NFC East: kory lichtensteiger

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.

What to expect: Redskins' run game

July, 16, 2014
Two years ago the Washington Redskins had one of the most potent running games in the NFL, a mix of conventional and new school with the zone read option. It worked. They led the NFL in rushing yards, were second in yards per carry and gained more first downs than any team courtesy of the run.

It wasn’t just the zone read. While the Redskins averaged 6.18 yards per carry with that tactic, they still averaged 4.94 yards on their 401 traditional runs. That average alone was topped by only three other teams. The zone read helped, but so, too, did Alfred Morris being an excellent fit in the outside zone running scheme.

As he improved his tracks on runs, the Redskins’ run game flourished even more. Morris’ ability to plant and cut and make the first defender miss meant the run game would work even minus the zone read aspect.

Last season, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in yards per rush (4.78). They averaged 5.33 yards on zone read carries and 4.65 on traditional runs; the latter number would have left them tied for third.

Here’s the point: The run game has worked the past two years, with or without the zone read option. That’s a big reason why offensive coordinator Sean McVay said shortly after getting his new position that “the run game will be very similar.”

The offseason moves suggest that’s the case. The Redskins added a bigger player at left guard in Shawn Lauvao, but he moves well -- after the Redskins signed him, multiple Browns sources said he’d be a good fit in the outside zone game. Lauvao might not be a great guard, but he’s bigger than Kory Lichtensteiger, now at center, by a good 20 pounds. Lichtensteiger moves better than former center Will Montgomery but is not as strong.

Meanwhile, the two linemen they drafted, guard Spencer Long and tackle Morgan Moses, both can move. The problem for Moses is that in college he was inconsistent getting to linebackers in the run game. It’s yet another area he must improve before he’s truly ready to start. Long, nearly 10 pounds heavier than starting right guard Chris Chester, spent a lot of time pulling at Nebraska but he also plays with strength. The Redskins definitely left yards on the field in the run game last season, sometimes because the backside blockers failed to get their men and other times because Morris needed to make a stronger cut down the field.

On paper, bigger should also equal more ability to play smash mouth when needed, adding more versatility to the ground game. But I’m not sold that Lauvao, for example, is as strong in that sort of situation. That’s not what he showed in Cleveland (whether at the line or when reaching linebackers).

Redskins coach Jay Gruden did not have the run game in Cincinnati that he’ll have in Washington. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a bubble player for the Bengals this season; he carried the ball a combined 498 times the past two seasons. Gruden opted for a mix, with Giovani Bernard receiving 170 carries in 2013, in part because he had no one such as Morris.

Meanwhile, the Redskins actually led the NFL in rushing versus seven-man fronts (275 times for an NFL-best 1,332 yards).

Perhaps Gruden’s influence will result in more carries against five- and six-man fronts. The Bengals had 51 more such plays than Washington a year ago, a function of formation and likely also game situations. Then again, two years ago the Redskins had more runs against those fronts than Cincinnati.

But with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, Gruden has more weapons in the pass game as well. Which, of course, could lead to more spread formations -- and runs against even more favorable fronts.

Meanwhile, Roy Helu can catch the ball and perhaps he’ll run better out of a shotgun spread formation than in the outside zone. But I can’t imagine him in a Giovani Bernard role; the Bengals’ back had 226 touches from scrimmage last season. Though Helu averaged 4.4 yards per carry, he’s not a move-the-chains runner (eight carries against an eight-man front resulted in a total of 14 yards). Even against seven-man fronts Helu averaged 4.06 yards, which is fine but is much less than Morris (4.96, with an NFL-best 937 rushing yards against that type of front).

The point? Helu will be able to handle the third-down duties again, but there’s little reason to take a whole lot away from Morris. And rookie Lache Seastrunk has a lot to prove -- as a third-down back in particular -- before being ready for anything other than pinch-hitting duty as a runner. But he’s a potentially good fit in the spread. Chris Thompson is, too, but size and durability remain two big issues for him.

Do not assume the Redskins will see fewer eight-man boxes compared to last season. In 2013, Morris only ran 44 times against an eight-man box, which was six fewer times than he did so as a rookie. So it’s not a given he’ll pile up more yards because of fewer eight-man boxes. But given the success of the past two years and that Gruden wants to keep it mostly the same, there’s also no reason to think Morris or the Redskins’ run game will suddenly drop off. That is, unless Gruden falls too much in love with the weapons at receiver.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
For Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, we're talking Robert Griffin III and the Hall of Fame (what!?), which offensive alignments the Redskins might favor, defensive sets against Philadelphia, the offensive line and more. Enjoy.

Redskins' owners meetings agenda

March, 24, 2014
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.

Quick takes: Offensive line

March, 20, 2014
Because I'm thinking too much about the offensive line and what the Washington Redskins are doing:
  • At coach Jay Gruden’s introductory news conference, he talked about wanting to have versatility and variety in the offense. So he wanted to use the zone read (some) and he wanted to run power. Here’s what he said:
    “I like the power plays. I like the gap-blocking plays. So there’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, ‘We are this.’ I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise. We can do the read-option. We can do naked bootlegs. We can run outside zone. We can run bubble screens. We can run deep balls. We can do play-action deep things. I think the whole idea to be a successful offense is to be diverse and be good at a lot of different things and not just one.”
  • So it’s no surprise that when looking at offensive linemen in free agency, he’s opted for players with a little more size. That doesn’t mean the Redskins will abandon what they had done in the past. This offseason, offensive coordinator Sean McVay said, “The run game will be very similar." But it does mean that they want players who can perhaps be capable of doing more.
  • McGlynn
    They hosted two linemen Wednesday: former Saints center Brian de la Puente and ex-Colts guard/center Mike McGlynn. De La Puente weighs 306 pounds (former center Will Montgomery weighs 304; Kory Lichtensteiger, who will move to center, weighs between 280-285 but is adding 10-15 pounds in the offseason. I'm anxious to see Lichtensteiger at center; I've long thought that would be his future home and agree with Chris Cooley that he would be good here).
  • McGlynn weighs 325 pounds. The problem here: he struggled big time at guard by all accounts last season. As much as everyone wants to hammer the Redskins’ offensive line, few were worse than Indianapolis’ -- especially in the interior. Where McGlynn started. But he started three games at center and, again, according to those who watched the team on a daily basis, he fared much better.
  • Here’s what ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was in a tough position last season. He started 11 games at guard but he’s weak at that position and was part of one of the worst interior offensive lines in the league with center Samson Satele and guard Hugh Thornton. ... Slide McGlynn to center, which happened three times because of injuries to Satele, and all is better for him because he plays the position better than Satele. ... Colts coach Chuck Pagano had an opportunity to keep McGlynn at center and bench Satele in the playoffs but he decided against it.”
  • And here’s what Stephen Holder, a Colts’ beat reporter for the Indianapolis Star, wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was not a strong performer when used at guard this season, but he and the line overall played better when he was the starting center (he started three games). If the Colts offer a contract to McGlynn, expect it to be modest in value and look for McGlynn to have to compete for playing time and/or a roster spot.”
  • De la Puente
    De la Puente did not exactly play with a lot of power in New Orleans. I saw him get moved back in a couple games, but I also saw him be effective when on the move -- whether to block a linebacker or maintain leverage on a defensive lineman.
  • I think he was helped playing with Saints quarterback Drew Brees; the bulk of his throws (54 percent) were unloaded in less than three seconds. Robert Griffin III unloaded in that amount of time 45 percent of the time (according to ESPN Stats & Information).
  • But the point is it’s not as if De la Puente would be a bad fit for some sort of outside zone-based scheme (if they sign him, that is). Actually, he's probably a good fit. Nor would his signing signal some shift to a strictly power-based run game. It does sound as if he was a smart center with the Saints, so that would be good.
  • Newly-signed guard Shawn Lauvao weighs 315 pounds, about the same size as Chris Chester (Josh LeRibeus is bigger, though his listed weight was 315 pounds last season). So if Lauvao and Chris Chester are the guards (not sure yet if that will be the case; if they sign someone else, then I’d imagine a current Redskins linemen could get released and Chester represents $2.7 million in cap savings) then that would give them a bigger tandem than the past couple years. But both are capable of running outside zone plays -- word out of Cleveland is that this style would fit Lauvao. And Chester is not a power blocker.
  • Point is, the Redskins still don't look like they're abandoning what they have done in recent years with the run game. But that doesn't mean it will look exactly the same, and other aspects will be emphasized because Gruden will want to incorporate some of his style. It is his offense after all. Some of the changes they're making, or trying to make, are as much about performance as scheme.

Redskins hosting Brian de la Puente

March, 19, 2014
The Redskins planned to shift guard Kory Lichtensteiger to center, which is why they released their incumbent starter. They might have another option: free-agent Brian de la Puente.

de la Puente
The former New Orleans starting center is visiting the Redskins Wednesday. The Redskins released their starting center, Will Montgomery, last week.

Lichtensteiger already knew he was going to move to center and planned to add about 10-15 pounds, bulking up to play for coach Jay Gruden after playing at a lighter weight for Mike Shanahan.

De la Puente started at center the past three seasons for the Saints. He broke in with Kansas City in 2008, but did not play a game and didn’t play in ’09 and ’10, though he was with five other teams during that span either on the practice squad or in training camp.

If the Redskins sign de la Puente, it would be their second free-agent acquisition along the line. Washington signed guard Shawn Lauvao on the opening day of free agency.

Here’s a scouting report on de la Puente from Saints reporter Mike Triplett:

"De la Puente could be in high demand this offseason as a proven starter who has played at a high level for the last three years. Like the rest of the Saints’ offensive line, he struggled at times during the first half of the 2013 season in both his run blocking and pass protection. But he finished very well during the second half of the year and in the playoffs -- returning to the consistent level we saw in 2011-12. De la Puente isn’t a mauler up front, but he’s got a good combination of power and athleticism -- which has served him well in the Saints’ versatile offense that relies so much on pass protection and screen passes. And his experience as a signal-caller for such a sophisticated passing offense will only enhance his market value. De la Puente certainly fit right in on a Saints offensive line filled with diamonds in the rough. He joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Cal in 2008, but he bounced around with San Francisco, Kansas City, Carolina and Seattle before landing on the Saints’ practice squad in 2010. He then earned the starting job over veteran Olin Kreutz early in the 2011 season."

Redskins release Will Montgomery

March, 14, 2014
The Washington Redskins plan to move Kory Lichtensteiger to center, so the next logical move was to cut the man already in place. That is what they have done, releasing center Will Montgomery, according to a team source. Montgomery later texted ESPN980's Chris Russell to confirm the news.

The move will save Washington $1.93 million against the salary cap. Montgomery had started every game at center the past three seasons for Washington. But the Redskins struggled with interior pressure and wanted to upgrade at the position.

Also, the Redskins signed former Cleveland guard Shawn Lauvao on Tuesday. There is a chance the starting guards could be Lauvao and Chris Chester, with Lichtensteiger sliding inside. Both Chester and Lauvao played right guard last season, but Lauvao has played both sides in the past. At 285 pounds, Lichtensteiger was light for a guard, but his quickness made him a good fit in Mike Shanahan’s outside stretch zone system.

Though the Redskins plan to use the same run-game blocking, they still wanted to get a little bigger at guard. Both Lauvao and Chester are about 310 pounds. Lichtensteiger still plans to add about 10 pounds.

Montgomery was a local product, having played at nearby Centreville (Va.) High School and then Virginia Tech. He’s played with Washington since 2008, working at both guard and center until taking over in the middle full time. Montgomery also spent time with Carolina and the New York Jets.

He swatted with his left hand, then his right, nudging Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger to the inside. That’s all Jason Hatcher needed last October. And then Hatcher did what the Redskins’ linemen did not do enough of last season: Finish off a one-on-one battle with a sack.

Within 2.5 seconds he was in quarterback Robert Griffin III’s face.

It’s the sort of play the Redskins felt made him worth signing to a four-year, $27.5 million deal Thursday. It’s also the sort of play the Redskins need to see a lot of this season to justify that contract.

Yes, the Redskins still need safety help. But until they solved their pass-rush woes, the Redskins’ defense would only go so far. They still have a ways to go and simply adding talent won’t do the trick. But landing Hatcher definitely helps their desire to improve the rush. Of course, I’m sure the Redskins don’t mind that it takes away a good player from NFC East rival Dallas.

It’s particularly important where he can do it: up the middle. If you can't pressure from all over consistently, or with more than two defenders, you'll be limited.

Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams reacted the way you would expect, knowing he won’t have to be part of a line that deals with Hatcher this season:

Another Redskin called Hatcher “disruptive and a major talent.”

The problem is that he’ll turn 32 before the season begins and the Redskins just gave him a lucrative contract. As usual, you need to see the guaranteed portion to accurately gauge the deal.

But one rule of thumb in free agency is not to overspend for players in their 30s. Yes, he doesn’t have a lot of wear on his body like many others who have played eight years in the NFL; he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2011. But 32 is 32 and how many years can the Redskins coax good seasons from him? If he’s effective for three years, then it’s a good deal. If not? Well ... If nothing else, though, he’ll help them next season.

The Redskins struggled generating push up the middle in 2013. It was striking, too, when other teams could do so – like Minnesota during a crucial drive in the second half, getting to Griffin too fast for him to adjust. In that game, the Vikings tackles at times in key spots were in Griffin's face within two seconds.

In 2012, if the Redskins got push up the middle, they lacked a consistent outside rush.

Nose tackle Barry Cofield was their best interior rusher, but too often he could be neutralized and a quick push failed to materialize. Stephen Bowen’s knee limited his effectiveness and Jarvis Jenkins hasn’t developed into the pass-rusher they hoped he might become. Chris Baker could help in this area, as he showed late in the season. But they needed a big body who could consistently collapse the pocket. That’s Hatcher. By the way, Hatcher's arrival does not mean the end for Bowen, according to two team sources. He apparently remains in the plans, despite coming off microfracture surgery (and carrying a cap hit of $7.02 million).

Back to Hatcher. As important as it is for them to fix the safety position, even an all-star back there would have problems unless the rush improved. They clearly need answers there, but if they can find players who can line up right and tackle, then the rush will help them do better. That is, if the rush is good.

We’re still not talking Seattle-esque, but step one was adding another inside rusher. With more teams going to quick passes, the Redskins could not be as disruptive without a quick push. Hatcher’s success came inside as a tackle in pass-rush situations (he had two sacks against Washington last season). He also played in a 4-3 last season, freeing him to get upfield faster. Here, he’ll be in a 3-4, but the Redskins have vowed some changes to bolster the rush and they use a lot of nickel, which carries some 4-3 looks and responsibilities.

Also, they can now pair Hatcher and Cofield in certain packages to help in this area. And that will ease the burden on outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Their rush worked best in 2011 when Orakpo and Bowen worked off one another. If Orakpo can do so with Hatcher, that will help quite a bit.

The Redskins have plenty of work to do. And Hatcher must prove that last year was not a one-time thing. But after a great deal of angst during the first two days of free agency, the Redskins finally added a player who can give them a big boost defensively. The only question is: For how long? But for now, though, they can celebrate a good addition.

The next big thing: Redskins

January, 23, 2014
The first priority for the Redskins is finalizing Jay Gruden's coaching staff and putting together their playbook. After that, here is what they need to do in the next few months:
  1. Figure out who they want to keep. They have a number of free agents, especially on defense. They need to find a way to keep linebacker Brian Orakpo, a pivotal player because he can rush the passer and has become a solid run defender. He'll always flirt with double-digit sack totals and twice has gotten there. The team can always use the franchise tag to keep him around, but he is a priority. They also will want to re-sign inside linebacker Perry Riley. Then there's cornerback DeAngelo Hall, coming off a good season, and backup D-lineman Chris Baker, who contributed late. He showed enough to warrant interest elsewhere.
  2. Who fits up front? With a new offensive system, the Redskins must decide how much they want to reshape the line. The O-line is a smaller group, built for Mike Shanahan's outside zone and stretch zone system. Gruden will still use zone blocking, but he also featured bigger guards at Cincinnati. Kory Lichtensteiger will need to bulk up to stay at guard; perhaps he could move to center. It's tough to make a lot of changes -- at least in the first year of a new regime -- but the Redskins likely will make some.
  3. Spend. The salary-cap penalty is gone. And that means the Redskins will be able to spend -- money has never helped them win a title, but it will enable them to rebuild their defense. They'll have approximately $30 million in salary-cap space; of course, they'll need to spend a decent amount to fill out their defense since six players who started at least seven games are free agents. But the Redskins can be active. Considering they have no first-round pick, that's important. They need to fix their secondary, even if they re-sign Hall. They need to replace retired linebacker London Fletcher and re-sign Orakpo and Riley. They also could use another receiver, especially if Leonard Hankerson's recovery from ACL surgery takes a long time. The good news for Washington is that this draft is deep, especially with bigger cornerbacks.

Cooley, Redskins rave about Sean McVay

January, 11, 2014
ASHBURN, Va. -- When they had a question, Sean McVay had an answer. That sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s one thing for a position coach to know an offense; it’s another to know what everyone must do – and their adjustments.

The Redskins' tight ends liked that McVay would know – and wouldn’t hesitate.

“There’s no indecision, ‘This is what we do; this is how we do it,’" Logan Paulsen said. “There’s no gray area in my life, which is fantastic. Making sure the player knows what he has to do puts us in a great position. ... You have certain coaches who don’t like when you ask questions. They don’t know the offense spot on.”

That’s why players would be happy if McVay is elevated to offensive coordinator for new coach Jay Gruden. Though Gruden said he will interview other candidates, McVay still is considered the likely new choice. He’s young, only 27, but he also has impressed players because of his knowledge of the offense. Gruden said he will call the plays, so that could make it easier for a young coach such as McVay to ease into an expanded role.

“His ability to digest a game plan and give it to his players in a streamlined manner allows us to digest us efficiently making sure to emphasize details that are important,” Paulsen said. “Every week he’d try to call plays without looking at the sheet. He knows what everyone has to do on the field. He approached it like an offensive coordinator. That’s advantageous to a player. He knows every detail the same way Kyle [Shanahan] used to know the details. He has that big-picture mindset that helps out.”

Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley played one and a half seasons under McVay.

“He had the highest understanding of an offense of any position coach I’ve ever been around,” Cooley said. “We’d go back and forth in meetings on scheme, why and how. There was always an answer. I love that in a coach.

“Two years ago I said if anyone becomes a head coach on this staff it would be Sean McVay.”

Players at other positions echoed what Paulsen and Cooley said. The tight ends often worked with the linemen in practice because they needed to be in tandem with their blocking.

“The relationships he has with players and what he gets out of a player with both effort and production on the field by not being a screamer,” Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “He’s a guy you can relate to. He has a lot of shared characteristics with hard-working players. Players can see if a guy knows what he’s talking about and he goes about it the right way getting that type of effort out of his players.”

RG III named Ed Block winner

January, 7, 2014
It's not the sort of award anyone wants to win -- and it's certainly not one they want to repeat. But it does serve as recognition for how a player responds to adversity. And that's why Robert Griffin III was named the Washington Redskins' Ed Block Courage Award winner.

The award honors how RG III overcame his knee injury, returning to start the season opener eight months after surgery to reconstruct the ACL and LCL in his right knee. Griffin completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games. He was inconsistent all season, but did not miss any time until being benched for the final three games. He's one of only five Redskins quarterbacks to throw for more than 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons, joining Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien and Jason Campbell.

“Robert’s commitment this offseason helped him fully recover from a major knee surgery,” Redskins head athletic trainer Larry Hess said in a release. “His passion and dedication toward his profession motivated him throughout this process and made working with him enjoyable. He is well deserving of this award.”

Griffin said in a release: “It’s an honor to be selected by my teammates to receive this award. I received a tremendous amount of support throughout the rehab process from my teammates, the doctors, the trainers and everyone involved in the organization. This award is not only a testament to how hard I worked to return, but also a testament to the support system I’ve had around me for the last 12 months. I’m grateful for their hard work and support and look forward to preparing for the 2014 season.”

Guard Kory Lichtensteiger won the award last season and Stephen Bowen won it in 2011. It's named for the former longtime trainer of the Baltimore Colts.

Lichtensteiger: The vibe isn't good

December, 29, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The players said the right things, as they have from the beginning. They professed their love for a coaching staff that soon could be out of work. They said if it was up to them, the staff would return.

It’s customary to say such things right before the end of a coaching regime. That hasn’t always been the case in Washington, when some were ready for changes, whether it was Jim Zorn or Steve Spurrier. Now it’s Mike Shanahan’s turn.

“We’re all prepared for what’s going to take place,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We’re all ready for it.”

“Unfortunately the vibes aren’t good right now,” Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “We don’t know, but everyone is saying [to Shanahan], ‘It’s been an honor; it’s been a pleasure,” just in case. You don’t want to be caught not having said anything. So it’s just in case whatever happens. It has been a pleasure. I love this coaching staff. It’s a damn shame whenever something does change.”

But when you go 3-13 -- and, more importantly, 24-40 over four years -- change is inevitable. The players know it and the coaches know it, too. It’s not personal, just life in the NFL.

“When you don’t win, that’s what happens,” Doughty said. “I don’t make those decisions. I have no control over that. But I do know from a players’ perspective, what he asked of us, the way he ran things ... he’s a class act and I like playing for him.”

Players don’t want to make negative comments publicly about a coach in Shanahan’s situation. It’s a bad look and a new coach could look at those quotes and decide that’s not the sort of player they want to keep around. Other players know they might want to play for Shanahan again, if he continues to coach.

“I think he deserves to be back,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “I think 99.9 percent of the team shares that opinion. ... We took a step back, but it has nothing to do with him. He’ll take the blame. He’ll say it’s his fault. That’s the type of man he is, but as a team we didn’t do what it took to get the job done.”

No, they did not. Too many turnovers. Too many missed chances in the red zone. Too many points allowed by the defense. Too few scored by the offense. When you’re 3-13, the list of woes is long. They opened the season hoping for a Super Bowl run and they ended it with an eight-game losing streak.

“It’s been a tough season in many ways,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “At the beginning of the year it was all the name change stuff and now all this stuff going on, with everyone talking about who will be here and what not. It’s been a weird season.”

Weird is one word. Horrible is another. Bounces that went their way in 2012 went against them in 2013. But that barely begins to explain the turnaround from 10-6 to 3-13.

“Once you catch that wave it’s hard to get off that,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. “That’s what we did. We caught a wave we couldn’t get off and the wave just drowned us.”

And now, as cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, “Nobody knows what’s going to happen. I’ll be watching just like everyone else.”

So they’ll wait to hear. Shanahan is scheduled to meet with owner Dan Snyder at 9 a.m. ET.

“All you can do is prepare yourself to be back,” Moss said, “and be prepared for whatever change is coming.”

Redskins moving in wrong direction

November, 26, 2013
Robert Griffin AP Photo/Alex BrandonAfter going 10-6 and winning the NFC East last year, the Redskins are 3-8 through 11 games.

LANDOVER, Md. -- They don't have the answers, though they certainly say all the right things. They're trying hard. They're led by the right people. They have the right guys in the locker room. Here's the thing: Parades aren't thrown for those accomplishments. Not when you're four years into a regime.

The Washington Redskins are 3-8. They're 3-8 in a season that began with high expectations. They're 3-8 and headed nowhere fast, all the while trying to convince everyone, most of all themselves, that they're moving in the right direction.

They'll have to forgive everyone outside the organization for thinking this is not the right direction. Some of it can be explained, but not all. If they have the right players and have the right coaches and have the right organization, then they would be better than this. They would put up a better showing on prime-time TV than losing 27-6 to the San Francisco 49ers.

At this point, you must question everything, because nothing seems to be working.

"We certainly deserve some criticism now, that's for sure," Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.

If the coaching is fine, as the players say, then it's on the players. If the players are good enough, as they still say they believe, then it's on the coaches. If both of those are working to their capability, then it's on those responsible for bringing in those players.

Something is not working. It's not just the quarterback. You can point your finger just about anywhere and have a legitimate beef. You want to blame head coach Mike Shanahan? Go ahead. You want to blame defensive coordinator Jim Haslett? Have at it. You want to target special-teams coordinator Keith Burns? Stand in line. You want to point the finger even higher and look at the owner, Dan Snyder? Fair game.

The Redskins have gone from being a team playing badly to just being a bad team. It's not about the record; it's about the way they've gotten there. It's about the fact that they haven't played a complete game at any point this season. It's about needing to do so in the next five weeks.

"It's fair at this point to wonder," Lichtensteiger said, when asked if they're just a bad team. "It's just a bad display of football tonight by us."

True, the salary-cap penalty (brought on by their actions, others would say) put them in a bad spot. They couldn't fill holes they knew were coming or already existed. True, the quarterback's lack of an offseason hurt as well. It prevented a quarterback who needs to learn to pass at an NFL level from taking what he learned as a rookie and improving upon it.

But does that explain all that has gone wrong? No, it does not. If everyone wants quarterback Robert Griffin III to look in the mirror and accept blame for his shortcomings, then everyone else must do the same, starting at the very top of the organization. Good organizations win consistently. The Redskins have not done so since 1992. If they had been banged up all season plus had those other issues? OK, a 3-8 fall would not be inconceivable. That hasn't been the case.

They've collected players who won't blame one another. That's great -- and to this point players have not done so. They're more shocked than anyone at what has happened. But four years into a regime, there should be more to hang your hat on than this, especially when an owner will have a decision to make in a month or so: Do you extend the contract of the head coach or tell him he must serve as a lame duck? Or do you fire him? You need to provide more than talk. There has to be an upward stretch over the next five weeks.

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsThe blame for this disappointing season stretches all the way to owner Dan Snyder.
"At the end of the day the only stat that matters is the win and loss column," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. "You can choose and judge by that and you can make your own opinion. I'm never going to say we're a bad team."

That's not the players' job, of course, to say such a thing.

"What am I supposed to do? Come up here and talk about how bad we are?" Griffin said. "My job is to answer your questions and move on to the next day and get better. ... I mean, I love my guys. I'll go to war with them any day."

It's the proper attitude to have. Again, it's a locker room full of proper attitudes. The locker room culture is better than it was during Jim Zorn's two seasons as coach, when backstabbing happened all the time. You still don't hear players knocking the head coach; even privately, it's just the opposite.

But it's not enough anymore to sell that, because the locker room will change after this season. The defense needs an overhaul and there are only three defensive regulars who will be 26 or younger next season -- linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, corner David Amerson and end Jarvis Jenkins. That means a defensive rebuild is coming. That means more change next season. Are you confident the right changes will be made?

"This is unacceptable when you look at what we were able to accomplish last year," linebacker London Fletcher said. "To be where we're at, it's not a good feeling at all. Individually, you have to look at yourself."

Yes, they do.

"We had high hopes, but we understood talk is cheap," said defensive end Kedric Golston, who has been with the team since 2006. "That's been our message. We're prepared and we work hard and we're coming up short. It's frustrating, but the onus is on us, the people in this locker room and the people in this organization. We can't blame anybody else for it."

The tough part this season? There's so much blame to go around. There are so many areas that need to be fixed.

Statistically speaking: Penalty breakdown

November, 14, 2013
The Washington Redskins, believe it or not, have improved when it comes to penalties compared to last season. It just seems as if it hurts them more this season. But the Redskins rank 16th in the NFL with 57 penalties, averaging 6.6 per game (compared to 5.6 for their opponents). A year ago they were flagged for 115 penalties, fourth most in the NFL.

Here is how the penalties break down:

Most called penalty: Holding. The Redskins have been flagged for holding 17 times. Their 14 accepted holding penalties rank fifth in the NFL, as does their 12 offensive holding penalties. Among the teams ahead of them for offensive holds: New Orleans (league leaders with 17), Green Bay and Seattle. Last season, the Redskins were called for 20 holding penalties, including 15 on offense. The Redskins have passed a lot more this season, which would explain some of this: They've already attempted 346 passes compared to 442 for all of last season. Players have said they've seen more "exotic" blitzes than last season.

At the top: Five of the top 10 least penalized teams have winning records: Indianapolis (3.7 per game), Chicago (4.4), New England (4.6), Arizona (5.7) and Green Bay (5.8).

At the bottom: Only three of the most penalized teams have winning records: Detroit (6.9), Seattle (8.0) and the New York Jets (8.4). The last one is the worst in the NFL.

Offensive penalties: The Redskins have the 13th most offensive penalties (27).

Special teams penalties: The Redskins have the third most special teams penalties (14).

Defensive penalties: The Redskins have the eighth fewest defensive penalties (16).

Penalty yardage: The Redskins have lost 511 yards in penalties.

Nullified yards: The Redskins penalties have nullified an additional 93 yards gained.

Biggest offender: Right guard Chris Chester, center Will Montgomery and quarterback Robert Griffin III lead the Redskins with five penalties apiece. Chester has been called for a team-worst four holding penalties (and one false start). Montgomery has been called for two holds, an illegal peelback, a false start and a facemask. Griffin has two intentional groundings, a false start and two delay of games.

Rest of the line: The other three offensive linemen have combined for four holding penalties: Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus both have one; Kory Lichtensteiger has two (his only penalties). Williams also has two false starts; Polumbus has one false start.

Reversal: Lichtensteiger was flagged a team-worst 12 times last season, including seven false starts. Chester and Montgomery only received only two penalties apiece last season. Chester had two false starts; Montgomery had a clipping penalty and a false start. Polumbus only had two penalties last season, neither of which was a hold.

Pass interference penalties: One – on David Amerson and it was declined. They had nine last season.

Others with multiple penalties: Perry Riley (3), Logan Paulsen (3), Darrel Young (3), Jerome Murphy (3), DeAngelo Hall (2), Brandon Meriweather (2), Chris Baker (2), London Fletcher (2), E.J. Biggers (2), Pierre Garcon (2), Josh Morgan (2), Nick Sundberg (2), Amerson (2), Leonard Hankerson (2).

Redskins' offense fuels optimism

November, 13, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The reason they cling to hope is because they've done it before. Just a year ago in fact. But they need more than just history to prove they can finish strong and, perhaps, get on a run.

The offense says they can look to them. The numbers say they have good reason to do so.

"We run the ball, we're getting a lot of yards, we're scoring some points," Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. "Things that were tripping us up at the beginning. We've done a better job scoring points in the red zone ... If there's anything to be optimistic about from an offensive perspective, it's that."

The Redskins are a different offensive team since they last played Philadelphia in a season-opening 33-27 loss. It starts with quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has returned to being a threat running or throwing. In the opener, his legs weren't an issue.

And when Griffin starts to play this way, the offense is different. In the first four games, Washington moved the ball fine, ranking ninth in yards per game at 390.8. But the Redskins are a running team and they only averaged 106 rushing yards in those games.

But in the last five games Washington ranks first in rushing yards per game (187.40 -- 26.40 yards ahead in fact) and first in yards per rush (5.21). During this time, they're second in yards per game (426.21).

"We've got a lot of offensive power, offensive weapons," Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon said. "You've got to feel optimistic. When you have confidence in all players and teammates, you have an optimistic feeling about the second half of the season. It's actually a better feeling than last year."

The Eagles do rank 14th in yards per carry as well as yards rushing per game. But Washington feels it's playing much closer to what it did last season.

"I do feel that, especially for the first three quarters of the games we've played recently," Lichtensteiger said. "We don't get into those dropback games early, we do our running, do our play action. Those lead to big plays for us."

In the first two games of the season the Redskins could not stick with their game plan because they struggled and fell behind by double digits. In the last five games they've remained in the game into the fourth quarter. Their problem offensively is eliminating the turnovers (16 so far this season; two more than in 2012). If they can do that, the production could increase.

"We're starting faster so we can run a lot more of our stuff that we have in our offense," Griffin said, "and that everything together is working better. We're doing better on third downs in pocket passing, we're doing better on first and second downs to make our third downs more manageable. So I feel like in that aspect we're clicking better on offense. It's not just because I'm running, even though to the outside eye it might seem that way."