NFC East: Washington Redskins

Redskins re-sign Richard Crawford

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
The Washington Redskins' secondary remains an issue, especially with DeAngelo Hall sidelined for the season. So they turned to a former NFL starter and a familiar face.

Richard Crawford said via text message that he had been signed to the Redskins’ 53-man roster, while Pro Football Talk reported Washington had signed safety Jamarca Sanford. The team later announced both moves.

Crawford was released in the final roster cuts and later signed to Washington's practice squad. He was eventually released from the practice squad as the Redskins wanted to find bigger corners. Crawford is listed at 5-foot-11, but his strength long has been his knowledge and the Redskins have consistently had breakdowns on assignments this season, leading to open targets and big plays.

Before hurting his knee last summer, Crawford had shown improvement covering in the slot, an area of concern for Washington. The Redskins had signed Tracy Porter to play there, but he might end up starting now with Hall out. He did not start against the New York Giants, but he did open the second half with the starters after a tough first half for rookie Bashaud Breeland. E.J. Biggers covered in the slot for much of last Thursday's game. Crawford can also return punts, which he handled late in the 2012 season.

Sanford started 44 games in five seasons for Minnesota, mostly at strong safety, but injuries prevented him from getting on the field this season. A groin injury cost him the spring workouts and he suffered more injuries in camp, including back spasms and then a strained quadriceps. The latter injury resulted in him being placed on injured reserve and eventually released with a settlement.

Minnesota had asked him to take a pay cut in the offseason. Sanford also plays special teams.

The Redskins also signed linebacker Gabe Miller and tackle Terren Jones to the practice squad. The Redskins announced the latter move; the former move was announced by Miller's agent, Brett Tessler, on Twitter. The Redskins had cut Miller on Saturday.

Cousins: 'I was killing us here and there'

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
LANDOVER, Md. -- Kirk Cousins couldn’t dodge the truth. Five turnovers have a way of forcing you to accept reality.

“I turned the ball over too much,” he said.

 Nobody would disagree, not after losing one fumble and throwing four interceptions, which the Giants turned into 31 points in their 45-14 victory. Cousins forced passes, failed to adequately fool the defense with his eyes and was inaccurate on throws that needed 100 percent accuracy.

It was only his sixth career start, but his penchant for turnovers has plagued him throughout the early part of his NFL career. Thursday also represented a stark difference from his previous two games -- if you rip him for last night, tough to then ignore what he did in those games. As usual, the truth is somewhere in there about who he is as a quarterback. He’s trying to prove he deserves a starting job somewhere.

The Eagles’ game presented a strong case; the Giants game did not.

Regardless, the result was another ugly showing in a prime-time game. It started with the turnovers, which Cousins said toyed with him.

“I got a little bit of mind play because I was killing us here and there and all the turnovers in the second half,” Cousins said. “So what happened, I turned the ball over too much.”

Cousins had a few killer turnovers. The fumble was bad, though that was a result of bad protection as right tackle Tyler Polumbus was beaten by Mathias Kiwanuka, who sacked Cousins in 2.3 seconds. Cousins pointed to his third-quarter interception as a back-breaker. The Redskins trailed 24-14 but had forced a punt after opening the second half with a touchdown.

It was a bad throw with a corner, Prince Amukamara, playing tight on receiver Ryan Grant. The throw was inside; the pick was easy.

“Had I not turned the ball over, you’d like to think the game would have taken a different tale,” he said.

That led to another interception. And so on. And so on.

“It’s like that cascading effect,” tight end Logan Paulsen said. “You make one mistake and you try to compensate or overcompensate. I felt the same thing after my fumble. I’ve been in games like that where you make a mistake and a couple plays later you make another mistake, and you can’t get out from under it.”

Cousins admitted he then started forcing more throws.

“I was trying to get everything back in one play,” he said. “You can’t do that. I was trying to force things and trying to do too much and didn’t stay true to my reads and stay patient. … It just snowballs, and you put your defense behind the eight ball.”

Cousins now must move forward and prepare to face the NFL’s best defense (Seattle).

“Hopefully, he can put it behind him,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “This is a very tough position. One of the main things I’ve said all along is one of the biggest traits you have to have as a quarterback -- you’ve got to be mentally tough. You’re going to have rock games, rocky throws, rocky performances. The great ones will bounce back.”

Trent Williams to undergo MRI on knee

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
LANDOVER, Md. -- Seen and overheard in the Washington Redskins' locker room after their 45-14 loss to the New York Giants:
  • Left tackle Trent Williams was subdued standing outside the elevators in a lobby area in the bowels of FedEx Field, but he said there was no ligament damage to his right knee. He'll have an MRI Friday. Williams said he thought his kneecap popped out of place but thought it then popped back in. Williams was walking slowly after the game.
  • Ryan Clark was matter-of-fact, standing in the middle of the locker room. "We couldn't have beaten anybody. We wouldn't have beat William & Mary. ... High school team ranked in the top 10, couldn't beat them."
  • The Redskins were picked apart by Eli Manning and their new emphasis on the short passing game. "I've never seen him get rid of the ball so fast," Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said.

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
The New York Giants (1-2) are in Landover, Maryland, on Thursday night for an early-season NFC East matchup against Washington (1-2) at FedEx Field. Here are three things we'll be watching in this game:

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants' Rashad Jennings rushed for a league Week 3-best 176 yards in a victory over Houston last Sunday.
1. Rashad Jennings' workload: This might not be a major factor if the Giants aren't playing with a lead, as they were all day against Houston, but Giants coaches said they were monitoring Jennings closely this week after he carried the ball 34 times in Sunday's victory. Jennings is in excellent physical condition, but he has the second-most carries in the league so far, and any running back would have a tough time bouncing back just four days after a 34-carry workload. If the Giants find themselves in the enviable position of having an early lead and being able to run their offense the way they ran it Sunday, don't be surprised to see Jennings get more breaks. That could mean an enlarged opportunity for rookie running back Andre Williams in this game. It also will be interesting to see whether the running backs get any catches this week. Jennings was not targeted in the passing game Sunday, and it's no coincidence, because he was asked to stay in and help block on pass plays as part of a successful effort to combat the Houston pass rush.

2. Will the Giants test the Washington secondary? This unit is always a question mark, and it took a hit Sunday with the loss of starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall for the season with an Achilles injury. To this point, the Giants have been relying on the run game and the short passing game. Of Eli Manning's 100 throws this year, 68 have been either behind or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. In order to confidently throw downfield more, the Giants are going to have to develop greater trust in the consistency of their improving offensive line and hope that the addition of speedy rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., if he can return from his hamstring injury in the next couple of weeks, will help them stretch the field. In the meantime, they'll likely keep it close to the line unless they're behind and trying to catch up. But if they end up having to throw downfield, that's when the potential for interceptions rises.

3. Will the pass rush light up? The Giants had only 34 sacks as a team last year, but eight of them came in their two December games against Washington. They sacked Robert Griffin III five times in the road game and Kirk Cousins three times in the home game that ended the season. Cousins is the Washington starter these days with Griffin out because of an ankle injury, and it will be interesting to see whether Cousins and his teammates can keep the Giants' pass rush at bay to an extent they could not when they were playing out the string last December. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was injured and not playing by the end of last season, is off to a hot start this year.

Giants vs. Redskins preview

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
It's too early in the season to have playoff hopes eliminated. It's not too early in the season to realize that a 1-3 team does not have a great shot at reaching the postseason, especially when those teams have tough upcoming games.

That's the spot the New York Giants and Washington Redskins find themselves in entering Thursday's game. Both teams are 1-2, with the Redskins having games against Seattle and at Arizona on deck. The Giants have hot Atlanta at home followed by road games at Philadelphia and Dallas. A loss by either team Thursday would put it in a dangerous hole.

Giants reporter Dan Graziano and Redskins reporter John Keim talked about the matchup:

John Keim: Did the Giants' offense finally start to show progress last week, and if so, where?

Dan Graziano: I think the Giants started to show progress in Week 2 but were undone by fourth-quarter turnovers. The progress in Week 3 was on the scoreboard, where the Giants exceeded 27 points for the first time since Week 1 of 2013. The Texans helped them out with turnovers, and the fact that the Giants got the first lead of the game (even though it wasn't until the second quarter) allowed them to run their offense the way they want to run it -- no-huddle, rhythm-based, leaning hard on the run game and the short passing game. Rashad Jennings had 34 carries, which seems like a lot with a game just four days later, but he got 176 yards on them, and Eli Manning completed 75 percent of his passes by keeping everything right around the line of scrimmage. It's not going to win any awards for excitement or creativity, but the Giants' offense is designed to be simple and take the pressure off the quarterback, and what we saw Sunday was the first real, extended, successful demonstration of the way it's supposed to look.

Scoring points doesn't seem to be the problem for Kirk and the Miracles down there, but that game Sunday against the Eagles looked like a bloodbath. Just how banged-up is Washington coming out of that game?

John Keim: Very. They have a lot of players who can't wait for Friday to begin healing. They lost corner DeAngelo Hall for the season and have a number of other players banged-up, including defensive end Jason Hatcher. He's the key to any sort of interior pass rush and has been terrific in the first three games. DeSean Jackson still has a shoulder issue; starting guard Shawn Lauvao was downgraded and could miss the game (not a big loss, though). Tight end Jordan Reed remains sidelined. Although Niles Paul has done well in his absence, Reed is a better playmaker -- but can never stay healthy. The Redskins already lost nose tackle Barry Cofield for at least half the season. The backups have done a good job for the most part, but you never like to go to your bullpen so often this early on.

Was that one win enough to calm the masses, or are there still some big concerns with the G-Men?

Dan Graziano: Concerns definitely remain, because I still think this team lacks depth and has personnel deficiencies in key areas. Victor Cruz is their only reliable threat at wide receiver until Odell Beckham comes back, and even then, Beckham is a rookie who's never practiced. Larry Donnell is catching a lot of passes, but he's a woeful blocker and certainly no threat to do anything exciting after the catch. The offensive line had a good game Sunday, but it's still counting on often-overmatched guys such as J.D. Walton and rookie Weston Richburg in the interior. The Giants are making a position switch at safety this week, benching struggling Stevie Brown for Quintin Demps, who was signed as a kick returner. The Giants underwent a major rebuild in the offseason, signing more free agents than any other team in the league. But the facts of the league and of free agency are that that's not the way to rebuild a roster, and the likelihood is that this season will be about making progress and finding out what holes still need to be filled next offseason. So they're feeling good now, coming off their first win, but tough times still loom ahead, and it's going to be tougher for them to run with offenses like Washington's and Atlanta's than it was to run with an Arian Foster-less Houston.

About that Washington offense ... it sure doesn't look as though the Bengals have skipped a beat without Jay Gruden, but how are things different now that he's running the show in D.C.?

John Keim: There are a lot of similarities between what the Redskins do now and what they had done the past four seasons. The run game is about the same, but the passing game is a little different -- a lot of it in terminology and philosophy. Gruden likes the dropback passers and was working hard on trying to develop Robert Griffin III into one before his injury. Gruden will call some zone read, but not as much as his predecessor (especially with Kirk Cousins at quarterback). He will call bootlegs, but by and large he prefers his quarterback in the pocket. The biggest difference is probably how he handles players. Gruden is much more of a player's coach. That can carry negative connotations, but he's definitely not averse to criticizing or getting on a guy. But his criticism does not sting the same way as with previous coaches. Gruden has brought a new vibe to the Redskins. We'll see if that works. If it doesn't, I'll be writing in a few years how the new guy is working to change the culture and has brought a new energy. I have experience.

Meanwhile, Tom Coughlin keeps plugging away, although he always seems right next to the hot seat, if not directly on it. How is he handling all the changes: a new offensive system, some overhauled areas? Seems like a job for a young guy. How does he do it -- and how much longer will he do it?

Dan Graziano: John, I honestly think Coughlin is the best coach in the league. And the reason I say that is I believe that coaching is about figuring out the kind of people and team you have and finding the right way to manage them. Few are as consistently excellent at it as Coughlin is. Last week, after meeting with his team captains, he decided the right move was to loosen things up. He allowed them to play rap music during stretching on Friday -- which never happens -- and after that day's practice he had a punt-catching competition between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen. He said the message was, "I still believe in you, and things will be OK if you just relax and let your ability take over." The players all talked Sunday about how much they appreciated the lighter touch. It reminded me of December 2011, when they were 7-7 off a loss to Washington, and he came in and gave the players a speech about how great life was and how awesome it was to have a chance to still make the playoffs. When Coughlin has to ride the team hard, he rides it hard. When he has to lighten up, he lightens up. His genius is in his ability to figure out which time is which. And as the Giants undergo this overhaul incorporating so many new players, new coaches and new systems into the mix, he remains their greatest asset. I don't think a Coughlin-coached team will ever win FEWER games in a season than its talent level dictates it should.

Now, with us, Coughlin is still kind of a grouchy guy pounding on the same old stuff, including his insistence that his team be able to run the ball. Jennings had 176 yards on the ground Sunday, but Washington has been super-stingy against the run. Without Cofield especially, how have they been doing this, and do you expect the Giants to have a tough time running the ball this week?

John Keim: They've done an excellent job stopping the run, especially the past two games. Part of that has been facing weakened offensive lines, but an equal part is that they did a nice job in the front seven. Chris Baker took over for Cofield, and while the Redskins are better with those two on the field at the same time (Baker had been at end, but is a natural nose), they're fine with the current setup. Baker is a strong player who uses good leverage and can handle double teams. Jarvis Jenkins returned to starting at left end and has been fine. And Hatcher, provided he's healthy, has been terrific. They've tackled much better, and that's made a difference. So, yes, I'd expect the Giants to have a tough time running the ball. Throwing it might be another story; it all depends on whether Washington can pressure with a four-man rush. It's been hit (10 sacks one game) or miss (zero sacks in the other two) this season.

Kirk Cousins always understood his role and he knew what the Washington Redskins had invested in Robert Griffin III. So, while Cousins takes over the quarterback duties indefinitely, he also knows it might not be permanent.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesKirk Cousins is embracing his opportunity to start at quarterback for the Redskins while Robert Griffin III rehabs his dislocated ankle.
His coach told the New York media in a conference call that "crazy things can happen." In other words, there is a way for Cousins to keep the job when Griffin is healthy. Certainly, if the Redskins are winning and Cousins is playing well, it makes sense to stay status quo, rather than return to a player coming off an injury who remains in transition to the style desired by the head coach.

So, for now, it's a line that Cousins straddles. A quarterback wants it to be "his team." But can that be the case when it might be a temporary gig? Cousins said last week that this remained Griffin's team. His stance hasn't changed, nor should it after one good start.

"That's a great question," Cousins told reporters Tuesday. "It's a tough dynamic to fully answer. As a quarterback, if there's any doubt in the other 10 guys in the huddle looking at me, 'Can this guy get it done for us? Can he move the ball?' Then I already failed. When I say this is Robert's team, I don't mean I can't step in and have authority and make sure we move the football. But I won't change the statement that this is Robert's team. I stand by that."

Cousins wants a starting job, or, at least, a fair shot to win one. He did not think that opportunity would arise in Washington -- he was clear last offseason he understood why and had no problem with the organization's thinking. When you invest heavily in a player as the Redskins have, you must see it through. It's like that in any sport.

But there's also no doubt Cousins believes he can be a good starter in the NFL. And he certainly would not reject the chance to continue being the starter in Washington. We're a long way from that reality. Cousins has the best chance of his career to prove what he can do -- a better one than at the end of a dreadful season with a coach on the way out.

However, Cousins is realistic about the situation.

"Robert was drafted high for a reason," he said. "He's had success here, he's done a lot of good things and he's done nothing to have that be any different. So this is his team and it's my job as a backup on this team to hopefully, when he comes back, to give him a team with a good record and put him in a good spot to have success down the stretch. By no means that does that say I can't go in there as a backup and get the job done."

Redskins list 17 on injury report

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
ASHBURN, Va. -- This is not what the Washington Redskins needed to see one day after losing a game and another starter: 17 players on the injury report. Many of them will be available when the Redskins host the New York Giants on Thursday, but it’s also an indication of how banged up they are after three weeks.

The Redskins placed corner DeAngelo Hall and safety Duke Ihenacho on injured reserve because of their injuries -- a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and a fractured heel, respectively.

The Redskins only had a walk-through Monday, but had they held a full practice, 13 players would have either been out or limited. Quarterback Robert Griffin III is included on the injury report, and will be for the foreseeable future. Tight end Jordan Reed, still nursing a hamstring, did not practice.

Meanwhile, the players who would have been limited: nose tackle Chris Baker (ankle/hip), end Kedric Golston (groin), end Jason Hatcher (hamstring), receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder), linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee), end Frank Kearse (ankle), guard Shawn Lauvao (knee), center Kory Lichtensteiger (groin/rib/hip), linebacker Brian Orakpo (finger), corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) and safety Trenton Robinson (abdomen).

Conversely, the Giants listed only seven players on their injury report.

“This is a week I’d rather not have a Thursday night game,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Lauvao underwent an MRI on his right knee, but Gruden said the results showed no damage. Orakpo will see a specialist about his left middle finger, which he hurt during Sunday’s game.

Gruden said there's still a chance some of the players who have been sidelined a couple weeks could play Thursday, including Porter, Reed and Jordan.

Hatcher said he's day to day with his hamstring injury. Jackson, who played with a sprained left shoulder, said, “I wish I could have a couple more days, but that didn’t present itself so I have to get in there and do everything my training staff asks me to, to get back for Thursday.”

It’s not an ideal situation for either teams, especially one as banged up as Washington.

“Nobody in the league likes Thursday night games,” Orakpo said. “I don’t know why they have them. It sucks for players, but it’s part of the game. We’ll be fine. It’s tough, but Thursday night games have been going on for a while. We don’t like them, coaches don’t like them. It’s a short week. You want to prepare and scheme as much as you can, but you can only do so much in limited time.”

Redskins game day: Notes and analysis

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
  • Cousins
    This is the sort of game that can propel a season to good things. If the Washington Redskins can beat the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins suddenly look like a different team. It's not just because Kirk Cousins is in, either. A 2-1 record with a chance to get to 3-1 Thursday? Big deal. Especially with a schedule that looks a little different, with Arizona even more banged up, Tampa Bay struggling and Minnesota minus its best player. Of course, by the time Washington faces those teams who knows how the Redskins will look (or those teams for that matter). But the tone and outlook of the season can change with a win Sunday, especially if Cousins has a solid day.
  • Though I picked the Eagles to win by one -- our picks are made on Wednesday -- all week I've felt the Redskins are sitting in a good spot. The Eagles are missing one of their top defensive players, linebacker Mychal Kendricks. They have issues along the offensive line, especially at right tackle where former third stringer Andrew Gardner will start -- he struggled with rushers getting inside; that's a Ryan Kerrigan/Trent Murphy strength.
  • The Redskins have the corners to deal with Philadelphia's receivers, so it will come down to limiting yards after the catch by Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy -- and limiting them on first down. The Redskins are capable of winning this game, but they've played one complete game since the 2012 season. It just so happened to be last week -- an aberration or foreshadowing?
  • Though one player said this week that losing Kendricks wouldn't hurt as much as you would think because of how well their front plays, I can say: the coaches do not agree. Safe to say they're not disappointed that Kendricks won't be on the field.
  • For what it's worth, the Redskins did a good job against McCoy in the second meeting last season (20 carries, 77 yards), using their big nickel to clog lanes up the middle and pinching the outside. McCoy makes defenders miss all the time, but the Redskins had an excellent shot on tackles in the hole or on the edge. I think they'd take those numbers again.
  • Cousins' ability to use his eyes to maneuver the defense was crucial last week (Robert Griffin III did this well, too, especially on the deep ball to DeSean Jackson). The Jaguars' defensive players read the quarterbacks' eyes, but the Eagles pattern match -- boiled down, it's playing man coverage within your zone. So maneuvering with your eyes is not as vital as it was last week.
  • Paul
    It sounds simplistic, but the coaches insist the biggest difference in tight end Niles Paul this season is confidence. He's naturally improved at this position, now in his third season at this spot. But they said one big change in Paul was evident after he dropped a wide-open throw Sunday. On his next chance, he made a tough grab on a back-shoulder pass in the end zone, with a defender in his face. To the coaches, that catch was an example of growth.
  • The Eagles will be an active team up front. It'll be on center Kory Lichtensteiger to know what's coming and call out adjustments accordingly. "Sometimes it's hard to ID; they're always running games and stuff. It changes your angles; you can get picked," Lichtensteiger said. "Just getting to your normal landmarks doesn't always work against a team like that."
  • Those looks can make it difficult for a young quarterback making his fifth career start like Cousins. But as Cousins said Friday afternoon, about a half hour after practice ended, if they felt it was that big an issue they would have still been on the field working on this aspect. Not that he thinks it's easy. "It's a lot mentally to handle," he said. "You've got to be on your business, have to be aware of the play clock how much time you have and what they're trying to give you. But at the end of the day we have to execute and not turn the ball over and make positive plays."
  • The Redskins' confidence in rookie Ryan Grant is legitimate. Coach Jay Gruden has nicknamed him "The Clinic" for how well he runs his routes and how savvy he is. There's trust between he and Cousins; coaches loved that third-and-five pass for 21 yards to the 3-yard line in which Cousins threw him open. Cousins knew where Grant would be and he got there when the ball arrived.

Gruden says DeSean Jackson improving

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson did not practice for a second consecutive day, but coach Jay Gruden remained cautiously optimistic about his chances for playing Sunday. Still, Gruden said, it could come down to a game-day decision.

 Jackson, nursing a sprained left shoulder, did catch a couple passes from a short distance during individual drills. But that was about all he did. Gruden said there’s still a chance Jackson could get some work Friday.

“He’s still sore, but he’s getting better, and his range of motion is better,” Gruden said. “It’s an injury where a couple more days will do him a lot of good.

“A lot of it is pain tolerance. … I think he’ll be OK.”

Gruden said they will test Jackson the morning of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. Jackson said Wednesday that he plans on playing, and he texted good friend LeSean McCoy and told the Eagles running back he would play against his former team.

“There’s no guarantee, that even if he does dress, that he has to play the whole game,” Gruden said. “There’s a chance he plays 20 to 30 plays. Maybe 60. I don’t know yet. He’ll be honest about it. I know he wants to play and compete against the Eagles, but he also knows we have other guys who can do a better job than him if he’s injured. He still has a few good days left to get this right.”

If he can’t play, then rookie Ryan Grant will get more opportunities in Washington’s three-receiver sets. He lacks Jackson’s speed, but he’s a talented route-runner.

Also on the injury report for Washington: Tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), defensive lineman Kedric Golston (groin), corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) and linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) did not practice. Center Kory Lichtensteiger (groin) and kicker Kai Forbath (groin) was limited.

Ryan Clark unimpressed with blowout win

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
ASHBURN, Va. -- Ryan Clark has a message for teammates: Don’t be too impressed by Sunday. It’s one not often delivered in Washington, but Clark wants them to know that Jacksonville is not a good team and what happened Sunday, well, should have.

It’s one of the reasons the Washington Redskins like having Clark around. He’s played for winning teams in the NFL -- two Super Bowls -- and another one in college at LSU. He knows what a winning effort must look like over 16 games, not just one. Part of it is not falling in love with what you did the previous week. Like Sunday, when the Redskins held Jacksonville to 148 yards, recorded 10 sacks and won 41-10.

“Going into this week we can’t throw a party, can’t hang balloons around lockers,” Clark said.

Don’t get Clark wrong. A 31-point win in the NFL is always good, regardless of the opponent.

“The way we were rushing, I could have kept my clothes on from before the game,” he said. “I did absolutely nothing. It’s why I feel decently good today. I’m excited about that. It was good.”

But ...

“In my honest opinion, this is a team that’s waiting around until they can get Blake Bortles ready to go,” Clark said. “That’s how you’re supposed to play against a team like that, a team down its No. 1 receiver and missing a very good receiver due to suspension. You’re supposed to play well against them. It’s not any barometer of how good we can be this season or how good we were [Sunday].

“If there’s a guy who can’t block Ryan Kerrigan, then Ryan Kerrigan should beat him off the ball and make sacks. Should he make four? I don’t know about that. That’s Ryan going above and beyond. There’s a guy who can’t block [Brian Orakpo], he needs to beat him. A guy can’t block [Jason Hatcher], he needs to beat him. Guys who can’t beat [David Amerson] and [DeAngelo Hall], we need to cover them. That’s what you do against a team that’s better than you.”

The Redskins won Sunday despite losing -- in the past week and during the game -- a starting tight end, nose tackle, quarterback and receiver. That’s good. But for Clark, it only hammered home his point even more.

To him, this is what it meant:

“That you played a team that wasn’t very good that day and you capitalized on mismatches and opportunities that you have. Jacksonville, they’re trying to find themselves, figure out who they are as a team. It was a good week to have new guys come in and play. Sunday (against Philadelphia) we’ll know. When we step on the field against an NFC East opponent picked to win the division. For me it’s about preparing for that, not talking 41-10. When I watch film I want to figure out why it wasn’t 50-0.”

It’s an approach Clark saw his previous teams take. You can't scoff at a lopsided win in the NFL. But if the Redskins want to truly do anything, it’s an approach they should adopt as well.

Redskins 41, Jaguars 10: Ten observations

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
videoLANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts and observations after the Washington Redskins' 41-10 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
  1. I don’t know if Robert Griffin III will return this season. I do know he’s waiting until his MRI Monday before he counts himself out. It didn’t look good, of course, but he really doesn’t want to speculate on any timetable. If he’s somehow able to return this season, there will be a lot of what-if scenarios discussed: as in, what if Kirk Cousins plays well (that’s what you want your backup to do, of course)? What if the Redskins are winning (also what you want, it’s about the team, not one guy)? Would you then put Griffin back in (not if the above two scenarios exist)? How will this impact his game? But there’s plenty of time to worry about the future later.
  2. The tough part for Griffin is that he needed a game like he felt he was going to have Sunday. It’s not as if he had lost confidence, but it could have been a springboard game, or at least one where he could remind everyone of his ability. Instead, people will focus on his durability -- a second major leg injury in three seasons. Injuries happen in football and this was a freak one. But Griffin did what anyone would want him to do: extend a play and make a throw. And he still got hurt. The old Griffin was emerging; now he must wonder what the future holds, though that really depends on what the MRI reveals.
  3. Kudos to Cousins for how he handled the situation. The Redskins never seriously considered trading him, nor should they have for this very reason. Having a quality backup means the Redskins can at least look at the next 14 weeks, if that’s how long he plays, and still feel they can accomplish something. Cousins, too, will get a better chance than at the end of a 2013 season in which the coaches knew they would be fired.
  4. I liked how Cousins handled most of his throws. I’ll get more into some of those Monday and Tuesday, but he does a good job getting off his first read and finding the open target. That’s what happened on his first touchdown pass to fullback Darrell Young. Cousins looked left, then came back right and Young was wide open. Cousins was able to go deep in his progression -- and did so while staying clean in the pocket.
  5. Also liked how Cousins reacted to negative situations. He turned the corner on a boot with a defender coming at him. Because he knows he can’t outrun anyone, he planted and threw to Niles Paul for 23 yards. Decisive reactions. I don’t know what Cousins will do going forward -- he’s decisive, but sometimes that gets him in trouble, too. He’s comfortable in the pocket and running this offense. Going forward he’ll need to be consistently accurate, but this is the opportunity he desired.
  6. In the last week, the Redskins had to replace a nose tackle, starting tight end, deep threat receiver and quarterback. Each player who entered for the injured player did well Sunday. That’s impressive. Chris Baker is a good nose tackle and Paul had his best receiving game as a tight end. The Redskins’ receivers were not dynamic; they were effective. Call it what you want -- good coaching, depth, whatever. It bailed out Washington Sunday. Doesn’t always go that way, especially here.
  7. Jacksonville is really bad. But the Redskins did more than what they should. It was the best they’ve looked since the 2012 season. They were dominant in every phase -- not sure last year they were ever dominant, or even good, in more than one in a game.
  8. I will get into this more Monday morning and Tuesday, but Jason Hatcher is better than I anticipated. Hatcher can be dominant inside and the trickle down impact is legitimate. Lines can’t slide to the outside like they could in the past -- and if they do, then he’s one-on-one inside. That’s a total mismatch.
  9. Brian Orakpo, for example, was being blocked by the backs a couple times. He won those battles, too -- he didn’t get many such rushes in the past. Credit to Hatcher. What surprises me about Hatcher is how quick he is; his game is not just about strength.
  10. Ryan Kerrigan had a record day and I gave him a game ball, but that was more symbolic because of what the defense did as a group. Ten sacks -- Jacksonville only had eight first downs and 148 yards total. The Jags were in John Beck territory. The Redskins knew Jacksonville’s line was weak and once they got the Jaguars into passing situations it was all over.

Redskins locker room quick takes

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
ASHBURN, Va. -- Some highlights from the Washington Redskins' open locker room session Thursday:
  • Not a whole lot of activity in the open locker room period Thursday. Read: Not many players entered the locker room, so there wasn't a whole lot of information gathered. Just the way it was. Fortunately, a lot was gathered Wednesday.
  • Defensive lineman Kedric Golston said he's hoping he can do some running in practice Thursday, testing his injured groin. There does not seem to be a great deal of optimism for his chances Sunday. And he's not going to be swayed by what the Redskins don't have. In other words, he said his decision comes down to this: "If you're healthy, you play." It's not about the fact that Washington already is down a lineman in Barry Cofield. Golston would back up Chris Baker at nose.
  • Linebacker Keenan Robinson said the coaches compare Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne to Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a guy who's been around a little bit and can hurt you if given time. "If you let him get comfortable, he can hurt you," Robinson said.
  • Center Kory Lichtensteiger talked about his game Sunday -- one of the best I've seen him play -- and why center suits him. It maximizes his strengths, as in his quickness. But Jacksonville plays a different style up front than Houston -- a 4-3 front vs. a 3-4 -- so it presents a different challenge. More on that later in the week.
  • Returner Andre Roberts talked about making more plays downfield, as well as his mentality in the return game. As for the downfield part, my two cents: They'll have more chances Sunday to make those plays.

RG III report: Learning in the pocket

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
ASHBURN, Va. -- The game plan didn't call for quarterback Robert Griffin III to run, nor did the Houston Texans always allow him room to do so. It’s also clear the Washington Redskins want Griffin to become a strong pocket passer.

But the Redskins still want his legs to be a part of his game. And when he extends plays, they want to make sure they get better results. Like on the incomplete pass to Andre Roberts against Houston, when Griffin threw the wide-open receiver a pass that led him out of bounds. Roberts was ruled out of bounds and officials did not overturn it after a review.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderRobert Griffin III was solid against the Texans, but he'll need to be much better moving forward for the Redskins to improve.
The point by the Redskins' coaches was this: It was a missed opportunity.

“Those are plays that we need to take advantage of with an elusive, athletic quarterback,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “if we are going to really take that next step. Pocket passing is one thing, but when he breaks contain, that’s when there is a lot of damage done, and you see the great ones do that.”

It’s not as if Griffin was bad in Sunday's 17-6 loss. He completed 29 of 37 passes for 267 yards. But the Redskins scored just six points and the third-year quarterback didn’t do enough -- like most of the Redskins' offensive players. The Texans took away the deep ball by playing their corners sometimes 8 and even 9 yards off the receivers. In fact, while the lack of a deep ball was lamented, the coaches wish they had thrown more comebacks and hitches -- they were easy gains all day.

Gruden said the same thing Wednesday about Griffin’s performance that he did Sunday after the game and again Monday. Griffin did some good things and some not so good.

“He was accurate with the football, which was good," Gruden said. "He was decisive with the football, which was good. But there were some other plays in there -- a couple of the sacks he took weren’t very good. Some of his out-of-the-pocket decisions weren’t very good, and that’s where we need to thrive as an offense.”

But really, it’s still about learning to be even more of a pocket passer. That’s not just throwing the ball, it’s learning when to throw it away, too. Whether this is the best usage of Griffin remains to be seen, but this is how the Redskins are using him, so it’s where he must improve.

“If you're going to be a professional football quarterback, you're going to have to learn to be a pocket passer at some point in your career, and he's learning,” Gruden said. “He's not a finished product yet by any stretch of the imagination, but he will get there. I know one thing: that if you keep telling Robert he can’t do something, he's going to do it and he's going to want to do it and he'll get there.

“I like where he's at mentally. I think he's starting to gain momentum and confidence every day out at practice. We just have to carry it over on the field and decisions have to be consistent at the quarterback position, especially when games are tight.”

Also, just because Griffin didn’t have any designed runs Sunday doesn’t mean he won’t in the future. Some games they’ll be a part of the game plan and others they won’t. Two years ago, there were games in which he rarely ran as well, but it was definitely a part of the philosophy. This summer, for example, they rarely used him on designed runs.

“It’s always a threat, it’s always there,” Griffin said. “I’m not trying to stay in the pocket to play quarterback. I’m trying to play a game at an efficient level, at a high level and be what my team needs me to be to win. If that calls on Coach calling more run plays, I’m all for it. If we continue to run the offense we have then I’ll do that, too."

Jaguars vs. Redskins preview

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11

The first two games of the Jay Gruden era for the Washington Redskins looked like they made for a quick start, with games against Houston and then Jacksonville at home, who combined for a 6-26 record last season. But suddenly, nothing looks easy for the Redskins as they try to rebound from a 3-13 season. This is not about whether they go 0-2 and can still make the postseason; it’s about re-establishing themselves and playing well.

Conversely, the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to look like a team ready to take that so-called next step only to stumble. A 17-0 lead in Philadelphia had them on their way; a 34-17 loss reminded them they’re not there. So they, too, view this as a game in which they can establish themselves.

Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Redskins reporter John Keim break down this week's matchup.

Keim: Obviously the Jaguars did something right for a while in Philadelphia before collapsing. What’s different about this team –- and what still must change?

DiRocco: From what we saw in the first half of the Jaguars' game against Philadelphia, the biggest change is that the defense is better. The Jaguars sacked Eagles quarterback Nick Foles five times and forced three turnovers, including an interception in the end zone by cornerback Alan Ball. The team upgraded the front with the additions of ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and tackle Ziggy Hood, and that allows for a much deeper rotation and fresher bodies. For the most part, the Jaguars' defense played well. The Eagles’ two biggest offensive plays were the result of communication issues that occurred when the Jaguars' two best defensive players (middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Johnathan Cyprien) were off the field because of injuries. Those plays happened in the second half, which is an example of one of the two biggest issues the team must fix in order to become better: consistency. The Jaguars played well on offense and defense in the first half but not in the second, and that is the mark of a young team that isn't very good. (The Jaguars have the league’s second-youngest roster.) The other issue is a lack of a running game. The offensive line continues to be a work in progress and the Jags had new starters at left guard, center, right guard and right tackle. It was the first time that group had played together in a game. Still, that’s no excuse. The interior of the line, specifically center Jacques McClendon, has to get better quickly.

John, it seems to be open season on RG III. CBS’ Brandon Tierney called him a mental midget, Fox’s Terry Bradshaw said that he’s not ready to play pocket football and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said that he’s not well liked in the locker room. Why is Griffin so polarizing and do you think he’s the right QB for this team?

Keim: I’ve been in the locker room with him for three years, and to say that he’s that disliked is just not accurate. That said, I have yet to see anyone who’s universally beloved in my 20 years covering the Redskins -- even Darrell Green had his detractors -- so, yes, there have been some grumbles and some who haven’t liked Griffin. Also, to say he’s a mental midget is beyond ridiculous. Say what you want about his game, but he’s a smart person. It’s hard for me to say why others view him a certain way or why he’s polarizing to others so I can only guess. So my guess would be that it stems from being all over the place before he had really accomplished anything in the NFL (Russell Wilson was all over the place this past offseason; he has a ring). Then Griffin was viewed a certain way because of the issues with his coaches; that never looks good, regardless of who’s at fault. And then add to it the fact he’s struggling and people wonder where his game is headed. Or that some viewed him as a gimmick two years ago. I don’t know. I’m sure there are other reasons. Winning and playing well changes minds and perception. That’s what he must do. Is he the right QB? Well, he needs to be and I think this season will reveal that answer. For one year he absolutely was; last year he struggled. This year he’s transitioning more to the pocket -- and it will take time. I’ve used the words "growing pains" several times because that’s what he’ll endure. It’s tough to make that transition, and I still think they need to use his legs a little more. But I’m not sure they trust him to always protect himself.

Speaking of quarterbacks, when do you think Blake Bortles will take over? What does Chad Henne give them?

DiRocco: The Jaguars have been consistent in saying that they’re not going to put Bortles on the field until they believe he’s ready and that the ideal situation would be that Henne plays well enough so Bortles can sit the bench the entire season and take over as the starter in 2015. But based on the way Bortles performed in the preseason, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get on the field at some point this season, most likely in December after the Jaguars have been eliminated from playoff contention. As for what Henne gives the offense, it’s nothing spectacular. He knows the offense pretty well, doesn’t make huge mistakes and put the team in bad situations and is well-liked and respected in the locker room. He’s a game manager, which is all the Jaguars want him to be right now, although Gus Bradley said they’re encouraging him to take more chances down the field. Though the Jaguars have won just four of their past 17 games, Henne hasn’t been the reason for any of the losses. He’s not killing the team with turnovers or bad decisions, and he did help rally the Jaguars to a victory on the road at Cleveland last season.

How has the culture changed under Jay Gruden from the Mike Shanahan era? What’s the biggest impact he has made in his short time there?

Keim: Funny thing is, Mike Shanahan changed the culture from what he inherited from the Jim Zorn/Vinny Cerrato era. Four years later, the culture needed changing again. The difference now is that coaches feel they can do their jobs without a lot of interference -- for better or worse. The energy on the coaching staff is much different, partly because of who Gruden hired. You could see a difference in practices. I think that’s the change and it’s also the biggest difference. Shanahan liked to meddle; Gruden does not. Gruden has a good rapport with players. Of course, he’s coached only one game. Let’s see how great the rapport is if they keep losing. That’s the key. But, for now, the atmosphere has been a positive one for the Redskins and I credit Gruden and the guys he hired.

I read and heard good things about the Jaguars' offseason, then I would see predictions of 3-13 records. So where are they headed -- and how long is this going to take?

DiRocco: I think the first half of last Sunday’s game against Philadelphia is an indication of the kind of progress the franchise has made. They put pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz, forced turnovers and hit some big plays on offense. It all fell apart in the second half, but the bottom line is that what they did in the first half was something we didn't see from the team in the 2013 season, which was the first for general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. The Jaguars should be much more competitive this season, thanks mainly to the upgrade along the defensive front, and that should keep them in more games into the fourth quarter. A lucky bounce or a play here and there and they might be able to steal a victory or two. That being said, this is the second-youngest roster in the league and there are still holes at certain spots (offensive line and linebacker are the most glaring), so getting to .500 this season isn’t realistic. I’ve predicted a 6-10 record and I’ll stick by that. Next season, with Bortles taking over, the Jaguars should compete for a playoff spot.

The biggest issue surrounding the Redskins for a while is the nickname. How has that affected anything, if at all, in the locker room? Have the players been somewhat outside the controversy?

Keim: Zero impact. Players are far more worried about their own jobs and who they play in a given week than they are about the name. I asked one veteran player if they ever discuss it among themselves. The answer: no. It comes up when they’re asked about it, but it’s not as if it’s asked all the time. The daily reporters aren’t, and can’t be, fixated on this issue. There are too many other on-field issues to discuss or storylines that pertain more to the inner workings of the team that have a much greater impact on their performance. Not every player is in favor of the name, but they realize it’s an issue far above their pay grade. And for the local media, there are only so many times you can ask this question to players who won’t, or don’t want to, discuss the matter.

Redskins locker room quick takes

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
ASHBURN, Va. -- Some highlights from the Washington Redskins' open locker room session Wednesday:
  • The Redskins are definitely preparing to play without tight end Jordan Reed, though that's not a big surprise. Quarterback Robert Griffin III said it would hurt not having him -- of course. They knew he would miss time, but they weren't sure how much time he would miss. More on that later; there's still no update from coach Jay Gruden. We won't talk to him until after practice, around 3 p.m.
  • Griffin also said it's not as if he was making it point to stay in the pocket -- when he did get outside, the bootlegs weren't working at all. He also said, "You have to get your home run shots in every now and then."
  • Jacksonville defensive lineman Red Bryant, during a conference call with reporters, said of Griffin, "It does seem like he's trying to stay in the pocket more."
  • Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said he's not worried about the public's perception of him or his game and that he's not a "selfish" player. He's right; Orakpo does what's asked of him and Sunday, more often than not, Houston forced him into coverage by formation. The Texans would spread the field with their regular personnel so if the Redskins were in their base 3-4 front, then he would have to play in the slot. More on this later.
  • Baker
    There's a great deal of confidence in nose tackle Chris Baker and what he can do at nose tackle, taking over for injured Barry Cofield. As Baker said, his body type is more suited to nose than it is to end. I had a talk with him about why playing nose for him is easier than playing end -- more on that Thursday. I will write a little bit on Baker on Wednesday about taking over at nose and what some teammates said. Jason Hatcher loves him, but also said he needs to learn when to curb his "Hollywood" ways and get serious.
  • A lot of talk in the locker room about avoiding an 0-2 start. Any talk about the Redskins possibly taking Jacksonville lightly would be ridiculous: As safety Ryan Clark said, the Jaguars were picking after the Redskins last season -- (or, would have been had Washington had its first-round pick). The Jaguars were 4-12 a year ago, the Redskins 3-13.