Redskins’ Niles Paul progressing after switch to tight end

23-year-old was a WR, but now learns complexities of new position

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Praised by Fred Davis for his aggressiveness, Paul isn’t lacking physically.

“Initially, the best thing about Niles was that he is an extremely physical football player,” Cooley said. “He has no qualms about smashing his head into someone else’s head.”

It’s more of a mechanical issue so far. Paul said he’s still getting comfortable with his stance, seeking more help from tight ends coach Sean McVay.

“He told me to try to get in a stance where I can actually key the ball,” Paul said. “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.”

Surprisingly, even to Paul, was that blocking has not been an issue this preseason. In the opener at the Buffalo Bills, his performance graded out well.

But in that same game, he was targeted five times and ended up with one reception, left to lament the missed opportunities and return to the “basics” of catching balls at the beginning and end of practice.

“No excuses. Those are just me dropping the ball,” he said. “Me and Sean 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.”

Balancing those dual roles is just part of the challenge.

“I think this stands in our offense, the hardest position other than the quarterback is the tight end. What he’s going to have a problem with or what’s going to be, I guess, trouble for him adapting is the base of knowledge that he’s going to have to develop as a tight end,” Cooley said. “We just do so much in every facet of the game. You’ve got to be completely involved in the run-blocking scheme; you also have to be completely involved in the pass-blocking scheme.”

Cooley, whom Paul referred to as his “older brother” has tried to teach as a friend, instead of a coach. Paul said he and Davis feed off each other in practice, trying to one-up each other.

But as much as he’s learning from the established tight ends, he’s contributing to them.

“I’m taking more from him than he is from me,” Davis said. “He’s aggressive with every block he does. He goes hard with everything. That’s a plus for him. Every one of us can learn from that.”

Every day, every rep is a learning process for Paul. His speed is an asset, but he thinks there’s something else that’s letting him make a smooth transition to tight end.

“It’s my attitude, man. It’s just how I was raised,” Paul said. “I’ve never been a punk, I’ve never been scared, I’ve never backed down from a challenge. I take that attitude into football. I’m not afraid to fail, so I go in there and I compete, no matter what I do.”

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