ASHBURN — If Tim Tebow needs advice on how to make the switch from quarterback to tight end, he should give Logan Thomas a call. After all, the Washington tight end is perhaps the best example of what Tebow is trying to accomplish with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s been more than four years since Thomas changed positions, and in that time the former Virginia Tech quarterback has transformed into a productive tight end who is coming off a career-high career-high 72 passes for 640 yards and six touchdowns.
The former quarterback label may not even be necessary for Thomas any longer. Now, he’s just a tight end. A complete one at that.
“Right now when I talk about a complete tight end, he has to be in the top five, six or seven in the league,” tight ends coach Pete Hoener said last week, “the way he blocks, his total attitude as a real pro, his leadership qualities and then his production as a receiver is proven now. I look for that to keep going up and up.”
When Washington returns for training camp next month, offensive coordinator Scott Turner will have to keep tinkering with ways to incorporate the slew of new weapons that joined the team in the offseason. But Washington can’t — and won’t — forget about Thomas, who Hoener called the team’s “most reliable” offensive player in 2020. The compliment didn’t feel like an exaggeration.
During the first year of a two-year, $6 million deal, Thomas played in every game and was on the field for 92.65% of the team’s snaps. That was more than any other skill position player on Washington. Further, among skill positions (running back, wideout, tight end), Thomas’ 1,009 snaps were actually the second-most league-wide. Only Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins (1,043) had more.
According to Pro Football Reference, Thomas ranked third in receptions, seventh in yardage and 11th in touchdowns among tight ends.
The numbers were better than all three of Thomas’ previous seasons as a tight end combined (35 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns).
“It’s being comfortable and confident within the system and understanding what I’m asked to do, just being able to put my footwork in the run game and continue to grow in the passing game,” Thomas said when asked about his improvement.
Coach Ron Rivera likes to credit Hoener for identifying Thomas during last year’s free agency as someone the team should target. Washington was rumored to be interested in Cleveland’s Austin Hooper, but ended up signing Thomas, a seldom-used backup on the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.
Still, Hoener saw Thomas’ potential. Despite Thomas being older — he turns 30 in July — Hoener said he was intrigued by the tight end’s 6-foot-6 frame and the first step quickness on his release from the line of scrimmage. Watching the tight end on film, Hoener thought Thomas had “all the traits” to be a complete player at the position. “He’s just a guy that never got to play much,” he said.
In Washington, Thomas has made strides. Beyond his role as a pass catcher, he’s become a key part of the run game — coaches even call on him occasionally to block the opposing top defensive end.
This offseason, Hoener and Rivera have already noticed improvement. Thomas looks better out of breaks and has a fuller understanding of the route tree, Hoener said. Rivera noted Thomas has grasped Washington’s system and that has allowed him to “help himself.”
With Washington adding speed threats in Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown, the middle of the field could be more open for Thomas to do damage.
“Confidence is a crazy thing; it can really bring out the best in people,” Hoener said. “You saw that up close and personal last year how he started out. All of a sudden he made a few plays and made some great blocks in the red zone at the goal line and all of a sudden his whole persona changed. Fortunately for him and for us he had to play a lot so he’s in there getting more and more reps each game and continuing to improve.
“I look for the same thing this season.”