By Manny Benton and Ben Standig
ASHBURN -- By now engaged NFL fans know better than to dismiss undrafted rookies. The teams certainly don't, especially those considered "priority free agents." Former Georgia Bulldogs offensive tackle Tyler Catalina was one of those players in 2017. Now he's a name worth watching with the Washington Redskins this summer.
Here's a basic synopsis of why that's the case: The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder started at tackle for three seasons at Rhode Island. Despite playing way, way off the football radar, Catalina received ample buzz from notable D1 programs. When the opportunity to transfer occurred, Georgia beat out several BCS schools for the tackle. Soon enough, Catalina started at left tackle for the Bulldogs. One of his best games arguably came against Tennessee's Derek Barnett, who was selected in the middle of round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Eagles.
NFL teams took notice and another bidding war emerged, according to a source, with the Redskins prevailing. That means offensive line coach Bill Callahan has a new project.
"I knew that Coach Callahan and Coach [Jay] Gruden are some of the best in the league," Catalina told Breaking Burgundy at Saturday's rookie camp. "I thought the opportunity was great for me here -- just to learn and play."
Though a tackle in college, Catalina is shifting to guard with the Redskins. His body-type screams NFL "phone booth" interior lineman. He also has experience at center.
"I just know that's how you stick around in the league -- being a versatile player," he said.
That 's great seeing as there is uncertainty in Washington at left guard and the backup center spot behind starter Spencer Long.
During rookie camp -- at least the day made available to the media -- Catalina had a rough moment when fellow undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins bulldozed him to the ground during a 1-on-1 session.Otherwise, Catalina was rather solid and stout.
"It felt great -- you're very excited coming in here and work to gain the respect of the coaches," he said.
Based on early observations, the Redskins seem excited about his prospects as well. Following Saturday's session, Catalina continued practicing and receiving advice from coaches, including Callahan. There appeared to be some extra focus on him during practice on the field -- and he was the final player off it.
"As an offensive lineman, you have to always work on everything," Catalina said. "But right now, it's been hands and footwork for me. It's a little different from playing tackle to now moving inside to guard. So I'm really trying to focus on that and have coach Callahan teach me the best way he can."
Don't take any of this to think we're talking about a player set to line up next to Trent Williams in Week 1, but there's a clear path for him at left guard. While the team has options at that position, it's probably the weakest link on the offensive line with no clear long-term solution. Catalina's biggest challenge transitioning to the position could be pass blocking. However, his athleticism could shine more as an interior lineman than at tackle. It will be interesting to see what kind of progress he makes when training camp opens.