Wide receiver-turned-tight end Niles Paul said he was “extremely disappointed” that he dropped three passes in the Redskins’ preseason opener against Buffalo.
“When it comes to grading out, I graded out really well blocking. What surprised me was the passing game, which I didn’t do too hot in,” Paul said Tuesday. “I had those drops, which, no excuses. Those are just me dropping the ball. Me and Sean [McVay, the tight ends coach] are actually putting in extra work because it almost seemed like I spent so much time focusing on blocking that I forget that, hey, I’m still a receiver at the end of the day.”
Paul’s practice routine as a receiver during his rookie season last year included catching 100 balls before practice and 50 after. He had not been doing that this summer because he was focused on the blocking adjustments required as a tight end.
He re-started the old routine beginning with Saturday’s practice.
“I told Sean today we’ve got to get back to the basics,” Paul said.
Paul was relieved to get some game experience at tight end because he’s dealing with so many adjustments as a tight end. Something as simple as seeing when the ball is snapped is a major change for him lining up in a different stance and location.
“I’m still getting comfortable in my stance where I have to get low enough where I can look up and see what’s going on with the defensive line and linebackers,” Paul said. “What I found out in the Bills game was that it was harder to hear when I was in the Tiger [the Redskins’ second tight-end]. When I lined up outside the Y [the Redskins’ first tight end], I was kind of keying off the person inside of me when I can get off the ball because I can’t see the ball, nor can I hear what’s going on.”
Paul sought McVay’s advice about getting off the ball on time.
“He told me to try to get in a stance where I can actually key the ball,” Paul said. “It’s so much because I’ve got to key the ball. I’ve got to look up and see what’s going on with the defense, and I’ve got to know what the snap count is on top of that. It’s just a lot going on that I’m not used to. I’m still getting adjusted.”
Paul prefers when the play calls for him to go in motion before the snap, but he was pleased not to do that much against Buffalo because it helped him gain game experience in an area in which he’s uncomfortable.
“It’s a difference because [in motion] I’m able to see and read what I’m about to do as far as when it comes to me lining up just flat out in a three-point stance on the ball,” he said. “I can’t really hear, and I can’t really see what the defense is doing. That’s an extremely big adjustment.”
Overall, just blocking players on another team gave Paul confidence that his transition to tight end will be successful.
“Before the game, I was like, ‘Oh, man,’” Paul said. “Like, OK, I know we do it in practice, but you never actually get a true look. Me being a smaller guy, I’m probably going to get targeted a lot: ‘Let me just try to bull him.’ All that was going through my head before the game.
“When I got in there and we did the play, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not as bad as I thought.’ I was getting to where I’m supposed to be and I’m just holding them off. I’m just like: ‘It’s not that bad,’ and I started getting more comfortable doing it. At the end of the game, I felt a lot better than I did going into the game.”