NFC East: chris thompson

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.
Alfred Morris’ hands haven’t matched his legs when it comes to production. His involvement in the Redskins’ passing game has been minimal. And while Redskins coach Jay Gruden would like to see that change, don’t expect Morris to turn into anything more than an occasional threat.

Morris
But that would be more than what Morris was during his first two seasons when he caught a combined 20 passes. He showed good hands at the Pro Bowl, catching four passes for 69 yards. However, his hands were inconsistent in the regular season.

“It’s something that, obviously, you want to have him be an all-around back. His hands aren’t the most natural but it’s something you can work on,” Gruden said. “You don’t have to run go-[routes]. If you can catch a standard checkdown or screen pass, he could catch 20 to 25 balls a year. It just adds to his resume of being one of the top backs in the league. Yeah, we’ll work on him quite a bit as far as catching the ball.”

But that doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly turn into Giovani Bernard, Gruden’s pass-catching back in Cincinnati. The question then becomes: will any of the Redskins' backs? Gruden mentioned Roy Helu and Chris Thompson as possibilities. Thompson's rookie season ended with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which followed knee and back injuries at Florida State.

“We have some guys in-house we feel like can do it, but obviously you like to have some versatility and the ability to have another guy who could be a specialty-type third-down guy,” Gruden said. “But with Roy and Chris, we have those guys who could possibly take that role. But we’ll keep looking.”

Gruden called Thompson “one of the most exciting backs” while at Florida State. But he also wondered about his durability.

“He’s a guy who has to stay healthy and do his best to get on the field so we can see what he can do,” Gruden said. “Interesting guy. He’s very, very exciting when he gets the ball in his hands, but it’s hard to get the ball in his hands when he’s not out there.”
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some highlights from Jay Gruden’s hour-long press gathering at the owners meetings:

1. He’s OK if linebacker Brian Orakpo plays out the season on the franchise tag. Sounds like he and the organization wants to see if his production increases, thanks to the promise of being turned loose more and also having an outside linebackers coach.

2. They will move Shawn Lauvao to left guard and keep Chris Chester at right guard. Gruden did not address Josh LeRibeus, but it’s clear from this move that there’s not a whole lot of confidence in him.

3. He certainly understands the importance of maximizing Robert Griffin III. He’s glad that Griffin needs to be reined in when it comes to his desire to push himself.

4. Gruden said if Griffin isn’t comfortable with the read option, they won’t run it as much. He also said he won’t try to stop him from running out of the pocket. Clearly, though, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. But Gruden wants Griffin to feel comfortable on the field. That’s a big issue.

5. He loves Jordan Reed.

6. Yes, they looked for some bigger linemen, but they want big guys who can move. As has been stated many times, they plan to use the same run-game schemes.

7. He’d like Alfred Morris to be a guy who could catch 20 to 25 passes a season. But he said Morris isn’t a natural pass-catcher; has work to do.

8. Gruden is a breath of fresh air. Though there are some things he can’t say, he was as honest as possible without crossing a line.

9. He’s not concerned about Griffin’s knee; wasn’t too deep on him playing without the brace and what it might mean. Why? Because he said the braces are so light these days.

10. He liked watching Chris Thompson at Florida State and seems anxious to work with him. But his durability is a major issue.

11. He said no teams have called about quarterback Kirk Cousins, but added that he wants “two great quarterbacks” because of Griffin’s style of play.

12. Gruden acknowledged he likes to have a lot of plays; apparently he was able to streamline that desire better during his time in Cincinnati. Does not want to overload Griffin, but says the third-year QB can handle a lot.

13. He mentioned the young safeties, but, again, I don’t get a sense that either Bacarri Rambo or Phillip Thomas will be the answer this season. Rambo’s play did not suggest he should be; Thomas’ foot and recovery from the Lisfranc injury makes him a question mark for now.

14. Gruden mentioned Andre Roberts’ versatility as a receiver. I don’t get the sense that the return position is solved by his arrival, however.

15. They're anxious to see Kory Lichtensteiger at center. As for Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, Gruden was a bit complimentary but I don't get the sense they're done looking for another possibility. Or, as they say, "more depth."

Five thoughts: Darren Sproles

March, 10, 2014
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With running back Darren Sproles done in New Orleans (his release has not yet hit the transactions wire), it led to another round of "should the Redskins pursue" questions via Twitter. So, should they go after Sproles? Well, I have a few thoughts. As always.

[+] EnlargeDarren Sproles
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesRunning back Darren Sproles had 71 receptions for 604 yards last season, his eighth in the NFL.
1. Yes, I would be interested in signing Sproles if I were the Washington Redskins. But you need to know exactly what you’re getting. Do not expect the Sproles from 2011, when he set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards for the Saints and was one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. That is not who he was last season. In 2013, Sproles had 1,273 all-purpose yards. He also will not necessarily solve the issues at returner. In five of the past six years he’s averaged 8.0 yards or less on punt returns. Last season he averaged 21.3 yards on 12 kick returns (though he has a 25.3 career average and was at 26.8 in 2012). He’s a limited role guy, so you can’t pay a lot for him. My guess is the Redskins knew he would be getting released just by analyzing other teams' cap numbers; I haven’t heard his name mentioned, so perhaps they made up their minds already. He's 30, and I wouldn't trust a move on anything other than a smaller deal. You just don't give a good chunk to players over 30. Not good business.

2. That said, it doesn't take long to figure out he can still play. Just for kicks (well, for research, too), I watched some of his games last season. Sproles remains an effective back, able to make defenders miss in the open field with a hard juke or quick shake. He sets up blockers well in the open field because he can show inside, then quickly cut outside.

3. Also, and this is big: In two of the three games I watched, I saw the opposing defense (Miami, Philadephia) send two defenders his way on a route several times. And that left gaps in the defense that benefited, for example, tight end Jimmy Graham. It gave quarterback Drew Brees enough of a window to exploit, and it occurred simply because Sproles was sent to the flat. Also, Brees scrambled up the middle on occasion because linebackers vacated areas to double Sproles. They couldn't do that with a quarterback such as Robert Griffin III, who obviously looks to run more. Again, I'm not saying Sproles is the best and they must sign him. But am I interested because he could help them? Absolutely -- and for the right price, he's a good weapon. Sproles is a matchup headache capable of running good routes from multiple spots.

4. Yes, Jay Gruden had Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati as a big weapon. Sproles could fill that role here. But keep in mind that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's lack of arm strength -- especially compared to Griffin's -- almost required that the Bengals have a guy like Bernard, someone Dalton could easily dump the ball to. Sproles would be a good check-down guy for Griffin, but if they sign another receiver, the plan is to get the ball downfield more. That is likely the plan, anyway; I know the coaches think Jordan Reed will be an excellent target on deeper throws. That would lessen the desire for a guy like Sproles, though Sproles would still be a weapon. It’s not as if Brees was just a check-down guy.

5. If the Redskins somehow pursued Sproles -- and I don’t know that they will -- it should not mean the end of Roy Helu. As a running back, Sproles works best in a spread formation when he can hit gaps up the middle against, say, a five-man box. If something happened to starting running back Alfred Morris, I would not want Sproles as the full-time guy. Nor would the Redskins. The Saints were able to incorporate three backs into their offense, and I think the Redskins could as well. Sproles would replace a guy like Chris Thompson.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
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In Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, the topics include free agency, how many Bengals might follow Jay Gruden to Washington, Jim Haslett's return and more.
 
ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s tough to judge a draft in less than a year, let alone with four games remaining. But you can measure player' progress and try to gauge where they might be headed. Then you need to wait a couple years.

Thus far, when it comes to the 2013 draft, the Redskins have found one player capable of being outstanding (Jordan Reed) and another who has contributed all season (David Amerson). After that, there are a lot of question marks (as there should be after less than a full season) and potential role players. If you can get two quality starters and a couple key contributors from a seven-player draft, then you’ve done rather well. This class has a ways to go.

Amerson
Cornerback David Amerson (second round): He’s tackled better than I anticipated, especially after watching him in college. You see a lot of the same things from his N.C. State days -- an ability to make plays, but also getting sloppy with his technique at times. He still has all the skills you want and looks the part. He made a game-changing play against Oakland and had a big interception against San Diego. But in the latter game he also was beaten a few times, partly because his eyes were in the wrong place in certain coverages. Which is what happened in college. He can clearly play in the NFL, but can he be a solid starter -- not just start, but play at a higher level? Needs to show a lot more to go that far.

Reed
Tight end Jordan Reed (third round): Have liked him since early in camp because of his athleticism and ability to get open, and his work ethic. Can he stay healthy? That was a knock on him coming out of college, and he’s had to deal with a couple issues thus far, including his recent concussion. He’s a better blocker than I thought he’d be as a rookie. When he was drafted, I didn’t think he’d be a viable replacement right away for Fred Davis because of this. It took Davis a few years to learn to block. But a key point: Reed has worked much harder. It matters.

Strong safety Phillip Thomas (fourth round): On injured reserve. Impossible to say what he might have done; we didn’t see enough, nor did he get a chance to really work on his game once the preseason started because of his injury. I know the coaches liked his progress this summer. It’s a start.

Running back Chris Thompson (fifth round): Also on injured reserve. Made no impact when healthy. In the preseason he looked fast, but that wasn’t the case in the regular season as he misjudged the speed of those trying to tackle him on returns. Because of his size and past injuries, durability always will be an issue. That will limit his role even if he does come through. He has the speed (and quick acceleration) you want, but needs plenty of work. Speed alone won’t cut it.

Linebacker Brandon Jenkins (fifth round): I don’t buy the idea that he would have been a first-round pick had he stayed healthy. He looked like a raw pass-rusher this summer, albeit one who was worth developing. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, which is understandable given who’s ahead of him at linebacker. For now he looks like a role player who, because of his size and ability to run, needs to develop on special teams as well. But I’m intrigued to see how he develops. He showed flashes last summer, but a lot of guys do. Year 2 will tell a lot.

Safety Bacarri Rambo (sixth round): Opened as the starter, but more so because of who the Redskins didn’t have than for his own performance. He tackled poorly, wasn’t a good special teamer and deserved to be pulled. He had the reputation as a ballhawk in college, yet he doesn’t make plays (didn’t see it in practice or games). I love how he’s responded -- he’s tackled much better since his return. The next four games will help him. Regardless, safety will remain an offseason priority. They need a quality starter at this position. If Rambo can develop into a quality backup and special-teamer, then he’s a good sixth-round pick.

Running back Jawan Jamison (seventh round): Still on the practice squad. Wasn’t wowed by him this summer, though there were things to like (ability to make defenders miss with a little second-level wiggle).

Redskins expected to promote Nick Williams

November, 11, 2013
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During the summer, Nick Williams left an impression. He ran good routes from the slot, the one punt he returned went for 29 yards and he impressed in practices with his under-the-radar game.

He'll now finally get a chance to see what he can do on an NFL roster. According to a league source, the Redskins are expected to sign Williams off their practice squad Tuesday and place him on the 53-man roster. With rookie Chris Thompson headed for injured reserve because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder, the Redskins needed to fill a roster spot.

Williams was a punt and kickoff returner at the University of Connecticut and likely will have a shot to help in those areas -- both of which have been problem spots for Washington. Williams fielded extra punts after practice Monday, something he said he often does. He's listed at 5-foot-10, but looks a couple inches shorter. In the preseason, Williams caught seven passes for 51 yards, but it's hard to imagine him helping from scrimmage with Santana Moss ahead of him.

Williams is a shifty returner who posted big numbers on kickoffs in college, averaging 25.9 for his career. As a senior, he averaged 20.4 yards per kick and 12.0 yards per return. The Redskins viewed him as a high priority when it came time to signing undrafted free agent.

At his pro day last spring, Williams impressed scouts in part because of a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical leap. Then-Connecticut football coach Paul Pasqualoni, who has since been fired, told the Connecticut Post: "What Nick brings is, he's got a way on punt returns and kick returns, he's got a way of really making plays. But I really think that he can play that inside slot receiver spot, he just hasn't had enough experience there yet. We just put him in there last year, but you can't do it all in a year. I think he's going to open some eyes and surprise people with his ability to return punts and kickoffs, and he will develop into being a good inside slot receiver."

Here's a video of some of his returns in college.

Redskins' Fred Davis inactive again

November, 7, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis was put on the inactive list for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. This time it will cost him.

Davis
Davis needed to be active for 12 games this season in order to collect a $500,000 bonus. The initial reason for that bonus was because of Davis' Achilles' injury that ended is 2012 season. The Redskins wanted to protect themselves if he couldn't play much this season -- and reward him if he could. Davis has been a healthy inactive the past four games; he sat out one game because of a sprained ankle.

The emergence of rookie Jordan Reed, who leads all NFL rookies with 38 receptions, and the fact that Davis does not play special teams have kept him inactive. Niles Paul is actually the fourth tight end, but he is active because of his special-teams performance.

There weren't any surprises among the other inactives: quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Chris Thompson, safety Jose Gumbs, offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and nose tackle Chris Neild. Jenkins was active last week as the Redskins wanted more speed in the pass rush. Thursday, veteran Darryl Tapp will be active instead.

Redskins Mailbag: Part 2

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
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In Part 2 of the Redskins Mailbag, we take a look at DeAngelo Hall and Dez Bryant, Trent Williams and DeMarcus Ware, Jarvis Jenkins' starting job and more.

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Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 5

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins coming out of their bye week.

Defensive breakdowns: It’s great for the Redskins defense that it entered the bye week after a strong performance; the unit needed confidence and a seven-sack game provided some. But the fact that Oakland’s Matt Flynn was demoted to third string after that game tells you a thing or two. The Redskins have not fared well against good quarterbacks and have three of them upcoming -- Dallas’ Tony Romo, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and then Denver’s Peyton Manning. The Redskins can’t expect a shutdown performance, but is it asking too much to tackle better? If they do that and provide a steady four-man rush, they can reduce their issues. Getting end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson back from suspensions will help, but neither has been an impact player.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Greg TrottSo far this season, Robert Griffin III has looked nothing like the dynamic rookie QB he was in 2012.
Not so special: Punter Sav Rocca has been too inconsistent. His hang time on some punts has been 3.0 seconds, a good second off the bottom of where it needs to be. Rocca’s untimely shanks aren’t what a struggling defense needs. But it’s not just Rocca. Washington’s longest kick return? Twenty-eight yards. The longest punt return? Eleven yards. There’s also hidden yardage in what is lost because of poor decisions on both returns. Chris Thompson handles both duties, but never returned punts in college and clearly is still learning to make decisions when to field them. He’s also adjusting to not having the same speed advantage he had in college. The blocking needs to be much better too.

Robert Griffin III's legs: The second-year quarterback used his legs a lot more in Week 4 than in previous games. Griffin does not need to be a running machine to be effective, but his legs remain a valuable weapon for him. He needs to combine his legs with his growing penchant for keeping his eyes downfield. It led to big plays against Oakland. It’s a way to make big plays with your legs and still reduce hits. This isn’t about the zone-read, but it is about not just sitting in the pocket. The Redskins aren’t built to have that sort of game.

Health issues: The biggest one involves running back Alfred Morris, who bruised his ribs in the Sept. 29 win over the Oakland Raiders. The key will be what he’s able to do later in the week and not Monday or even Wednesday. Morris is averaging 5.29 yards per carry and 2.30 yards after contact; both are stronger numbers than he posted a year ago. Tight end Jordan Reed’s quad contusion was still an issue in the Redskins’ last practice Oct. 1 before taking off for the rest of the week. Fred Davis should be healthy, so if Reed can’t play they’ll be fine. But Reed would help, too. Tight end Logan Paulsen's sprained left knee is an issue; losing him would hurt the blocking.

Redskins notes: Rambo must make plays

September, 23, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Rookie safety Bacarri Rambo didn’t play a snap from scrimmage on defense after starting the first two games. The Redskins opted for three corners and one safety in their base package because they wanted to play a lot of man coverage and wanted Brandon Meriweather instead of Rambo playing the deep middle.

But Rambo also has to start making plays if he wants to stay in the lineup. He did participate on special teams Sunday.

“When he gets his opportunities he has to take advantage of it,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “We’re not here to keep his spirits up. When he does play special teams, whatever role you’re in, you better play 100 percent and make some plays. If he doesn’t play anything on defense, he better play well on special teams. And if you don’t play well on special teams and you’re not a starter, you won’t be dressing. Everyone has a role and it changes during the season.”

In other news:
  • Leonard Hankerson started over Josh Morgan at the Z receiver position because he had a better game against Green Bay. Neither one did much versus Detroit; Hankerson caught three passes for 21 yards while Morgan caught two for 19.The storyline with Morgan this summer was whether or not he had regained some explosiveness after his 2011 ankle surgery.“He’s much better than he was a year ago, there’s no question about it. But there’s still competition,” Shanahan said. “People are fighting for playing time and you have two guys that are close and each game dictates how much he’ll play the following week.”
  • Morgan replaced Chris Thompson for the final two kickoff returns. It didn’t make much of a difference as Morgan averaged 21.5 yards compared to Thompson’s 22.5.“I wanted to give him a chance,” Shanahan said. “He’s a bigger body.”
  • Nothing new on the injuries to tight ends Fred Davis (ankle) and Jordan Reed (quad). Shanahan said of Reed that he's not sure how long it will take him to recover.
  • Kicker Kai Forbath said his groin injury has lasted a lot longer than he originally expected, but he’s hopeful that he’ll return for Sunday’s game at Oakland. “I thought it would be a couple days and it would be better,” Forbath said. “It’s frustrating but we’re making progress.”Forbath said he didn’t kick at all last week, wanting to make sure he didn’t aggravate it and delay his return.

    “It’s real close,” Forbath said.
  • Shanahan said he thinks Brandon Meriweather’s $42,000 fine for hitting Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy will be rescinded. “That was a legal hit,” Shanahan said. “But I think what they’ll try to do is emphasize even coming in on that angle from now on will not be allowed. That will be a new rule that will be implemented as time goes on.”
  • Cornerback Richard Crawford, who tore his left ACL in the preseason, said his injury was not as bad as doctors originally feared. He suffered a partial tear of his LCL, but did not need it reconstructed. He said the recovery time is around eight months.

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 3

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiHaving to dig out of deficits all season, the Redskins and QB Robert Griffin III have been especially pass-heavy on offense.
QB progress: After three games, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is on pace to set an NFL record for number of passes per game. Griffin has averaged 46.3 passes, putting him on pace to break Matthew Stafford’s record of 45.4, set last season. Griffin is on pace to throw 741 passes; Stafford threw 727 passes in 2012. But the Redskins' offense worked best last season when the focus was on running the ball, not just with Griffin but with running back Alfred Morris. He’s looked good the past two weeks, but has just 40 carries -- mostly a byproduct of two lopsided games. For the offense to change, Griffin can’t stay on a record-setting pace.

Digging out: The 0-3 start has left the Redskins in a familiar spot, needing to emerge from a bad start. The problem is, this start feels a whole lot worse than last year’s 3-6 record because they were still within shouting distance in most of those games. During their winning streak last season, the Redskins believed they could overcome anything that happened in a game. They won on the road minus Griffin; they won with a less-than-100 percent Griffin. They won when the passing attack wasn’t working. But they’re not playing with the same confidence now. Will one win change that? Probably not, but it would allow them to enter the bye week feeling much better.

Defensive issues: The Redskins struggled to find answers defensively once again. They switched strategies Sunday, using man coverage in their base defense but with three corners and one safety. That enabled them to stay in their base defensive front -- they were getting hurt on the ground in the first two games because they were mostly in their nickel package. They stopped the run and at times did well in man coverage. But the secondary has struggled in coverage and the more chances Detroit had to throw the ball, the more likely they would give up big yards.

Return to sender: Rookie Chris Thompson was replaced by Josh Morgan on the final two kick returns of the game. Not that it made much of a difference: Morgan averaged 21.5 yards on two returns compared to 22.5 for Thompson. But it’s clear that Thompson is still learning how to return kicks at an NFL level. For example, on one return he took the ball up about a yard or two too far before making his cut. At times he seems to underestimate the speed of those coming at him and he’s unable to get wide. During the preseason, he was a patient returner and then made a decisive cut. Now, after his first cut, there is still hesitation.

Lions 27, Redskins 20: Ten observations

September, 22, 2013
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1. The Redskins are better than this. That’s what many people have said or are saying. Why do we assume that they are better than what they’ve shown so far? Because they won seven straight last season? Right now this is what they are: a team that can't defend the pass in a passing league and with a quarterback who is not what he was -- not yet anyway. Last season was not a fluke, but they had so much momentum going that they could overcome Robert Griffin III's knee injury and keep rolling. They can’t overcome a still-not-himself Griffin right now because other parts aren’t working. So, no, they’re not better than this. Griffin’s injury haunts this team still. And because he’s not himself teams can defend him, and the rest of the offense, differently. Everything changes.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
AP Photo/Richard LipskiThe Detroit Lions shut down running back Alfred Morris and showed they were willing to let Robert Griffin III, left, try to beat them on Sunday.
2. I liked this quote from DeAngelo Hall: “We can’t live on what we did last year. That means nothing right now.” It speaks to the urgency of the situation. Don’t assume it will turn around just because it did so last season. It’s tough to keep beating the odds and that, once again, is what the Redskins are trying to do. A couple wins in a row changes everything, but after Oakland and the bye week they play at Dallas, host Chicago and play at Denver. Even if they play better a turnaround will be tough.

3. One big concern I had before the season was the turnover differential. The Redskins were plus-17 last season; it’s tough to keep that going for a second season, and it was a major reason why they excelled. They’re minus-2 through three games. Last season, Griffin did not throw an interception in the red zone; he threw one today. Think about this: the defense has scored in two games and they still can’t win a game. At home. Against two teams that combined for eight wins in 2012.

4. Missed tackles. Yikes. You can’t blame Bacarri Rambo for this one because he didn’t play from scrimmage as the Redskins used their base front, in an attempt to stop the run, and three cornerbacks. They did stop the run (23 carries, 63 yards for the Lions). But they allowed 385 through the air, and they missed so many tackles. Joique Bell broke three tackles on his 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He’s a physical runner, but come on.

5. On that drive, the Redskins had a third-and-10 in which they missed four tackles on Bell -- Brandon Meriweather could have had Bell stopped after 12 yards. Instead, he gained 25 more and another 15 was added for a Perry Riley penalty on a roughing penalty. That’s how you get to 0-3. Three plays later, the Redskins stopped them on third-and-6. But London Fletcher was flagged for holding a linemen as he rushed, an automatic first down. So two terrible third downs put Detroit in position for a touchdown instead of either a punt or a field goal.

6. The Redskins’ defense allowed plays of 47, 41, 37 and 33 yards. There were two other gains of 20 and 23 yards. That means of Detroit’s 441 yards, 201 came on six plays. The Redskins have allowed eight plays for 30 yards or more in the past two games combined (and 10 for the season). Good lord. It’s a combination of missed tackles and poor secondary play, a combination of youth and past-their-prime vets. Rookie corner David Amerson admitted he tried to make a big play on one route to Nate Burleson; a risky decision -- the play wasn't there to be made -- turned into a 41-yard play. Youth.

7. One of the big mysteries of the second half: Why so few carries for running back Alfred Morris? It will be asked Monday. Here is what he did on his first six carries of the third quarter: 0, 4, 1, 1, 3, 1. Not exactly a great stat there, and the Lions made it clear they were going to focus on stopping Morris. Why? Because they did not think Griffin could beat them with his arm. They were also content with him running on the zone read-option, because they were willing to give him four or five yards in order to prevent Morris from getting a lot more. Get used to it.

8. The Redskins won 10 games last season and had an explosive offense by being balanced. It’s who they are and it’s what they need to be, given where Griffin is as a passer. The imbalance was evident in the first half, too, as Griffin threw 21 passes (five coming with less than 38 seconds left) compared to nine runs. The Redskins moved the ball with 180 yards, but scored just once -- on a 30-yard Morris run.

9. Aldrick Robinson has to make that catch. Has to. Your team is struggling; you’re in position to change the game and you fail to complete the catch. Robinson was insistent that the ball “never hit the ground ... I know what it looked like, but I know what it was.” But replays (and photos) disagreed with him, as did his coach. The pass was there; all Robinson had to do was hold onto the ball as he hit the ground. His job is to get open deep and make big plays.

10. What a luxury to have a player such as Calvin Johnson. And quarterback Matthew Stafford throws with an unreal amount of trust when going to him. There were a handful of throws where that was evident. Stafford doesn’t throw it blindly, but he does throw it knowing that few in the game are better than Johnson when the ball’s in the air. And if you give Stafford a little window, as the Redskins did before the back-breaking touchdown, he shows his arm strength.

Upon further review: Redskins Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
2:59
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday:

[+] EnlargeWashington Redskins
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPoor tackling plagued the Redskins in their loss to the Packers on Sunday.
Tackling woes: The Redskins' defense already had flaws; it added another one with its tackling. The Redskins consistently give high-powered offenses extra yards because they fail to tackle; they have allowed the most yards after contact this season (208) after ranking sixth in this area last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The problem is that teams are able to spread them out, preventing gang tackling at times. They’re not good enough, and not making enough plays, to overcome this issue. Teams will continue to get them in space, and Washington needs to prove it can tackle. Or else.

Quarterback runs: Is Robert Griffin III not running on zone-read options because of his knee? Because of how defenses are playing them? Because deficits forced the Redskins to abandon it? It’s a good question (why, thank you), and one we’ll try to answer throughout the week. Griffin’s timing in the pocket is off -- yes, a byproduct of missing so much offseason work from the knee injury. It can be subtle sometimes, but the difference in hitting a receiver on the correct shoulder can mean the difference between a 10-yard gain or 20. It adds up. One reason the Redskins gained so many yards after the catch last season was because of the chaos in the back end of defenses, fueled by late linebacker drops as they were worried about defending a multi-option run game.

Brandon Meriweather: There’s a dual issue here with Meriweather, starting with his health after leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion. He’ll now be monitored all week. So the Redskins will spend another week waiting to see whether Meriweather is able to play. Then you have to wonder what sort of punishment, if any, he’ll receive from the NFL. He was not flagged for either of his big hits, but replays showed him leading with his helmet on the first one against Eddie Lacy. Regardless, when he returns they need him more under control with his tackling -- and he needs to prove he can play for longer than a half without getting hurt. His continual health issues make the loss of Phillip Thomas even worse. But just think of the learning curve for a secondary with three rookies in prominent roles. UPDATE: Meriweather will be fined, but not suspended according to Adam Shefter.

Special teams: They’ve flown under the radar a little bit because of the problems elsewhere. But they shouldn’t. The special teams have not done anything to help. That goes for the returns, where rookie Chris Thompson is averaging 19.7 yards on six kick returns and 4.7 yards on three punt returns; one good runback would boost either number. Gunner Niles Paul and long-snapper Nick Sundberg both received 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties Sunday. In Sundberg’s case, the Redskins had pinned Green Bay at its own 10-yard line. It wasn’t a death sentence for the defense that the Packers then started at the 25-yard line. But right now every yard is huge for this defense. And Sav Rocca shanked a 25-yard punt that gave Green Bay the ball at its own 35 in the first quarter.

Chris Thompson learns tough lessons

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
10:30
AM ET
ASHBURN, Va. -- As he drifted, Chris Thompson wasn’t sure if he was going sideways or backwards. He knew the golden rule of punt returns: Plant your feet at the 10-yard line and if you backpedal, let the ball go.

Instead, Thompson called for a fair catch at the 5-yard line and learned a lesson about fielding punts in his first NFL game. Thompson isn’t visible on the All-22 film when the ball is immediately punted, but within a second he’s in the picture -- and he was already at the 5 and moving about 10-15 yards to his left.

Later in the first half he fielded a punt at the 6-yard line and returned it only five yards, putting his offense again in a bad spot. This time, he backpedaled four yards as the ball arrived.

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliChris Thompson made some bad decisions on special teams against the Eagles that put the offense in a bad spot.
“The hard part is realizing if you’re stepping back or just staying lateral,” he said of the fair catch. “That was really the thing. I was running laterally, but I didn’t know I was losing yards at the same time.”

Thompson clearly hopes for a better game returning punts and kickoffs at Green Bay on Sunday. Coach Mike Shanahan said after the game that Thompson needed to improve his decision-making and put the offense in a better spot.

“The more experience he gets, the better he’s going to be,” Shanahan said.

Thompson said he can do a better job setting up his blockers on returns. Or just hit his spot faster. It’s tough, but necessary, to learn those lessons. For example, he said, on his punt return he tried to sell an outside run then cut back to the middle.

“I should have just caught it and hit it right outside immediately,” he said.

Agreed: There was room and he received an excellent block by Jerome Murphy that should have cleared a lane, but because he cut back in it pushed a defender into Thompson. But it’s easy to second-guess a split-second decision.

On kickoffs the Eagles covered him well. On his three kickoff returns he caught each ball in the right half of the end zone and tried to take it wide left. A disciplined unit will stop that and the Eagles did.

In the preseason Thompson did a good job of being patient and setting up blockers, drawing in defenders and then cutting sharply. That’s why he won the job. He also knows he can’t leave the offense in a bad spot and none of his four returns -- three kickoffs and one punt -- gave the offense the ball past the Eagles’ 21-yard line. Only one got past the 20.

“I felt real comfortable,” Thompson said. “Just a little nerves being the first official game. I have to improve and I have to do a better job setting my guys up.”

He also said the decision-making on kick returns is mostly up to him and upback Niles Paul and not special-teams coach Keith Burns. Thompson will line up about five yards deep in the end zone and if he has to backpedal, he is supposed to just down the ball. If he’s moving forward or can get momentum, then he’ll return it.

“[Burns] leaves that on us,” Thompson said. “We just make sure we make the right decision. If I bring it out, I need to get past the 20. I’ve just got to work better on making those decisions.”

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