Niles Paul showed he could start strong. Now comes the next step in his transition to tight end: Finish the job.
Four games into the 2014 campaign and the former wide receiver looked like a natural and perhaps, a Pro Bowl tight end. He had 21 receptions for 313 yards and one touchdown on 28 targets.
"I look at the first few weeks of last season compared to the other tight ends in the league," Paul said to BreakingBurgundy.com following Day 2 of last month's Redskins mini-camp. "I look at it to show how good I can be with the opportunities I get."
Better to emulate that stretch than the final 12 weeks: 18 receptions for 194 yards on 24 targets. He never found the end zone after Week 2.
Jordan Reed's early injury played a role in Paul's production spike just as Reed's return factored into the dip. Limitations as a blocker -- sixth-worst grade among all tight ends, according to Pro Football Focus -- did as well. Reed played the role of pass catcher and Paul wasn't big or experienced enough to morph into a Don Warren-esque blocker, especially as a 238-pounder going against linebackers that significantly outweighed him.
Things have changed. The 6-foot-1 Paul arrived at camp bulker, tipping the scales at 252.
After a full year of learning the position, his confidence also grew.
"Not so new anymore," Paul said of his adjustment. "I feel like I'm coming into my own as a tight end. I got the weight. I got the size. I got the understanding of everything. I just feel like a better all-around player."
Considering Reed's injury history - he missed offseason workouts while recovering from a knee procedure -, Paul might also get plenty of work this year. It's why credible lists of fantasy football sleepers include the former Nebraska standout.
Opportunity is part of the equation. Dedication is another. Paul believes he's put in the work, sacrificing other parts of his life along the way.
"Sometimes I have to put my family on the backburner," he said. "I love my family, but sometimes they come second to football. My pops, my brothers, my siblings. Stuff they need, stuff they want, I can't help them right now. I'm in mini-camp, I'm in OTAs. I need to focus."
The Omaha native makes the D.C. area his home year-round. "I go [to Nebraska] once or twice a year, maybe. I don't get to go home so much. I'm up here training. ... I try to keep it going."
Whatever conversations Paul has about his job, the talk doesn't include whether the family grasps the level of his focus. "I hope they do. I don't know, but I hope they do," Paul said.
The 2015 campaign isn't just Paul's second season at his new position, but also the sophomore campaign for head coach Jay Gruden, who is also the ultimate voice behind Washington's offense. The Redskins ranked 13th in yards per game last season, but only 26th with 18.8 points per game.
"I feel like we have a strong run game. We have a lot of viable pass options," Paul said about the 2015 attack. "I feel like we have all the pieces to the puzzle to have a great offense."
That includes a wide receiver-turned-tight end who aims to show he can finish what he starts.