NFC East: Maurice Hurt
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
DE Jarvis Jenkins (second round): Not even guaranteed to start this year, though he’ll definitely be in the rotation. And if he does start, he likely won’t play as much in the nickel until he proves he can help as a pass-rusher -- something he has yet to do. Jenkins can be valuable at helping against the run. He needs a strong year to garner another contract from the Redskins.
RB Roy Helu (fourth round): He can still help, but what he’s proven is that while he can at times look excellent in the open field he’s not a patient runner from scrimmage, leading to too many short runs. The Redskins drafted Lache Seastrunk, but Helu has a big edge over him in the pass game. It’s not just about catching the ball, it’s about knowing how to run routes and pick up blitzes and recognize coverages. Don’t underestimate that aspect of the job because it’s huge. But if Seastrunk improves and shows he can be more than a runner from spread formation, then Helu’s future beyond 2014 is in doubt. For now, he’s insurance if something happens to Alfred Morris.
S DeJon Gomes (fifth round): The Redskins cut him before the 2013 season and he was picked up by Detroit. He’s still with the Lions, but will be a reserve and special teamer. He never developed in Washington.
TE Niles Paul (fifth round): Entered as a receiver with decent speed, but was more known for his blocking on the edge as a rookie and then moved to tight end in his second season (after some discussion of trying safety instead). Paul hasn’t become the sort of tight end the coaches felt he might, but he was better last year than in 2012. Still, he’s a third tight end who can block on the move. The Redskins drafted Ted Bolser, but based on watching his college tape and again this spring, he did not seem like a real threat to unseat Paul. The latter is a key special teams player, too. He’s a tough guy and adds a lot on that unit.
WR Aldrick Robinson (sixth round): He improved down the stretch, but to expect a big leap this season would require much faith. Robinson has had to learn how to run routes at the proper speed and depth, something he did get better at in 2013. But like Hankerson he needs to improve his consistency. At best he’s a fourth receiver this season and if Ryan Grant progresses, he’ll eventually bump him from this role (not a lock for that to be the case this year however; Grant needs to get a lot stronger). Another guy who could be gone after this season.
CB Brandyn Thompson (seventh round): Cut before the 2012 season; now plays for Ottawa in the CFL.
OT Maurice Hurt (seventh round): Has never really looked in great shape. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and will have a tough time making the roster. Worked at right tackle in the spring. He’s not a right tackle.
LB Markus White (seventh round): He looked the part, but never quite grasped the position. Cut during the 2012 season. He spent time with Tampa Bay that season, but was cut last August. He now plays for Saskatchewan in the CFL.
NT Chris Neild (seventh round): Opened with a flash as a rookie with two sacks early in the season. His game, though, is not built on sacks so that was an anomaly. He’s a try-hard guy, but will have a real tough time making the roster.
Here are some things -- but certainly not all -- that I'll be looking for over the next three days:
Offensive design: During the OTAs, we saw a lot of situational football – red zone, third downs, two minutes, etc. Hoping we get to see even more, to get a better sense of who the Redskins might be this season. Thus far, Griffin has operated a lot under center and in shotgun during certain situations. Coach Jay Gruden sounds intent on developing him, so this helps. (Not that the other staff didn’t want to develop him; it had Griffin as a rookie and then with no offseason. Tough to develop a player who can’t practice. How it would have handled it I don’t know.)
Rookie improvement: Rookie tackle Morgan Moses knows the issue he has with staying low and has worked on it since the OTAs started. Over three days, how much improvement will he show? How about Trent Murphy? His spin move has been terrific (mostly against young players); how much else will he show? Bashaud Breeland seems to have improved and, with Tracy Porter’s durability an issue, he could be a plus for the Redskins. But is he still grabbing too much? It’s hard with the running backs to tell a whole lot, so Lache Seastrunk’s true impact won’t be known until the games start. Thus far he hasn’t stood out. Is guard Spencer Long looking more comfortable?
Offensive line: There will be an interesting battle along the line this summer, even if it’s just for one of the backup positions (especially at guard). If the Redskins keep nine offensive linemen, that means two players from this group might not make it: Mike McGlynn, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton. This assumes Chris Chester keeps his job (not a lock). And they’re not going to cut Long or Moses. Remember, they signed McGlynn in free agency and his ability to play center helps. The others have some work to do.
David Amerson’s progression: He’s had a quiet camp and I mean that in a good way. It’s not like he’s messing up or getting beat and looks lost. Does that continue this week? Amerson’s continued improvement (plus a lack of cap room) is among the reasons the Redskins are not one of the teams who have inquired about recently released corner Brandon Flowers, according to a source.
DeSean Jackson: Needs to make sure he exits these three days with a good hamstring. If he’s fully recovered, it’s always impressive to watch his speed. He’s not the fastest player I’ve ever covered (Darrell Green), but he is explosive.
Coordinator chatter: We should get our first chance to interview special teams coach Ben Kotwica this week, as well as defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Will be nice to finally hear more of what they think about their groups after the spring workouts end.
Thoughts and observations from the Redskins OTA session Thursday (taking a look at big picture things here rather than practice plays made in the spring):
- Robert Griffin III worked on being more consistent with his mechanics in the offseason and there was a difference. The past two years his base was wider as the Redskins wanted to shorten the stride. He also got into a habit of holding the ball lower, leading to a longer windup when he threw.
- But in practice Thursday, Griffin held the ball higher – at the top of the numbers. He also threw with a more narrow base. He likes doing this because he feels more free, giving him the ability to bounce the pocket a little better. Not every quarterback throws with the same base, much like not every hitter uses the same stance at the plate.
- Griffin also was throwing more over the top; less windup. So the ball came out a little quicker. He was not always accurate, but he was not off as much as he was, say, last summer when coming back in training camp. And keep in mind that even as a rookie in practice Griffin would have off days throwing the ball.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III showed off his new throwing mechanics during practice on Thursday.
- Regardless, Griffin’s fundamentals were more consistent than they were during the season. The key will be transferring it to the season when it gets chaotic in the pocket.
- His weight transfer was different as well; much more quiet but a definite transfer. Saw it on a deep ball to receiver DeSean Jackson.
- Griffin escaped the pocket on one play and looked like he was going to tuck and run. But he pulled up before he crossed the line and hit Pierre Garcon along the sidelines.
- Keenan Robinson lined up next to Perry Riley with the No. 1 defense. It’s only May, but it’s still telling when considering that he missed all of last season and part of his rookie year. They also signed Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, who worked with the second team. Adam Hayward also worked some with the second team at inside linebacker.
- The linebackers’ versatility will be a huge part of the defense this season, as you would expect. The key is that they now have three outside linebackers – Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy -- who are comfortable with their hands in the dirt, rushing from a two-point stance or dropping into coverage.
- Murphy beat Tom Compton during 11-on-11 work with a quick spin move to the inside. For a tall guy, Murphy does a nice job staying low on his spin.
- Second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins was mostly limited to rushing the passer last season, but saw him in coverage some Thursday.
- Here are the players I saw returning kicks Thursday: Lache Seastrunk, Chris Thompson, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts and Rashad Ross.
- Chris Baker lined up at left end with the starting defense (keep in mind Stephen Bowen can’t work). Chris Neild was in the middle with Barry Cofield sidelined (hernia surgery) and Jason Hatcher was on the right side.
- Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland still needs to be less grabby. Saw him tugging Santana Moss’ jersey downfield before the veteran caught the ball. Saw Breeland tugging other jerseys as they broke on a route (after the allotted five yards of contact). Not sure all the receivers quite appreciated his hands.
- Breeland was beaten on a double move by receiver Pierre Garcon. One thing Breeland said he needed to do was to keep his eyes on his man. He lost him this time, peeking too long into the backfield and awaiting a throw that wasn’t coming. Instead, it turned into an easy deep completion.
- Maurice Hurt worked at right tackle with the third unit. Josh LeRibeus worked at left guard with the second unit.
- Jackson’s speed was evident, especially on an end around. He was in traffic as he ran around the end, on the side opposite the media so it was hard to tell who it was at first. But he was moving at a different speed, which was the first clue as to who it was.
- Corner Chase Minnifield will get into a lot of tussles this camp – a safe prediction. He nearly got into one with tight end Niles Paul Thursday. Minnifield is physical and feisty and that will never please those running routes in practice. This time, Minnifield was grabbing Paul on the entire route and at the end Paul shoved him. Minnifield bounced up and shoved him back. It didn’t escalate.
- Minnifield did pick off a Kirk Cousins pass in zone coverage. Minnifield sank deep on the route and grabbed a pass that was intended for Williams.
- It was tough to see running back Chris Thompson’s speed last season, whether in spring, summer or before he was shut down during the season. He was coming off a knee injury. But he’s a year removed from that injury and the speed was more evident. Still worry about his durability, but he looked fast after running with a pass in the open field (during a spring practice).
- Safety Tanard Jackson ran with the third defense.
- Corner David Amerson looks more comfortable in press coverage and is using his long arms to his advantage when jamming receivers. Saw him do this a couple times, showing good technique and not getting beat in this look. It’s something he needed to work on as a rookie and I’m sure the learning curve will continue. But with his length and speed it’s a necessary tactic for him to learn.
McGlynn is viewed as someone who can provide depth, more so than as a potential starter. He has started 48 games, including four with the Bengals in 2011 when Jay Gruden was the offensive coordinator. By all accounts he struggled at guard this past season with Indianapolis, but fared better when shifted to center. At 325 pounds he’d provide more size inside; one scout said he is not an athletic player -- the Redskins will still use the outside zone runs.
But the Redskins like that he could play anywhere along the line. Also, this should be a clear message to the young guys -- Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt and Adam Gettis -- that they will have zero handed to them in 2014. LeRibeus in particular should have ascended to a starter’s role by now, his third season in the NFL. But based on these moves, Gruden clearly isn’t wowed by what he’s seen of the young guards and, perhaps, LeRibeus in particular. This move should serve as a kick in the pants.
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.
That decision hasn’t been made, of course. It’s uncertain if owner Dan Snyder would want to pay Shanahan $7 million in addition to paying the rest of his staff, and then hiring a new staff.
For now, Shanahan sees the value in stability at coach and quarterback. But he also knows it’s not his call.
“In a perfect world you’d always like to be running an offense you feel comfortable with, there’s no question about that,” Shanahan said. “You’d always like to be with the same system so you don’t have to learn terminology. But that’s not always a perfect world, so a lot of quarterbacks adjust different ways, there’s a lot of different philosophies on what offense is the best – is it a good running game, is it a good passing game, what’s first?
“It’s really the direction of ownership, what direction they want to go, what type of offense they want to run, what type of defense they want to run, those type of things.”
- Shanahan said he spoke with receiver Pierre Garcon about his penalty Sunday. Garcon kicked the ball after an incomplete pass in the end zone, drawing a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty. "I can guarantee you that will never happen again with Pierre,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think you need to go much further than that. … You can’t, regardless of how competitive you are, you can’t put your team at a disadvantage and do something like that. Thankfully it was a 5-yard penalty with the field goal and it didn’t matter, but so many times they are the difference between winning and losing.”
- Offensive lineman Maurice Hurt was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. He had been on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the spring. Hurt had practiced the past three weeks as the coaches evaluated whether or not they wanted to activate him. They had until Wednesday to make a decision. “He’s looking better, but you’ve got to make a decision what direction you’re going to go and missing all that time we decided to go in that direction,” Shanahan said.
The Redskins have three weeks to make a decision as to whether or not they want to place Hurt on the active roster. As for Carriker, ESPN980 reported that he would not play this season. Carriker has had three surgeries to repair a torn quadriceps tendon, an injury that likely would end other players’ careers. The Redskins have kept Carriker around because of how hard he works, holding out hope that he could someday recover.
All coach Mike Shanahan would say of Carriker is, “He still can’t go.”
- Shanahan said he wanted to see how Nick Williams, signed off the practice squad Tuesday, handled fielding returns in practice this week before determining whether or not he’d be active Sunday. “You get a chance to see guys, when they are activated, how they practice and how they do things and that’s what we’ll try to do is make that evaluation and decide what gives us the best chance to win,” Shanahan said.
- At 3-6 last year, Shanahan talked about evaluating players and who would be worthy of sticking around. That led to a question about evaluating players now. “You always see when you have a little adversity how hard people work in practice, how they play in the game, and that’s a constant evaluation, especially when you’re 3-6,” Shanahan said. “You find out which guys are mentally there, which guys practice well, which guys play well, if they give you effort for 60 minutes – it’s all part of the process.”
- Quarterback Robert Griffin III first went into cliché mode when discussing the Redskins’ season and what they face: “I think it’s just ‘one at a time.’ It’s a cliché. It’s a huge cliché. But everyone wants to talk about a 7-0 run, you know, win the division. We just know we have to take care of Sunday. That’s it. That’s all we have. That’s all a lot of guys have, and we have a lot of things at stake when it comes to those kind of games and I think guys understand that. Last year we played with that same amount of pressure on us and we performed. I don’t think it’s going to crush anybody. They say pressure breaks pipes and I don’t think it will.”
- For a second consecutive game the Redskins enter as the healthier team as everyone practiced Wednesday. Four Eagles did not practice: linebacker Mychal Kendricks (knee), linebacker Jake Knott (hamstring), tackle Jason Peters (quad/pectoral) and safety Earl Wolff (knee). Tight end Brent Celek (hip), corner Bradley Fletcher (pectoral) and quarterback Michael Vick (hamstring) all were limited.
However, keeping four is still a lot. But with Kirk Cousins nursing a sprained right foot and with Robert Griffin III not having played in the preseason, the Redskins might just keep White around for the first couple of games. They have roster exemptions for end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson, both suspended for the first four games, so they could make this sort of move. If Griffin and Cousins both stay healthy, it’s hard to see this being a long-term situation. Still, White made big strides after a rough start.
The Redskins also opted to keep running back Evan Royster, who perhaps saved his job with a strong preseason finale at Tampa Bay. He's one of five running backs along with speedy rookie Chris Thompson.
Gone, but not yet forgotten: The Redskins would like to re-sign a number of their released players to the practice squad, including Chase Minnifield, Nick Williams, Tevita Stevens, Will Compton and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi, among others. Minnifield’s release was a surprise, given how the coaches talked about him during camp and his physical style in press coverage -- and with the loss of corner Richard Crawford. But the coaches liked corner Jerome Murphy’s physical style as well – and his special teams ability. Williams is an intriguing prospect as a slot receiver and punt returner. Ogbeuhi is a raw prospect who needs to spend a year or two on the practice squad.
Safety DeJon Gomes, a fifth-round pick in 2011 and opening day starter in 2012, did not progress in coverage. Though he was better in the box, the Redskins have Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty ahead of him at strong safety. And they opted for Jose Gumbs, signed right before camp, as a swing safety.
The Redskins also placed offensive lineman Maurice Hurt on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The tough cut? Receiver Dez Briscoe. According to a league source, Briscoe would have made the roster had he not injured his shoulder in the preseason finale.
What's next: The Redskins next big moves will occur after Week 4 when Jenkins and Jackson return from their four-game suspensions. At that point end Phillip Merling could be in trouble, along with, possibly White, simply because it would be unusual to keep four quarterbacks all season.
The Redskins lack experienced depth along the offensive line and could always use more help at safety. So if anyone intriguing clears waivers, the Redskins would be interested. They also retain the rights to suspended safety Tanard Jackson, who is now eligible for reinstatement. However, it could take a while for the NFL to grant his return -- if they give it to him at all.
Redskins cuts: RB: Keiland Williams, Jawan Jamison, RB Tristan Davis (from exempt/left squad list). WR: Skye Dawson, Nick Williams, Lance Lewis, Dez Briscoe (designated as injured). OL: Tevita Stevens, Tony Pashos, Kevin Matthews, Xavier Nixon. TE: Emmanuel Ogbuehi. DL: Chigo Anunoby, Dominique Hamilton, Ron Brace. DB: DeJon Gomes, Chase Minnifield LB: Vic So’oto, Will Compton, Marvin Burdette.
Projected number: This is a little like the NCAA basketball tournament projections, except that you can't see me moving names around on my whiteboard. Considering I don't own a whiteboard, you're not missing much. As of now, I'm projecting eight players make the cut here.
Locks: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus. No surprises considering this was the starting line last year and has been the starting line throughout training camp. There was no real challenge to Polumbus, despite two veterans being signed in the offseason. Besides, Polumbus would be a lock as a swing tackle if nothing else.
On the bubble: T Tony Pashos, C Kevin Matthews, G/T Maurice Hurt. Really, the only guy who might be kept from this category is Pashos. Hurt likely will open on the physically unable to perform list, so he’ll stick around. If I had to pick right now, I’d probably keep Pashos off the list. I like parts of his game: He’s aggressive with his hands, much more than the other tackles. He’s strong. But I did not see him moving as well as the other tackles, a byproduct perhaps of his ankle issues from 2011. If the Redskins feel Compton has progressed that much, then they have a backup right tackle (it’s not as hard of an adjustment going from left to right). This would leave them without a veteran backup, which could be an issue. They kept Sean Locklear two years ago and Jordan Black last year. It’s a leap of faith with the youngsters, and that could be Pashos' best hope. He has improved after missing all of last season, but I'm not sure it will be enough. They could keep a one-position player if there was no alternative, but with Compton's ascension, I think they have one. Really, the decision to keep Pashos could come down to whether or not they keep six receivers and/or five running backs. These coaches like skill players.
Center Will Montgomery, who sprained his knee last week, is active and will start at center. But going with Hurt at right tackle could pose a problem. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who lines up on that side, has four sacks in the four games he's played since joining the starting lineup. The 2010 first-round draft pick has been a disruptive force as the Eagles' defense has shown improvement over the last couple of weeks, and Hurt is going to need help to handle him.
The rest of the inactives are no surprise. There was some question about whether Eagles quarterback Michael Vick would dress as a backup, since he's been cleared of his concussion symptoms, but he is among the inactives and will not play. Trent Edwards will continue to serve as the backup to rookie starter Nick Foles.
And Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, is active and will start for Washington, as expected.
I'm here all game, and will also be keeping an eye on Cowboys-Saints while this one's going on. Catch me on Twitter at @ESPN_NFCEast with any questions. Enjoy the games.
QB Rex Grossman
WR Brandon Banks
WR Dezmon Briscoe
LB Roddrick Muckelroy
LB Vic So'oto
G Adam Gettis
T Tyler Polumbus
QB Michael Vick
WR Greg Salas
FB Stanley Havili
DE Darryl Tapp
G Danny Watkins
OL Matt Kopa
RB Chris Polk
Griffin was 11-for-17 for 74 yards and a touchdown. He missed on three deep throws down the field, but at least one appeared to be the fault of his wide receiver, and he showed quite a bit otherwise. On the four-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, Griffin moved out to the right side extremely quickly, showing his speed and preventing the Indianapolis defense from reacting in time to do anything about it. Griffin continues to show poise and confidence and doesn't get rattled when things don't go exactly as planned. Those are key qualities that, along with his talent and athleticism, bode well for his ability to handle NFL life in his rookie season and beyond.
Luck was 14-for-23 for 151 yards and a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. His test was tougher, since the Redskins' defense played better in this game than the Colts' defense did and he faced intense pressure on nearly every play, but he looked very good. Neither rookie quarterback showed anything to make his team feel any less excited about its future.
Here's what else I saw from the Redskins in this game:
- The Redskins' defense is going to be about pressure up front. The defensive line and linebackers look very active and aggressive, even with Brian Orakpo out with an injury, and they did a very good job of disrupting things for Luck and for the Colts' run game in the backfield. When the Redskins drop a lot of guys into coverage, as they did on the Colts' final drive of the first half, their weaknesses are exposed. And when the quarterback avoids the rush, as Luck did on his touchdown throw, the Redskins could have problems downfield. On that play, safety Madieu Williams was in single coverage on the wide receiver, and it was a mismatch.
- That said, safety Tanard Jackson looked excellent. Starting in place of an injured Brandon Meriweather at strong safety, Jackson looked good in run support, made some nice tackles and knocked away the Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half. Jackson could beat out Williams for the starting free safety spot. He's a favorite of secondary coach Raheem Morris from their time together in Tampa Bay, and his issues have all been off-the-field, not on. A couple of secondary players made good plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, including cornerback Josh Wilson and safety DeJon Gomes. The issues are down the field, not up front.
- Rob Jackson was the starting outside linebacker in place of Orakpo, but Chris Wilson quickly replaced him and had a great game that included a third-quarter sack of Chandler Harnish for a safety.
- On offense, rookie Alfred Morris got the start at running back again and looked very good. He carried the ball 14 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. He's exactly the kind of runner Mike Shanahan likes -- he makes one cut and gets up the field -- but he's also got some nice moves once up the field and that forward body lean you've heard so much about that helps him pick up extra yards. He needs to improve in pass protection before the Redskins feel great about him, but he looked good throwing blocks in Saturday's game, and it's clear that's a matter of reps and not ability or willingness. Tim Hightower is still the coaches' preferred starter at running back, and he looked lively as he got 28 yards on five carries in his first game action since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last October. But they're bringing Hightower back slowly, and with Roy Helu and Evan Royster both nursing injuries, the chances are improving that Morris will be the starter for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener in New Orleans. I still expect each of those four to start at some point this year, assuming they all get/stay healthy.
- Brandon Banks was returning kicks again in the second half, but it cannot be a good sign for Banks' roster chances that Niles Paul returned kickoffs and Moss returned punts in the first half. Banks was told he'd have to make the team as a wide receiver, not just a return man, and it does not appear as though he's done that, so they're probably looking at other return options to see what they have.
- The Redskins' offensive line did a very good job in the run game, and we've seen it look worse in pass protection, though the Colts did have success early with an interior pass rush against Will Montgomery and backup left guard Maurice Hurt. That might get better once Kory Lichtensteiger is back healthy, but it's something to watch. For what it's worth, Griffin seems to handle the rush well. Doesn't get flustered when forced out of the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, etc.
- Josh Morgan looked better than Leonard Hankerson, who had a bad drop and slowed down for some reason on a deep throw from Griffin that fell incomplete. I think the coaches would like to line up with Hankerson and Pierre Garcon as their starting wide receivers, but Morgan could surpass Hankerson if he stays healthy and keeps making plays.
- You'll laugh, but Rex Grossman looked good, especially when he threw it to Dezmon Briscoe (who's making a late push for a roster spot himself). Grossman finished the game 8-for-8 for 127 yards and two touchdowns against the backup defense of one of the league's worst teams. Somebody asked me on Twitter if the Redskins might cut Grossman and just go with rookies Griffin and Kirk Cousins at quarterback, but why? Grossman knows the offense, can help the rookies learn it, and when he's not throwing interceptions he runs it quite well. He's the perfect backup for the 2012 Redskins.
Anyway, yeah, Redskins' offensive line. Played OK last season when everyone was healthy, they got relatively good news on the health of right tackle Jammal Brown and they expect left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to be back in time for the start of the season. So if those guys are both OK and can stay that way, there's a chance things could be all right. But just because Brown doesn't need surgery on his hip doesn't automatically mean that hip will be healthy enough to allow him to be a productive player for them all year. And just because Lichtensteiger doesn't have knee-ligament damage doesn't mean he won't have another setback or be slow to regain his own form. The Redskins believe they have more depth than they did last year that these positions, if only because guys like Tyler Polumbus, Maurice Hurt and Willie Smith got some experience as starters last season. But if the line looks shabby in late July and early August, it's reason for a certain degree of concern.
In related news, John Clayton has his observations from Redskins camp, where I ran into him yesterday. And my Redskins "Camp Confidential" is on the schedule for Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. It should be great, but I can't be sure, since I haven't started writing it yet. Wait. Did I say that out loud?
"Trent's a beast," Kerrigan said. "I mean, we were just talking in the meeting room earlier today. He's having a phenomenal training camp and there's no reason why he can't be one of the top tackles in this league. He obviously has the talent, but I think this offseason he's really put his mind to it and gotten after it. What can you do against him? He's strong as an ox and quick as a cat. He's awesome."
The issue of Williams' potential awesomeness has never been in question. He was, after all, the No. 4 pick in the draft. He is strong, quick and athletic in ways that could make him one of the very best at his position. The only questions with Williams have been about focus and demeanor. And when he got popped for the drug suspension last year, those questions came into clear focus.
"He's different this year," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told me after practice. "There is a sense of urgency. Everybody can see it. I'm just hoping he keeps it on a straight line. I told him, 'I'm never going to compliment you again. You can make a great play, and I'm still going to be on your butt.'"
Sounds like a pretty good plan. And it sounds as though, so far, it's working.
Some other thoughts/observations/sights/sounds from my second and final day here:
- Yes, in answer to a question I've received a few times, Orakpo and Kerrigan are switching sides of the field depending on the plays and the matchups. "We do it just to give different looks," Orakpo explained "We see a lot of teams around the league doing it, and we started doing it towards the end of the season last year and had a lot of success, and we're going to continue to do so. We're going to take the mismatches and continue to roll with that. If Kerrigan's better on my right side, we're going to put him on my right. If he's better on the left, we're going to put him on the left." It looked as though Orakpo spent more time over the left tackle in practice Tuesday, but Kerrigan was there toward the end.
- Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III throws a very pretty deep pass and looks remarkably natural as a runner. He does take a little too long with some of his drops, though, and that's something that has to be worked out with more and more training camp reps. No one seems worried. Griffin is smart and talented enough that the expectation is that he'll iron it all out. It's just important for fans to remember that the ironing does need to be done.
- Running back Tim Hightower still isn't participating in team drills. Shanahan said he decided not to put Hightower on the PUP list because he thought there'd be some benefit to having him do the individual drills so he could get more comfortable with making his cuts again after last season's knee surgery. It remains to be seen when Hightower will start to see more action. Meanwhile, Evan Royster seems to be getting the most first-team reps and impressing the coaching staff the most. Roy Helu looks fine, though he did drop one pass. And rookie Alfred Morris is someone to watch as well, though he had a fumble. I get the impression after talking with Shanahan in his office Tuesday night that he would be comfortable starting any of the four.
- They're still going with Maurice Hurt at first-team left guard and Tyler Polumbus at first-team right tackle with starters Kory Lichtensteiger and Jammal Brown out with injuries.
- Several different guys have played the slot position, but if I had to bet right now I'd bet on Santana Moss as the slot receiver with Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson as the starters outside. The Redskins believe Josh Morgan can play any of the three spots.
- Orakpo had his battles with Williams, but he looked remarkably quick snuffing out a bubble screen to Hankerson during the outdoor portion of Tuesday afternoon's practice (before thunderstorms forced the second half of it indoors).
- Strong safety Brandon Meriweather got to Griffin twice on safety blitzes. He didn't hit him, of course, but he let everybody know how excited he was. As he ran back to the huddle after the second, Meriweather could be heard crowing, "I got him again!" Madieu Williams continued to start at free safety, though once again Tanard Jackson wasn't allowed to practice since it was just his second day off of PUP. He'll be allowed to practice from now on.
- Rex Grossman threw an interception, but you were probably already assuming that.
- I am headed up the road now to Bethlehem, Pa., where I will be checking out the Philadelphia Eagles for the next two days. But I still have plenty more from Redskins camp that I'll roll out in the coming days. Our Redskins "Camp Confidential" is scheduled to run Thursday, so look for that. But beyond that, I'll have some more of my own reporting to share with you, including that Kerrigan interview that one guy keeps bugging me about.