NFC East: Kirk Cousins

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.

Redskins minicamp observations

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
4:15
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Thoughts and observations after watching the Washington Redskins practice Tuesday:

1. David Amerson looks bigger and, indeed, he said he's added about six or seven pounds of muscle. Amerson does appear to have more toned arms. That will help when he plays press coverage and in run support. I'll have more on Amerson later this summer, but know this: He's had a good spring. Saw him stick with Pierre Garcon in a couple one-on-one occasions. Also, more importantly, saw him use his eyes better and more consistently. It was an issue last year.

[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins CB David Amerson appears to have gained some muscle weight this offseason.
2. Did see Garcon get him on one crossing route. Amerson tried to jam him, putting his right hand onto Garcon's outside shoulder. But Garcon's strength helped him here as he wasn't knocked off stride and created separation running across the middle.

3. Saw this for the first time: a receiver doing a spin move at the line to get away from press coverage. Garcon tried that against Amerson, but it didn't work. Amerson stayed patient and, partly because he didn't try to jam Garcon, was not fooled by the move.

4. Garcon dunked a ball after a catch in the end zone. The Redskins had college officials at practice and one immediately threw a flag. Players can no longer dunk over the goal posts.

5. The offensive players were convinced Amerson should have been called for holding on a back-shoulder attempt to tight end Jordan Reed in the end zone. I was just finishing up an interview with Amerson after practice when Reed walked past with a smile and asked, "Did he tell you he held me?"

6. Rookie receiver Ryan Grant had a few nice grabs Tuesday, mostly on underneath routes against zone coverage. He's good at driving the defender off and then cutting. Did it a couple times Tuesday. I don't know when he'll be able to really help because he has to get stronger and, ultimately, prove he can beat press coverage.

7. One coach I will enjoy listening and paying attention to this summer: outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. Yes, I know, I've mentioned him a few times, but after watching him work with the players I'm even more convinced of his impact. Just a detailed coach. I'll have more on that later this week. But he is good and isn't afraid to chastise anyone. Heard him ping rookie Trent Murphy during a drill Tuesday morning.

8. Murphy was juked out by Reed on one route. He can ask other veteran linebackers how that feels because that's what happened last year. Once more, Reed was among the last off the field after working more on his game. Nothing has changed since last year in that regard.

9. Reed also had a nice block on Murphy, getting his hands into the rookie's chest and pushing him to the ground.

10. With linebacker Brian Orakpo out (sickness), this was a good chance for Murphy to work against veterans. He also went against left tackle Trent Williams a few times. Murphy's spin move worked well against Moses, but Williams was able to stop it on the one time I saw it tried. The coaches like what they've seen from Murphy overall, especially off the field in terms of work ethic.

11. Rookie running back Lache Seastrunk, who lost the ball on a handoff in practice, stayed afterward to work on handoffs with fullback Darrel Young playing the part of the quarterback.

12. Kedric Golston worked at nose tackle with the first defensive line. He's done that in previous workouts this spring with Barry Cofield sidelined. And if he shows it's a spot he can help at during the summer, then it'll be tough to cut him. Golston adds experience and toughness up front, two qualities that should be welcomed. Add a little versatility and it makes him even more valuable, and it also makes it tough for Chris Neild to make the roster.

13. The quarterbacks worked on slant passes during drills with receivers. The quarterbacks dropped back, looked down the middle and then turned toward the receiver running the slant. It's a little thing, but I point it out for this reason: Robert Griffin III's last interception in 2013 came on a slant route. He eyed the receiver the whole way, who then got a good break to make the pick. Sometimes you have to eye the receiver off the line because the pass is coming right away. But in this case it led to the pick.

14. Wasn't able to spend a lot of time watching rookie right tackle Morgan Moses, but did see him get beat by second-year Brandon Jenkins to the outside on one occasion. Moses was too upright and a bit slow with his feet.

15. Jenkins failed to use the proper technique on an inside run, staying too wide and creating a gap inside. The coaches, um, reminded him of the mistake.

16. Said it last week and will continue to point out how much more energy there is during these practices. Some of that could just be because change brings a new energy. But some of it is the style of coaches they now have on staff. Raheem Morris was always vocal under Mike Shanahan, so his ribbing of players and coaches is nothing new. But things were just more lively Tuesday, with trash talking and banter.

17. The field goal kickers attempted three kicks apiece (from 39, 44 and 50 yards) at the narrow goal posts (about half the width of regular ones). Rookie Zach Hocker made all three attempts -- the ball jumped off his foot on the 50-yarder. Kai Forbath missed two of three but on regular goal posts he would have made each attempt.

18. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a nice bullet to receiver Aldrick Robinson; the pass arrived just before safety Bacarri Rambo for a touchdown.

Redskins notes: Tempers flare

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:33
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ASHBURN, Va. -- It felt like training camp: Temperatures threatened to reach 90 degrees in the morning and there was more back-and-forth banter. And, of course, there was a shoving match. It wasn't even the first scrap of the spring, but it was one of the more notable ones because it was a little more intense.

Defensive lineman Doug Worthington and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn were engaged on a play that ended up getting more heated. McGlynn grabbed Worthington's facemask and pulled his helmet off. They had to be separated and that was the extent of it.

"Sometimes competitive players push and shove," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "We've just got to avoid that."

"I've never seen a guy take another guys facemask off," Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "That was impressive. Emotions are high; guys are ready to go."

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins will enter training camp with three quarterbacks, Colt McCoy, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, who all ran through drills on Tuesday.
Yes they are. This wasn't the first time players snapped at one another in the spring. It happened during organized team activities when tight end Niles Paul and corner Chase Minnifield had words followed a week later by Paul and linebacker Adam Hayward.

But by this point of spring, players are more than ready to finally put on the pads so they can hit for real.

"There's no doubt they're ready," Gruden said. "Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, it's very difficult for them to handle these practices, without pads."

Jackson getting healthier: Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson said his hamstring is around 90 to 95 percent recovered. "That's good enough speed for me to get out here and work," Jackson said. The receiver missed nearly two weeks of OTA sessions because of a strained hamstring. He returned last week and looked better Tuesday.

Three QBs: Gruden said the Redskins will take three quarterbacks to training camp. Teams often take four or five to keep arms fresh. But Gruden wants to make sure the three quarterbacks he does have -- Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy -- get enough reps. Griffin, obviously, will get the majority of them in camp. If a quarterback gets a tired arm in camp, or if someone gets hurt, Gruden would have to find another one. "But I can also throw perfect spirals and complete passes," the ex-college quarterback said laughing.
The Redskins didn't make a pick, nor did they make any trades. But they were able to see some players who could help them fall to the second round. Which will give them plenty of choices when they make their first pick of the draft.

Washington will make the second pick of the second round when the draft resumes Friday night. One thing the Redskins did not do Friday was trade backup quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cleveland had offered the Redskins a fourth-round pick, an NFL source said, but the Redskins stuck to wanting a high pick (likely a second-rounder). It's debatable if there is any market for him because of the high price tag -- though the Redskins made it clear earlier in the offseason that they did not want to trade him.

Here are some options at 34:

RT Morgan Moses: Moses is an athletic tackle, but also inconsistent. He was better as a senior -- and was excellent against Kyle Van Noy in their limited matchup. But Moses has a tendency to play too upright and would need to fix that or else have problems. I like his long arms, which bailed him out of trouble in college. But I did not like how he handled run-blocking assignments at the second level -- something he'd need to do in the outside zone scheme.

Here's my write-up on him.

RT Cyrus Kouandjio: I really like his ability, but his knees are a concern and I've heard that definitely might scare the Redskins off. He showed good footwork and strength as a run blocker and had a little attitude as well. But he was not as consistent in pass protection, thanks to his balance and footwork.

Here's my write-up on him.

RT Joel Bitonio: He's considered a good fit in a zone blocking system because of his ability to get to the linebackers. He does not have prototypical measurements for a tackle (6-foot-4, 302 pounds; arm length just under the desired length of 34 inches) but he makes up for it with terrific makeup: a leader, hard worker, etc. He also blocks with a little attitude. He ran a 4.97 40-yard dash at the combine.

LB Kyle Van Noy: The Redskins like his versatility, as he can play outside or inside in a 3-4. They definitely feel he can play inside in their scheme. Though Van Noy did not handle this role in college. When he lined up inside, it was in coverage or to rush. But he did a good job of shedding blockers on the edge, which gives the Redskins confidence he could do the same inside. However, 34 is a bit high for him.

Here's my write-up on him.

OLB Jeremiah Attaochu: Has very good quickness and is considered a good athlete. He has good size to handle the outside at 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, but he would probably have to add about 10 pounds. He did a solid job against the run in college.

DE Ra'Shede Hageman: He had top-10 ability, but did not always play at that level. Otherwise, of course, he'd have been selected in the top 10. He dominated at times and made plays that made you say, ‘Wow.' And then he'd do nothing for a while. The fact that he only had two sacks was telling. But he's athletic enough and big enough that he could provide a good push inside. Not sure the Redskins are big fans.

Here's my writeup on him.

ILB Chris Borland: I don't see him as the choice. There are too many other players Washington likes that are available and I did not get the sense that the Redskins felt he was a good fit. I think he's better in a 4-3; he will have issues in space, but would be a good physical player when facing straight-ahead running teams.

Here's my write-up on him.

WR Marqise Lee: The Redskins do not need to pick a receiver high in the draft. Their top three receivers all are under contract through 2016. However, injuries are always an issue and Washington lacks depth at this position. Lee dropped too many passes last season, but he was much more consistent the previous two years. He's had a tough background, but his intangibles are considered strong. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the combine.

DE Stephon Tuitt: Projected by some analysts to go in the first round. Isn't considered to have a quick burst, but plays with strength. If the Redskins want another player to provide push inside, then he could be worth a look. However, there are questions about his durability and his motor.

Another option: Trading down. This is clearly a strong option for Washington considering there are a handful of players the Redskins' like who are still around. They only have six draft picks, so this would be a chance to add another selection or two.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Bruce Allen opened his news conference stating that he would do his best not to lie to anyone. With only two days before the NFL draft begins, that line drew a chuckle. And even Allen laughed.

He then added this line: “If we mislead 31 other teams then it’s successful."

But Allen also said after free agency, “There’s no gaping holes on the roster.” The Redskins added potential starters at inside linebacker (Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan), an interior pass-rusher (Jason Hatcher), receiving help (DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts), a starting guard (Shawn Lauvao) and a nickel corner (Tracy Porter).

Among the highlights:
  • They’re more apt to trade down than up. Washington lacks the ammunition to trade too high in the first round, but trading back is a distinct possibility. The Redskins have only six picks and have done a good job in recent years of acquiring more. “If we have a player that has a first-round grade that falls to us it will make us less likely to trade out of there,” Allen said. “But we have several players who have about the same grade on them and if that’s the case and we get the opportunity, we would move.”
  • As for moving up, Allen said, “I can’t imagine there won’t be other teams that have more picks that aren’t trying to get into the bottom of the first round. I think it’s unlikely, but we’ll listen to other people’s offers.”
  • Allen said he’s had no conversations with other teams about trading for quarterback Kirk Cousins. “We have three quarterbacks who can win for us,” Allen said.
  • The Redskins’ new coaches were helped by seeing their players in a voluntary minicamp last week, but it won’t necessarily impact the draft (though coach Jay Gruden said last week that it helped). Allen said nothing they saw last week resulted in any grades being changed on players in the draft. “It’s allowed us to maybe do some doubling and tripling and quadruple checking of the talent,” Allen said.
  • The Redskins won’t target one position at No. 34; the draft is too unpredictable to do so. They also won’t shy away from a lot of positions just because there’s not an immediate need. “We feel we can follow the draft board and go with the highest-ranked player we have. Obviously if there are ties, then we lean toward a position that we don’t have depth on for 2015 or ’16,” Allen said.
  • In other words, the Redskins aren’t just eyeing how a player will fit in for this season. Like Allen said, “You’re an injury away from having a need.”
  • The tough part comes when the staff has to separate players who have the same grade. That’s where the real debate enters. “All the position coaches are great agents for their position," Allen said. "Raheem [Morris] is famous for campaigning. He might put a bumper sticker on my car in the mornings. But the debates have already taken place.”
IRVING, Texas -- Because Tony Romo is 34 and because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, just about everybody believes it is time for the Dallas Cowboys to find his replacement.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay said it. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said it. A lot of fans have said it. A lot of others have said it.

If the Cowboys draft a quarterback, then it must be early in the draft. At least, that’s the general philosophy of Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery when it comes to taking quarterbacks.

"I just did a little study. It's very interesting," Emery said in this ESPNChicago story. "That developmental theory doesn't hold a whole lot of water. There's entire classes of quarterbacks, since '06, I went back and looked at from Jay [Cutler's] on -- when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn't a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you're either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you've got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that's unusual, highly unusual.

"Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that's where you need to take a quarterback. So when you talk about quarterback every year, they have to be somebody that you truly believe will beat out the second and third quarterback that you perceive on your roster. And if not, history shows that you shouldn't make that pick."

From 2006 to 2013, there were 59 quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 3-7. Only two are top-end starters: Russell Wilson (third round, 2012, Seattle Seahawks) and Nick Foles(third round, 2012, Philadelphia Eagles). And Foles might have more to prove, but he was Pro Bowl-worthy in 2013.

The best of the rest: Bruce Gradkowski (sixth round, 2006); Matt Flynn (seventh round, 2008); Curtis Painter (sixth round, 2009); Ryan Mallett (third round, 2011); Kirk Cousins (fourth round, 2012). Other considerations: Colt McCoy (third round, 2010); T.J. Yates (fifth round, 2011); Tyrod Taylor (sixth round, 2011).

The odds are stacked against a team looking to develop a quarterback. Teams are not a lock to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster these days. The Cowboys have not done it since 2011, when they had Stephen McGee (fourth round, 2009). There just aren’t enough snaps to go around in a season for a quarterback to develop. The pressure on coaches to win means they want guys who can help carry games if a starter goes down, part of the reason why the Cowboys have gone with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton as Romo's backups.

Maybe the Cowboys will draft a quarterback in the middle to late rounds this week. The odds of him turning into Wilson, Foles or Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000) are remote. He’s more likely to be Andre Woodson (sixth round, 2008), Mike Teel (sixth round, 2009), Jonathan Crompton (fifth round, 2010) or Nate Enderle (fifth round, 2011).

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
1:10
PM ET
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
 

Jay Gruden a good fit with RG III

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
3:15
PM ET
Robert Griffin IIIPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesQuarterback Robert Griffin III is smiling again under new Washington coach Jay Gruden.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- They notice a difference. Robert Griffin III is happier, something just about everyone who has seen him at Redskins Park has picked up on. It could be because he’s not spending his time in Florida rehabbing his knee, as he was doing a year ago. Or that he knows the knee brace likely is a thing of the past.

Or it’s the fresh start that he -- and everyone else, for that matter -- is getting. When the Redskins changed coaches, they also changed the outlook for Griffin. Regardless of who was to blame for the failed relationship between him and former coach Mike Shanahan, the bottom line is it didn’t work. Enter Jay Gruden. Enter an excited young quarterback.

One Redskins employee described Griffin as “18 times happier.” Others echo that sentiment. Whether a happy Griffin translates into a productive one will be answered in about six months. But there is little doubt the offseason has unfolded in a positive way for Griffin.

“Jay sees football through the eyes of the quarterback,” Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of his former offensive coordinator. “It gives him the opportunity for the quarterback to grow through him. That’s really helpful. The offense and everything has to be quarterback-friendly, and that’s important.”

It’s not just Gruden’s arrival. It’s Sean McVay being elevated to offensive coordinator. Like Gruden, McVay offers a more measured demeanor. It’s also the hiring of Doug Williams as a personnel executive. Williams will not coach Griffin, but will act as a sounding board, as someone who played the position at a high level in the NFL and understands scrutiny. The two already have spoken.

“This kid came in here as a rookie and single-handedly raised the play of everybody on that football team,” Williams said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “At the end of the day, you can’t put it all on his shoulders. You’ve got to have some people around him. And I think that’s the course we’re in now. This guy, man, he comes to the office, always smiling, always upbeat, and you can tell his leadership character and the things that he’s got going for him that are gonna take him a long way.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsJay Gruden on developing the offense around Robert Griffin III: "I think it's gotta be a two-way street. It's gotta be something we're both interactive with."
Even Gruden sees how eager Griffin is to get going. But it’s about more than just having a new coach; Griffin also wants to make up for a subpar season and to regain his rookie mojo. But Gruden wants to make sure Griffin, who is often at Redskins Park (though they can’t yet discuss football together), doesn’t burn out.

“He just needs to relax right now. Enjoy the offseason,” Gruden said. “When it’s time, it’s time. We’ll get plenty of time with him to work with his fundamentals, and just don’t stress out over it right now. He’s so anxious and wants to do so well all the time. He’s such a perfectionist that he needs to settle down right now, enjoy the offseason, enjoy the players he’s working out with right now, and have some fun.”

Griffin had to mature; it’s also important to note that he’s still only 24. And, yes, maybe he needs to be treated differently than, say, backup Kirk Cousins. Is that right or wrong? Well, coaching is about knowing how to reach every player, especially one who plays the most important position and who can define the franchise for the next decade.

Shanahan had his way of doing things, and it earned him two Super Bowl titles. As a rookie, Griffin flourished under him: 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 815 yards rushing and 3,200 yards throwing. But, fair or not, Griffin never trusted him, never fully bought what he was being sold. Doesn’t matter who’s at fault, but the reality is that it makes it tougher to grow, both as a player and as a team.

Gruden has never quite relinquished a quarterback’s mindset. Heck, he says he’s still bitter about never getting a shot in the NFL. But maintaining that mindset helps him relate well to those who play the position. In Cincinnati, Gruden and Andy Dalton shared a strong bond. If that develops here, perhaps he’ll coax even more out of Griffin.

“There’s the physical tools to the game and then there’s the mental aspects, where you have to have confidence in everything you do,” Gruden said. “The quarterback needs to know that the coach has the quarterback’s best interests [at] heart. He has to understand that I want nothing more than for him to succeed. Obviously, he’s got my future in his hands. And it kind of works both ways. It would be foolish for me to think I have all the power: ‘You do exactly what I want. I don’t care if you like it or not.’ I think it’s gotta be a two-way street. It’s gotta be something we’re both interactive with.”

If there’s a disagreement, Gruden stressed that he has the final call. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking otherwise. Gruden must be in control, and that concept must be accepted by Griffin. But if they develop a strong relationship, they can weather any storms. Last season, a storm turned into a tornado.

Griffin, now working out with teammates in Arizona, must smile at Gruden's words. It’s a new day for him: a full offseason and a coach known for building strong ties. All that’s left is to produce next season. If that happens, Griffin will give the entire organization reason to smile. Again.

Jay Gruden: No calls on Cousins

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
12:45
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kirk Cousins let it be known early in the offseason he’d welcome a trade. The Redskins let it be known they didn’t want to deal him. And perhaps that’s why Redskins coach Jay Gruden said no team has called them about the third-year quarterback.

That’s fine with Gruden. Robert Griffin III is the clear starter, which is why Cousins said he wanted to go somewhere he had a chance to compete for the position. But the Redskins have a different mindset.

“You need two great quarterbacks on your team,” Gruden said. “You never know. The way Robert plays and the style he plays with you never know what can happen. Injuries are a part of the game. You need two excellent quarterbacks and we’re fortunate to have two of the better quarterbacks.”

Of course, another team could always call over the next month, now that the first wave of free agency is over. And teams did not have to call the Redskins about Cousins this week considering they were all in the same hotel. Still, there's no desire to trade him.

Cousins has two more years remaining on his rookie contract before he could leave via free agency. The Redskins could always opt to trade him next offseason, depending on how Griffin performs and if he stays healthy.
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."

Redskins' owners meetings agenda

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some things to watch for this week at the owners meetings:

1. Compensatory picks. It’s a complicated formula used by the NFL to determine who receives one, but a lot is based on if a team lost more than it gained via free agency the previous year. Or if they lost a high-priced talent. The Redskins' only loss last season was Lorenzo Alexander and they’re not expected to receive one. Here’s a good look at compensatory picks.

2. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said this week would also provide opportunities for trade talks, another way for Washington to potentially fill some remaining holes (in addition to the draft). They have little desire to trade backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, though that could change if another team made an offer that, right now, no one would expect.

3. It’s also not as if the Redskins have a lot of desirable players another team would want to acquire in a trade. They do have some excess along the offensive line, believe it or not, with a glut of guard/center types. But three of them are unproven (Maurice Hurt, Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis). So it makes little sense to trade for one, unless you're a coach who has worked with them like Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But the Redskins deemed those players not ready even at the end of last season. What would make them desirable enough to make a trade now? The Redskins like Kory Lichtensteiger at center so he’s not going anywhere, and I have a hard time believing Chris Chester could be traded for a draft pick. And with only six draft picks, the Redskins don’t have a lot of ability to maneuver. That is, unless they want more immediate help defensively (Jason Hatcher’s window is probably two years).

4. The Redskins made a number of proposals that will be discussed this week. Among them: moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line; eliminating overtime in the preseason; increasing the practice squad from eight players to 10; having one cut during training camp, going from 90 to 53; increasing the active roster from 46 to 49 on non-Sunday or Monday games (except for Week 1); and using the “designated to return” from injured reserve on more than one player.

5. Jay Gruden meets with reporters Wednesday morning. It’ll be our first chance to talk to the Redskins' coach since free agency began, as well as a number of other issues.
The first wave of free agency didn’t solve every problem, nor did the Redskins expect that to happen. But they still have other ways to bolster their roster, with more players still available – and with the trade market starting to form next week.

When coaches and general managers convene in Orlando starting Sunday for meetings, league business will be discussed. So, too, will potential deals now that teams have a better sense of what they need – and don’t want.

In other words, the Redskins aren’t done. Far from it.

“We’re still having conversations with players and next week I’m sure there will be a lot of discussions about teams offering up players for trades,” Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said.

Yes, Allen will be receptive to such talk.

“I’m listening to them, absolutely,” he said.

Whether or not something happens is another matter. And it’s his job, of course, to find other ways to improve, and that includes trade talk. Yes, quarterback Kirk Cousins has said he would welcome a trade, but the Redskins have said they’re not interested in trading him.

The overall point, though, is that it’s tough to accurately judge their offseason right now. There’s too much of it left; too many moves they can still make in addition to the draft. Another wave of players will hit the open market after the draft after getting released.

The Redskins have hosted safety Ryan Clark, linebacker Anthony Spencer, receiver Kenny Britt, center Brian de la Puente and guard/center Mike McGlynn in the past nine days. All remain unsigned. Britt told Buffalo reporters Friday he would make up his mind in a few days. In addition to the Redskins and Bills, Britt also has visited New England and St. Louis.

“We have a lot to do,” Allen said. “Everybody here is focused on 'Let’s find another way to get better.'”

To date, the Redskins have added pass-rush help but have yet to solve their issues at safety, though they did re-sign Brandon Meriweather. They've signed defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, guard Shawn Lauvao, receiver Andre Roberts, cornerback Tracy Porter and linebackers Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward. They also re-signed corner DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Perry Riley.

The logical conclusion, based on signing Hatcher and franchising Brian Orakpo, is that the pass rush was the Redskins' top priority. That's where the big money went.

“I don’t think it’s any secret in the NFL the last 75 years that the line of scrimmage is very important on both sides,” Allen said. “Adding some depth is very important and that’s what we continue to try and do.”

Redskins must consider future contracts

February, 28, 2014
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When the Washington Redskins look at free agency this offseason, they also have to be mindful of the next several years. They have key contracts that will expire over that time, with players they would probably like to keep around. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Friday that the salary cap, projected about $133 million this year, could top $140 million next year and $150 million by 2016. It had been flat for a couple years. So any increase would be good for Washington.

Here are some contracts that could be impacted:
  • Orakpo
    Linebacker Brian Orakpo. If it’s going to get as high as $150 million in two years, then the Redskins could afford to take on the sort of contract it would take to keep him around. He could be a smaller cap hit this year, perhaps around $7 million or so (in comparison, Clay Matthews' new deal signed last spring cost Green Bay a $6.7 million cap hit this past season). A long-term deal would start to pay him silly money in Year 3 (again by comparison, Matthews will count $12.7 million in the third year of his deal). But with a higher cap figure the Redskins might decide they’re OK with such a contract.
  • Quarterback Robert Griffin III's contract will be up after the 2015 season. Thanks to the CBA, the Redskins will have the option of extending his contract for a fifth season. It would be worth the average salary of the 10 highest paid quarterbacks -- this year, that would be about $13.5 million. That would lock him up through 2016. But his next contract is one they will soon have to start taking into account, especially if he returns to the level they hope. By the way, backup Kirk Cousins' contract is up after 2015. Teams can only use that one-year extension on first-round picks; Cousins was a fourth-rounder.
  • Kerrigan
    Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan's contract is up after this season. However, as with Griffin, the Redskins can extend his deal. They have a May 3 deadline to decide if they want to pay him the average of the fourth through 25th players at his position, which would pay him between $3 million and $4 million for 2015. Otherwise he’ll become a free agent. Regardless, he’ll be a free agent by March 2016 at the latest.
  • Running back Alfred Morris will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. Because he was a sixth-round pick, the Redskins can’t choose to simply extend him. Morris was a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s stretch zone system. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay said they will use the same run game under new coach Jay Gruden. If that is the case, Morris should continue to pile up yards. But if Gruden wants to change it, you wonder how that could impact Morris. Shanahan showed that his system could make a lot of backs productive, but Morris has gone above the norm.
  • Britt
    Williams
    Left tackle Trent Williams will be a free agent after the 2015 season (he’ll count $13.7 million against the cap that year). He’s the anchor of the line and a guy who could play a long time.
  • Receiver Pierre Garcon won’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season, but a couple more years like this one -- mixed with massive contracts by other receivers -- could lead to a desire to get something done before he becomes free again.
  • Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins is a free agent after this season. His play has not warranted a big deal, but a strong season could change everything. Unlike some of the others on this list, Jenkins would not be a big-money guy. But, then again, the Redskins gave Stephen Bowen a deal that averaged $5.5 million, and he was not an accomplished player with Dallas before signing.
  • I’m including cornerback David Amerson and tight end Jordan Reed together, because both contracts will be up after the 2016 season. Reed could be in line for a major pay raise, but he has to prove he’s durable. Amerson will have plenty of time to show what he can do. I'm not yet concerned with these deals because three years is a lot of time in the NFL. We'll get a better feel after next season, perhaps, at what direction their careers will go.

Keeping Kirk Cousins won't cause issues

February, 21, 2014
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Kirk Cousins made his request known. He has also made it known that if he’s not traded he’ll go back to being who he was the past two years: the good backup quarterback who does what’s asked and causes no issues.

“I won't lose a lot of sleep over the unknowns," Cousins told ESPN.com nearly two weeks ago. "If it doesn't present itself, then I enjoyed being part of the Redskins and look forward to being with them. Until I'm told otherwise, I'm a Redskin and I expect to handle the role as No. 2 as best I can."

Now that league sources have told Adam Schefter that the Redskins have no interest in trading Cousins, the third-year quarterback will have to honor that statement. Of course, there’s always the possibility that some team gives the Redskins an offer they didn’t expect -- and ultimately can’t refuse.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/John BazemoreKirk Cousins threw 4 TD passes and 7 interceptions last season.
But their statement tells two things: They like Cousins and want to keep him as insurance in case something happens to Robert Griffin III (or if he doesn’t develop the way they hope); and, two, they didn’t think they’d get the sort of compensation to make moving him worthwhile. Why give up a young quarterback, who still could play a role for you -- next year or in the future -- if you don’t have to? And the Redskins don’t have to make any move with him. If I'm Jay Gruden (and I turned Andy Dalton into a playoff quarterback), I'd want to see what I had before peddling any young quarterback.

Still, how will this play out in the locker room? Will Cousins be the good soldier he’s been in the past? It’s tough to see him being otherwise. One reason teams liked Cousins coming out of Michigan State was his intangibles. His desire to start is no different than it was in, say, Week 8 of last season. At that time, Cousins would spend his lunchtime studying his playbook, preparing as if he would start. I’d expect him to do the same in Week 8 next season, regardless of how well Griffin is or isn’t doing.

I’ve always thought Cousins was a good backup for Griffin because he always understood what his role is -- and that this was Griffin’s team. Cousins respects the position and the team aspect. But it’s also clear that Cousins won’t bow down to anyone. When he made it known that he would welcome a trade, Cousins was expressing belief in himself, that he was ready to indeed lead a team. Though his desire to start has always been there, the confidence that it was time to happen perhaps has grown.

Cousins’ three-game stint at season’s end did not show that he should challenge Griffin for the job. Griffin, though, understands he can’t take success for granted, and his offseason already shows that’s the case. Having a hungry young backup can only help push him a little more (as if he needed more motivation).

Cousins won’t make waves. It’s just not who he is. But he’s also not about to just accept his fate.

Former GM not high on RG III

February, 11, 2014
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Former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo echoed what others have said about Robert Griffin III this past season: he wasn’t good enough and he needs to make changes to his game.

Griffin
Which is why Angelo gave him a low grade and placed him 21st among NFL quarterbacks. Angelo also rated him as a 6.9 on his nine-point scale.

For Angelo (writing on the scouting website Sidelineview.com), falling between a 6.5-6.9 means a quarterback “has strong traits, but hasn’t done it. Lack of experience, injuries, missing intangible may be the reason for his erratic play. Still a work in progress. He can move up or down.”

That about sums up Griffin after his second NFL season. Here’s what Angelo wrote on Griffin:
“Talented, but yet to define himself as an NFL quarterback. He won’t have a successful career by working outside the pocket. No one at his position did or will. Too many games and too many hits keep QB’s from having a career based on their feet, rather than their pocket accuracy.”


Right below Griffin: St. Louis’ Sam Bradford, a former top pick in the NFL draft (and a guy former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan loved). New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was only rated a 7.0; Dallas' Tony Romo (7.9) and Philadelphia's Nick Foles (8.0) were the tops in the NFC East.

Cousins
Angelo was not high on backup Kirk Cousins, giving him a 5.4 grade. On Angelo’s scale, that means a quarterback is a “band-aid, can get you through a game. Not a starter. He lacks the arm strength or needed accuracy. May also be missing something intangible, i.e. toughness, instincts etc. Cannot win with him, regardless of supporting cast or coaching.”

And here’s what he wrote about Cousins:
“Smart, hard working and well liked and respected. Lacks the arm talent to start and become a guy you can win with.”


Safe to say if Angelo were still employed in the NFL, he would not be among the teams willing to give up a high draft pick for Cousins.

Angelo listed seven quarterbacks as elite this past season (in order): Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck. Here’s the rest of the article.

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