Commanders Training Camp 3 to Watch: Tight Ends – Sports Illustrated

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz enjoys throwing to tight ends. 
In Wentz's often talked about 2017 season, tight end Zach Ertz was his main target, and even with his starting quarterback exiting late in the season finished as the team leader in receptions and yards, and second in receiving touchdowns. 
This fact leans credence to the theory that if the Commanders are going to get the most they can out of their new quarterback, the tight ends will be big contributors in 2022. 
Starting tight end Logan Thomas finished 2021 with just 196 receiving yards, but he also had three touchdowns and appeared in just six games as he battled injuries all year long. 
So while we'll all be looking to see just how much Thomas can contribute in training camp and the preseason, let's turn our attention – for now – to three guys who have been competing in the early offseason programs, with much to prove still when camp convenes in less than two weeks. 
JOHN BATES
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Bates came into the NFL out of Boise State expected to contribute mostly as a blocker after having just two career receiving touchdowns in college. 
What he actually did was deliver 20 catches for 249 yards and one touchdown while starting eight games as a rookie due to injuries at the position. 
Bates certainly looked better as a pass catcher than anyone expected, and as fourth-round picks go, this one was a slam dunk in his rookie season. 
He's looking ready to pick up where he left off last season, and if Thomas can't go full speed to start the year, the connection Bates builds with Wentz in the preseason will be critical to the team getting off to a solid start once the regular season arrives.
COLE TURNER (R)
Unlike Bates, the report on Nevada's Cole Turner coming into this year's NFL Draft was more pass catcher than blocker. 
"He's a pass-catching tight end who needs to hit the weights and add necessary functional strength to play through contact," said Turner's NFL.com draft profile. "He has talent but is inconsistent finishing difficult catches and needs to prove he can become a legitimate every-down catch threat against NFL defenders and not just a height mismatch in the red zone."
Graded as a 7th-round pick, or even a priority undrafted free agent, Washington obviously saw more in him, selecting him in the fifth round along with North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. 
Allen is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Carson Wentz is entering his first season as the Washington Commanders quarterback.
The Washington Commanders' new quarterback offered his praise for rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson.
The former receiver was the standout player from the team's rookie camp after making several tough catches that showcased his concentration, hands, and body control. 
He looked strong again during OTA practices and later in the team's mandatory minicamp. 
One question he's yet to answer is his ability to play through contact, and that's what we'll be looking to gauge when training camp gets started. 
ANTONIO GANDY-GOLDEN
Antonio Gandy-Golden's move from wide receiver to tight end represents his last shot at securing a roster spot with the Commanders, and becoming a contributor to the team. 
Through two seasons, while appearing in 10 games, AGG has just one catch. 
And while we immediately place him in the 'receiving tight end' category with this move, he's going to need to show ability as a blocker as well, if he's going to get an 11th game in burgundy and gold. 
"It is kind of hard right now because we're not in pads, but we wanna make sure he knows those (blocking) assignments," said Washington coach Ron Rivera of Gandy-Golden's move to tight end. "We know his skillset as a receiver. It's the size that we really like. To be a guy that can run and play basically the U or the F position for us. We feel pretty good about what he's bringing to the table right now, but it will come down to his ability to block."
Rivera is completely right in that we haven't really been able to gauge his ability to block from the tight end position. Something that requires much more strength and commitment than blocking as a receiver tends to. 
If he can prove himself there, then his knowledge of the playbook and years of NFL experience give him an advantage over the likes of Turner who will obviously need to prove himself as a blocker and receiver to get reps this coming season. 
Of course, we also can't forget the career path and development of Sammis Reyes, who we've yet to see in practice this league year. 
Everyone will want to keep an eye on his progress as well, though as of know we don't know if he'll be able to participate at the start of camp or not. 
Plenty of talent in the Commanders tight end group, albeit somewhat untested and with plenty of questions to answer. 
With all of them potentially having the ability to bond early with Wentz, and become major players in the team's success this season.
David Harrison has covered the NFL since the 2015 season as a digital content creator in written and podcast media and is the co-host of the Locked On Washington Football Team Podcast. He is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and previously served for 20 years in the United States Army. Find David on Twitter @DHarrison82

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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