NFC East: Washington Redskins

Malcolm Jenkins only echoed what others have said about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the new Philadelphia Eagles safety didn't question Griffin's game, but, rather his ability to stay healthy. At this point, it's a fair topic. Of course, maybe it's not one a player new to the division might want to address. But then again, it was tame compared to his thoughts on the Dallas defense.

Jenkins
When Jenkins appeared on the NFL Network, he discussed the other three teams in the NFC East. He took a shot at Dallas' defense, as well as the New York Giants' ability to protect Eli Manning. Here's what he had to say about Griffin:
"I think the biggest thing we're going to see is [Robert Griffin III] take that next step as far as the cerebral approach to the game. But the biggest concern I have with RG3 is, will he protect himself? And that's a thing he hasn't done early in his career.

"He scrambles, he gets those extra yards, he makes those throws out of the pocket, but takes a lot of unnecessary hits. We've seen the toll that has had on him.

“Last year he really wasn't himself, still trying to recover from that injury. Those kind of hits, when you talk about a QB, it's all about accountability and availability. He's very very accountable, but availability is going to be an issue if he continues to play the style of football that he's used to."

Jenkins isn't the first opponent to wonder about Griffin's durability or his health. In the past year, several players did just that, including Dallas corner Brandon Carr, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks and New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle among them.

But Jenkins is new to the division and his yapping does two things: endear him to Eagles beat reporters and mark him as a target for other teams. With Griffin, there's only one way to prove Jenkins and many others wrong. He needs to stay healthy; it's not about one game or one throw, it's about a season and then a string of them. And Jenkins didn't knock his game, just questioned his durability.

Dallas' defense might feel a little differently about Jenkins. But when a defense ends the season ranked 32nd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, and then loses its best pass-rushers (Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware), well, it leaves little room for anything but criticism. So here's what Jenkins said:
“A couple years ago, their scapegoat was Rob Ryan, and they got rid of him, and he was the cause of all their problems. He went to New Orleans and took the worst defense in NFL history and turned them into a top 5 defense. So he couldn't have been the problem.

“And then you look at this year, I had the best seat in the house when I watched the Saints get 40 first downs in one game. Forty. In one game. So it must be the players.”

And then Eli Manning was the topic. Again, good, honest stuff.
"I think the problem is he was sacked 39 times, a career high last year. If that continues, Eli's best days are behind him. If they can protect him, then maybe, but it doesn't look like it."

When Jenkins played for Ohio State (my alma mater, as you might know), I preferred that he keep quiet. Typically his game spoke volumes. In the NFL, he's been up and down, but there's no doubt he now has a role as a future analyst. As a reporter, I'll never knock a guy for giving an honest opinion. Sort of helps the job, you know?
Last week I broke down the Redskins' salary cap by position and how it compared to the rest of the NFL. This is one more extension of that so you can see how the Redskins' top cap hit compares to the five biggest cap hits at each position. For the most part, the Redskins have more bargains offensively in part because they've found younger contributors through the draft or they landed players such as DeSean Jackson after they'd been cut, thereby lowering their price. The Redskins have only one player who will count among the top five at their position in 2014 -- left tackle Trent Williams.

Quarterback

NFL's top five cap hits

Eli Manning, New York Giants, $20,400,000

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, $18,895,000

Jay Cutler, Chicago, $18,500,000

Drew Brees, New Orleans, $18,400,000

Sam Bradford, St. Louis, $17,610,000

Redskins top cap hit

Griffin
Robert Griffin III $5,759,754 (19th overall)

Summing it up: St. Louis is paying the price for a since-changed system when it comes to rookie contracts -- and the Redskins clearly have benefited. There’s little chance anyone would think Bradford is worth as much as his 2014 cap number. Manning has regressed the past two seasons, for whatever reason, and needed ankle surgery this offseason. Roethlisberger is excellent and Brees remains a top-five quarterback. But Cutler is an example of a guy who is being paid because of the position he plays. He's been a good quarterback, but it's tough to say he's been great. He's definitely not a top-five guy. The Redskins have Griffin at a lower cost the next two seasons and then, if he plays as they hope, his number will skyrocket.

Receiver

NFL's top five cap hits

Mike Wallace, Miami, $17,250,000

Andre Johnson, Houston, $15,644,583

Percy Harvin, Seattle, $13,400,000

Calvin Johnson, Detroit, $13,058,000

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay, $12,432,000

Redskins top cap hit

Garcon
Garcon
Pierre Garcon $9,700,000 (seventh overall)

Summing it up: The top two at this position certainly didn't outperform Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches. Garcon only caught five touchdown passes, but that matches what Wallace and Andre Johnson did as well. Harvin played just 19 snaps all season. Calvin Johnson caught 84 passes, but 12 went for touchdowns and he averaged 17.8 yards per catch. Jackson caught 78 passes, seven for scores, and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. The Redskins received good value from their top earner at this spot. They have even more invested here now after adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. The former will be a major bargain compared to the rest of this group if he puts up numbers similar to last year (82 catches, nine touchdowns, 1,332 yards. But keep in mind in his first five years Jackson averaged 54.8 catches, 4.6 touchdowns and 957 yards per season).

Running back

NFL's top five cap hits

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, $14,400,000

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia, $9,700,000

Ray Rice, Baltimore, $8,750,000

Arian Foster, Houston, $8,300,000

Matt Forte, Chicago, $7,900,000

Redskins top cap hit

Helu
Roy Helu $1,548,563 (38th overall)

Summing it up: Peterson and McCoy are two of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL and are difference-makers. But what's also clear is why teams don't like to shell out huge money for running backs. Washington’s Alfred Morris, who is 93rd on the list of running backs when it comes to 2014 cap figures ($600,775), was as productive running the ball as Peterson. Morris ran for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards a carry. Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Rice ran for 660 yards in 15 games, averaging 3.1 yards on 214 carries. Foster only played in eight games. Forte is an excellent all-around back and was productive. But the Redskins are fortunate they won’t have to shell out more money here for two more years.

Offensive line

NFL's top five cap hits

LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland, $12,300,000

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets, $11,698,666

LT Russell Okung, Seattle, $11,240,000

G Jahri Evans, New Orleans, $11,000,000

LT Trent Williams, Washington, $10,980,393

Redskins top cap hit

Britt
Williams
Williams

Summing it up: Williams is one of the games best tackles so for him to be in this group makes sense. He could be more consistent and avoid the clunker game, but overall Williams has proven himself and earned two Pro Bowl trips. I'd have a hard time paying a guard as much as Evans, but at least he's an elite player with five consecutive All-Pro nods (in addition to five straight Pro Bowl berths). Okung, drafted one spot after Williams in 2010, has missed 19 games in his career and made one Pro Bowl team. Williams has played in every game the past two seasons. Because of his athleticism, the Redskins can use him differently than other teams use their tackles.

Tight end

NFL's top five cap hits

Jason Witten, Dallas, $8,412,000

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville, $8,250,000

Greg Olsen, Carolina, $7,800,000

Antonio Gates, San Diego, $7,362,500

Vernon Davis, San Francisco, $7,342,916

Redskins top cap hit

Paulsen
Logan Paulsen $2,236,666 (21st overall)

Summing it up: Yet another position where the Redskins have a bargain for a few more seasons. This isn’t about how Paulsen stacks up, but really about Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, this will be the company he keeps statistically. I love watching Davis because of the matchup headaches he causes based on his athleticism. It’s the same with Reed. Marcedes Lewis has had a nice eight-year career and is an excellent blocker, but No. 2 on this list? He has 25 career touchdown catches, but 10 came in one season. The others are proven pass threats. Of course, this list will change once Jimmy Graham's situation is settled with New Orleans.
Depending on who you talked to, receiver DeSean Jackson missing the first week of voluntary workouts was either no big deal or the greatest sin committed in some time.

But all is fine now. Jackson showed up for the start of Week 2 of the workouts, with the Redskins tweeting a picture of him in the weight room.


I didn't have a big problem with him missing the first week, mainly because he told the Redskins before he signed about a previously scheduled trip. Yes, there are some who say it would have been a good move for him in terms of public perception had he cancelled his trip and showed up last week. Maybe they're right. One agent said Jackson could have recouped the money he lost from a cancelled trip by working it into this contract.

But I don't think most players will care a whole lot whether or not Jackson missed last week. Most will understand: the trip was scheduled when he played for a team that didn't have to report until April 21. In fact, the agent I spoke with said his Redskins client did not care at all about Jackson's absence.

For the first two weeks of the voluntary sessions, players aren't permitted to do more than just weight training and conditioning. But quarterbacks and receivers can throw (with no defenders). It's a good time for Jackson to start building a rapport with quarterback Robert Griffin III, which is obviously important. So, sure, it would have been nice.

The key for Jackson, though, will be how he handles the workouts going forward. If he takes them seriously and works hard? The players will embrace him. His situation is different because of the circumstances surrounding his release from Philadelphia and more eyes will be focused on him. Maybe he doesn't care. But the eyes he should care about are those of his teammates. And if it matters to him, he'll have a strong spring. If that's the case, they'll be looking forward to the start of training camp -- and not looking back on the first week of voluntary workouts.

Redskins hope for 'double whammy'

April, 14, 2014
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It's supposed to provide a boost to themselves and hurt a division rival at the same time. That's the benefit of signing a player from a team in your own division. The Redskins have done so in the past; they did it again this offseason -- twice.

First they landed defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, taking him away from Dallas. Then it was receiver DeSean Jackson from Philadelphia.

Hatcher
Hatcher
Jackson
"It's always great to go to a division rival and take someone from their roster that was big for them and bring it to your own team," Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "That's almost a double whammy on their part."

How much does it really help or hurt? New York adequately replaced Cofield and won a Super Bowl in his first season with Washington. But the Giants' defense did fall in terms of effectiveness after he left, falling from 17th in points allowed his last season there to 25th the following year. Many reasons could explain that tumble and the Giants did rank 12th in points allowed in 2012. They survived the loss of a player to a division rival.

But consider that during Cofield's time in Washington, the Redskins steadily improved against the run while the Giants temporarily declined in this area. The Redskins went from allowing 4.6 yards per carry before Cofield arrived to 4.3 then 4.22 and finally 3.99 this past season. New York took an initial dip going from 4.16 yards per carry in his last season with the Giants to 4.46 and 4.6 in its first two seasons without him before rebounding this past season at 3.84.

Cofield has been a solid player for Washington, but its defense clearly needs more. The Redskins ranked 21st in points allowed the year before his arrival and have gone 21st, 22nd and 31st in points allowed with him. He has not emerged as the NFL's best nose tackle as the Redskins had once predicted.

And I use Cofield as an example more than Stephen Bowen, also signed from a division rival, because he was a full-time starter for all of his five seasons in New York. The most Bowen had started was nine games in 2010 for Dallas.

And the overall point is: They survived the loss of a player to a division rival. But the other point is: Cofield did help the Redskins' defense.

And 20 of his 95 tackles in Washington have occurred in six games against the Giants. That's 21.1 percent of his tackles during his 48 games with the Redskins. Yeah, those games probably meant something more. For Bowen, 11 of his 85 tackles -- or 12.9 percent -- and 1.5 of his seven sacks have come in five games against Dallas.

Cofield said playing your former team twice a season definitely matters.

"There's that chip you carry on your shoulder playing against your old team," Cofield said. "It's like playing against your brother in the backyard. You love them, but you want to beat them worse than anybody for bragging rights. Having guys within the division, having that hatred -- not just my feeling for the Giants, but my feeling against the Cowboys and Eagles built over the years. DeSean has feelings in the division that will be strong I'm sure. Playing against teams twice a year, you can't replicate it. So playing a division rival is a positive in many different ways."

The Redskins did not get the double whammy when they obtained quarterback Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia in 2010. Of course, that's exactly what the Eagles got as McNabb struggled, the Redskins went 6-10 in their one season with McNabb under center and they ended up with two draft picks. Oh, and they went 10-6 and made the postseason (but McNabb did win an ugly game in Philly; so he had that going for him). Then again, McNabb's failure eventually led to the Redskins' aggressive pursuit of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Dallas and Philadelphia both were fine letting Hatcher and Jackson leave. The Cowboys weren't going to re-sign Hatcher and the Eagles cut Jackson. But having them both remain in the division? The Redskins hope they make their former teams pay.
Shortly after he signed with Washington, receiver Andre Roberts recalled his frustration from the past season. He was Arizona’s second receiver in 2012; he was their third in 2013. His numbers suffered.

Roberts didn’t complain, but it did bother him.

“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “I felt great coming into [2013] and I was hoping I could better my stats and help the offense more. But I wasn’t able to do that. Being a competitor and a receiver who wants the ball every play -- you obviously can’t get the ball every play -- but I have that mentality. Whenever there’s a pass play I want the ball in my hands and I think I can do something special with it. When you don’t get the opportunity, it was definitely really frustrating for me.”

[+] EnlargeAndre Roberts
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsEx-Cardinal Andre Roberts could be a valuable weapon for the Redskins as the team's No. 3 wide receiver.
Which leads us to now. When he signed with Washington, Roberts envisioned a role in which he’d play inside and outside, being a second option after Pierre Garcon. Of course, that was before the Redskins signed receiver DeSean Jackson.

“Well, I envisioned one thing and then we signed DeSean Jackson,” Roberts said on ESPN 980's "Inside the Locker Room" Thursday. “So I haven’t really thought too much.”

Roberts got paid -- he received a four-year, $16 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. But now that he has the money, he’d also like to have a lot of chances. Jackson’s arrival can help make everyone better, just because defenses will have to focus on taking him away. They can only double so many receivers and, if the Redskins use a lot of three-receiver sets, that means Roberts could be put in numerous one-on-one situations. Roberts likely will play in the slot, but he can play outside as well. Last season, Arizona used him outside in many of its three-receiver sets with Larry Fitzgerald inside.

But the Redskins didn’t bring Jackson here just to be a decoy. And there’s also tight end Jordan Reed to consider when it comes to targets. It’s a good problem for any team to have; that’s a potentially explosive offense. Which is why the Redskins coaches and players, quarterback Robert Griffin III in particular, are thrilled.

It also means players will have to realize they may not get as many targets as they desire. That’s what Roberts dealt with in 2013. His snaps went from 837 in 2012 to 605. His targets dropped from 114 to 73.

“That’s how the league is, that’s how the league works,” Roberts said. “Going into my situation, I wanted to be the No. 2 receiver. But I still don’t how it’s going to work out. Obviously, when you look at how much money is being made each guy, you’d think that’s going to be [the] No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.”

Not only by the money, but by the reputation. Garcon and Jackson will be the primary targets at receiver. The former is coming off a 113-catch season; the latter had 1,333 yards receiving.

Regardless, if Roberts just plays the slot he’ll get opportunities with perhaps more of them coming down field. There’s a reason Washington targeted him so fast in free agency. He also told ESPN 980 that he thinks he’ll be doing a lot of returning. Jackson did that in Philadelphia, but not as much in recent years -- and in his last 32 punt returns combined the past three years he averaged only 5.7 yards. Besides, the Redskins would be wise not to have Jackson return a lot to limit the wear and tear on his body.

“I think I’ll be returning,” Roberts said. “What I want to do is punt return and kick return, if I have that choice. Anytime I feel like I can get my hands on the ball, I want to do it. … If I can get back there and returns some kicks and return some punts for this team, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
The Washington Redskins filled two big holes in free agency -- they hope -- when they landed defensive lineman and pass-rusher Jason Hatcher as well as big-time playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson. Next stop, the draft, where the Redskins don't pick until the second round (34th overall). Several positions would make sense in the second round: right tackle, safety or even inside linebacker.

Todd McShay's fourth mock Insider is now available on ESPN Insider's page and he projects a player to Washington who should make quarterback Robert Griffin III happy.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Defensive end Brandon Moore was a longshot to make the Redskins' roster. His path got a lot harder Tuesday when the NFL announced he would be suspended for the first four games of the season.

According to the NFL, Moore will be suspended without pay for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. However, he'll be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

The Redskins were awarded Moore off waivers after Kansas City cut him last month. Moore left the University of Texas early to enter the NFL, but went undrafted in 2013. He spent time on the practice squads for both Denver and San Diego.
The first day of free agency witnessed a changing of one guard. A couple weeks later, they ditched their center. So there were changes along the Washington Redskins' offensive line. However, it wasn’t a massive rebuild.

Still, it will be different with Shawn Lauvao at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger at center.

Britt
Williams
Lauvao
“I don’t know what to make of it,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “We have to see how everything plays out when the pads get on and how everything meshes. Obviously Kory is a more than capable center, and Shawn has played and proven he can play in this league. I’m stoked to see how this thing works out.

“I feel we had a bunch of pieces already in place and [we] added some more and bulked up the offensive line a little bit. I’m thinking this thing can work out the best for us.”

Whether that does won’t be answered for another five months or so. Until then, it’s all speculation. Lauvao had a spotty track record in Cleveland, though multiple sources with the Browns said they wanted him back (clearly not at the price Washington paid).

Lichtensteiger has played guard the past three years, but now replaces Will Montgomery at center.

“When we played against [Lauvao in Cleveland], we had a lot of respect for him,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I read some negative things about him, but among our defensive linemen we knew he was a guy that could play and played well for them when we played them two years ago.”

Washington also flirted with Donald Penn, who would have replaced Tyler Polumbus at right tackle. That position could be addressed in the draft as well.

The Redskins’ line wasn’t a big issue after the 2012 season, though in truth the scheme helped mask some deficiencies. The zone-read and the play-action game -- both in the stretch and regular -- caused hesitation at times among pass-rushers. Teams did not blitz as often. All of that helped give quarterback Robert Griffin III enough time to throw (or escape).

Last season, minus a similar threat, Griffin needed more time. And the line was forced, especially early in the season, to drop back without the benefit of as much play action. Not their strength. The result: more pressure. Griffin can help himself by making quicker decisions. The line can help with better protection, especially up the middle. That is, if the Redskins want to get the ball down the field. With DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, that likely is the plan.

And that means more pressure on the line to protect Griffin. Re-establishing the play-action part of their attack would help tremendously.

“We have to hold up a little longer,” Williams said. “Those guys are fast ... But that’s what we get paid to do.”
One person after another has let it be known how happy Robert Griffin III has appeared this offseason. It’s why I wrote a column on it a couple weeks ago.

But Griffin hasn’t spoken much this offseason, other than the occasional text messages to include in stories. His tweets Monday night, however, were telling. There is not much need to rehash what happened in 2013, but one word was used more than any other over the past year: trust. Griffin did not trust coach Mike Shanahan. Doesn’t matter how the coaches perceived it, it was reality for Griffin.

There is little doubt Griffin has been energized by the offseason, because of the coaching changes and, more recently, the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson. Griffin is working out the way he likes; he’s taking charge of working with others and he had a highly active role in recruiting free agents -- probably more so than most outsiders realize.

Then came this: Griffin retweeted a Pro Football Talk tweet about a Jay Gruden comment regarding his quarterback and the new logo. (Thanks to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, who always has his eyes out for such things). And in retweeting the link, Griffin added this: “Coach supports his players, new year.”

.

Then, after retweeting another PFT link to comments Trent Williams made to the local media regarding Jackson, Griffin added: “Players have each other's back, New Year”. Now, it did not seem like that last part was a big issue last season, especially given the 3-13 record.

.

But it’s difficult not to interpret Griffin’s first tweet regarding the coaches as a decisive nod to what he endured over the past year. This offseason is going so much different for Griffin than in 2013. For the Redskins, it’s a welcomed start.
The wrinkles they added last year were, more or less, on their own faces. The season aged them all, from the owner down through the coaching staff.

Then came the changes in the staff. Then came, well, new wrinkles. This time in the form of the defensive playbook. The storyline this offseason for the defense: The Redskins will unleash the pass rush more, tinkering with the philosophy to generate more pressure. It’s not a 100 percent of the time issue; that would be a huge change.

But the opportunities will be more. Or so they hear.

“I can only hope so,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I feel that’s where we’re starting now. You can go into it with the best intentions, but if you don’t get it done and you’re hurting the team, you have to make changes to generate pressure. It will come down to execution. But I can genuinely say that’s the plan. We’ll do different things up front, not just the line, it’s linebackers included, that should allow us to play in the backfield more and make big, disruptive plays.”

[+] EnlargeMatt Flynn
AP Photo/Ben MargotBarry Cofield is excited about the changes coming to the Washington defense.
The Redskins have been a two-gap defense, with the line responsible for occupying blockers so the linebackers can make plays. They mirrored their 3-4 off of Pittsburgh, which also is two-gap. Some 3-4s are one-gap systems, like Arizona (which switched to this style last season).

Jason Hatcher, signed in free agency, fits the one-gap style well – it’s what he did last season in Dallas’ 4-3 front. The Redskins can use that style when they go to their nickel packages (as they have done in the past). Regardless, the players believe they’ll be doing different things to help this season. They need to as the pressure the past two years was inconsistent, especially when only rushing four. Hatcher’s ability to beat one-on-one blocking inside should make a difference – they hope. (More on him in another post.) And the secondary desperately needs the front to apply more heat.

It will help them that they’re facing a different level of quarterback in 2014. They will see Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick (in addition to Tony Romo and Eli Manning twice. Not to mention Nick Foles, if he can maintain his level of performance). Five teams have major questions at quarterback with a sixth (St. Louis) that has a big-money guy who has not performed at a high level at all (Sam Bradford).

Last season, they faced 10 of the top 14 quarterbacks in terms of passer rating. They’ll play six games in 2014 against quarterbacks who finished in the top 14 this past season (seven if Josh McCown starts in Tampa Bay). That doesn’t mean a whole lot right now because things change. But last season they faced a stronger group that included Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and even Matthew Stafford (who finished 20th in passer rating, but still threw 29 touchdowns to 19 interceptions).

The oft-repeated storyline this offseason has been that minus Mike Shanahan in charge, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett finally has all the say. We don’t know if Shanahan made positive suggestions defensively; that never gets leaked.

But, the point is, there’s a belief that things will be different. How much that plays out won't be known until September. For now, it's April and that means we're about to enter about four months' worth of stories saying how it could be different. The players are hearing the same things.

“We’re not in on all the meetings so I can’t sit here and tell you who is dictating what," Cofield said. "I just know Coach Haslett is very excited and he has a lot of new wrinkles for us and has different things we’re going to do. Whether that’s him being more himself or whatever may be, I’m not sure. All I can tell you is he’s excited, we’re excited and the new wrinkles will help.”
The first day provided everyone a chance to see the change up close. Jay Gruden was hired to replace Mike Shanahan in January; many players did not have to be at Redskins Park until Monday. So they knew the changes, but Monday gave them a chance to feel them.

According to nose tackle Barry Cofield the attendance for the first day of voluntary workouts was “nearly perfect.” One player not there: receiver DeSean Jackson. But a team source said Jackson had told them before signing that he had a previously planned vacation and would be in town next week.

But that hardly detracted from the vibe at Redskins Park Monday, both Cofield and left tackle Trent Williams said. Gruden addressed the players before they began workouts.

Cofield
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Williams
Players can only participate in strength and conditioning exercises for the first two weeks; position coaches can't work with them on the field during this time.

“You can see the intensity and excitement in him and that carried over to everybody as we went to work out,” Cofield said. “There’s a ton of excitement and energy within the program.”

That’s what Williams said he felt, too.

“I was really impressed with how down to earth [Gruden] is and how approachable he is,” Williams said. “He obviously has a great football mind. He made the guys feel comfortable. There’s a new aura in the building, a lot comes with the coaching change and the new free-agent pickups. I’m really excited to see how this season turns out.”

Williams, though, said he wasn’t saying the Redskins needed a change from Shanahan, who was fired after a 3-13 season in his fourth year as coach. But the offshoot of any change is a new, or different, energy.

“The change brought a new attitude,” Williams said. “It gives everybody a fresh start, so in that sense that lifts a lot of people’s spirits because you get to start off on a clean slate. Nobody has an upper leg on anybody and Coach Gruden is a very people person. He’s just a fun guy to be around.”

Cofield played for older coaches in New York (Tom Coughlin) and Washington (Shanahan). Gruden, at 47, will be the youngest head coach he’s played for.

“It’s a different vibe,” Cofield said. “[Coughlin and Shanahan] had a different mindset and mentality and both were great coaches in their own way, guys I loved playing for. Coach Gruden brings something different, a different energy. The whole staff, they seem more comfortable, maybe a little more free. Obviously it’s early. The way we finished up with Coach Shanahan it was disappointing, it was a whole different atmosphere. So bringing in a new regime, a lot of assistant coaches and coordinators feel they have a new lease on life and a new chance to prove themselves.”

But Williams said that no one can ignore, or forget, what happened last season -- even if it happened under a different regime. Going from 10-6 to 3-13 led to a difficult year, particularly in the final month of the season.

Williams, an offensive captain the past two years, said players must keep last year in their minds.

“You got to know what falling down feels like,” Williams said. “You have to know what losing feels like to want to win and a season like that, you can’t forget that. It has to be a driving force to want to do better things. It has to be that motivation to say, ‘Look, we’re too talented to go 3-13 again.’ That was us. There’s nothing we can do about it now. We had the talent to perform with anybody and we didn’t come together like we were supposed to and we didn’t win games like we were supposed to. That needs to be in our back pocket at all times and be a driving force.”
The Washington Redskins last week added former Eagle DeSean Jackson to their wide receiver corps. Along with Pierre Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches 2013, this brings the Redskins into the debate about top wide receiver tandems in the NFL.

SportsNation

Who will lead the Washington Redskins in receptions in 2014?

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    18%
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    75%
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    6%
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    1%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,062)

The Mike Shanahan/Kyle Shanahan offense was designed with Garcon in mind as its leading receiver. They signed him as a free agent in 2012 thinking he fit them perfectly, and once healthy in 2013, he proved them right. But with Jay Gruden replacing Shanahan, the offense is likely to change, and assuming Garcon leads the league in catches again could be a stretch.

So I put it to you, Redskins fans: Who do you think will lead the Redskins in catches in 2014? Garcon again? New addition Jackson? Tight end Jordan Reed, who looked so great before his injuries set in late in 2013? Fellow new addition Andre Roberts? Cast your vote.
The NFL's fame and glory machine didn't spit out DeSean Jackson this time around. It just showed him the blueprint.

Jackson is too young and too good for his ugly release last week by the Philadelphia Eagles to end his career. Regardless of anything that came out publicly (or whatever the Eagles or other teams may know privately) about the off-field detriments that undermine Jackson's wondrous on-field benefits, someone was going to pick him up.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAt 27, DeSean Jackson must realize that his relatively young NFL career is at risk.
The Washington Redskins didn't waste time and they didn't scrimp.

But what Jackson got to see was the manner in which the machine will spit him out if he lets it. A team can cut you, it turns out, without explaining why, and can let everyone assume it's because of the way you act and the friends you hang out with away from the field. A team can do this and have the wide NFL world nod in agreement at phrases like "doesn't fit" and "what's best for the football team."

So while the week's debate has been about whether this turn of events is good/bad for the Eagles, good/bad for the Redskins, good/bad for the Jets or any other team that may have been involved or interested, why not take a moment to debate whether this is good for the player? Is getting cut by the Eagles and signed by the Redskins going to benefit DeSean Jackson? Or is the machine determined to spit him out long before his desire and skill level dictate that it must?

I've been talking to people about Jackson for three years now, and here are a few things I believe I know:

Jackson is not an evil person. The Aaron Hernandez comparisons you may have heard or read are shameful and irresponsible. One guy is in jail on first-degree murder charges. The guy we're talking about here appears to have some childhood friends with shady connections. That's a pretty wide gulf, and it deserves to be treated as such in our analysis. We could sit here and say that someone of Jackson's fame and wealth is risking a lot if he refuses to cut ties with people who have nothing to lose. And if he's allegedly flashing gang signs after touchdowns, on his Instagram page or in his videos, as the police officers in the NJ.com story that hit last week minutes before his release say he has, then he's doing himself a disservice.

Jackson is a 27-year-old who's been famous for almost half his life, but he knows the right thing to do with his platform. He goes into schools to speak actively against bullying, talking to bullies, victims, teachers ... anyone who can help with the problem. He doesn't just throw money at his causes; he works actively to help.

But he also conveys an untethered element. He was incredibly close with his father, who died quickly and cruelly from pancreatic cancer in 2009, and people who have spent time around Jackson will tell you the past five years have been rough. I once asked a player in the Eagles' locker room about Jackson and was told, "Not a bad guy, but sometimes you shake your head." I have heard stories about him pouting in the locker room. He himself admitted to dealing poorly with his last contract year; he let it affect him on the field, and he was suspended for missed meetings. Eagles personnel have for years expressed concern about the extent to which Jackson liked to focus on making rap music, sometimes to the detriment of his football business, in their opinion.

And the NJ.com story got into his off-field associations in pretty strong detail. While the national takeaway was the uber-simplistic bit about alleged gang ties, the reasonable takeaway is that Jackson doesn't always make the best-looking choices. What I know about gang culture couldn't fill a shot glass, but I don't think DeSean Jackson is in a street gang.

The problem Jackson has now is that, right or wrong, some people who've been following this story for the past week do think he's in a gang. So the next time the NFL's fame and glory machine finds him caught in the works and tries to spit him out, there's going to be a chorus that thinks it's the right thing to do.

I wonder if he's in the right environment to succeed. The Redskins have a new, inexperienced head coach in Jay Gruden. They have a 28-year-old first-time offensive coordinator in Sean McVay. They have an attention-magnet quarterback in Robert Griffin III who's coming off a year that handed him a slate of his own problems to work out. The Redskins have lost locker-room leadership in recent years, most significantly with the retirement of London Fletcher. One of the top leaders on their offense is wide receiver Santana Moss, whose roster spot one would think is in jeopardy as a result of the Jackson signing. If Jackson is looking for another tether now that the Eagles' tether has been severed, it may be tough for him to find it in Washington.

Which makes it even more important for Jackson to realize what's happened here and work to make sure he's prepared the next time it happens. It's important for a lesson to be learned. Jackson doesn't have to change who he is or what he does away from the field if he doesn't want to. But his is now an at-risk career at the age of 27, and he needs to understand that. The next time the machine tries to spit him out, it's going to have a lot more impetus than it did this time around. Jackson's mission going forward is to fight that off -- to realize he's under a new and frightening kind of scrutiny, and to work to make sure he doesn't give anyone a reason to think he's something he's not.

Redskins add QB Colt McCoy

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
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Colt McCoy is a member of the Washington Redskins.

Say goodbye to Rex Grossman? Probably.

Could it mean the Redskins might have something cooking for backup quarterback Kirk Cousins? Doubtful.

From the outside it looks as if McCoy just fits in Grossman’s role the past two seasons behind Robert Griffin III and Cousins. McCoy spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers after a three-year run with the Cleveland Browns in which he started 21 games. He had a 4-9 record in 2011.

For his career, McCoy has thrown for 4,388 yards with 21 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions.

He gives the Redskins a younger set of eyes as a veteran backup when compared to Grossman. He does not possess a big arm, but Jay Gruden’s West Coast scheme is not reliant on a huge arm to be successful. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a good, not great, arm, and he fared well with Gruden in his first three seasons.
DeSean Jackson wore the number for six years in Philadelphia. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has worn it since he entered college six years ago.

The question now is, who wears No. 10 in Washington?

The newly-signed Jackson didn't sound as if he were ready to abandon that number just yet, though he did wear No. 1 at Cal.

“Well, I definitely am familiar with the No. 10 and Robert Griffin,” Jackson said. “We talked about it a little bit. That hasn't been a decision that's been made yet. Maybe by the time the season starts we'll know. Maybe RG3 will wear No. 3 and I'll get No. 10. We'll see how it goes. You never know.”

Unless Griffin is willing to change, he should retain the number. He's the face of the franchise. He's the quarterback and he's not the one coming to a new team. It's hard to imagine him giving up the number and if he wants it, then by all means Griffin should keep No. 10. He's the one who made that a popular number in Washington -- and, the Redskins hope, will continue to do so in the future.

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