Niles Paul entered the NFL as a 224-pound wide receiver.
When he takes the field this fall, he’ll be a 251-pound tight end, working to stay needed by the Redskins as the team and its offensive schemes have evolved.
“It’s weird,” he said of the weight gain. “But in this business, you do what you’ve gotta do to survive, and I’ve done that.
“Usually I don’t eat a lot of meals. I barely eat breakfast, and have one other meal. But (team nutritionist Jon Mathieson) has made it a point for me to eat 3-4 times a day.”
By bulking up, Paul has been able to better refine his blocking techniques, and will anchor the Redskins trio of tight ends - himself, Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen.
It’s one of the most tenured groups on the team: Paulsen and Paul have been together for five seasons.
“Logan’s my guy, and I love having him out there with me,” Paul said. “Just having him out there makes me more comfortable, because he knows so many calls that he helps me become a better player.”
Reed is the youngest of the group, entering his third NFL season. He said he’s been impressed at how Paul has done what it takes to play the position.
“The way he’s blocking, man, it looks like he’s been playing the position for a long time,” Reed said. “He takes it real serious.”
Paul went to college at Nebraska, where he was a special teams standout. He still has a big role with the special teams, and has served as the captain of the Redskins unit, but is also finding his role as a pass catcher under Jay Gruden.
Last year he caught 39 passes for 507 yards, more than double what he’d done in his first three NFL seasons combined.
Gruden said he expects Paul and Reed to split time as the starting tight end this year, depending on what formation the team is in.
“I think Niles Paul is probably a little bit more of a complete player, when you are talking about blocking also,” Gruden said. “Pass blocking is very important for that guy.”
“Jordan will play a lot in our three-receiver, one-tight-end set. He is probably the starter in that particular group. When we go two tight ends it will be Niles and Jordan. We change personnel so often, they will both get a lot of playing time.”
Paul said one of his big focuses has been on refining his pass blocking, a point of emphasis for himself and the running backs as Robert Griffin III enters a crucial season.
In 11-on-11 drills at camp, Paul has held his own against pass rushers like Ryan Kerrigan, using his strength to make up for the difference in size.
“I feel like I’ve been doing everything I’m supposed to do,” Paul said. “I feel like I’ve been having a good camp, and hopefully I can maintain my No. 1 spot.”
Paul and Paulsen sat out portions of Monday’s workout - Paul with a shoulder injury, and Paulsen with a big toe injury.
The coaching staff has said that getting both players to the season healthy is a top priority, since the tight ends will be called on often in the offense.
That’s music to Paul’s ears, as he tries to remain indispensable in Washington.