NFC East: Morgan Moses

2014 Predictions: New York Giants

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
7:59
AM ET
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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

The short week and Washington's stellar crew of offensive weapons prove too much for the Giants to overcome. Will Beatty still sees Brian Orakpo in his nightmares. Prediction: Loss


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

 

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.
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.

Morris
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.”

Lauvao
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).

lastname
Bernard
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.

Helu
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.
Morgan Moses knew what he had to do shortly after arriving in Washington. And the point was driven home whenever he faced the veterans.

The 6-foot-8 Moses needs to play smaller. Or, at least, lower.

[+] EnlargeMorgan Moses
AP Photo/ Evan VucciMorgan Moses, right, will continue to work on his blocking technique before training camp opens.
“It’s very hard,” Moses said. “The one thing that I opened my eyes to is that a lot of things I got away with in college because I was so much stronger and bigger than everybody, you’re not going to get away with here. So being able to work on those techniques and staying low every day, working three times harder at your craft is something that will allow me to get better.”

Moses was projected by some as a potential first-round pick. But his college tape showed enough flaws in his game that he lasted until the Redskins selected him in the third round. One of those issues: staying low. Moses too often would bend at the waist. His long arms bailed him out of trouble, but if he had to move his feet to recover it was difficult. That was evident throughout the spring, though he cut down the number of times this occurred.

“His length saved him in college,” Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “He relied on his long arms and being high didn’t matter as much. Now he’s playing guys who have just as much or more athleticism, just as much strength and speed so he has to be exact in his technique. Morgan’s not alone in that.”

Moses said he tried to focus staying low in everything he did, whether it was while working in the weight room or during individual drills.

During minicamp, Moses said, “I find myself getting lower. It might not be extremely low, but if I can work a notch down than I was yesterday I’m getting better.”

These lessons will continue when training camp opens next month in Richmond. If Moses wants to someday supplant Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, he’ll have to keep improving. The 6-foot-8 Polumbus has had to undergo the same transition.

But if Moses keeps bending at the waist he’ll keep getting in trouble.

“When you bend at the waist, your feet don’t move as well. So in trying to get lower sometimes they don’t bend, they lean,” Foerster said, “and when they lean the feet don’t move. When your weight is out too far over your knees, it’s physics. Your feet don’t move as well.”

The key for Moses will be limiting how often that happens. If he can, he has a chance to become a quality starter someday.
The Washington Redskins enter their final week of offseason work with a three-day minicamp. It'll look a lot like their OTA practices, but the difference is that this week is mandatory. With temperatures expected in the 90s, or near them, over the next three days, it'll be good preparation for Richmond later this summer.

Here are some things -- but certainly not all -- that I'll be looking for over the next three days:

Griffin
Robert Griffin III's finish: It’s tough when you watch someone just once a week to accurately gauge their progress. Griffin has had some good moments and not-so-good ones, but watching over three days will reveal more about where he’s at in terms of his passing. Has he remained consistent with his fundamentals? Is the accuracy more consistent? What we still won’t see until games begin is the ability to extend plays, which is a huge part of his game. But a good week for Griffin would propel him into the final month before camp with a lot of momentum, capping what has been a productive offseason for him. Don't know what that will mean for the season, but he'll exit this offseason feeling much, much different than he did a year ago at this time for a variety of reasons.

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?

Hatcher
Hatcher
Defensive looks: How are they using their personnel? Will they really be doing a lot of different things this season? Or is it just offseason chatter? Won’t know for a while on that, but we’ll get to see more of what they plan to do. In some cases it’s not about having different looks, it’s about – they hope – having better rushers with the addition of Murphy and Jason Hatcher.

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.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
12:30
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Not a lot going on, so it's a good time to catch up on some salary-cap numbers and scenarios. All numbers are from ESPN Stats & Information:

Cap space available: The Redskins have $2,551,306 left against the salary cap. Only three teams have less room against the cap (Detroit, New Orleans and San Diego). The Giants have $6.9 million available, but both Dallas ($10.2 million) and Philadelphia ($20.2 million) are in strong shape. Don’t forget, teams can carry cap space into next season. Also, as of now only the top 51 players count against the cap in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeStephen Bowen
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins would save $5.5 million against the cap if they cut Stephen Bowen after this season.
Cap savings: If the Redskins really wanted to save a few extra dollars, they could always look at right guard Chris Chester. If they cut him, it would save $2.7 million against the cap. But, again, someone has to beat him out. If they felt that confident about someone else they likely would have made a move by now. But they do have some young options here between rookie Spencer Long and third-year players Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. However, while Long obviously has never played, the other two have limited experience. Tyler Polumbus' release would save $1.5 million, but that means that either rookie Morgan Moses or third-year Tom Compton is ready to start. It’s hard to imagine Moses being at that point and Compton was not there at the end of last season.

Another place that will be interesting is the defensive line. The Redskins kept six at this spot each of the past three seasons. If they only keep that many this year, it means a veteran could be in trouble. They clearly aren’t going to cut Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher or Chris Baker. Also, as long as Stephen Bowen is healthy he’ll stick around.

Yes, the Redskins could have re-worked his deal (which counts $7.02 million against the cap) but they have wisely been reluctant to spread money into the future for players who may only be around another year or so. That’s the case with Bowen. He has one year left on his contract and is coming off microfracture surgery. I don’t care how optimistic you are about him, can you trust he’ll be around and playing at a solid level in two years? No. The way they’ve done things in the past they could ask him to take a pay cut, but they typically did that before this point. Just so you know: Bowen would save $5.5 million against the cap if cut after this season.

So if Bowen sticks, that gives the Redskins four. If they keep six again, that means they’d have room for two among Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston and Clifton Geathers. Here’s the savings for each player: Geathers ($600,000), Golston ($1,005,000), Jenkins ($1,027,184). Nose tackle Chris Neild also would be in trouble. His savings would be $645,000.

Highest paid: Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000) followed by Trent Williams ($10,980,393). By the way, both players will count more against the cap than all the players at five other positions: safeties ($5.1 million), tight ends ($4 million), running backs $5.6 million), quarterback ($7.1 million) and cornerback ($8.6 million).

Lowest-paid starters: Running back Alfred Morris will count $600,775 against the salary cap. Next up: safety Ryan Clark ($635,000) and tight end Jordan Reed ($642,778). Clark’s base salary is $955,000, but he counts less because of the veteran minimum cap benefit.
Another day of leftover notes:

Strong column: Jason Reid of the Washington Post had a strong take on the #Redskinspride movement initiated last week, when the Redskins asked fans to tweet to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (do I need to say there's no relation?) regarding their thoughts on the team name. If the Redskins want to win the name debate, occurrences like this won't help. Rather, it will just enflame the opposition and keep them mobilized and desirous to fight back. There have been too many missteps along the way. But for those of you who want the issue to go away -- yet also want them to win -- it'll be tough to separate those desires. Just imagine how big it will become if they somehow made the Super Bowl again?

Both sides claim victory: Redskins president and general manager Bruce Allen told Jason Reid that, "our fans have spoken very loudly in support of what we've been doing. We got a very good response from our fans. Thousands of fans responded, including hundreds of Native Americans, saying we are their favorite team. I do think that's the message we've been hearing." Last week, Harry Reid's digital director Faiz Shakir told multiple outlets they were thrilled by the response. Here's the thing: The majority of people are against changing the name, at least according to polls in the past. So the Redskins will always enjoy a certain level of support. But my hunch is the more this stays in the news, and the more people perceive that the Redskins are handling it poorly, the more who will be swayed the other way. I'm not smart enough to know if/when it will change, but we all know some grow so weary of a topic they just want it to go away at any cost.

Moses' impact: For rookie right tackle Morgan Moses to play, or at least start, he'll have to improve his fundamentals. He has to learn to play more with his knees bent, and not his waist. And how to move his feet in addition to his arms. Then he has to combine that with learning the playbook and everything else. It takes time, which the Redskins are happy to give him. "There's a lot to learn as far as offensive line play," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, "picking up line stunts, all the run schemes that we have -- inside zones, outside zones and then the pass protections we have. We have nine or 10 already and maybe more. So it's a grind for them mentally ... . Lucky for us, we've got a solid line and he is going to contribute when he is ready. There is no exact date on that either."

Gruden's philosophy: Jay Gruden is much more like Joe Gibbs when it comes to delegating responsibility than he is to Mike Shanahan, his predecessor. Gruden won't just stick with the offense; sounds like he's been watching the defense more this week. But offense is his baby and he does not plan to interfere with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett or special teams coach Ben Kotwica. Of course, it is his right; he's the one who bears the ultimate responsibility. Still, it won't be his focus. Going from an offensive coordinator to head coach is enough to handle right now. "I'm letting Coach Haslett coach the defense, Coach Kotwica to coach the special teams and I'm really hands-on with the offense right now," Gruden said. "Part of the reason I hired the guys that I hired is I could count on them to run their specific groups. It's been a very smooth process so far."
ASHBURN, Va. -- After watching the rookies Saturday, here are some first impressions -- and the word first must be stressed. The key will be seeing how they develop from now through minicamp and again this summer. A lot of the flaws, or positives, they showed in college were evident Saturday.

Here's a look at the draft picks from this past weekend:

LB Trent Murphy: Definitely has a variety of moves; did a good job getting to the inside on occasion. Knows how to use his hands – knocked tight end Ted Bolser back on one rush with a good thrust to his chest. Can definitely see why the Redskins feel he can add weight and still be effective. Though strong, he does not appear to be fully filled out.

Murphy needs to work on cutting angles even more and knowing how to finish moves at an NFL level, as coaches discussed with him, like not rounding off too much at the top of his rush. He was not blowing past blockers in camp, but you could see aspects of his game to develop, with his hands and multiple moves -- that, combined with his versatility, is vital and why the Redskins liked him.

RT Morgan Moses: Felt after the draft it would take him a little while and still feel that way after watching him this past weekend. But that’s why he lasted to the third round; it’s tough for a player at his position to start immediately as a rookie. His long arms bailed him out of situations in college and did so again Saturday. But his feet need to catch up quicker.

You could tell he was working on trying to stay low, but at times did not look comfortable because he was bent a little too much at the waist and not the knees. Like Murphy, comes across as smart. (Moses graduated this past weekend.)

OG Spencer Long: Looks comfortable pulling and takes proper angles. Appeared to change directions just fine while pulling, based on a linebacker's movement. In the one-on-one pass drills Saturday, saw him get beat with speed to his outside, but also later saw him anchor well. Saw similar moments -- good and bad -- in his game tape. It’s really tough to get a good feel for a guard in 11-on-11 on some plays because of all the congestion. But he’ll be one to watch in camp.

CB Bashaud Breeland: Physical but will have to learn how to make sure he’s not always getting called for holding or pass interference. He could have been called for holding a few times and pass interference at least once. (He'd work best with a good pass rush; then again, who wouldn't?) It’s definitely something to watch because he wasn’t going against starting NFL receivers. Knows how to play press coverage. Breeland is patient and mirrored receivers well. After talking to him, he has a good understanding of his own game and what he must do.

WR Ryan Grant: He’s smooth in and out of breaks and a mature route-runner; patient. But Grant dropped a few passes (one when he turned his head too soon). He did have one nice grab over the middle with outstretched arms. He made a nice adjustment on another catch. Curious to see if he can get separation against starting corners, especially in man coverage. That’s his challenge moving forward.

RB Lache Seastrunk: First, you absolutely must read this piece on Seastrunk. It’s hard to measure running backs until the games begin. He has terrific moves, but will he always be content to get what’s there and then some or will he look to bounce a lot? We’ll see. His hands were OK when we saw him, but heard there were a few issues in a practice we did not see. One thing that jumped out when talking to Seastrunk: his confidence. He has a lot.

TE Ted Bolser: Did not look like a guy who’d threaten any of the three tight ends ahead of him for a roster spot. When he blocked in college, he too often kept his head down and that got him in trouble at least once Saturday. He’ll need to add strength. Bolser also dropped too many passes Saturday – I think ESPN980’s Chris Russell had him with four at one point. Bolser is a developmental guy, as seventh-round picks should be. But, again, it’s about planning. Niles Paul is in the last year of his contract. They’ll want Bolser eventually to be a move tight end a la Paul -- lining up in different areas; a better blocker on the go than on the line. If Paul leaves and Bolser develops, they have a replacement. That’s how it should work. Plus, special teams will be key.

Place-kicker Zach Hocker: He was accurate, but I can’t say I paid close attention to him. Kickers win their job in games, not practices (unless you’re Shayne Graham and lose it in practice; he was horrendous). It will be an interesting competition with Kai Forbath this summer.
Some thoughts from Redskins coach Jay Gruden on the rookies following Saturday's second minicamp practice:


  1. He likes linebacker Trent Murphy -- a lot. The Redskins' second-round pick lined up at left outside linebacker in the two practices open to the media. Gruden loves Murphy’s variety of moves. And he likes the ability to use him as a third linebacker and play him in different spots – in college he rushed from a standup position on both sides, through the middle, and also from a four-point stance.“He’s another element of the pass rush we drastically need,” Gruden said. “The ability to move him around and do things with him defensively is exciting.”
  2. Gruden also really likes guard Spencer Long and receiver Ryan Grant. Gruden said after four practices watching Long, including two on Friday, “you could see how effective he’s going to be, how smart he is and how physical he can be. He’s athletic enough to do whatever we want in the zone game and smart enough to pick up the blitzes and line stunts. He’s going to be competitive right away.”
  3. As for Grant, Gruden said, “he plays like a 10-year veteran already.” I’ll have more on Grant in a couple days, but he understands how to run routes. That matters.
  4. Two rookies who need a little seasoning? Left tackle Morgan Moses and running back Lache Seastrunk. Moses switched back to the right side after playing left tackle at Virginia last season (but he was on the right side the previous three years). He’ll also have to learn how to block in the outside zone.“It will take him some time,” Gruden said of Moses. “We’re happy with his progress and he has some major, major upside with his size.”

    Seastrunk must adjust to being a pass-catcher in the NFL. That doesn’t just mean showing he can catch the ball, it means knowing how to run routes out of the backfield at an NFL level. It also means being able to pass protect.

    “It will take time,” Gruden said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. He has a long way to go, but he’ll get there.”
  5. Bashaud Breeland’s aggressiveness jumped out (I’ll have more on this in a couple days as well). Gruden said he’ll have to watch the holding, but they like Breeland’s long arms and physical style.
  6. Gruden did not single out undrafted free-agent receiver Cody Hoffman, but Gruden was asked about him. It’s way too early to project how an undrafted player will do, but Gruden did say he likes Hoffman’s size (he’s 6-foot-4). Gruden also said, “He’s a very smooth route runner with natural hands. He doesn’t have the great vertical speed.” Special teams will be huge for a player like Hoffman.
  7. Gruden said of place-kicker Zach Hocker: “Rookie kickers in the NFL, not many of them have had a lot of success but we have high hopes for him. He’s going to compete. He has a strong leg and the added dimension for kickoffs and touchbacks is important. We’ll see how things transpire and how he handles the pressure.”
A few observations from the Redskins rookie minicamp Saturday morning. Keep in mind: This was our first chance to see the rookies. Their heads are swimming with new knowledge. That serves as a warning: Take these for what they're worth. Now, having said that...
  1. Tackle Morgan Moses is a big man and stands out in the crowd -- even among his peers. But Moses will always need to work on staying low in his stance. The first time I saw him try to block, he was moving to his left and lunged -- too bent at the waist on other times, too. He’ll have to work on staying balanced. That's what this weekend is for; to start correcting some of these issues.
  2. But he used his long arms a couple of times to stop Trent Murphy -- also long -- on the pass rush. I’ll be curious to see how he progresses coming off the ball and being able to attack defenders.
  3. Could tell when he was, or wasn’t, driving off the ball by how he set. A light set did not always mean pass protection, though. But it did mean he wasn’t going to drive off the ball.
  4. One thing Murphy will have to learn: how to lessen the gap between he and the tackle. Otherwise, it’ll be hard to use his hands. In a one-on-one rush, Murphy dipped and should have had the advantage, but failed to get it.
  5. After the rush, outside linebackers coach Brian Baker – do not underestimate this guy’s presence – worked with him on dipping his shoulder to complete the move. That’s what this weekend is all about: learning a lesson, then applying it as they move forward. They spoke for another 5-10 minutes after the practice while the other players exited.
  6. Murphy lined up at left outside linebacker all of practice. Eventually I can see him being moved around; it’s what he did in college and it worked.
  7. Guard Spencer Long was beaten in a one-on-one the first time I saw him by tryout linebacker Aaron Davis; speed to Long's outside. But the next time he went, Long anchored well. Saw him do that in college, too; strong base. For what it’s worth, Long said he feels normal coming off his MCL tear this past season.
  8. Did not see all of tight end Ted Bolser’s drops, but others saw them. Did see him get bumped off his route by Murphy -- one thing that was evident on tape is that the ex-Stanford linebacker is comfortable moving in space.
  9. Corner Bashaud Breeland likes to get his hands on receivers, even after the five yards that are allowed. He’s physical and with long arms. He’ll try to get a subtle grab at the top of a route. Just something to watch this summer.
  10. But Breeland, playing right corner, is experienced in press. Used good technique on one jam, getting his left hand on the inside of the receiver and bumping him off stride. Did not see a lot of separation from receivers against him.
  11. Didn’t watch a lot of receiver Ryan Grant, but the one time I did he dropped a pass. Turned his head too soon. I'll pay more attention Saturday afternoon.
  12. Need to see more of running back Lache Seastrunk catching the ball. In one drill where players weave through cones and then catch a pass, saw a drop. But to measure his hands, need to see a lot more and in game situations. He’s convinced his hands aren’t an issue.
  13. In a one-on-one drill designed to help special teams, Seastrunk did one of his classic plant and cut moves. He made a hard jab to the left, let the defender bite and then cut back the other way.
  14. For what it’s worth, Seastrunk told the Redskins he would like a shot at returning kicks. Not sure if that will happen or not.
  15. The first-year guys in camp: linebacker Will Compton, punter Blake Clingan, defensive back Peyton Thompson, safety Akeem Davis and lineman Tevita Stevens.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
May 17
10:00
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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 minicamp questions

May, 16, 2014
May 16
8:30
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The Redskins will start to see what they have in their rookie class when their three-day minicamp begins Friday. It runs through Sunday (with one day, Saturday, open to the media). They have a number of tryout players in attendance; some players will be told no thanks before the weekend is even finished. Some of the tryout guys might earn a contract, though that would also mean one of the current undrafted signees would then be cut.

Here are three questions entering the weekend:

What is Jay Gruden’s style?

This will be our first chance to be around him in a practice setting. Because he’s dealing with rookies this weekend, there’s a chance he’ll be a little different than he would be with veterans or when it’s closer to the season. In-season, for example, he might stick more with one group. Now, he might opt to walk around more and get a feel for more players.

For now the focus is on teaching and trying to see which tryout guys should be signed, if any, as opposed to preparing to win games. Still, we’ll get a glimpse of how he’ll be Saturday (the only day that’s open to the media).

What can you learn from the rookies this weekend?

Well, the higher they were drafted the better they should look. If not, well …

But, really, it’s about watching guys work. How do the defensive backs -- Bashaud Breeland in particular -- compete against the receivers? The opposite is true when looking at receiver Ryan Grant. Do they look fast or can you get a glimpse of what makes them excel?

For the coaches it’s really more about seeing how they retain information, going from the classroom to the practice field. Players' heads will be swimming in information, so they might not always play as fast in full-team work. Can they also take to coaching? How many times do they need to hear something before it clicks? Little clues are revealed this weekend.

Trent Murphy and tackle Morgan Moses will receive more attention because of where they were drafted and the expectation they can help this season. But I’ll be also curious to see how running back Lache Seastrunk moves. Really, though, it’s just a first impression and nothing matters until they do it against the veterans.

Which undrafted player has a shot to make the roster, if any?

One of the 10 undrafted free agents will become an intriguing story during training camp, gearing for either a roster spot or place on the practice squad.

The Redskins had two players who were former undrafteds start on offense last season in tight end Logan Paulsen and fullback Darrel Young.

Defensively, Ryan Clark entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2002. He’s now entering his 13th season. Linebacker Akeem Jordan, who will compete for the starting position next to Perry Riley, went undrafted in 2007. Stephen Bowen was undrafted in 2006.

So which current undrafted free agent has a shot? Impossible to say without seeing them first -- and it will be real tough until seeing them in training camp. I asked one coach about the undrafted guys, if there was one he was anxious to see. His response? Need to see them first. Whatever these players did in college doesn't matter; they have a ton to prove here.

But the Redskins clearly want to look for more receiver depth considering four of the 10 they signed play that position. Of that group, BYU’s Cody Hoffman has size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and pedigree (his father played in the NFL), but had some of the worst measurables of any receiver at the combine. But he returned kickoffs. Indiana’s Kofi Hughes was a standout special-teamer. If you’re going to make it as an undrafted, and likely be the last player at your position group, excelling on special teams is a must.

There are a handful of interesting names among the undrafteds: running back Silas Redd; tight end Kevin Perry, a former basketball player; and nose tackle Chris Davenport. But it’s tough to pay close attention to them or the tryout guys. More of the focus will be -- and should be -- on the draft picks.

However, after this weekend, the Redskins will have a feel for which undrafted guys might be worth watching.

McShay likes Morgan Moses

May, 12, 2014
May 12
11:00
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ESPN analyst Todd McShay pegged Morgan Moses as a first-round NFL draft prospect. But he lasted until the third round, where he was selected by the Washington Redskins, leading McShay to consider him great value.

Moses
As I’ve written a couple times since the Redskins picked him, Moses does represent good value. I've also written that I would not have taken him at 34 -- and certainly not in the first round. His performance did not match the talent; questions abound.

But McShay labeled Moses as the Redskins’ best pick in the draft -- because of his talent and where they picked him. Again, I disagree on the first-round part -- but in the third round? If Moses ever becomes consistent with knee bend and getting to the second level (among other things) then, yes, he could be the best pick -- and if he gains that consistency, he'll be an excellent starter. A lot of players have entered the NFL with talent and plenty of questions and, of course, the record is mixed. The Redskins do not need him to start right away, but with Tyler Polumbus unsigned for 2015, Moses needs to reach that level soon.

Regardless, here’s some of what McShay wrote on Moses, “He struggled for the first part of his career but really started to excel after moving over to left tackle this past season. Defensive players need to take a cab ride to get around his long arms.”

The problem in college: Moses relied too often on his length to bail him out of trouble. So, too, did Trent Williams once upon a time (but he’s also a lot more athletic than Moses) and was much more consistent in college. Williams was flagged for his work ethic, but that has not proven accurate.

McShay considered linebacker Trent Murphy a reach at 47. He’s not an explosive player and, if they re-sign Brian Orakpo, might not even be a starter for some time -- if ever. He needs to show he can rush the passer and help on special teams. A reach? Maybe. But the question is: Had they waited and not selected Murphy there, would he have been available at 66? I honestly don’t know and I’m guessing they didn’t either. But McShay is not the only analyst who considered him a reach.

But McShay does like Moses, and he says the Redskins have their right tackle of the future.

  • It jumped out at me that the Washington Redskins only drafted two defensive players out of eight selections. The Redskins have done a good job of building an offense, one that could (potentially) be very good for a few years, especially if quarterback Robert Griffin III develops.
  • But the Redskins' defense is still building and of their nine players 30 years or older, seven play on defense. At least five will likely be starters -- maybe even six.
  • Redskins coach Jay Gruden really likes running back Lache Seastrunk. Though he only caught nine passes in college, Baylor's scheme does not call for many throws to the running backs (I think there were a combined five receptions by backs last season).
  • [+] EnlargeBashaud Breeland
    Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsCornerback Bashaud Breeland should find he fits in well with all of the Redskins' zone coverages.
    Though Seastrunk apparently showed at the combine and his pro day that he has good hands (he did have 10 drops in college), there is an adjustment to becoming a third-down back. He’ll have to learn to run routes, read coverages (though you can ease him in with easy routes, etc.). But it's also about pass protection: recognizing blitzes, knowing where you need to go. That takes time.
  • But until Seastrunk reaches that point, Gruden said he could become a backup to Alfred Morris, capable of being a home-run hitting type of back. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the combine, so he has good speed. Haven’t seen a lot of him, but Seastrunk is an intriguing pick.
  • The Redskins didn’t absolutely need a pass-catching back because they do have Roy Helu. But Gruden made it clear at the NFL owners meetings that he would like more from this role.
  • The guy I’m really looking forward to seeing is corner Bashaud Breeland. I liked what I saw of him on film, but there will be questions about his speed. However, for those wanting a safety, he’s a guy who could play there at some point if they wanted. Gruden said that was a possibility, but if nothing else, he’ll be a versatile corner for them.
  • I know a lot of people think the Redskins reached on a lot of picks. I don’t know if that’s the case or not because it really depends on how their draft board was aligned. I also know that you can’t go by certain projections because if that’s the case many were very wrong on a number of players (look at quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Tom Savage, whom some thought might go late one or early two). Point is, every team rates guys differently, so a reach for one is not for another.
  • Heck, some pegged Morgan Moses as a first-round pick. Sorry, but while he's talented, his play did not warrant that sort of projection. He went in the third round. So is that good value or some analysts just being way off?
  • As for Trent Murphy, the Redskins probably could have waited at 47 and drafted someone else. But this was the pass-rusher they wanted because they had missed on two others they liked (Marcus Smith, Kyle Van Noy -- the latter of whom they were not going to take at 34). If they had waited, maybe they get him at 66 and maybe they don’t. They liked him; they took him.
  • And, as some Twitter followers mentioned, would anyone have been disappointed to get Moses at 47 and Murphy at 66? Still, you can argue Murphy was a reach but the Redskins liked him. We’ll find out in a couple years who’s right.
  • Wrote this in other places, but I did hear good things about guard Spencer Long. I listed him as a risky pick because, well, I had to list someone. And his knee makes him riskier than the others. But one scout I trust liked him a lot.
  • I know there was angst about the Redskins not drafting an inside linebacker, but I never really thought they would. They liked Ryan Shazier and they felt Van Noy could play inside (full-time, not sure). But C.J. Mosley and Shazier, there was a big drop-off inside. If that’s the case, anyone they were going to draft would have had an uphill battle just to make the roster. And if that’s the case, there was no reason to draft them.
  • Not only do they like Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, they also like how Keenan Robinson has (thus far) progressed. They have a special teams guy in Adam Hayward and a young guy they can still develop in Will Compton, who showed some toughness last summer.
  • They also felt there wasn’t much room at safety. You can debate that one -- I think they’ll still be looking for guys next offseason. I loved Deone Bucannon and liked Jimmie Ward, but both went in the first round. This was not a deep class at safety, but I am a little surprised they didn’t draft at least one.
  • The Redskins will add some defensive lineman, most likely, as undrafted free agents. Be wary of all the news regarding the UDFA’s, by the way. There have been plenty of times in the past players say they’ve signed with someone when they might just be attending as a tryout guy. Or they agree with one team then change their minds and sign with another.
The pick: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska

My take: The Redskins clearly wanted more size and muscle inside. They added more of it in Long, but this one feels like a reach late in the third round. He missed half the season with torn ligaments in his knee and, though he said he feels fine and is “ready to go” I do wonder if they could have waited another round and picked him up.

If you’ll recall, they made a similar curious pick at guard in 2012 when they made Josh LeRibeus a third-round choice. That hasn’t worked out. Whether or not Long does remains to be seen. But the big difference between the two is Long’s passion for the game. Coach Jay Gruden stressed this point. No one has ever said the same about LeRibeus and I don’t think that sits well with the staff.

Long’s ability to seal openings should help in the zone scheme. But I have no idea if this move will pay off. I understood picking Trent Murphy at 47. Whatever anyone else thinks, he was the best pass rusher left on the board in their minds. I understood taking Morgan Moses earlier in the third. But this one is a more curious pick.

Young guards: The Redskins continue to say the line wasn’t as bad as everyone said. Yet not only is the starting five turning over, by next year Trent Williams could be the only player at the same spot he was in the 2013 finale. A big question now is what happens at right guard. The Redskins still have Chris Chester there, but if they wanted cap relief they could cut him and save $2.7 million against the cap.

Do they have his replacement ready? And who is it? If Morgan isn’t ready, then could it be LeRibeus? There’s always Mo Hurt, but I’d pass. The player I always liked better is Adam Gettis, but he was only around 295 pounds and needs to get bigger. If he does, then he could be one to watch this summer. Regardless, the changes along the line will continue.

What’s next: The Redskins own all their picks in each of the final four rounds Saturday. The Redskins definitely need more young help defensively, but the value in this round could be found at running back and tight end. If they go defense, this is also a good time to look for corner help where they need depth. And they should give serious consideration to some safeties.

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