Washington Redskins - Team Focus

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Washington Redskins - Team Focus

Postby Jim Brown » Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:01 pm

OLBG member Gman84 keeps us up-to-date here with news, views, previews and reviews on the WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Members are free to add comment and views, and discuss the Washington Redskins here with the OLBG NFL Community :win:
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Postby Gman84 » Mon Jul 13, 2015 5:56 pm

Firstly, allow me to introduce myself. My username is Gman84 but real name is Chris and I’ve been a Redskins fan since late 1983 when the game was just starting to build a fanbase over here (I’m aware some people go back to the days of highlights on World Of Sport and such though!). I was drawn to the Redskins who were one of the top teams at the time and led by the bruising running of John Riggins, the pass rush of Dexter Manley and the cocky play of Quarterback Joe Theismann. I started to follow more seriously in the mid-to-late 80’s, attracted by an increased knowledge of the game and the players. My actual username refers to my favourite player - Wide Receiver Gary Clark. Since those highs of the 1980’s and early 90’s the team has struggled to rise above mediocrity with the odd false dawn and plenty of slumps and reboots that have never gone well. Still, the fan in me hangs tough but I consider myself a realistic and don’t just believe in the team blindly.

Enough about me though, lets try to get a grip on where the Redskins are and where they are trying to go:

A quick recap of 2014:
  • Record: 4 wins, 12 losses (2-4 in the division, 2-10 in conference, 3-5 at home, 1-7 on the road). Last place in the NFC East.
    Points for - 301; Points Against - 438 (net points -137).
    13th ranked offensive in yardage (358.6 yards/game).
    11th ranked in offensive passing yardage; 19th ranked in offensive rushing yardage.
    30th ranked in 3rd down conversions (32%).
    Allowed 58 sacks (2nd worst in the league).
    2nd in offensive penalty yardage (1,130).
    -12 in turnover differential.
    20th ranked in defensive yardage allowed (357 yards/game).
    24th ranked in passing yardage allowed; 12th ranked in rushing yardage allowed.
    24th ranked in 3rd down percentage (47%)
    2nd worst in defensive penalty yardage (1,164).
    Recorded 36 sacks (24th in the league)
    Opponents recorded a league best 108.3 passing rating against the Redskins.
    The Redskins finished as the NFL’s 5th worst team hence picking 5th in the 2015 NFL Draft.
2014 was a tough year for new Head Coach Jay Gruden who looked a little out of his depth at times and he struggled with some of the finer points of Head Coaching - retaining discipline and clock management which in turn (in my opinion) also made his job of calling offensive plays inconsistent.

Whilst statistics can be often spun to show what you want them to show I think some of the stats shown above can be read truthfully - the penalties were a massive issue and staying on the field and getting opponents off the field (3rd down percentages) were huge problems and must be improved upon in order for this team to be more competitive.

A disappointing year meant that change had to come. Gruden gets a second chance but long time Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett paid the price for his units struggles and was let go and some other assistants moved on as well. Haslett was replaced by Chargers Linebackers Coach Joe Barry and he has new assistants for the secondary and defensive line. The other big change was bringing in respected offensive line guru Bill Callahan from Dallas to coach that unit. The later change has been well received but the appointment of Barry not so much given his history as a DC when he “helped†the Lions go 0-16 in 2008!

The most important change came in the Front Office though. After years of ownership interference and a complete lack of direction the franchise has finally taken note of consistently successful teams such as the Patriots, Seahawks, Ravens, Packers and Steelers and finally appointed a true General Manager in former 49ers GM Scott McCloughan. He’s had some personal issues (alcohol related) but he’s been a part of some very successful organisations (Packers and Seahawks as well as the 49ers) and is a well respected talent evaluator who prefers to build via the draft rather than the quick fix of free agency. Long term this is an extremely positive move and one the franchise desperately needed but short term it’s likely we won’t see instant results.

Changes will come on the field though with a full complement of draft picks (after having no 1st round pick the previous two years due to the trade in 2012 to move up and draft Robert Griffin III) and some lower key free agency additions. The Redskins were never even mentioned in the running for top free agent, former Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (who signed a massive deal with the Dolphins).

I’ll detail those changes more as we preview the roster position by position in future posts but my inability to be concise at times means I'll take this opportunity to add more thoughts in future posts.

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Postby Gman84 » Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:21 pm

So let's start working through the roster and the pros and cons of what the Redskins have going into 2015.

The Quarterback position will be the key for the Redskins offense (stating the obvious as it is for most teams but more so with the Redskins given the issues they've had at the position) with Robert Griffin III set to try and return to his exciting and effective play of 2012 when he won Rookie Of The Year honours. Since then, a combination of injuries and inconsistent play have seen Griffin suffer many more downs than ups and he appears to be in the last chance saloon even with the team picking up his 5th year contract option for 2016 (most likely done so if he does turn things around they don’t have to use the franchise tag). In 2012, then Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan developed a simplified scheme leaning heavily on the read-option which made the most of Griffin’s athletic ability whilst not asking him to go through too many reads in the passing game. Now, in Gruden’s scheme - which has it’s roots in the West Coast offense - Griffin is expected to read defenses, look off opposing defensive backs and progress through the routes of the play working down to the open receiver. What we’ve seen of him in this style is that he takes too much time and holds the ball too long and this is something he simply must drastically improve upon. The NFL is a passing league now, you need an effective Quarterback who limits his mistakes and moves the chains consistently. Griffin has not been able to do that the past two seasons. If he finally starts clicking in the scheme and can find the confidence to still use his athletic ability at the right times whilst also protecting himself (he still struggles to slide properly when running the ball) then the Redskins chances of success in 2015 increase significantly.

Griffin also hasn’t helped himself with his comments to reporters and his presence on social media. Without dwelling on individual moments too deeply he should really learn to just do his talking on the field and once that’s done then he can feel free to let the world know how good he is.

The reports from the off-season are encouraging though. He has looked more focused and composed in off-season workouts and mini-camp. He seems to be working through his progressions much better and keeping his eyes down the field and the coaches are working hard on his footwork and getting him to throw with anticipation - throwing to a spot where the receiver should be rather than waiting for him to be there and allowing defenders time to react. What is difficult to recreate in the off-season is pressure and hence his pocket presence is something that can’t really be tested until the real bullets are being fired and yet it is really still the biggest question mark. Head Coach Jay Gruden has spoke positively of Griffin’s work though and to be fair to Gruden, he’s a guy you can believe because one of his issues last year was being a little bit too honest about Griffin’s play which led to more media speculation than a struggling team ever required (I'm not saying Gruden shouldn't be honest about Griffin's play, but maybe just play the media a little more "neutral").

If Griffin fails to show what is needed or succumbs to another injury then last years back-ups are back to try and make things work. Kirk Cousins is likely the #2 and he can work the offensive but makes far too many killer mistakes which finally seen him benched last year in favour of Colt McCoy, again a guy suited by the scheme but limited physically. The Redskins didn’t add a Quarterback in the off-season as the free agent and draft options were not favourable but if 2015 sees issues at the position again there will be change in 2016. Right now the position is the biggest question mark on the whole team.

Hopefully, a dedicated QB Coach will help but the play calling needs to be better too as Gruden too often abandoned the run early in games but that side of the offense is a team strength and should be leading the way, helping control the clock, keep the defense rested on the sideline and reducing the pressure on the QB. My next post will take a look at the running game which needs to be Robert Griffin’s best friend in 2015.

What do I expect of Griffin and the QB position as a whole? Honestly, I'm not sure (maybe a better way of putting it is I'm not confident). Griffin has the confidence and the physical tools to be a great player but I'm not sure he's ever going to be a straight up, drop back passer who feels the rush and works the defenses soft spots, takes what's given and doesn't make killer mistakes (which is what Gruden's offense requires). He has to be much, much better under pressure and he must start the season well. Jay Gruden can't afford a slow start or the pressure will quickly be on him as much as Griffin and nobody is more popular in DC than the back-up Quarterback. I wouldn't be shocked if the position as a whole spent 2015 playing another long winded game of musical chairs.

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Postby undertherobe » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:06 pm

Great introduction Gman84 :win:

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Postby Gman84 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:40 pm

Thanks undertherobe :)

Always welcome and encourage feedback or any questions that someone would like to cover about the team (or former players who might be on your team now).

Onto the rushing attack now.

It’s not impossible to believe the running game can be one of the upper tier in the league. Ihe team actually led the league in rushing in 2012 and was ranked 5th in 2013 before a major drop to 19th last year. Admittedly part of the reason they were top ranked in 2012 was that QB Robert Griffin added over 800 yards on the ground but it still featured a strong season from the regular running attack. Last season the running attack was often given up on too early which I mostly blame on the play calling as they averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry but one issue the rushing attack did have was it lacked a breakaway threat as they ere one of only 3 teams to fail to register a 40 yards or more rush!

The style of the rushing attack will change though as they move from the one-cut, stretch zone scheme which was brought in by previous Head Coach Mike Shanahan (and maintained by the new coaching staff in 2014) to a more power based scheme although I suspect one or two aspects of the former scheme will be kept just to give them some options. The Redskins leading rusher last year (and for the previous two seasons before that) is Alfred Morris, a gem the team found in the 6th round of the 2012 draft from Florida Atlantic who, as a rookie, smashed the teams single season rushing record! He’ll be asked to run with more power now and hit the hole where the play is designed to go rather than cut into whichever hole is created by the zone scheme but he can be effective in traffic and is a tough nut to bring down. Can he do this? I believe so because he's a hard worker and he doesn't over-complicate things, he'll go where the play is designed and won't be the type who gets happy feet and wants to cut back against the grain and end up running back into the pursuit. He makes quick decisions and hits the hole hard and committed, where he might have some issues is whilst he can be quite nifty at times this type of scheme requires good lateral movement and Morris is the type to just bury his head and try and plough forward so it's not impossible to see an issue but I think he has enough positives to succeed. He’s not a great receiver or pass blocker though so he won't feature on obvious passing downs but I do believe the team should make more effort to get the ball in his hands as a receiver in plays like flares and screens where he can set up his blockers and try and gain a head of steam. The team spent a 3rd round draft pick on Florida’s Matt Jones who brings more size and power to the party but many did feel the team had reached a bit for him based on his production in college. He has the size and power you would want for the new scheme and with Morris in a contract year he could be looked at with an eye to the future. His early impact might well be on special teams though.

Darrel Young will continue at the Fullback position and he’s a decent blocker, receiver and occasional short yardage option but the position itself is not heavily used in this offense.

The team will likely carry 4 backs and the final spot will be a battle between Silas Redd and Chris Thompson. I’d make Redd the favorite, I believe the coaches like him and he fought hard tomake the roster as an undrafted free agent last season. Thompson has proved a little lightweight and injury prone in his previous two seasons but did come off the practice squad to feature in a couple of games near seasons end making more of an impact as a receiver. He's been tried returning kicks in the past but didn't seem to have a good feel for the job. One other possible challenge for a roster spot is undrafted free agent Trey Williams who boasts 4.4 speed (in the 40) although I would suspect he'll only get on the roster if injuries strike those above him but a spot on the practice squad could be his reward for a solid camp and pre-season.

A big part of any rushing attack is the offensive line and this is a unit that needed some help. It's bigger issue was pass blocking (although as mentioned in previous posts the QB holding the ball and being too pass happy in terms of play calling, allowing teams to tee off at the QB, didn't help) but with a change in style in how they want to run the ball change was needed.

The entire right side of the line has been dismantled and the team spent its top draft selection - the 5th overall pick in the NFL draft - on Offensive Tackle Brandon Schreff of Iowa. He'll slot in at Right Tackle from the off and should be an upgrade on last years combination of Tyler Polumbus (he wasn't re-signed and has since joined the Falcons) and Tom Compton who shared the RT spot over the course of the '14 season. Schreff was a slightly surprising choice as some felt he projected better at guard due to his short arms but he is extremely strong with a high motor and good character and hopefully he'll prove to be the long term fix at a position that has given the team fits for several years. Next to him at RG they'll be a change to as long time starter Chris Chester was released (he too has since joined the Falcons!). Chester was a good zone blocker but considered too lightweight and not strong enough for the new power scheme. His old job is up for grabs but last years 3rd round draft choice Spencer Long is the early favourite. He'll have to fight off the challenge of this years 4th round pick Arie Kouandjio - who looks a natural fit for the scheme but likely needs some refining - and Josh LeRibeus (who has failed to make an impact since being drafted in the 3rd round of 2012).

The other three starting spots remain the same. At Center we have Kory Lichtensteiger who seemed better suited to the pivot than the Left Guard spot he'd been at in previous years. He's a smart player who uses leverage well but appears a little lightweight for this new scheme. Shawn Lauvao was brought over a free agent from the Browns last year but didn't perform too well in his first year with the team. Maybe he'll do better with a change of direction but I wouldn't bank on it. The teams best player is Left Tackle Trent Williams, a former 4th overall draft choice he's an excellent pass blocker and for a guy of his dimensions, extremely mobile in the running game. He is currently recovering from an ankle issue and won't take any reps until training camp. If he were to miss time that would give the team a massive headache and leave his spot in the hands of either Tom Compton (who is not very good but likely might be better suited to playing guard) or another draft choice from 2014, Morgan Moses, who himself is recovering form a foot injury that ended his rookie season early.

I do believe better coaching in the form of offensive line guru Bill Callahan will help this unit and I'm excited to see what the new right side of the line brings but they'll be growing pains too and I'm still not convinced by the likes of Lauvao who needs to be pushed by the back-ups in camp and pre-season.

If the line can up its game based on previous performances over recent years, that's going to make for a better running game. a better running game helps the passing game and the offense in general, it makes play action more effective for the QB, it makes the downs and distances more manageable, it controls the clock and wears down the opposing defense whilst keeping our own defense well rested.

Next time I'll take a look at the receiving targets on offense.

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Postby Gman84 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:52 pm

The final piece of the Redskins offense to cover (or hope opponents can't cover :D ) is the receiving corps. As much as improved play from the QB position is required, as much as the running game needs to help set up the pass and then the OL needs to up its game by giving the QB time and opening up the running lanes it’s the receivers that can make game changing plays and amass big chunks of yardage in just a few seconds.

For the Redskins, this is the strength of their offense. It’s not perfect and it has some question marks but it’s certainly an area where they boast plenty of talent.

We'll start with the Wide Receivers. First up we have DeSean Jackson. Released just over a year ago by the Eagles as their Head Coach Chip Kelly decided he felt Jackson offered or was subject to, too many off-the-field distractions (at least that’s how the vast majority of people seen it), Jackson came to the Redskins and continued to show why he is one of the NFL’s best deep threat receivers. He only caught 56 passes but took them for a whopping 20.9 yards per grab and took 6 of those receptions to the house (he led the league in 40+ yard receptions with 13). Jackson is just flat out explosive, he doesn’t beat defenders with clever moves - head bobs or stutters at the top of his route - he just flies past them and he is excellent at tracking the ball in the air and adjusting. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. The knock on him is he’s not physical and more a finesse player and he’s not a keen blocker when they run the ball but any opposing defense has to account for him whenever he is on the field.

Opposite him is Pierre Garcon, a free agent addition in 2012 who led the league in receptions in 2013 (113 catches, a team record) but was not as prolific in 2014. He certainly wasn’t helped by the mess at QB but I also felt he struggled to get open at times. He is a much more physical player than Jackson though, a willing blocker who is tough to bring down with the ball in his hands after the catch. Garcon is more a chain-mover than a deep threat but the Redskins need a return to his 2013 form this upcoming season. The third receiver is Andre Roberts, also a free agent addition (2014) from the Cardinals but I wonder if the Jackson signing not long after he had joined the club put him in the wrong place mentally (which shouldn't be an excuse and is only a theory but regardless, he just needs to concentrate of improving his own game). When Roberts was signed it was assumed he’d be the #2 receiver and it was the opportunity he was chasing but once Jackson was on board his place in the pecking order dropped and he delivered a below average year, a feature being some costly drops. He was also the team’s main return man but didn’t make a strong impact there. I believe we’ll see better from Garcon this year, I’m not so sure about Roberts. Veteran Santana Moss, for so long the Redskins leading receiver, has been informed he won’t be brought back but he had not featured much last year, only gaining some extended time in the last few games of the season.

Behind the top three receivers on the depth chart the team has three young players they’ve added in the past two drafts. Last year Ryan Grant came in the 4th round. The coaches like his precise routes and the way he tracks the ball but he’s got to get better at separating from physical coverage. This past draft seen Jamison Crowder and Evan Spencer added. Both will be looking to make an early impact on special teams - Crowder could possibly be the new return guy replacing Roberts and Spencer is apparently a very good special teams player. All three need to buckle down and show they have potential going forward as the Redskins will face some interesting salary cap questions concerning Jackson, Garcon and Roberts in 2016 (all are under contract but all carry a hefty cap number that the team won’t want if they’re not producing at a high level) and they could well have the opportunity to take a big leap forward. I don’t see any of the rookie or 1st year free agents the team has going into camp threatening to make the roster.

The team also has some talent at the Tight End position. The starter is Jordan Reed, a 3rd round pick two years ago who has struggled to stay healthy with a combination of concussions and knee injuries (he’s had surgery again this off-season and hopes to be ready for training camp). Reed is a former QB who made the move to the position in college so he has some understanding of what the person throwing passes wants from him. He has good hands and a nice feeling for the soft spots in zone as well as very nimble feet to make some quick moves. He’s often used in motion or split off the line and is not the greatest blocker, something he needs to work on but if he is healthy for the majority of the season I wouldn’t be shocked if he led the team in receptions and he’s the type of short range target that is going to help Robert Griffin massively if he wishes to improve.

Behind him we have Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen. Paul is a former Wide Receiver who made the move to Tight End after his rookie year. he’s bulked up from 230lbs to 250lbs this off-season in order to be more physical but he has nice speed for the position and works the middle of the field well. However he does suffer from drops and had a costly fumble in the opening game of last year and his blocking must get better but he is also an important contributor to special teams. Logan Paulsen is the blocker of the bunch but he had a rough 2014, having some drops and a couple of costly fumbles. He’s also developed a nasty habit of getting called for holding too often when blocking. He is a load to bring down with the ball in his hands though and can play better than he did last year.

The Redskins have Tight Ends who can help them on offense, but a combination of health (Reed) and eliminating mistakes (Paul and Paulsen) is needed. Reed could be a Pro Bowl talent if he puts it all together.

Overall the Redskins Quarterbacks have talent to throw at. Hopefully a reasonably settled off-season at the QB/WR/TE positions and a settled offensive passing scheme can increase everybody's comfort level.

My next write up will take a look at the defense.

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Postby Gman84 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:26 pm

It’s time to turn our attention to the other side of the ball now and look at the Redskins defense. This has been a unit that has not seen good days for the past decade but rather than dwell on that I’ll concentrate on more recent happenings and what you could expect to see going into the 2015 season.

First off – as mentioned in my opening post in the thread – we’ve had some coaching changes. A new Defensive Coordinator was hired in former Lions DC, Buccaneers assistant and most recently, Chargers Linebackers Coach Joe Barry and he’ll be assisted by some holdovers from last year’s staff and a couple of new additions to coach the Defensive Line and the Secondary. The latter position gets the most positive injection in the shape of former Giants DC Perry Fewell who earned his reputation coaching defensive backs before moving up the chain of command with the Bills and Giants as a DC.

The base 3-4 scheme will remain the same but the emphasis will be different. Barry wants to run a one-gap scheme rather than the two-gap system previous DC Jim Haslett employed. In the two-gap scheme the defensive lineman are asked to try and contain two gaps, or in other words, occupy the blockers around those gaps and allow the linebackers coming from behind to make the plays. In the one-gap look we’re being promised those same defensive linemen will be allowed to target one gap and attack it, trying to make the plays themselves. I do think this will be a better fit for some of our players, especially veteran Defensive End Jason Hatcher.

Going back to Barry briefly before I start to cover the defensive positions and personnel. It’s a hire that carried a lot of question marks given his previous stint as a DC was in Detroit where he was a part of the infamous 0-16 season in 2008 and many felt he got the job based on his relationship with then Head Coach Rod Marinelli (who is his father-in-law). However it’s also fair to say the talent on that team was pretty bad and whilst Barry was the DC, Marinelli had a lot of input into the defense and must take his share of the blame. Barry needs to get his unit off to a fast start though, I think the fans (and I include myself in this thought process) were disappointed the team didn’t hire former 49ers DC Vic Fangio or well-regarded 3-4 guru Wade Phillips (now in Denver) but it’s Barry’s job and he’ll get a fair crack of the whip. Luckily for him his predecessor didn’t set the the bar too high!

Personnel-wise, there’s been an injection of new blood, quite a bit via free agency (although no “superstar†signings as the team has previously tried to play the free agency game) and some via the draft.

It all starts up front and last year’s line was a major disappointment so the likes of Barry Cofield (never seemed to be a natural Nose Tackle), Stephen Bowen (injuries and high salary) and Jarvis Jenkins (a disappointment after being drafted in the 2nd round) were either released or not re-signed. The team signed Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean Francois to take their places. Knighton could be the most significant player the team has added this off-season manning the Nose Tackle position. “Pot Roast†has the size and strength to occupy blockers and move them back, disrupting blocking schemes or forcing the Quarterback to move. He’s on a one year “prove it†type contract laced with incentives so he should be well motivated to earn himself a long term extension. Paea has been an under-the-radar type in Chicago for a few years but he’s got an excellent motor and looks suited to a scheme that encourages him to get up the field. Ricky Jean Francois was drafted by GM Scott McCloughan during his time in San Francisco. He went on to sign a big money deal with the Colts but didn’t quite live up to expectations but again, looks a good scheme fit and helps with the rotation along the defensive line which is a big key to the unit's success as depth as well as quality will be vital as players are shifted in and out in order to keep them fresh and more effective in the snaps they do play. Lining up next to the two new starters will be the aforementioned Jason Hatcher who came across on a big money deal from Dallas in 2014. He started the season strongly but a knee injury seen him play hurt later in the season before he eventually shutting things down for the last 2 games. He could have a big year if fully healthy, benefiting from the improvements around him and the change in style but he’s no spring chicken (33 years old) and maybe he’s just starting to see his career taper off?

Joining in the rotation will be Chris Baker, who can play any spot on the line but is more effective in limited snaps as he tends to wear down if forced into playing too many downs (as was the case last year) and Frank Kearse, who showed a bit of pass rush ability at times last season. Veteran Kedric Golston will face a tough challenge to make the roster and has limited ability (but has hung around for 10 years!).

The line should benefit from the changes in personnel and scheme in my opinion and could well be the strength of the defense.

I'll continue with the D in my next post.
Last edited by Gman84 on Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Gman84 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:48 pm

If the defensive line got an overhaul, the linebacking crew got a slight tinkering. Everyone who finished the season as a starter returns but we’ve had one significant departure (Brian Orakpo) and one reasonable investment (2nd rd draft pick Preston Smith).

The star of the show is Ryan Kerrigan. A former first round pick Kerrigan enjoyed a career year, recording 13.5 sacks (the team as a whole only recorded 36!) and being a constant thorn in opposing offenses side. Kerrigan plays with a lot energy and never quits on a play, he improved his pass rush technique but also when he gets to the QB he always tries to do more and has had success forcing fumbles and forcing poor passes. He needs to maintain that form this season and in his option year he should be motivated to play for a big contract. A slight concern is he’s had off-season knee surgery but will apparently be ready for camp.

Opposite Kerrigan will be last year’s 2nd round pick draft choice Trent Murphy. Murphy finished the season as the starter after Brian Orakpo – playing under the franchise tag – got injured (again!) and with that injury it was always clear both sides were likely to move on and Orakpo is now a Tennessee Titan. Murphy did ok, especially playing the run solidly but his pass rush wasn’t particularly effective and he needs to have spent his off-season effectively refining his technique and improving his strength. All reports indicate he’s worked his tail off to achieve this but I get the feeling he’s a solid player – the type you like to have in your squad – but he’s unlikely to develop into a premier player. I guess the GM and coaches felt the same as they added Preston Smith in the draft – like Murphy also in the 2nd round – and he should be involved in the rotation from the get go. His long arms and good leverage skills should be an asset but he may find the pro game a bit quick at first and 2015 is going to be a learning experience so too much shouldn’t be expected.

Competing for jobs behind the three top OLB’s will be young pros Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams who both seen some time on the active roster last season (both recorded their first career sacks in the team’s last victory of the season vs Eagles). The pre-season and camp will be vital for both of them and the winner will be the guy who has shown the most growth since last season.

At Inside Linebacker, Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson return. Riley enters his 4th year of starting but is limited. He may well benefit from the new scheme which should see him play downhill more and when he’s allowed to be aggressive he can make some good plays, especially when put into the blitz package. He’s always going to be a weakness in coverage though and someone opposing Offensive Coordinators will look to isolate in coverage on a Running Back or Tight End. Robinson is much better in coverage but his struggles has been staying fit. His first two years in the league were pretty much written off and even though he grabbed the starting job last year he again missed time during the season. Like Ryan Kerrigan, he’s in a contract year and will be looking to perform to earn his payday.

They’ll be backed up by Will Compton who played significantly last year in relief for both Riley and Robinson when they missed time but whilst he put in good effort he looked overmatched at times. The guy to watch if the chance presents itself could be 5th round draft selection Martrell Spaight who will likely earn his corn on special teams but brings a reputation as someone who loves tackling and is very active to the football. The final back-up will be special teams captain Adam Hayward but his roster spot is not kept for the sake of the defense, more what he brings to the coverage units on kicks and punts.

Now we come to the secondary and this area, especially the two Safety positions, has been a source of constant pain for years it seems. Both last year’s starters are gone, Ryan Clark to retirement and Brandon Merriweather was not re-signed. Neither are significant losses, Clark was way past his prime (which was in Pittsburgh after the Redskins foolish let him leave in 2007) and Merriweather has constantly failed to comply with the league’s new tackling policies as well as struggling to comprehend the word “coverageâ€! The options in the draft and free agency were limited so the GM decided on a “band-aid†approach and swung a trade for Dashon Goldson to man the Free Safety spot. Goldson has struggled in Tampa Bay after they paid him a massive free agent deal to leave the 49ers two years ago but the trade the team did wasn’t costly (a swap of future low round draft choices) and the Buccaneers also swallowed a large hit of his guaranteed salary so the Redskins aren’t taking much of a gamble either in terms of salary cap room or compensation. If his struggles continue they’ll seek to address the spot again in 2016. Next to him the competition for the Strong Safety spot is between Duke Ihenacho and Jeron Johnson. The latter was a back-up to the Seahawks excellent (some would say league best) pairing of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor but he showed some ability in his limited appearances so now he’s come to Washington searching for a chance to start. Ihenacho was picked up off of waivers from Denver last season but got injured and missed the majority of the season. He’s run with the starters in the majority of off-season work-outs and mini-camp so appears to have the inside track but a long ways to go yet!

The fight for back-up spots will be interesting in itself. Trenton Robinson, Phillip Thomas and Akeem Davis all made appearances last season, Davis’ has a chance to make his spot secure by keeping up the flashes of good special teams play he showed at times. One other name in the mix is late round draft choice Kyshoen Jarrett who has gotten noticed in the practices so far so I’ll be keeping my eye on him in pre-season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team scoured the waiver wire come final cuts time in order to try and improve what is still – for me – an area of big concern.
At the Cornerback position things are a bit brighter. Chris Culliver was a major addition from the 49ers in free agency and he is entering the prime of his career. He’s excellent in man coverage and isn’t afraid to get physical with opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. Opposite him the picture is a bit murkier. Bashaud Breeland stepped into the starting line-up due to injuries and performed well above expectations for a 4th round draft choice. He had to take his lumps at times and corner is a position which can see you exposed badly for your mistakes but he enjoyed one of the best performances of anyone on the team in the victory on the road at Dallas when he played Dez Bryant as well as anyone did all season. He’s well suited to the position and requirements of today’s game, good speed, quick hips and long arms and you would hope with a years’ experience under his belt he would continue to improve. He played much more than expected because veteran DeAngelo Hall tore his Achilles tendon (and then did so again whilst recovering!) but he appears to be on the road to recovery and is expected to be fit for camp but now in his thirties and coming off an injury that has finished many a career it’s tough to know what to expect. Hall is a competitor but is a bit all-or-nothing, sometimes shutting his guy down, other times getting his backside handed to him. He does make some big plays though and will cause turnovers, something any good D needs to be doing. One of him or Breeland will man the other outside spot with the other taking up the slot corner role which is heavily used in today’s pass heavy game.

Behind those three is former 2nd rounder David Amerson. He enjoyed an encouraging rookie season in 2013 but a nightmare sophomore year in 2014 where he was regularly worked on by opponents. Maybe with lower expectations he’ll bounce back but how far he regressed was worrying. The team added a corner in the back end of the draft in Tevon Mitchell but he’ll likely do his learning on special teams and pre-season.

As a whole the defense has had some help, Terrance Knighton and Chris Culliver should be able to make a positive impact but the middle of the D behind of Knighton worries me and we’ve also got to answer the biggest question - can Joe Barry and his scheme work significantly better than his predecessor. Being in the top half of the defense rankings with more sacks and turnovers than last year would be a massive step in the right direction.

I'll round up special teams and an overview going into camp next time.

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Postby Gman84 » Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:19 pm

Special teams isn’t always the first thing you talk about (ok, it’s never the first thing!) when reviewing a team but they’ve an important role to play and the play of the unit the past couple of years reflects on the team as a whole. There’s no official ranking for special teams but Football Outsiders do something called DVOA and rather than explain it here follow the link if you want to know more. Basically, the Redskins were worst special teams in 2013 and “improved†to 29th in 2014! If the team is to turn things around after two very poor seasons then special teams can set the tone by scoring points, not allowing points, winning the field position battle and not making costly mistakes.

Kicker, a bit like Quarterback, has been a constant headache for the team the past two decades but Kia Forbath has brought some stability since joining the team in 2012. He’s hit 88% of his field goals in his three seasons and has hit several game winners under pressure. He’s not got the strongest leg and that has an impact on kick-offs and he also faces the new challenge of the longer extra point kick but Forbath looks like he could be finally the guy who locks down this position for years to come.

The team got a bit of luck at punter, during camp/pre-season last year the Bears cut Tress Way, the Redskins picked him up and he won the job and went on to be one of the better punters in the league as he led the NFL in punting average with 47.5 yards per punt and he put just under a third of his punts inside the opponent's 20. He wasn't perfect though and was guilty of out-kicking his coverage at times. He needs to force returners to fair catch more so accuracy and directing his kicks where the coverage is designed to go are something he needs to work on. Way looks a keeper though and if he can keep improving his game the Redskins could be set at both kicking positions for the long term.

Both kickers will be helped by Nick Sundbery returning for long snapping duties. The way the unit practices those three will likely spend a lot of time together snapping, holding, kicking etc so a good chemistry and understanding is vital and that comes with continuity.

The return game was in the hands of Wide Receiver Andre Roberts but he didn’t make a real impact and will face a challenge, most likely from 4th round draft pick Wide Receiver Jamison Crowder who has the shifty moves and acceleration you look for in a return man but camp and pre-season will sort this job out. The Redskins need to win the field position battle and some better returning would help that.

The coverage and protection units have had their struggles but with a lot of defensive injuries last year and the turnover on the roster your key guys sometimes have to taken off of teams and the next man up, who might have little or no preparation if only just signs, has to go out and do a job with guys and coaches he doesn’t know well. The team has moved to improve depth on both sides of the ball this off-season and a lot of the additions they made were with special teams in mind. The likes of draftee’s Matt Jones, the aforementioned Crowder, Martrell Spaight and Kyshoen Jarrett will all be looking to earn their stripes on teams and free agent addition Safety Jeron Johnson was a key member of a very good unit in Seattle. Add in the units Captain returning from injury - reserve Linebacker Adam Hayward - and the likes of Tight End Niles Paul and Fullback Darrel Young and the unit looks stocked for an improvement.

It’ll help having the same coach for this season after some flux at the position since Danny Smith left after 2012. Ben Kotwica’s style and scheme seemed to be improving as last season went on although there were some mental breakdowns that must be avoided.

Overall I’m encouraged about the special teams unit. It’s got to prove it on the field but if the Redskins can improve their special teams performance then I’m certain that you’ll see a snowball effect for the defense, offense and overall record.

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Postby Gman84 » Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:57 am

I thought that before camp and pre-season starts I'd take a look through the Redskins 2015 schedule and add thoughts on it:

Week 1 - vs Dolphins
The Redskins open their season with a tough home tie vs the Dolphins, a team that's spent big this off-season and they'll have expectations of at least making post-season. QB Ryan Tannehill made some good strides in his development in 2014 and was rewarded with a $96m contract extension. He's got some new toys to play with in WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron, Stills is a guy who can stretch any defense with his speed. The big addition was Ndanukong Suh for the defensive line and he can be a real difference maker. With Suh and Cameron Wake RGIII and the Redskins revamped O-line will face a stern test.

Week 2 - vs Rams
Staying at home for Week 2 and facing the Rams who came to Fed Ex in Week 14 last season and shut the Redskins out the team should be well motivated to avenge that defeat. They would do well to remember how Rams coach Jeff Fisher rubbed their noses in it by sending out all the players acquired from draft picks in the RGIII trade out as team captains for the coin toss! The Rams haven't tasted success for a while but they play in the tough NFC West and have moved to improve their offense with a trade for Eagles QB Nick Foles and drafting RB Todd Gurley in the first round. A team tougher than last years record suggests.

Week 3 - @NY Giants
The NFL can be cruel with their scheduling. The 'Skins first road trip is on a short week, a Thursday Night Football game vs divisional rivals the NY Giants. Ironically the teams played on TNF at roughly this stage last year and the Giants took the Redskins apart 45-14. Eli Manning has some great receivers to work with (Odell Beckham the prime target) but defensively they have some concerns. In this match-up last year the Redskins killed themselves with turnovers, they'll need to eliminate those this time around and get in Mannings face. Setting the tone early in the division is vital to the teams hopes of improvement in 2015.

Week 4 - vs Eagles
The one advantage of playing on TNF is you get a 10 day break until your next game and they return home to face another divisional foe in the Eagles. They've had an "interesting" off-season with mad professor Chip Kelly wheeling and dealing to shape the roster more to his liking. Gone are top RB LeSean McCoy and QB Nick Foles and in come DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford, the latter is still recovering for his 2nd ACL knee injury in 2 years. Kelly's offensive schemes have worked well since he came to the league but he needs his defense to step up significantly. The Eagles could be world beaters this year, or all Kelly's risks could fall flat on their faces. I have no idea what to expect from them.

Week 5 - @Falcons
What I would call a benchmark game. the Falcons are coming off a poor season in 2014 and have changed Head Coaches. They're in a similar position to the Redskins, trying to work their way back up the ladder and this game will tell us who is making the most progress. The one advantage the Falcons have - QB Matt Ryan, who is excellent and still performed solidly even with the teams struggles last season, enjoying his 4th straight 4,000+ yard season.

Week 6 - @Jets
You can learn more about the Jets by checking out the thread for them in this forum but another team with a new head coach. They'll be tough to move the ball on defensively but the Darrelle Revis vs DeSean Jackson will be interesting to watch. Offensively they need to improve massively in order to contend.

Week 7 - vs Buccaneers
The Buccaneers went through a tough 2014 season but they took the Redskins to school in Week 11 last season with a resounding 27-7 victory with rookie receiver Mike Evans constantly getting open deep vs the secondary. The Redskins have tried to improve their pass rush and secondary this off-season so this will be a good test and they'll want to shake up rookie QB Jamies Winston - the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Week 8 - BYE
A nice spot to have the bye, breaking the season roughly into two.

Week 9 - @Patriots
The Redskins will need the bye in order to get ready for the defending World Champions. Tom Brady's suspension will be done by then so he'll be aiming to make up for lost time. This will be a real test of how far the Redskins have come.

Week 10 - vs Saints
The high octane Saints come into town. They suffered a tough 2014 where they started extremely slow and took time to recover but never really did. Offensively they can score on anyone with Drew Brees at QB but he has lost his favourite target in Tight End Jimmy Graham, who was traded to the Seahawks. The Saints need to be able to stop people scoring too though and any game with them has the potential to be a shoot out.

Week 11 - @Panthers
A trip to Carolina and Cam Newton - a dynamic but occcasionally frustrating player but if RGIII could get near to his level of play this season Redskins fans would be happy campers. The Panthers don't have a lot of household names outside of Newton but they're always tough to play in their own back yard.

Week 12 - vs NY Giants
The run-in brings 4 divisional games and this is the first of them. If the Redskins can get to this point at around about the .500 mark then they'll at least have the belief their destiny is in their own hands if they take care of their divisional opponents.

Week 13 - vs Cowboys
Monday Night Football vs the Cowboys! Last season the Redskins pulled off a shock win on MNF at Dallas although the Cowboys avenged it in week 17. The Cowboys have the roster and talent to be a real challenger in the NFC this season but they need someone to step up and replace the departed DeMarco Murray at RB. The D performed above expectations last year and they've added to it with DE Greg Hardy and their top draft selections were on D. They also have LB Sean Lee returning from injury. These games can be strange though and tricky to predict.

Week 14 - @Bears
A bit like the Falcons match-up in Week 5, a game that can tell us a lot about how far the Redskins have come in 2015 (although at this point we should have a fair idea anyway). The Bears fell apart in 2014 with Jay Cutler misfiring and the defense playing at a subpar level. They've got some offensive weapons though (RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery) but they, like the Redskins, are looking to show signs of progress in 2015.

Week 15 - vs Bills
Last home game and the Bills have a similar story to the NY Jets - who the 'Skins face in Week 6. They'll be a tough nut to crack defensively but they need to show improvement on offense although they now feature former Eagle LeSean McCoy who has had some success vs the Redskins in the past. It would be nice to finish off the season at home with a win.

Week 16 - @Eagles
Philly is a tough place to visit and on Boxing Day, with their fans full of "Christmas cheer" it'll be loud and messy! The Skins managed to knock the Eagles off at a similar point last season but like my write up earlier, I've no idea what to expect from them this season. If either team is still in contention for a post season berth this will be a vital game though.

Week 17 - @Dallas
Ending the season on the road again at Dallas. If the Cowboys have lived up to their billing they might already be thinking ahead to post season and possibly resting players but it'd be nice to think this match-up might be like back in 2012 - winner takes all on the last game of the season. I can dream....


All in all given where the Redskins are coming from it's almost impossible to look at any game on the schedule and be confident of a win. We don't know enough about the improvement (or decline) of the opponents either. However, having the bulk of the divisional games close to the end of the season is something I like, as is the bye in Week 8. The negative is that 3 of the last 4 games are on the road.

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Postby Gman84 » Thu Jul 30, 2015 5:27 pm

The Redskins kicked off their training camp yesterday. Not too much to report yet as the first day is usually meetings and today is just a walk through practice but a couple of little nuggets of news worth a mention:

1, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, the teams best defensive player and a former first round pick who recorded 13.5 sacks last season has been signed to a 5 year extension worth $57m. A nice payday for him but on the balance of things when you look at the likes of Justin Houston (Chiefs) or Clay Matthews (Packers) contracts Kerrigan has given the Redskins a "home town discount" (I wish I could offer my employer the same at those rates!). It's a very positive move to see a player the team has developed get the valuable second contract and he'll be expected to prove his worth and continue with his excellent production and leadership.

2, Pass rush is still an issue for the team though and with that in mind the team is taking a look at recently released OLB Junior Galette - formerly of the Saints. He was released only 10 months adfter signing a $41m contract due to some off the field issues. Some of those issues don't make good reading (or watching) and he is also recovering from a torn pectoral muscle so he'll be taking a physical during his visit. I can see the attraction but they need to approach with caution and I'd be loath to give him a big money contract, I'd rather go for a one year "prove it" type of deal.

3, Entering camp it appears all the players with injury concerns will be ready to go. DeAngelo Hall (achilles); Trent Williams (ankle); Ryan Kerrigan (knee); Jordan Reed (knee) and Morgan Moses (foot) will all be able to practice.

I'll be back in a day or two to round up more on the opening of camp.

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Postby Gman84 » Sun Aug 02, 2015 11:49 am

Camp is three days old so a few bits to report:

1, Bashaud Breeland has had the worse start, not for his play which beforehand in OTA's and mini-camp had looked improved but on Friday he was informed he would be suspended for the season opener as he was caught in possession of pot last year and this is the leagues action on that offence. As it happens he'll likely not be available in Week 1 as later that day he fell in a drill and injured his knee. It looked like it could be a bad one but some slight relief that it's only a sprained MCL and he'll miss 4-6 weeks. He could be back for Week 2 vs the Rams but he'll miss all camp and pre-season. With his injury/suspension David Amerson and Justin Rogers will be expected to step up, Amerson worked with the starters one day as DeAngelo Hall was given the day off (he's still getting to full fitness from his injury). Also, rookie Tevon Mitchel has sprained his shoulder, hopefully not too serious.

2, The main focus is of course on RGIII. It's a mixed bag so far. Thursday he was inconsistent, Friday he looked excellent, Saturday was so-so, no good but nothing really bad. Seems there is still some issues with how quickly he gets the ball out and also not always using a checkdown but taking off and running. We'll learn a lot more when they hold some joint scrimmages with the Texans soon.

3, Trent Williams has looked excellent at LT. He's clearly the Redskins best O-lineman and in a contract year he'll be chasing his next big deal. Early on he's worked against 2nd year LB Trent Murphy and handled him with ease. On Saturday they stepped things up and he faced Ryan Kerrigan but again came out on top. Protecting Griffin is a key this year and the LT is arguably the most important aspect of that protection. Williams looks like he's hit the ground running.

4, Speaking of Kerrigan, he's worked a lot vs rookie Brandon Schreff. He's coming off the better as you would expect but it's a great learning experience for Schreff who'll face some tough match-ups this year and will likely be attacked by opposing DC's until he proves he can hold his own. In Week 1 he'll face the Dolphins Cameron Wake so a baptism of fire!

5, The battle at safety is proving to be a good watch, Duke Ihenacho looks to have the lead and has been delivering some big hits in practices.

6, Rookie Jamison Crowder has made a few "wow" plays. He's explosive off the line and has great speed but he's still got to learn to get off the line better if the corner oppositie plays physical.

7, The defense is putting a big emphasis on creating turnovers, a big issue last year. Players are constantly trying to strip the ball and Barry is calling a lot of blitzs in the work-outs.

8, The Tight End position is interesting, with a stronger emphasis on running the ball the best of the unit at blocking - Logan Paulsen - is working with the starters a lot. Niles Paul is coming in for the passing plays and Jordan Reed is at the moment, the 3rd TE. Possibly this is why he gets himself to 100% following knee surgery but also they need to see more from him as a blocker.

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