent in the first eight games to 50.6 in the second. Again, that could be partly explained by game situations, as Reed’s targets went from 59 in the first half of the season to 54 in the second.