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Transition To Tight End A Challenge Niles Paul Willing To Embrace

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – To begin his transition from receiver to tight end, Niles Paul began playing the tape of one of the Washington Redskins’ games against Dallas from last season.

Paul

First impressions are lasting impressions, and Paul didn’t like what he saw.

“Y’all want me to block these big men?” the 6-foot-1, 233-pound Paul remembered thinking Monday morning.

As he’s beginning to learn, the task isn’t as daunting as it seemed. Assisted by the others at his position – specifically, Chris Cooley and Fred Davis – Paul is starting to take to the change.

“It was just like, they encouraged me,” Paul said. “They pulled me aside, Cooley especially, and said, ‘You can do this.’ He said, ‘This may look hard, but in a day, once you get into your zone and you can get your leverage, it’s not as bad as it looks.’”

Paul began the transition at the end of last season, when, with Cooley injured and Davis suspended for the final four games, the lack of depth at tight end was striking.

He weighed only 220 pounds at the time – far from typical for a tight end – and saw only a handful of snaps. The coaches liked what they saw, though, and after the season ended, head coach Mike Shanahan called Paul to ask if he would be interested in the change.

Paul’s quickness was an asset, both as a receiver and on special teams, and the team’s hope was that his skills would create matchup problems inside.

“I see him being very explosive,” Davis said. “Niles is a very mature guy, and he’s definitely coming along very fast for never playing tight end.”

Still, Paul remains concerned about his blocking ability, especially in the run game. Blocking was one of his strengths as a receiver, but holding off defensive backs is significantly different than stopping linebackers and defensive ends.

That’s been one of the perks of having the walkthroughs and practices in training camp – the ability to learn. So, too, has been having Cooley and Davis around.

“They’re very encouraging to me through this whole process, helping me get comfortable through this transition,” Paul said.

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