NFC East: Kirk Cousins

Giants' defense sets tone with turnovers

September, 26, 2014
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The New York Giants were one of only three teams in the NFL that didn't take the ball away from its opponent in the first two weeks of the season. It was a trend they have spoke in practice and meetings about reversing.

Amukamara
 "Coach [Perry] Fewell has been challenging us to get turnovers, and ever since the first week he's been telling us we need to be more Zack Bowman-ish, since [Giants cornerback] Zack Bowman is known for getting turnovers," cornerback Prince Amukamara said after Thursday's 45-14 victory over Washington. "We've been rising to the challenge."

Bowman did not have one of the Giants' four interceptions Thursday, but Amukamara did, and it was something of a milestone for him. After collecting just one interception in each of his first three NFL seasons, Amukamara now has one in each of his last two games -- and a career-high two for the season.

"Zack's been staying with me after practice, catching balls off the JUGS machine, and he told me after last week, 'There's more to get,'" Amukamara said. "And tonight he came to me and said, 'You broke your record.' The knock on me has always been I have bad hands or I'm not a big playmaker or whatever. So it's definitely good to be able to show that part of my game."

It's vital for the team as well. The Giants had six takeaways in the game and only turned the ball over once. A plus-five turnover differential is a pretty good way to ensure a victory in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since the start of the 2013 season, the Giants are 7-0 when they have a positive turnover differential, and 2-11 when they do not.

"It's Christmas, that's what it is," said safety Antrel Rolle, who had another of the interceptions. "You want games like that, where you're playing ahead and the other team is trying to play catch-up, and you know they have to force the ball. They're trying to make the long throws and complete long passes, and it gives the defense more opportunities to create turnovers."

Amukamara and safety Quintin Demps, who also had an interception in his first game replacing Stevie Brown as a starter, said Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was staring down receivers Thursday night, and that helped the defensive backs jump routes and anticipate where the ball was going.

Good pressure by the defensive line and blitzing linebackers in the first half helped get Cousins off his game -- especially when Mathias Kiwanuka came unblocked for an early sack/fumble.

And Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie held up their end in man coverage against star Washington receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, respectively. Strong defensive effort all around, but the Giants feel a lot better about those strong defensive efforts when they come with a big pile of turnovers.

"It's a mindset," said Bowman, who came over from the takeaway-happy Bears this offseason and has been preaching that since training camp. "Once you start getting them, it can snowball. It can get contagious. That's where we are right now."
LANDOVER, Md. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 45-14 victory over the Washington Redskins:
    Amukamara
  • The Giants defensive backs said Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was staring down receivers, that they saw it on tape during the week and that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was hollering it at them during the game. "That was great for us, great for our safeties, because wherever [Cousins] looked, he was going," said cornerback Prince Amukamara, who had one of the Giants' four interceptions.
  • The coach, the quarterback and the stars of the game do postgame interviews at a podium in a side room instead of in front of their lockers. The Giants' players got a kick out of the announcement that tight end Larry Donnell was selected for a podium interview after his three-touchdown night. Cries of "Larry to the podium!" echoed through the cramped visitors locker room at FedEx Field as happy players dressed.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

September, 25, 2014
9/25/14
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 45-14 victory over Washington at FedEx Field.

What it means: The Giants just won two games in five days by a combined score of 75-31. The offense is really clicking right now, as we'll discuss in the paragraphs to come. But after not taking the ball away on defense in either of their first two games, the Giants had three against Houston on Sunday and six more, including four interceptions of Kirk Cousins, on Thursday night in Washington. It's helped them control the games.

Stock Watch: Eli Manning, UP. This was Manning's third straight strong game, and his completion percentage is up to 66.9 for the season. He was 28-of-39 for 300 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a fifth. The offense is obviously tailored to minimize Manning's mistakes (see: inside runs on third-and-long inside their own 20), but he's executing very well in terms of tempo, accuracy and timing with his receivers. His pre-snap reads and calls are excellent, his few downfield attempts are low-risk and well-chosen, and he's playing a very efficient game right now.

O-line's stock up, too: There's a case to be made that the quick tempo and short drops are helping the offensive line look better, but I thought the guys on the interior who were struggling the first two weeks -- J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg -- were physically dominant against the Washington defensive front. And left tackle Will Beatty made Brian Orakpo, who tormented him here last season, look silly. The downfield passing game should evolve as the pass protection earns more trust.

Game ball: There's no one it could be but tight end Larry Donnell, who caught three touchdown passes in the first half while the Giants were building a huge lead. Having won the job out of camp as the least objectionable option at tight end, Donnell has run clean routes and shown a remarkable ability to jump and catch the ball -- especially on third down, where Manning appears to trust him completely. Only two of the league's 32 teams have played their fourth game yet, but Donnell is one of only four players in the league with at least four touchdown catches this season.

What's next: The Giants likely will get a few well-deserved days off and return to practice Monday to begin preparing for their Oct. 5 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 25, 2014
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The New York Giants (1-2) are in Landover, Maryland, on Thursday night for an early-season NFC East matchup against Washington (1-2) at FedEx Field. Here are three things we'll be watching in this game:

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants' Rashad Jennings rushed for a league Week 3-best 176 yards in a victory over Houston last Sunday.
1. Rashad Jennings' workload: This might not be a major factor if the Giants aren't playing with a lead, as they were all day against Houston, but Giants coaches said they were monitoring Jennings closely this week after he carried the ball 34 times in Sunday's victory. Jennings is in excellent physical condition, but he has the second-most carries in the league so far, and any running back would have a tough time bouncing back just four days after a 34-carry workload. If the Giants find themselves in the enviable position of having an early lead and being able to run their offense the way they ran it Sunday, don't be surprised to see Jennings get more breaks. That could mean an enlarged opportunity for rookie running back Andre Williams in this game. It also will be interesting to see whether the running backs get any catches this week. Jennings was not targeted in the passing game Sunday, and it's no coincidence, because he was asked to stay in and help block on pass plays as part of a successful effort to combat the Houston pass rush.

2. Will the Giants test the Washington secondary? This unit is always a question mark, and it took a hit Sunday with the loss of starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall for the season with an Achilles injury. To this point, the Giants have been relying on the run game and the short passing game. Of Eli Manning's 100 throws this year, 68 have been either behind or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. In order to confidently throw downfield more, the Giants are going to have to develop greater trust in the consistency of their improving offensive line and hope that the addition of speedy rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., if he can return from his hamstring injury in the next couple of weeks, will help them stretch the field. In the meantime, they'll likely keep it close to the line unless they're behind and trying to catch up. But if they end up having to throw downfield, that's when the potential for interceptions rises.

3. Will the pass rush light up? The Giants had only 34 sacks as a team last year, but eight of them came in their two December games against Washington. They sacked Robert Griffin III five times in the road game and Kirk Cousins three times in the home game that ended the season. Cousins is the Washington starter these days with Griffin out because of an ankle injury, and it will be interesting to see whether Cousins and his teammates can keep the Giants' pass rush at bay to an extent they could not when they were playing out the string last December. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was injured and not playing by the end of last season, is off to a hot start this year.
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
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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
6/17/14
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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
4/25/14
1:10
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Apparently, not everyone thinks adding more pass-rushers is a good idea. So it says in one of the questions -- I have my own thoughts on the matter in Part 1 of the mailbag. And why do the Redskins stink in prime-time games? Could it be something other than, well, they've been bad most of the past decade? More draft questions, too. Enjoy
 

Jay Gruden a good fit with RG III

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
3:15
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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
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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
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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.

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