NFC East: Brandon Meriweather

Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester. Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.

Defensive line (6)


This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger.

Linebackers (9)

As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.

Safeties (4)

I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
They wanted more versatility, giving them the ability to fool the quarterback or at least make him wonder. And that would give the rush an extra second, they hope, to make a difference.

"As you know, great quarterbacks," Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last week, "if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezCan Brian Orakpo & Co. give coordinator Jim Haslett a bevy of options to work with in the coming season?
The latter part has been an issue for a while. The ability to be exotic will help coordinator Jim Haslett, but it won't cure all. Still, is the Redskins' defense more versatile?

Let's take a look:

The Redskins do have some versatility up front. Chris Baker can line up at either end or nose tackle and can play in the nickel. Barry Cofield plays nose, but can rush in nickel. Jason Hatcher can play end and serve as a legitimate interior rusher.

Stephen Bowen's effectiveness as a rusher decreased the past two years and he's now coming off an injury. So it's tough to include him with the others for now. Jarvis Jenkins can play either end, but has yet to prove he's a quality pass-rusher.

Still, they do have more versatility along the front with an improved Baker and the addition of Hatcher. Is it enough?

They also have it at outside linebacker where they now have three players who can line up in a variety of ways to rush the passer with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and now Trent Murphy. All three are fine rushing with their hand down or standing up; from both sides or even through the middle. Now, whether Murphy will be effective in doing so, it's impossible to say without having seen him in a game. But, in theory, it provides options for Haslett and the ability to use different looks and a better variety of blitzes.

But what that group offers is not just the ability to move around, but to provide different looks for a tackle (or even a guard). After blocking Orakpo much of the game, a left tackle might not be prepared for, say, Murphy's spin move. They can throw a curve at a player just by sending someone different at the right time. At least that's what the Redskins hope. Everything always sounds good at this time of the year.

I'm not sold yet that Brandon Jenkins is at this point; need to see more proof of his versatility. Rob Jackson can help, but he's not as versatile as the others.

They do have some versatility at corner with a couple players having the ability to line up at safety. Both DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers have done so in the past, though there's a difference between lining up there and being effective in this role. Neither is really a great option back there to defend the run, but in providing a different look in coverage? Sure. It's also about being able to play different coverages and they'll have to prove they can; too many teams picked them apart last season and it wasn't just because of the rush.

Also, one reason they wanted to draft corner David Amerson was his ability to perhaps do the same thing. He did not do this as a rookie. He has the skills to be more versatile, but I'd worry about the eye discipline among other things needed to handle this role. But it's a next logical step for him. Rookie Bashaud Breeland could develop here, but he needs to learn corner first -- and how to play it without being too grabby.

However, they don't have the versatility at safety. They lack a starting player who can cover man to man (we have no idea yet what Tanard Jackson still has left, let alone if he'll even start or can handle such a role). Brandon Meriweather did enable them to sometimes run different coverages because he had the speed others did not to get to vacated areas -- like when they want to blitz a corner from the outside, not just the slot. But he's far removed from his Pro Bowl days, so mistakes are made and tackles are missed.

Ryan Clark's strength was always in being in the right place at the right time, dissuading the quarterback from challenging his area. He's lasted this long because he's smart. If he does that again, the Redskins would be happy. But occasionally covering man-to-man? That's different. And if the Redskins want to grow the defense the next step is finding someone who can. The more versatile the secondary is, the more you can throw off a quarterback with various looks.
Shortly before Phillip Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last summer, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris expressed his pleasure over his performance. After one play in training camp, Morris let it be known, saying to no one in particular, "He's starting to figure this [bleep] out."

[+] EnlargePhillip Thomas
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins safety Phillip Thomas, then a rookie in this May 2013 photo, aims to rebound from a season-ending Lisfranc injury.
And then Thomas, a rookie, was done, injuring his Lisfranc in the preseason opener. He needed surgery and that put him on a cross-your-fingers-path back to the player he was when the Washington Redskins drafted him in the fourth round.

Thomas obviously plans to contend for a starting job with Brandon Meriweather. First, though, comes questions about his health.

"Right now I'm feeling great," said Thomas, who returned to organized team activities Monday along with his teammates. The next session open to the media is Wednesday. "I'm 100 percent. Running around. I feel I'm moving like I was before with no hesitation and not second-guessing myself now."

Lisfranc injuries are tricky, especially when a player needs surgery. Here's a good explanation of this injury from ESPN medical analyst Stephania Bell. One point she made: "It's critical to the long-term foot health of any player who suffers this type of injury that complete healing occurs prior to a return to play, hence the slow progression, even when the player says he feels fine."

Thomas never returned last year and has had a full offseason. He knows he has a ways to go and the true test occurs in August, when the pads come on and the preseason games begin.

For now, all is good.

"At first I heard all the things about this Lisfranc injury and it spooked me," he said. "I stayed out here the whole four months in the offseason. I feel good out there."

Another result of the injury: Thomas is bigger. Not by a lot, but he added around five pounds -- all in upper body strength. He couldn't focus on his legs for a while, so he concentrated on other areas. The extra size was noticeable.

"It's helping me just being strong at the point [of attack]," he said. "Tight ends coming to block, I can [keep] them off me. Just the little things."

Thomas showed a little bit during the OTAs open to the media last week, making a diving interception. While Morris was upbeat over Thomas last summer, he'll still have to learn to operate at game speed and prove he can handle the role. There's a difference between starting to get it and playing like you have it.

"He's just getting back in the flow," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Between he and Meriweather, we expect good things from that safety spot."

Redskins offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Washington Redskins’ offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins hope Trent Murphy, who had 15 sacks in 2013, can breathe life into the pass rush.
Best move: Improving the pass rush. Washington's rush the past two seasons was too inconsistent and lacked variety. Signing Jason Hatcher to provide an interior push and drafting Trent Murphy to add to the creativity part -- it gives the Redskins potentially three outside linebackers who can rush -- should make a difference. Murphy, obviously, has to prove his worth but the fact that they continued to address the rush is pivotal and telling. They also helped here by adding linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist.

Riskiest move: Signing receiver DeSean Jackson. His reputation took a big hit after his release in Philadelphia, but the Redskins knew he was risky before certain stories were written. Jackson has major playmaking potential, but he also must prove the stories about his work ethic and approach aren't true. If so, he'll provide a big boost. The Redskins did mitigate the risk by giving him a contract that would provide cap savings after only two years if they cut him.

Most surprising move: Not doing more at safety. The Redskins signed veteran Ryan Clark to start at free and mentor young players, re-signed Brandon Meriweather and returned once-suspended Tanard Jackson. They did not draft a safety. They need the young players to develop or they'll be trying to stock this position again.

Under the radar move: Bolstering special teams. The Redskins signed a handful of quality special-teamers and found players in the draft who could provide immediate help in this area. They brought in linebackers Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, who can provide help. They drafted Murphy and Bashaud Breeland, who should provide more. It wasn't talked about enough, but it's an important development.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 25, 2014
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Apparently, not everyone thinks adding more pass-rushers is a good idea. So it says in one of the questions -- I have my own thoughts on the matter in Part 1 of the mailbag. And why do the Redskins stink in prime-time games? Could it be something other than, well, they've been bad most of the past decade? More draft questions, too. Enjoy
 

Resetting the roster: safety

March, 18, 2014
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Taking a look at the Redskins' safety position a week into free agency. Safety was said to be a primary target; it has not developed that way, however.

On the roster: Brandon Meriweather, Jose Gumbs, Trent Robinson, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas.

Added in free agency: None.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clark
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesVeteran Ryan Clark could be a short-term solution for the Redskins at safety.
In talks with: Ryan Clark. He visited last week and remains a possibility. He's also drawn interest from Baltimore and the New York Jets. There is no rush on his end to get a contract done so he's content to wait and see if the right offer materializes. Clark would be a short-term solution, but he could help develop some of the young players and be a respected voice in the meeting room.

Left in free agency: The Redskins haven't lost any safeties in free agency.

Still unsigned: Reed Doughty. The Redskins backup strong safety, who is always pressed into a starting role, might return. But there's definite division over whether or not that should be the case. The real problem has never been Doughty, but the organization's inability to find a full-time starter ahead of him.

Still on the market: Thomas DeCoud, Chris Clemons, Mike Adams. Really, the list is not long and not impressive. Atlanta cut DeCoud after a poor season; he's best suited most likely near the line of scrimmage. With Meriweather back that's not necessarily what the Redskins need. Clemons has not drawn a lot of interest on the market. The Dolphins opted for Louis Delmas, who barely practiced last season. Adams wasn't anything special for the Broncos, but can play in the box, too. They signed T.J. Ward, but he's more of a strong safety whereas Adams is a free safety. The Redskins clearly did not view the other safeties as better than Meriweather. But they failed in their quest to land Mike Mitchell, who ended up with Pittsburgh. I don't know how close the money was, but it's clear they're not as aggressive as they once were and, as one agent said, general manager Bruce Allen likes to "slow play" this process.

What it means thus far: It's not that the Redskins didn't view safety as a problem, but perhaps not to the extent that others did. By that, I mean almost everyone else. It's also true you can't solve every issue in one offseason. But they signed Meriweather to a one-year deal and it's hard to imagine Clark getting anything other than a one- or two-year deal. So that means Washington will be back in this spot relatively soon. However, it also gives them another year to see if one of the young players can develop -- or to draft someone in the second or third round and groom him for 2015. Perhaps one from among the group of four young safeties can develop in another year or so. Thomas must overcome a tricky Lisfranc injury; not impossible, but tough and it's not as if he was on the cusp of starting before getting hurt. In talking to several who scouted Rambo at Georgia, the problems he showed last year were the same he showed in college that caused NFL teams pause. Not a good sign. I can't imagine, though, that something else won't be done at this position.

Free-agency review: Redskins

March, 18, 2014
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Hatcher
Hatcher
Most significant signing: Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. A major issue for Washington’s defense last season was the lack of an interior pass rush, which is something Hatcher did exceptionally well last season in Dallas. The Redskins could not push the pocket and the rush too often relied on blitzes or pressure from outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. It wasn’t enough. Hatcher doesn’t need to duplicate his 11-sack season, but he does need to provide a constant threat inside to diversify the Redskins' rush.

Most significant loss: The Redskins haven't lost anyone significant thus far and the players they’ve wanted to keep they have. But perhaps the biggest loss came when safety Mike Mitchell opted to sign with Pittsburgh at an affordable price. The Redskins were deeply interested in him, making him their first call in the legal tampering window, and then again early on the first day of free agency. But they lost out on him and free safety remains a hole.

Meriweather
Biggest surprise: The inability to add a safety and the lack of pursuit for the big-name inside linebackers. The Redskins didn't want to overspend at either position -- and at safety, they didn't see many options better than Brandon Meriweather, whom they re-signed. As far as inside linebacker, it’s not a position as important to them as pass-rusher. Still, they did not bring in any of the so-called big names at this position. They're hoping newly signed Darryl Sharpton can stay healthy or that Keenan Robinson can do the same and show that, despite missing most of his first two seasons, he might be able to help. Sharpton received only a one-year deal.

What's next? The Redskins have shown a methodical approach to free agency, and that won’t change. They’re not taking on bad contracts and should be set up nicely in terms of cap space for some big contracts in coming seasons. As far as remaining holes, the draft is considered deep at receiver, so there’s a good chance that position is addressed in the first several rounds. Inside linebacker and safety also could be early targets based on what they haven't done in free agency.

Ryan Clark to visit Redskins

March, 12, 2014
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The Washington Redskins' hole at safety could be filled by a familiar face: Ryan Clark. The former Redskin and Pittsburgh Steeler said on ESPN that he will visit with Washington on Thursday.

Clark
Clark played for the Redskins from 2004-05, but not for the current defensive staff (though inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti was here during that time). But after 24 starts, Clark signed with Pittsburgh in 2006 and formed a strong safety tandem with Troy Polamalu.

Clark was a free safety in Pittsburgh, but played both safety positions in Washington. The Redskins run the same scheme as Pittsburgh, so there wouldn’t be a big transition. Clark has missed only four games in the past six years.

Washington missed out on safety Mike Mitchell, who opted to sign with Pittsburgh -- to replace Clark. The Redskins were not strong bidders for Jairus Byrd, who signed with New Orleans. The question will be: What does Clark, at 35, have left? He obviously would be used to mentor and help groom the young safeties such as Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and even Trenton Robinson and Jose Gumbs.

The Redskins could always opt to also re-sign safety Brandon Meriweather to a small deal as well. If they re-sign Reed Doughty, it would be as a backup and special teamer. His return is not a lock, though some in the building would like to see him return.

Redskins' offseason scorecard

March, 11, 2014
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A look at what the Washington Redskins have done already this offseason -- and what they are waiting to do once free agency hits at 4 p.m. Tuesday. There are differing reports about salary-cap space. ESPN's Stats & information had the Redskins with about $23 million in cap space before the Perry Riley deal Tuesday. But NFLPA records showed them at a little over $20 million. NFL.com had them at just under $19 million, but it was unclear if that included the Rule of 51 (only the top 51 players count toward the cap; the Redskins now have 58 players under contract after Riley's deal).

Done Deals

CB DeAngelo Hall

Hall
Signed a four-year deal worth $17 million, with $4.25 million guaranteed. His cap number is only $2.1 million this season, but jumps to $4.8 million in 2015 and $5.1 in 2016. Those are hefty sums for a 30-plus cornerback. If Hall regresses this season, the Redskins could always cut him next year and save $2.4 million of cap space. They would be wise to find another good young cornerback to groom just to be ready. Hall could always move to safety in a couple of years, but the safety position is a problem they must solve this year. If it’s still an issue in, say, two years? That’s a failure.

DL Chris Baker

Signed a three-year, $12-million deal with $4 million guaranteed. That sounds like starter-type money (albeit not a high level one), but it’s certainly not guaranteed starter money. He has $1 million in incentives that are not likely to be earned each of the three years -- based on play time, sack totals and Pro Bowl appearances -- and his cap number is only $2 million this year and tops out at $4 million in the final year of the contract. The deal averages $3 million per season. It allows the Redskins to keep a young, improving lineman who can help them at multiple spots: end, nose tackle and nickel rusher. Even if he doesn’t start he will play a lot.

LB Perry Riley

Riley signed a three-year deal worth $13 million. I don’t yet have the breakdown or the cap hits, but this comes across as a fair deal for Riley, a starter since midway through the 2011 season. The Redskins did not want to be in a position where they needed two inside linebackers in free agency. Riley had a stronger year in 2012, but the coaches know him and he knows the system. He’s not a leader, so he won’t replace London Fletcher, but he does know the defense well, which will help anyone who comes in next to him. Riley is better in man coverage than zone, but the latter gives him fits.

Likely back

LB Brian Orakpo

Orakpo
The Redskins placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on him last week for a price of $11.45 million next season, unless they work out a long-term deal. Orakpo still had not signed the tender, but he does count against the salary cap. Another team could sign him, but it would need to then surrender two first-round picks. It’s highly doubtful anyone would pay big money and give up two picks. Orakpo’s sack totals have been consistent since he entered the NFL in 2010, always between 8.5 and 11. But if he has a bigger season, while playing under the franchise tag, he could really cash in a year from now. The offseason message is that he and Ryan Kerrigan will be turned loose more. If that really results in more sacks, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next offseason.

Waiting word

WR Andre Roberts

Despite reports that he has agreed to terms, an NFL source says that this situation remains a work in progress and said he was not a lock. That doesn’t mean the Redskins won’ t sign a contract with him once free agency hits at 4 p.m. At this point, I would expect him to sign the four-year offer. But what if another team comes along and makes a stronger offer? That is what happened with Eddie Royal a couple years ago. Roberts would help. He’s a tough receiver with good hands who can play in the slot. He was Arizona’s No. 3 receiver this past season.

Free-agency primer: Redskins

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LB Brian Orakpo (franchise), LB Perry Riley, WR Josh Morgan, WR Santana Moss, S Brandon Meriweather, S Reed Doughty, LB Rob Jackson

Where they stand: The Redskins have about $30 million of cap space available, even with the franchise tender to Orakpo, so they will be able to upgrade defensively for the first time in a couple years. The problem is, Washington has so many holes to fill defensively. The Redskins need two starting safeties and must replace retired inside linebacker London Fletcher. If Riley leaves -- they would like him back, but they are not yet close to a deal -- then it creates another spot. They could use more help along the defensive line. Offensively, their holes are fewer, but they need another receiver -- or two -- and an interior lineman. Moss and Doughty -- as a backup -- could return at small deals; it’s tough to see Morgan coming back. He just wasn't productive enough. Meriweather wants to return, but the Redskins need an upgrade over his 2013 performance.

What to expect: A much more eventful period than last year, when the Redskins could only re-sign their own players and added no one of significance in free agency thanks to the second year of their $36-million cap penalty. But the question is, Can Washington pursue someone such as safety Jairus Byrd while having so many other needs? It will be difficult, but he would solidify the deep middle. They like safety Mike Mitchell as well. Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph is another possibility. Brandon Spikes, a liability in coverage, or Daryl Smith would fill a hole at inside linebacker. What the Redskins should not do is try and fill every need with a free agent and use up all their cap space. With several prominent players up for new deals in the next couple years, they need to also have an eye on the future.

NFLN survey/feared player: Redskins

January, 9, 2014
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The first two names on the list help explain why Detroit is considered the prime landing spot for a coach. The Lions have premier talent in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Calvin Johnson, among others.

When I talked to 10 Redskins players for this survey, these were the two names mentioned -- with Suh by far the leader. Yes, there have been issues about his extracurricular behavior on the field, but he’s a supreme talent.

I’m sure some said he was feared because he can be a bit, uh, temperamental on the field. There’s no doubt that’s why he tops the list, even though his talent warrants inclusion. When it comes to his game, what impressed me against the Redskins in Week 3 is how hard the guy played from start to finish. He did so despite playing 70 out of a possible 73 snaps in the game.

Here’s what I wrote after that game: “Also, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh started controlling the middle even more in the second half. Not sure I’ve seen a tackle with the motor Suh has -- the guy played 70 of the 73 snaps Sunday. That’s phenomenal. And he was dominating late. Three times over four plays (covering two series), Suh made a huge impact. First: penetration through the middle (against center Will Montgomery) to force a 13-yard loss on a sack. Next: He shed guard Chris Chester and caught Garcon on a smoke route to the left for 5 yards. Next: He got past Chester to the outside, reached out and slowed [Alfred] Morris, holding him to three yards when more would have been available.”

Johnson, though, scares me even more. The Redskins actually did a solid job on him for much of the game in September and yet he still managed seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. When in doubt, Matthew Stafford can throw to him with great trust because more often than not he’ll catch it. You can double-team him or put your best guy on him, and it doesn’t always matter. Johnson pursues the ball in the air as well any other receiver in the NFL. Actually, I don’t know many with his ability to go after the ball.

I think it’s surprising that in a quarterback-driven league, the three most feared players do not play the position. But I also think that could stem from several quarterbacks getting a number of votes.

Redskins angle: This is the result of a 3-13 season – safety Brandon Meriweather received the most votes by a Redskin in this category. He had four votes while quarterback Robert Griffin III received one. Meriweather did not receive that many for his stellar play; rather, he earned that many because of the way he hits. His desire long ago, he said, was to intimidate receivers. I think he’s done that, but now the next time he gets in trouble for a hit it could result in a long suspension. As for Griffin, a year ago he would have been much higher on the list. Given how he played this season I’m surprised he got one vote. But whoever voted for him might still have had nightmares from what he saw, or tried to defend, in 2012.

Also, as much as I like receiver Pierre Garcon and his record-setting 107 catches, I didn't view him as a feared player the same way I would other receivers around the NFL. All those catches produced only five touchdowns. Part of the problem for Garcon being feared this season was the lack of a downfield passing game. Garcon did have a lot of yards after the catch, but that also was a result of many screens and horizontal throws. I also think Garcon's game and impact often is more subtle -- the way he blocks, his ability to break tackles, etc. I think he's a guy you respect and worry about, but fear is reserved for others.

Finally, it's telling, too, that linebacker Brian Orakpo did not receive a vote. I wasn't surprised by that because, again, fear is reserved for major game-changers (or guys with certain reputations for hits). But I wonder how other teams view him as he enters free agency.
PHILADELPHIA -- The good news for Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly is he doesn’t have to spend the next couple months traveling to high school kids’ homes and recruiting them.

The bad news?

"It’s a different league," Kelly said. "This isn't recruiting where you can go out and offer and try to get them to come. There's a selection in the draft process and we're not going to pick until the 22nd [spot in the first round]. There's 21 other guys that we may covet, but we don't have an opportunity to get them."

If a team drafted 22d every year and did well, it could be awfully good. Based on the last 10 years, drafting only players taken between No. 22 and No. 32 (the end of the first round), a team could have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Santonio Holmes, running backs Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson, linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, safety Brandon Meriweather and defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Sharrif Floyd.

You could do worse. Plenty of teams did do worse. Cleveland took two quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, at No. 22.

Later we’ll look at some possible players the Eagles could consider at No. 22 in this year’s draft. For now, here’s a quick look at the 22nd pick in each of the past 10 NFL drafts, along with a few players that were on the board at the time (I didn’t go beyond the end of the first round out of fairness; just looking at first-round graded players):

2013: Cornerback Desmond Trufant from Washington, selected by Atlanta.

On the board: Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, WR/Returner Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive end Datone Jones.

2012: Quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Nick Perry, running back Doug Martin.

2011: Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, selected by Indianapolis.

On the board: Offensive lineman Danny Watkins, defensive end Cameron Jordan, running back Mark Ingram.

2010: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech, selected by Denver.

On the board: Wide receiver Dez Bryant, quarterback Tim Tebow, cornerback Devin McCourty.

2009: Wide receiver Percy Harvin from Florida, selected by Minnesota.

On the board: Offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Vontae Davis, linebacker Clay Matthews.

2008: RB Felix Jones from Arkansas, selected by Dallas.

On the board: Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson, cornerback Mike Jenkins.

2007: Quarterback Brady Quinn from Notre Dame, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, safety Brandon Meriweather, linebackers Jon Beason and Anthony Spencer, offensive tackle Joe Staley.

2006: Linebacker Manny Lawson from N.C. State, selected by San Francisco.

On the board: Offensive lineman Davin Joseph, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.

2005: Wide receiver Mark Clayton from Oklahoma, selected by Baltimore.

On the board: Cornerback Fabian Washington, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Roddy White.

2004: Quarterback J.P. Losman from Tulane, selected by Buffalo.

On the board: Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Jason Babin.

Brian Orakpo: 'I'm pretty banged up'

December, 24, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said he wants to play in the season finale. Whether he can or not remains uncertain.

Orakpo
Orakpo strained his right groin early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and was limited in practice Tuesday.

“I’m pretty banged up, man,” Orakpo said.

Fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) was a full participant in practice. Safety Brandon Meriweather missed practice to take care of a personal matter.

Orakpo said he’d like to play in the season finale against the New York Giants, but with a caveat.

“I’m not going to be stupid,” he said. “If I feel good, I’ll try to give it a go. If not, it’s been a good season.”

Orakpo, a first-round pick in 2009, is a free agent after the season – along with fellow linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley. Fletcher is retiring, but the other two face an uncertain future.

But Orakpo said he’s not thinking whether Sunday will be his final game with Washington.

"It’s been a disappointing year from the whole aspect of our record,” Orakpo said. “I’m not concerned with it possibly being my last game. We have to take care of these Giants and get this bad taste out of our mouth.

“It’s going to be the last time to suit up [as a group]. Hopefully go out with a bang and finish the season somewhat on a positive note.”
Alfred Morris, Eric BerryGetty ImagesWashington's Alfred Morris, left, and KC's Eric Berry lead teams trying to end losing streaks.
Fortunes have turned this season for the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. The Redskins, who won the NFC East championship last season, are 3-9. After winning just two games last season, the Chiefs are 9-3 and can clinch a playoff spot Sunday if they beat the Redskins and either the Baltimore Ravens or the Miami Dolphins lose. But the Chiefs have lost three straight, and their chances for winning the AFC West are virtually gone after being swept in their two games against the Denver Broncos.

ESPN.com's Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Redskins reporter John Keim discuss Sunday's game:

Teicher: This is a complicated question, but what’s happened this season with Robert Griffin III? Still bothered by the knee? Feeling the effects of missing offseason practice?

Keim: Yeah, it’s complicated because there are a lot of issues that have added up to him having an inconsistent sophomore season. The knee played a factor early in that he wasn’t going to run a lot and wanted to be more of a dropback passer (partly because he was fooled by last season’s success). The knee brace restricts him a little, but he just hasn’t regained his explosiveness. He’s still fast, but that first-step burst isn’t the same, and that hurts on some of the read-option or escaping trouble. Defenses are playing them different -- teams with good fronts can sit back and take away their play-action. They’ve seen coverages they didn’t see a lot of last season, and a greater variety of stunts and blitzes (knowing Griffin might not hurt them as badly). Missing the offseason really hurt Griffin’s ability to develop as a passer, and that has been a big issue. There are games when he looks solid, like against the Giants, but he also has had a couple of games that are as bad as any since he entered the NFL. Because he came from a much less complex passing system at Baylor, he needs a full offseason of work.

Adam, who would have thought Alex Smith would be the quarterback with the better team in this game? What sort of difference has he made for the Chiefs?

Teicher: His stats haven’t been great until the past couple of games, but he’s actually had a pretty good season. He’s been burned to some extent by dropped passes or his statistics would actually look a lot better. Through the nine-game winning streak to start the season, Smith played well enough not to mess up a good thing. He wasn’t committing turnovers, and, although he wasn’t making many big plays in the passing game, he was bailing the Chiefs out of some tough situations, whether scrambling or on the option or on a called play. Lately, they have needed more points and big plays, and he has delivered.

Kansas City has given up some yards via the running game this season. Give us a little scouting report on how Washington uses Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, and what there is to choose from between those guys. Also, do most of RG III’s rushing yards come on the option, called runs or scrambles?

Keim: The Redskins love to use a lot of stretch-zone and outside zone runs with Morris and Helu. Both can run inside. They will use some boot action off the stretch-zone, as well. Morris does a much better job than Helu of setting up defenders by pressing the hole and cutting. He gets linebackers to overflow, then cuts back. Morris is more patient than Helu, who hits holes as fast as he can run, and that often means he doesn’t set up defenders and therefore doesn’t create lanes for himself. He’s a bigger threat in the open field as a receiver. Helu is used more as a third-down back, but he is capable of running and does have the speed to break a long run. But, again, just not patient enough, and therefore gets a lot of 2-yard runs. As for Griffin, he’s averaging 5.46 yards per carry off zone-read runs (compared with 8.0 last season). His longer runs have come off scrambles -- but that also depends on whether a team plays a lot of man coverage. He’s just not as explosive off the zone-read runs, but teams have adjusted to it -- they are more disciplined against it, and safeties are more aggressive coming up to defend.

Looking at the Chiefs’ defense, how would you assess them at this point after such a dominant start?

Teicher: Not very good. The Chiefs have allowed more than 400 yards in each of their past four games. They are going to give up some yards, given the style they play (pressure on the quarterback, cornerbacks frequently in one-on-one coverage). Kansas City gave up some yards and big plays early in the season. But now, the Chiefs are not getting to the quarterback often, are rarely forcing him into mistakes, and are not getting the turnovers and favorable field position that made them so successful early in the season. That is why I think Washington could move the ball and score some points against Kansas City. The Chiefs played against a series of journeymen, backups or inexperienced players at quarterback over several weeks and feasted against those guys. The past three weeks, though, they have faced Peyton Manning twice and Philip Rivers and haven't fared very well. Given Griffin's dual-threat abilities and Washington's running game, Kansas City has some things to worry about.

The Redskins have given up a ton of points. The run defense looks as if it has been decent, but Washington has been horrible against the pass. Pinpoint the problems areas in that regard for the Redskins.

Keim: The Redskins have not generated enough pressure from their four-man rushes, although there are times when they get what they would consider good rushes but it’s not making enough of an impact. I don’t sense that quarterbacks are uncomfortable in the pocket. Sometimes it is because the coverage behind them is too soft, especially when they play zone. Washington has a lot of holes in its zone coverages, and quarterbacks can quickly find them. Makes it tough to then pressure. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has been solid and made some big plays; he’s much better now in tight man coverage. But the safeties as a group have struggled, sometimes because of injury, and other times because of performance. The Redskins have to upgrade here. Brandon Meriweather is OK, but he’s one bad hit from a longer suspension. They have had to mix and match a lot at safety to try to make it work. But it’s not just here; the inside linebackers have not had a strong season. Cornerback Josh Wilson plays the run well out of the slot but can be picked on. He’s up and down. Rookie cornerback David Amerson can make big plays but also can surrender them (although some of that has subsided). It is an inconsistent group, and it is why defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is under fire. It is not all his fault, as there are times the calls aren’t his, but that is life in the NFL.

How big a difference has coach Andy Reid made --- and are the Chiefs a legitimate contender?

Teicher: He has made a huge difference. He has given direction to an organization that before had a lot of guys pulling in a lot of different directions. Reid came through the door for the first time with an impressive résumé, and players -- tired of the losing and the way things had been -- were more than willing to listen. He has been able to get a lot of guys to put aside personal goals for the greater good. But I don't see the Chiefs as being legitimate contenders, not this season. Even during their nine-game winning streak, there were some red flags everyone knew were going to be problems down the road. The two games against the Broncos, particularly last week's, showed a wide gap between the Chiefs and one of the league's premier teams.

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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was a full participant in practice, clearly a sign that his consecutive games streak is not in much jeopardy.

Fletcher has played in 252 consecutive games, but sprained his left ankle near the end of Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Fletcher didn’t want to discuss his injury, but the fact that he was full-go says plenty.

Also, tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), safety Reed Doughty (concussion), safety Brandon Meriweather (chest), fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) were limited. Doughty had been cleared to practice Wednesday while Reed was able to return because he passed his tests Thursday.

Meanwhile, for Kansas City tackle Branden Albert (knee), tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion/knee) and linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) did not practice. Everyone else was full-go.

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