NFC East: Donte Stallworth

Quick Takes: Redskins receivers

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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• Whether the blame is on the coaches or the players themselves, the Redskins have been hurt by the lack of development from Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Yes, we’re back to that again. Hankerson has improved in some areas, but he’s not a consistent threat, with just four catches in the last three games. The Redskins once thought he could be a solid No. 2 receiver. He’s not. Robinson's hands were better than Hankerson's this summer, but with the latter it's always a focus issue. Robinson remains inconsistent because he often seems to fight the ball and his catches aren't always smooth. Neither makes those tough, in-traffic catches often.

• The Redskins have only drafted four wide receivers since Mike Shanahan took over after the 2009 season. They’re on their third receivers coach. Of the four, one (Terrence Austin) was cut and another (Niles Paul) was moved to tight end. They have failed to develop a quality receiver; Robert Griffin III’s growth as a passer will help, but that will only help so much.

• After Sunday’s game, Pierre Garcon said, “We didn’t have trouble getting separation. We’re just out there doing what they tell us to do.” I’m not sure I always buy that they’re getting separation. I do know that one knock on Griffin is that he does not throw players open against man coverage.

• Sunday, the non-Garcon wideouts were targeted 12 times and caught four passes for a combined 30 yards. Whether you pin the blame on the passes or the target, that’s not getting it done. Meanwhile, Garcon only averaged 6.6 yards per catch. There is very little downfield passing game.

• If Garcon ever has to miss a game this season the Redskins are in trouble. He’s a legitimate threat to a defense.

• A storyline this summer was Josh Morgan regaining some of his explosiveness, after having the screws removed from his surgically-repaired ankle. Perhaps he has, but it hasn’t resulted in him becoming what the Redskins needed from the Z position. Love his toughness and willingness to do whatever they ask, but his longest catch this season is 21 yards and he’s caught three passes for 15 yards in the past four games combined (when his playing time has decreased). His longest catch last season was 32 yards, but he had only three other games in which his longest grab was at least 20 yards.

• In the last four games combined, slot receiver Santana Moss has caught four passes for 62 yards.

• Though, of course, he would have had a long reception had he and Griffin connected on a third-quarter incompletion. The pass was behind him and I’m not sure Morgan even looked in time. Regardless of the fault, it didn’t click. That’s a phrase that could be used a lot when it comes to the Redskins’ passing attack.

• The Redskins are like a pitching staff in baseball that has a solid No. 1 starter, though not a Cy Young contender, and a bunch of No. 4’s, guys you can run out there who are capable of a good game but not a string of them.

• I’ll go back to another stat: The last wide receiver not named Garcon to surpass 85 yards receiving was Donte Stallworth in Week 14 of 2011.

• This season, Garcon has four games of at least 60 yards receiving. Hankerson, Moss, Morgan and Robinson have combined for four such games. Again, some of the blame goes to the Griffin’s inconsistency but certainly not all. It’s not a group that scares defenses. The passing game worked last year when the play-action game forced linebackers into bad drops, leaving gaps in their coverage. Now teams are playing more man coverage.

• I have not talked to anyone about Lance Lewis, who remains on the practice squad. He was rather inconsistent this summer and did not look like a player ready to contribute at the NFL level.

Redskins notebook: Meriweather to play

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
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Washington Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather will play Thursday against Buffalo, his first action of the preseason. Meriweather, who had ACL surgery last December, has been in and out of practice this summer because of his knee. He participated in practices the past two weeks, but did felt soreness after working four straight days two weeks ago. They’re counting on him being able to start this season. With a rookie free safety in Bacarri Rambo, the Redskins could use a solid veteran alongside him. If Meriweather can’t start, veteran backup Reed Doughty likely would get the start. Few understand the defense better, but Doughty is not a playmaker like Meriweather potentially could be in this defense.

Meriweather
“We’ve been trying to give him enough time to heal up and give him enough time to show us what he can do,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “He looked good in practice.”

• Corner Josh Wilson, who had offseason shoulder surgery, will also play against Tampa Bay. The Redskins typically rest their starters in the preseason finale, but Wilson did not play in the first two preseason games. They’d like him to play 15 to 20 snaps Thursday. Running back Evan Royster said his sprained left ankle is fine and he expects to play Thursday. Royster did not play versus Buffalo because of his ankle.

• The Redskins placed corner Richard Crawford on waived/injured in part because they can pay him less money if he clears waivers and returns. Crawford’s injury was bad: he tore the ACL, MCL and LCL in his left knee and the recovery period will take nine months.

“He’s a great kid, an unbelievable worker,” Shanahan said. “He’s done everything you ask to give himself the opportunity to be successful. It is a blow not only to him but to us.”

• There’s a simple reason why veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth was released: his hamstring. Stallworth hurt it early in camp and it affected his performance. “You could see he just wasn’t ready,” Shanahan said. They’ll miss his blocking as much as anything he would have contributed in the passing game. Stallworth blocked with an attitude, something the coaches love -- and something that’s necessary in the outside zone game.

• Nose tackle Barry Cofield wore padding over his cast during practice Monday, giving him the same clubbed look that Trent Williams had with his sprained wrist in camp. Shanahan said he doesn’t know how long Cofield will need to wear the cast. The benefit for Cofield is that even with the cast he can use his fingers, giving him the ability to use both hands. He relies on his quickness a great deal and gets free with quick swim moves more than just using his hands to overpower a defender. But every player needs his hands and if Cofield can still use his, there’s little reason to think his play would suffer much of a drop.

Redskins vs. Bills: What to watch

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
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Here's what I'll be watching when the Redskins host the Bills at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the third preseason game for both teams:

  1. The pace of Buffalo’s offense. I wrote about this Friday morning, but Buffalo likes to use a fast-paced attack, something the Redskins’ season-opening opponent, Philadelphia, does as well. How will the Redskins handle this? What will the Redskins do if caught in a personnel grouping that isn’t the best for what Buffalo’s offense has on the field? Because the starters will play only 15-20 snaps, it will provide only a small test -- the pace can take its toll over the course of a game -- but it will be a help nonetheless.
  2. Safety Bacarri Rambo’s progression. I’d play him more than the other starters, or at least in the final preseason game, just to give him more chances to tackle in the open field. He clearly needs the work. He might end up starting, but he still has yet to truly win the position. At this point he’s in there by default. He has a lot of skills to offer, but if this area doesn’t improve it’ll cause big problems.
  3. Corner Josh Wilson. He’ll make his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games while his surgically repaired shoulder continued to heal. Wilson remains the starter, ahead of rookie David Amerson. But Wilson is not coming off his best season and was asked to take a pay cut in the offseason -- so it’s not as if he’s firmly entrenched at this position. He’s much more knowledgeable about the defense than Amerson and, with a rookie safety, that matters. The Redskins can’t afford a lot of defensive backs learning on the go, though Amerson has looked good at times. But Wilson still needs to play well.
  4. [+] EnlargeBacarri Rambo
    AP Photo/Wade PayneRookie safety Bacarri Rambo (29) needs more work on his open-field tackling to avoid headaches later.
    Backup running backs. There’s no doubt who the top two players are at this position (Alfred Morris and Roy Helu -- but you really didn't need me to tell you that, did you?). Is Evan Royster in any danger? The problem is, the rookies have yet to show that they deserve a roster spot. Chris Thompson has flash, but he’s barely done anything in practice, let alone a game, in part because of injuries. Coaches are big on players being available; can they rely on Thompson in this area? His speed is intriguing (and speed is why Mike Shanahan, among others, initially fell in love with Brandon Banks in 2010). So it matters. But based on performance Thompson still needs to prove he belongs. I like Jawan Jamison’s running style, but the same applies to him. Royster is an average runner, so he’s no lock. Keiland Williams is a good special-teams player, but not much help from scrimmage.
  5. Veteran backups. Specifically linebacker Nick Barnett and receiver Donte' Stallworth. Barnett, the ex-Bill, isn’t worried about any sort of revenge; rather, he needs to show that he can still play at a certain level. This will be his first chance to do so. The Redskins have a pressing need for inside linebacker depth, and having a former starter who is familiar with this defense would help. As for Stallworth, he’ll make it only if the Redskins keep six wideouts. He’s played special teams sparingly in his career, but will have to show he can help there to stick around. And stay healthy. Lingering injuries never help aging vets.
  6. Right tackle. If Bills defensive end Mario Williams plays -- he went two series in the opener and did not see time last week -- then Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus will have a good game to measure any progress. Polumbus did not have a strong game last week. Nobody else has taken first-team reps at right tackle. But along with watching Polumbus, I want to keep an eye on veteran Tony Pashos. He’s Washington's most aggressive right tackle when it comes to using his hands, but what does he have left? The Redskins likely would need to keep nine linemen for him to make the roster. And Tom Compton is still working on the left side, but he’s coming off a strong game.
  7. Nose tackle Chris Neild. With Barry Cofield sidelined by a fractured bone in his right hand, Neild will get a chance to work against the Bills’ starting line. He’s not in danger of being cut, but this is a good opportunity to face quality blockers.
  8. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed. He struggled as a blocker last week, mostly, it appeared, because of inconsistent technique. He was not overpowered, which is a good sign for him. But he does need to help in this area. Reed also dropped a ball last week; I’d like to see him get a chance to display his athleticism.

Redskins wake-up call

August, 22, 2013
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As the Redskins wrap up practice in a short week, here's what I'll be monitoring:

1. Jim Haslett’s day to talk. Two topics I’m sure that will come up: the pass rush and the secondary. The pass rush has been terrific in the first two preseason games and there’s a lot that the Redskins haven’t shown. It’s coming from all over. Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield made the most noise the other night, but Stephen Bowen is doing his job as well. As for the secondary, Bacarri Rambo’s open-field tackling will be an issue. Yes, he can improve but he has to do so in a hurry. The good news for Rambo is that his coverage has been sound, as it was throughout training camp. But how much are the coaches concerned with Rambo’s tackling at this stage? You’d like to see Rambo win the job by his performance rather than by default. Perhaps suspended safety Tanard Jackson’s name will come up after CSNWashington’s Rob Carlin caught up with him Wednesday. Jackson told Carlin that when Haslett said in the spring that he would welcome back the safety with open arms it “gave me a more positive outlook on wanting to get back and working towards that.” I’m not convinced he would return if reinstated on Aug. 31.

2. Kyle Shanahan’s day to talk. Have a hunch that the quarterbacks will be a primary topic, starting, of course, with Robert Griffin III. We received a decent update Wednesday from Mike Shanahan and Griffin, but Kyle Shanahan is often good at filling in the gaps and expanding on what his father said. For which we say: thank you! He provides a lot of insight at times, making it better for all of us. Other topics? Perhaps the rookie running backs, both of whom finally played.

3. This is also our last chance to talk to Mike Shanahan before Saturday’s preseason game versus Buffalo. So we’ll get a better feel as to who might not play against the Bills. Will strong safety Brandon Meriweather finally play? Donte' Stallworth? The former needs to show he’s healthy enough to start; the latter needs to show he deserves a roster spot. There aren’t too many topics to discuss with Shanahan today, after delving more into the Griffin Plan on Wednesday.
Washington Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield made fun of left tackle Trent Williams for wearing a club in practice. And then he got hurt against Pittsburgh.

“Karma,” said Cofield, wearing a purple cast on his right hand, after practice. He broke it Monday against Pittsburgh.

But Cofield said he still didn’t know whether or not he’d have to wear a club on his hand, whether in practice or a game. What he does know is that he should be ready for the Sept. 9 season opener versus Philadelphia. Coach Mike Shanahan said if they had a regular-season game this weekend rather than a preseason one, Cofield would play.

“I feel optimistic,” Cofield said. “I’m not concerned. You play through pain. You play through injury. Teammates have a high expectation of me. They count on me to perform and to lead, and that’s my goal. I feel confident.”
  • Safety Brandon Meriweather got “a lot of good reps today”, Shanahan said. Meriweather, recovering from ACL surgery, worked all of last week with the scout team. It represented progress because it was the most days in a row he had practiced. However, Shanahan said, “He looked a little sore on the last day.”Considering the issues at safety, the Redskins need Meriweather to open the season healthy. They’ve missed too many tackles at safety, many times because of poor angles to the ball.
  • Veteran linebacker Nick Barnett, signed early in camp, will make his preseason debut Saturday. Barnett, who has worked behind London Fletcherat inside linebacker, said his transition has been eased because the defense is similar to what he played in Green Bay three years ago. Barnett spent the past two years in Buffalo, whom the Redskins play Saturday. “I have no animosity to the players or anybody, but it will be fun to play against them.”The Redskins need depth at inside linebacker, so they need Barnett to be healthy and still productive. Their top backup for now is veteran Bryan Kehl, known more for his special teams play than anything he’s done from scrimmage.
  • Receiver Donte Stallworth, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, returned to practice. So, too, did receivers Aldrick Robinson (thigh) and Leonard Hankerson (knee), both of whom were hurt against Pittsburgh. Running back Keiland Williams(knee) did not practice.The Redskins would need to keep at least six receivers in order for Stallworth to make the final roster. He can play special teams, which helps his case, but he’s spent too much time lately with a sore hamstring. It’s likely that veteran Dez Briscoe would be his main competition for the sixth spot. Briscoe’s hands have been inconsistent this summer.
  • Shanahan said he's not sure how much his starters will play against Buffalo. In the past, they've gone into the third quarter. But with a quick turnaround after Monday's game, they're not expected to play as much. To compensate, Shanahan said he kept most of the starters in a little longer against the Steelers. It's still doubtful that the starters would play in the preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

Redskins notes and observations

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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Notes and observations from Washington Redskins training camp.
  • Safety Phillip Thomas will visit a foot specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, in North Carolina Tuesday to get another opinion on his mid-foot sprain. Coach Mike Shanahan said they just want to make sure there’s no setback. Thomas hurt his left foot in the preseason opener versus Tennessee. Receiver Donte' Stallworth, who re-aggravated his hamstring in that game, sat out practice because he’s still sore. And linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy sat out practice with a sore shoulder.
  • Safety Brandon Meriweather took his most extensive work in practice (the Redskins did not work in full pads) since training camp opened, a positive sign in his recovery after his 2012 ACL surgery. Shanahan was pleased with what he saw. "He had one breakup that I was impressed with down the field. Hopefully there is no setback,"Shanahan said.
  • Linebacker Nick Barnett worked for the first time since signing with Washington, taking snaps with the second-team defense. Barnett, recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, will be monitored closely.
  • Bacarri Rambo learned a lesson while playing against Tennessee on taking the proper angles and not stutter-stepping as he approaches a ball carrier, especially against one such as Chris Johnson. Monday, Rambo approached the shifty Roy Helu in the open field and though the Redskins were only in shells, he took a better angle and did not slow down en route to the ball. Now he needs for that to carry into a game. But having seen it live in the opener, he can now focus even harder on it in practice. Said this before, but that missed tackle could end up being a good thing for him.
  • Pat White didn’t build off his good fourth quarter against the Titans. The trouble he had before that game is the same one that showed up Monday: an inability to pull the trigger. On three straight possessions in full-team work White failed to throw the ball, scanning the field and not finding anyone and eventually pulling the ball down. He was off on other throws as well. There were some decent throws, but White is a ways away from being ready to make this roster. Just too hesitant.
  • Best pass and catch of the day in full-team work: Rex Grossman on a deep post to Dez Briscoe, who made a leaping catch as corner E.J. Biggers flew in front thinking he had a pick. He didn’t. But Biggers had the pick of the day, making a diving interception while flying over Leonard Hankerson's right shoulder. The ball was low and Biggers trapped the ball with his right forearm. Just a nice play.
  • I like the patience Jordan Reed is starting to show on his routes. It gave him problems earlier in camp, but he’s made progress. Reed also made an athletic grab, reaching up high to make a catch from Grossman, earning a “Good catch” from a teammate. Reed is still adjusting and the lost time in practice didn’t help, but he showed flashes Monday.
  • A point of emphasis for the quarterbacks on the run: keeping the ball alive as they run toward the line. It was a problem for Robert Griffin III last season and you can see the quarterbacks showing the ball with a little pump fake as they run, trying to keep the defense from sprinting up hard. The quarterbacks do this even when there’s no defense.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins is throwing with a lot of confidence in camp, fitting balls into tight windows at times. He threw a deep in-route to receiver Santana Moss in which Chase Minnifield had tight coverage. But Cousins put it so that it was just out of Minnifield’s reach and all Moss had to do is reach up and grab it.
RICHMOND, VA -- Veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth, on the bubble for a roster spot, still has a sore hamstring and likely won’t play in the second preseason game Aug. 19 against Pittsburgh. Stallworth missed time last week because of his hamstring and re-aggravated it against the Titans.

“He tried to play through it, but you could see it was bothering him in the game,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he hopes Stallworth, a 10-year veteran hoping to prolong his career, returns for the third preseason game against Buffalo.
  • Rookie safety Phillip Thomas will miss at least a few days with a sore left foot, which he injured in the preseason opener Thursday. But the good news for Thomas is that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said tests have ruled out a fracture or a Lisfranc injury.“They don’t think that’s a problem,” Shanahan said.Thomas started against the Titans, but only because veterans Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty did not play. Still, Thomas, a fourth-round pick, figures into their plans.
  • Undrafted free-agent linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough separated his right shoulder, but Shanahan isn’t yet sure when he’ll return. Shanahan said he’ll know better in a few days.
  • The Redskins cancelled practice Saturday because of a thunderstorm that hit the area. After not practicing Friday and with a scheduled day off Sunday, it could have been a problem. But Shanahan said he was pleased to cancel the workout. Because they don’t play again until Aug. 19, the Redskins will get five days of work next week.“I think the guy upstairs took care of me today,” Shanahan said. “I wasn’t sure about practicing. I felt we were sore as a team and needed rest so I was glad this happened. We had more guys on the injury report today than we have all season. We have plenty of time to practice and get done what we need to get done.”
  • Another on that injury list is rookie tight end Jordan Reed, who has a mid-foot sprain on his right foot and did not play against Tennessee. He would not have practiced Saturday. But he’s now able to walk without a protective boot. His status remains uncertain. Reed, a fourth-round pick, did not practice in the spring while recovering from a quad injury. His growth has been stunted because of the missed time, though with three veteran tight ends on the roster the Redskins can be patient with him. All four will probably make the roster.

Redskins: Morning wake-up call

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
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After a day off, the Washington Redskins return to practice this afternoon in Richmond for a 2 p.m. ET workout. They’re off again Sunday. Here’s what I’m monitoring:

Injured players. We’ll get an update on the health of rookie safety Phillip Thomas (shoulder/toe), receiver Donte' Stallworth (hamstring) and rookie linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough (separated right shoulder), all of whom were hurt in Thursday’s 22-21 preseason win over Tennessee. Thomas is going to make the final roster, but any missed time will slow his learning curve. Stallworth missed time last week with a hamstring issue so to re-aggravate the injury is not a good sign for his chances of making the team. Kimbrough is an undrafted free agent and longshot to make the roster, though he’s opened some eyes with his hitting ability. A good preseason could earn him a practice squad spot. That could be tough now.

Robert Griffin III's workout. Yes, he’ll almost always be on this list. How much more will he do today than he did during the last official practice Tuesday? Griffin worked out before the Titans’ game, performing drills that he has been doing every day (simulating his movements in the pocket under duress). Coach Mike Shanahan said after the game Thursday that he was not sure when Griffin would take full-team work, but that he would start getting work with the starters in the walk-through sessions.

Rookie tight end Jordan Reed. He bruised his foot in practice Monday and did not play against the Titans. When will he return? Reed is the Redskins’ fourth tight end, but a player they really like (which is why they took him in the third round, of course). But he missed the spring workouts with a knee/quad injury, putting him behind. It’s tough to miss this much time as a rookie.
Look, I'm not saying Arrelious Benn was the second coming of Herman Moore, or that the Philadelphia Eagles' brave pronouncements about making up for their losses at wide receiver with extra help from their tight end group or their running back group don't make any sense. But with Jeremy Maclin and now Benn out for the season with torn ACLs, and with legitimate questions about whether Riley Cooper can really spend a full season in the same locker room with NFL teammates after being caught on camera angrily using the worst racial slur there is, the fact is that the Eagles are ridiculously thin at the wide receiver position.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
AP Photo/Michael PerezWith receivers Jeremy Maclin (pictured) and Arrelious Benn out for the season, the Eagles could be looking for help from the free-agent pool.
DeSean Jackson is their best one. Jason Avant is a solid, if unspectacular, veteran. But other than those two, the seven remaining healthy wide receivers on the Eagles' roster have a combined total of 96 career NFL catches -- 46 of which belong to Cooper. Could the Eagles get more than expected out of guys like Damaris Johnson, Russell Shepard and Greg Salas? Sure, but it's a shaky bet to make.

Tim McManus looks at 10 wide receivers who are still available on the free-agent market at this very late date, and it's an uninspiring list. The top name is Brandon Lloyd, who had 74 catches and 911 yards for the Patriots last year. But something's off with Lloyd that is scaring teams away. Fact is, he'd have been one of the Eagles' top three receivers if he'd signed a month ago, and they weren't interested. I have to think that, if they liked Lloyd, he'd already be on their team.

Laurent Robinson, the 2011 Cowboys touchdown maker, is also on this list but comes with major injury concerns due to concussion problems. Guys like Deion Branch and Brandon Stokley have put up decent stats in the league, but not without Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, respectively, throwing them the ball. Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson isn't what the Eagles need as they rebuild under Chip Kelly.

You get the idea. There's not much out there. And I fully understand why the Eagles wouldn't want to sign any of the receivers on this list. But it's Aug. 7, they haven't even played a preseason game yet and their wide receivers are dropping like flies. The reason they had so much volume at the position was to protect against injuries, and certainly there's no guarantee that there won't be any more injuries over the course of the next month. As much as they don't want to, the Eagles probably should hold their nose and take a flyer on someone like Lloyd or Branch or Stokley. Maybe call up the Redskins and find out what their plans are for Donte' Stallworth and Devery Henderson ... something to address what's becoming a problem for a team that already has a huge question mark at quarterback and is hoping to run as many offensive plays as possible.
Back home after my minicamp travels and a significant amount of time waiting out construction on the I-95 corridor, I present to you some bleary-eyed Thursday links.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins will bring a couple of new wide receivers to training camp with them next month, as they have signed speedy veterans Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson. No way to say for certain to what extent these guys threaten for spots on the final roster, but they're guys who'd performed in the league and are certainly worth taking a look at as potential passing-game weapons.

Sometimes, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says something that makes you wonder if he's ever paid any attention, at all, to any aspect of the topic he's discussing. In a letter to Congress, Goodell referred to the Redskins' names as "a unifying force." I mean... whatever else it is, it sure as heck ain't "unifying," Rog.

Dallas Cowboys

Guess who the star of Cowboys minicamp practice was on Wednesday. That's right. Dez Bryant. You know this blog isn't surprised.

Tyrone Crawford has been lining up at defensive end in the Cowboys' new 4-3 front seven alignment, and he says that's the way he sees himself. The Cowboys believed Crawford was ready to contribute as a pure pass-rusher even going into last year, so they surely believe he can find his way to the quarterback from a 4-3 end spot. It remains to be seen how much his game develops beyond that.

New York Giants

A healthy Terrell Thomas would likely change everyone's outlook on the Giants' secondary, and Thomas says he's going to "shock a lot of people" this year. There's no way for the Giants to count on a contribution from Thomas, but if he surprises them with one, it would be a huge help to a unit fraught with question marks.

Veterans don't like it when their teams draft players who play their position, and Giants backup quarterback David Carr admits he "would have freaked out" at the Giants' selection of Ryan Nassib if the same situation had happened to him earlier in his career. Now? Carr pretty much rolls with things.

Philadelphia Eagles

This is the dangerous portion of the offseason, when players are away from their teams for an extended period of time and the only news they can make is bad news. To wit: Eagles left tackle Jason Peters arrested in Louisiana on charges of drag racing and resisting an officer by flight. Not good. The NFL has been known to suspend players for second arrests, which this is for Peters.

Evan Mathis talks sense about this whole Eagles starting quarterback issue. Like the man who will ultimately decide, Mathis doesn't see any reason to rush a decision or an announcement on this.

ASHBURN, Va. -- After the Washington Redskins wrap up their minicamp here Wednesday, rehabbing quarterback Robert Griffin III plans to spend another week at the facility before going off to get married and enjoy the "personal life" portion of his offseason. He said after Tuesday's practice that he considers himself a responsible enough person to keep his rehab from reconstructive knee surgery going during his honeymoon, and had a succinct answer when asked how prepared he was for a possible setback in his recovery.

"I'm not," he said. "You just don't think negatively. I think LeBron said, you don't play the game afraid to get hurt. So I don't worry about setbacks. I just worry about my progress moving forward."

There really wasn't any actual "news" on the RG III front Tuesday. He worked on the side in practice with the other injured guys, running, throwing, staying out of team drills. He continues to say he's confident he'll be ready for training camp when that begins in Richmond next month, though he also said he has a month's worth of cutting drills to get through before that can happen. He took one question about Tim Tebow and a couple about his role in the planning of his wedding.

"Sometimes, I actually have a choice," he said. "And sometimes, it doesn't really matter what I say."

But as for the knee, Griffin says it's all about continuing to go through the slow rehab and doing everything right along the way to make sure the ultimate goal of being healthy for the season -- and beyond -- is met.

"I think, on the mental side, I'm okay," he said. "It's just the physical side, teaching my body to re-learn all the movements. That's what we're still working on."

Some other things I saw, heard, asked and learned Tuesday at Redskins minicamp:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Carolyn KasterQuarterback Robert Griffin III says he's confident he'll be ready for training camp next month.
The Redskins' offensive players are fine with the idea of backup Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback while Griffin gets himself healthy. Left tackle Trent Williams chuckled when I asked him how it was going with Cousins taking first-team snaps.

"He's great. He's a stud," Williams said. "He's definitely got that strong pocket presence, that accuracy and he's a great leader, too. We don't worry at all if he's the starter. I just think it's funny -- everybody's looking for "that guy," and we've got two of them."

Griffin quoted Williams when asked about how Brian Orakpo was looking as he works to return from a pectoral muscle injury: "To quote my left tackle, 'Rak's out there pass-rushing like it's the NFC Championship Game." Indeed, Orakpo looks as though nothing ever happened, and he talks and acts like a guy who has missed a lot of time and can't wait until he's allowed to tackle someone again.

Speaking of guys who have been out a while, remember cornerback Chase Minnifield? He was the talk of last year's minicamp before a knee injury knocked him out for the season. He practiced in full Tuesday and says the biggest issue he's facing is getting used to going up against NFL wide receivers in practice. "I've just got to tone up on my technique," he said. "As far as my movement, my speed, my quickness ... that's all good. I feel like my play can stack up against anybody in this league." Minnifield picked off a Rex Grossman pass in team drills and looks like a guy who could help the secondary. The Redskins are just always going to have to worry about a recurrence of injury with him.

In discussing his depth chart heading into training camp, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, "If you were a first-teamer last year, you'll start out as a first-teamer this year and then we'll see." This would seem to indicate that the starting right tackle job is Tyler Polumbus' to lose. Shanahan also said Brandon Meriweather, who projects as the starting strong safety, should be medically cleared in time for training camp, according to what the team's doctors are telling him.

Free-agent wide receiver Donte' Stallworth was at practice, and Shanahan said the team expected to sign him in the next couple of days.

Was Babin the best free-agent signing?

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
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Over at the AFC South blog, Paul Kuharsky has a post that says the Texans' Johnathan Joseph was the most valuable free-agent signing of this past offseason. Surely, the transformation of the Texans' defense is a big part of the reason for their division title, and Joseph was a big part of that transformation.

But if you disagree with the choice, there's a SportsNation poll in Paul's post that allows you to vote for someone besides Joseph as the best 2011 free-agent signing. Other choices include New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Denver running back Willis McGahee and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin.

What's interesting about this is that none of these guys was projected to have the impact he has had, while bigger-name signings have had far less impact. I guess that's the way it always works, but it got me thinking.

Babin was clearly the best free-agent signing in our division, the best of many by the Eagles, who likely imagined ballyhooed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha would top their list. Asomugha has played fine, for the most part, but has had some memorable negative moments in his first season in Philadelphia. Babin, meanwhile, ranks among the league leaders in sacks and has made it clear that his first season as a dominant NFL pass-rusher (2010, in Tennessee) was no fluke.

So Asomugha was supposed to be the Eagles' best free-agent signing, but Babin actually was. How about our other three teams? Let's take a look:

Dallas Cowboys

Then: The biggest deal was to lock up left tackle Doug Free before he hit the market, and the Cowboys did. But Free has been a disappointment and could be moving back to right tackle next season as impressive rookie Tyron Smith moves over to the left side. Free-agent safeties Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh have had their moments but are part of a struggling secondary.

Now: The Cowboys' best signing turned out to be wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who has 797 yards and nine touchdowns on 50 catches. He answered the team's preseason questions about the No. 3 receiver spot and was a more-than-adequate replacement for Miles Austin during Austin's many injury problems.

New York Giants

Then: The Giants eschewed external free-agent pursuits because of the importance of signing their own. At the time, the highest priority was running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has played well on either side of the foot injury that cut out the middle of his season. Center David Baas has been a bit of a disappointment in his first year in New York.

Now: When the Giants re-signed defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and said they would be moving him to linebacker, it seemed like a desperate move from a team that had very little behind its defensive line. But Kiwanuka has been a major stabilizing force for the Giants at his new position, and he still moves up to rush the passer with his old defensive line buddies on third downs.

Washington Redskins

Then: The Redskins made a big splash when they signed defensive tackle Barry Cofield away from the Giants and made him a nose tackle for the first time in his career. Cofield has played well, but it took him a while to adjust to his new position. A year from now, this will look like their best 2011 signing from a list that includes Santana Moss, Donte' Stallworth and yes, Rex Grossman.

Now: The Redskins signed safety O.J. Atogwe just before the lockout -- a move a lot of people almost forgot they made once free agency began in earnest. He's had some injury problems, but when he's been on the field, Atogwe's been an impact player, as has cornerback Josh Wilson, whom they signed away from Baltimore.

Wrap up: Patriots 34, Redskins 27

December, 11, 2011
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A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' hard-fought loss to the Patriots at FedEx Field on Sunday:

What it means: Pure heartbreak! The Redskins got as far as the New England 5-yard line in the final minute with a chance to tie it. But veteran receiver Santana Moss made two costly mistakes that prevented it from happening. Moss was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty that moved the Redskins back to the 15, and then a Rex Grossman pass bounced off of Moss' hands and into those of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo for the game-clinching interception. The Redskins fall to 4-9, ensuring them a third consecutive season with a losing record.

Offense shows heart: Clearly, the New England defense is abominable. But the number of personnel losses the Redskins have suffered this season should have rendered their offense incapable of moving the ball against almost anyone. This was not the case Sunday, as Grossman consistently found receivers when he needed to. No Fred Davis? No problem. Grossman completed passes to seven different receivers. Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney each went for more than 90 yards receiving, and Moss had more than 80. Roy Helu racked up a manly 126 yards on 27 carries. The balance on offense was remarkable -- 34 run plays and 35 pass plays. It was the fifth game this year in which the Redskins ran the ball on at least 40 percent of their offensive plays and the first such game that they lost. But considering they were playing without both starting tackles after Jammal Brown got hurt in warm-ups, it was probably the best the offense has looked all year. It outgained the Patriots 463 yards to 431.

Streak continues: The interception wasn't his fault, but it did extend Grossman's streak to nine straight games with at least one interception. He also lost a fumble in the end zone earlier in the game, and the Patriots recovered it for a touchdown.

Defense holds its own: The Redskins' defense gave up 27 points, but it held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 5-for-11 on third downs (while the Redskins' offense went 7-for-14 on third downs), and Josh Wilson's interception in the end zone set the Redskins up for their chance to tie the game. Brady looked to be at least a little bit off his game in the second half (for him, at least), and I imagine the Redskins were able to put some real defensive positives on film.

What's next: The Redskins travel to New Jersey on Sunday to play the New York Giants with a chance to mess up the Giants' season. They got New York's season off to a rotten start by beating them in Week 1 in Washington, and a victory next Sunday at the Meadowlands could severely damage, if not end, the Giants' playoff hopes.
Kurt ColemanGeoff Burke/US PresswireKurt Coleman had three picks as Philadelphia's defense held Washington to 287 yards of offense.
LANDOVER, Md. -- You didn't have to watch every play of every Philadelphia Eagles game for the past month to spot the difference in the team that took the field here against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. It was simple and obvious to everyone.

"They came in here with their season on the line," Redskins receiver Donte' Stallworth said. "And they played like it."

The Eagles made tackles. They made smart decisions. They stayed away from turnovers. They looked nothing at all like the team that gave away the game to the San Francisco 49ers two weeks earlier, or the one that didn't show up against the Buffalo Bills last week. And as a result of all of that, they beat the Redskins 20-13. So they go into their bye week with a 2-4 record and a one-game winning streak instead of a 1-5 record and a five-game losing streak, and for the first time since early September they have reason to feel good about themselves.

And that's where they have to be careful.

"That's one thing we can't lose, that sense of urgency we had here today," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "Going into the bye now, we have a chance to get healthy, a chance to relax a little bit. But we have to make sure we still have that sense of urgency and keep up that fight."

This is the most critical thing for the Eagles in the wake of this victory that saved their season: that they don't start feeling too good about themselves. This team has to come out against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks from now as though it's 2-4 and still working to get back into contention -- not as though it just played its best all-around game of the season. The avalanche of humility thumping the Eagles on the head for the past four weeks can turn out to be a good thing for them, as long as they recognize its value. We have seen proof, several times already this season, that the Eagles are very good when their great players play great. What we haven't seen much of is those players actually playing great.

So the Eagles team that rolled in here Sunday was a humbled Eagles team. And as poorly prepared as they'd looked the week before, Sunday's Eagles looked like they'd been working, coaching and practicing their tails off ever since. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was adamant last week that the defense played better in the second half and had something on which to build. He was right, but the key of course was that they did that building.

"Through that whole second half [in Buffalo], all the talk on our sideline was, 'Can you feel the energy? Can you feel the momentum?'" Castillo said. "Every week, we keep preaching that if you work hard, good things happen. And our guys were working hard, but those good things weren't happening in the games. These are proud athletes, and they've been working."

Sunday, it finally paid off. The Eagles finally played like hard workers instead of anointed stars. They were tough, physical, mean and determined. Michael Vick managed the game well. LeSean McCoy ran like an unstoppable jigsaw. Kurt Coleman, getting a second chance at safety, came up with three interceptions.

The Eagles played like a bunch of guys who feared what would happen if they didn't do their jobs well. That had been missing through the first five weeks, and that's the main reason Andy Reid and his coaching staff deserved so much of the criticism they were taking. The team that showed up last week in Buffalo had been poorly coached and prepared for that game. The team that showed up here Sunday looked far better honed.

Maybe it has been a process all along, and it just took this long for them to look the way we expected them to look. Or maybe something happened to shock them into realizing what was at stake if they laid another egg. Maybe this performance was a reaction to a week that featured players-only meetings, players asking fans to take down critical signs across from the team's practice facility, and a relentless storm of all-angles criticism of Reid.

"We love our coach, and we'll go to bat for him each and every week," Vick said. "We could be 1-13, and whatever he's telling us, we're going to go out and do it."

This was the first week in a long time in which that appeared obviously the case. And maybe it was because some of the heat Reid was feeling was naturally trickling into the locker room and helping wake the players up to what was at stake.

Whatever happened to the Eagles last week -- whether it was the meeting or an epiphany or just the natural effect of passing time on a team that had yet to jell -- they'd be wise to bottle some of that and bring it back out next week when they have to start preparing for their next game. They are but two games out of first place in spite of it all, and on Sunday they finally looked like a team that understands its situation.

"Right now, we should be in a better position," Vick said. "I think we all know that."

The more important thing for them to know is that they're not, and that they have to keep playing like a team that's working to dig itself out of a hole. Because that's the Eagles team we saw Sunday, and it's the best they have looked all year.

Washington Redskins cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Click here for a complete list of the Washington Redskins' roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The decision to keep Chris Neild as a backup nose tackle and release Anthony Bryant. There was some chatter in the offseason about Bryant's possibly being promoted to starting nose tackle if the Redskins focused their offseason energies on defensive end. But once they signed Barry Cofield, they didn't need two backups, and they liked what they saw from Neild, especially on special teams.

Running backs Evan Royster and Keiland Williams have apparently been released, victims of overcrowding in a Redskins running back field now headed by Tim Hightower. Ryan Torain will remain on the roster, along with Roy Helu, as a top option if Hightower should falter. And it's a bit surprising to see them keep eight receivers, including Brandon Banks, Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Donte' Stallworth.

No-brainers: They're only keeping two quarterbacks, John Beck and Rex Grossman, while cutting Kellen Clemens and Matt Gutierrez, but I don't think that's surprising. Those last two were only there to help take up preseason snaps when they needed to rest guys who might be their starters at any point this season. Rookie receiver Aldrick Robinson didn't do anything to help himself. And Artis Hicks has been squeezed out of the offensive line mix. They looked into trading Hicks Saturday but ultimately had to put him on waivers.

What's next: They could hit the market for a third quarterback, obviously, though that's not a major concern. I wonder if they'll still look for help at defensive end with Jarvis Jenkins out for the year. The Cowboys just cut Igor Olshansky, who's a name that will surely catch someone's attention.

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