NFC East: phillip thomas

Shortly before Phillip Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last summer, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris expressed his pleasure over his performance. After one play in training camp, Morris let it be known, saying to no one in particular, "He's starting to figure this [bleep] out."

[+] EnlargePhillip Thomas
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins safety Phillip Thomas, then a rookie in this May 2013 photo, aims to rebound from a season-ending Lisfranc injury.
And then Thomas, a rookie, was done, injuring his Lisfranc in the preseason opener. He needed surgery and that put him on a cross-your-fingers-path back to the player he was when the Washington Redskins drafted him in the fourth round.

Thomas obviously plans to contend for a starting job with Brandon Meriweather. First, though, comes questions about his health.

"Right now I'm feeling great," said Thomas, who returned to organized team activities Monday along with his teammates. The next session open to the media is Wednesday. "I'm 100 percent. Running around. I feel I'm moving like I was before with no hesitation and not second-guessing myself now."

Lisfranc injuries are tricky, especially when a player needs surgery. Here's a good explanation of this injury from ESPN medical analyst Stephania Bell. One point she made: "It's critical to the long-term foot health of any player who suffers this type of injury that complete healing occurs prior to a return to play, hence the slow progression, even when the player says he feels fine."

Thomas never returned last year and has had a full offseason. He knows he has a ways to go and the true test occurs in August, when the pads come on and the preseason games begin.

For now, all is good.

"At first I heard all the things about this Lisfranc injury and it spooked me," he said. "I stayed out here the whole four months in the offseason. I feel good out there."

Another result of the injury: Thomas is bigger. Not by a lot, but he added around five pounds -- all in upper body strength. He couldn't focus on his legs for a while, so he concentrated on other areas. The extra size was noticeable.

"It's helping me just being strong at the point [of attack]," he said. "Tight ends coming to block, I can [keep] them off me. Just the little things."

Thomas showed a little bit during the OTAs open to the media last week, making a diving interception. While Morris was upbeat over Thomas last summer, he'll still have to learn to operate at game speed and prove he can handle the role. There's a difference between starting to get it and playing like you have it.

"He's just getting back in the flow," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Between he and Meriweather, we expect good things from that safety spot."
The company they keep suggests they have done it right. Washington is right there with the best teams in the NFL when it comes to holding on to its draft picks. Look at the top six teams when it comes to keeping their own draft picks. You have perennial playoff contenders, Super Bowl participants and league heavyweights.

And then the Redskins.

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaDan Snyder and the Redskins' coaching staff need to focus more on developing the team's draft picks in the future.
It's strange company, indeed. But there they are, right behind Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore, Cincinnati and New England. For the most part, it's a who's who of organizations that have done it right.

And then there are the Redskins.

"I don't think we can say we've done well because of our record," Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said.

The numbers spell it out. Washington ranks seventh in the NFL with 28 former draft picks on its roster. In the free-agency era, that has to register as a surprise given the Redskins' reputation. Of course, the salary-cap penalties of the past two offseasons forced them to do business another way.

It's sort of like the "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry tells a rental car clerk, "See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don't know how to hold the reservation, and that's really the most important part of the reservation."

If the Redskins want to sustain success, they will do more than just draft and retain players; they will improve at developing them.

It's not as if they haven't had success stories. In 2012, they rode two rookies to the playoffs: quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick. Griffin extended plays and ran well, so the Redskins incorporated that into their offense. Morris could plant and cut, so that's what they asked him to do. They've had other success stories, just not enough of them.

Too often the Redskins have relied on outside help to fill holes. This past offseason they needed offensive line help, so they signed a starting guard and added a veteran backup. Two years ago they drafted three linemen, yet none of them project to be in the starting lineup. One of those three, guard Josh LeRibeus, was a third-round pick who was inactive in every game last season.

Washington's director of player personnel Scott Campbell said Tuesday that to find players worth developing, you see how much they love football. If a guy struggles with weight issues, that's a concern. LeRibeus had those issues in college and again after his rookie season. He is young, so perhaps he still develops, but he'll do so with constant pressure behind him.

"If you can't develop and want to build through the draft, then you're just sitting there with guys that can't play and they're young," one former Redskins coach said. "It becomes a double-edged sword and you're headed nowhere fast. Then you have to roll the dice in free agency and find a veteran player you hope can bail you out of that situation."

As Allen pointed out Tuesday, the Redskins have won titles multiple ways: from his father's ability to trade draft picks in the 1970s to finding bargain Plan B free agents in the 1980s. But owner Dan Snyder's era has produced seven double-digit loss seasons in the last 11.

The Redskins have drafted 34 players in the past four years: 14 on defense, 20 on offense. Of that group, eight project to be starters in 2014. Another player, tight end Logan Paulsen, went from undrafted in 2011 to starting tight end last year. Fullback Darrel Young switched positions and now is a starter.

The defense really needs to develop its own (the offense is much younger). Washington's D is in transition, with three starters in the secondary 30 or older and four top linemen in that same category. That means, if they want to build success, and then sustain it, they must hope that some of these players develop: Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas at safety and linebacker Keenan Robinson, as a long-term replacement for the retired London Fletcher. They need more youth along the front or for Jarvis Jenkins to blossom in his third playing season.

Two offseason moves could help: the hiring of inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and signing safety Ryan Clark. Olivadotti had a terrific reputation for working with young players in his first go-round with Washington, helping Brian Orakpo as a rookie. If Robinson is healthy -- after tearing a different pectoral muscle in each of his first two seasons -- then he has a shot because of Olivadotti.

As for Clark, maybe at 34 he has nothing left. Pittsburgh didn't think so. But he can still add value in Washington, desperate to solve a longtime hole at safety. Clark, who almost always has been a part of a good secondary, starting in college, can provide more help in getting players from one point in their career to another. He's not afraid to call out players -- star players too -- and let them know what's not acceptable. He'll also guide them just as much. Clark will be as much a coach on the field as anyone.

The Redskins don't have a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, so a lot of their selections this weekend won't provide immediate help. But if the Redskins develop their own, they will build a foundation that they've too often lacked.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
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Apparently, not everyone thinks adding more pass-rushers is a good idea. So it says in one of the questions -- I have my own thoughts on the matter in Part 1 of the mailbag. And why do the Redskins stink in prime-time games? Could it be something other than, well, they've been bad most of the past decade? More draft questions, too. Enjoy
 
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some highlights from Jay Gruden’s hour-long press gathering at the owners meetings:

1. He’s OK if linebacker Brian Orakpo plays out the season on the franchise tag. Sounds like he and the organization wants to see if his production increases, thanks to the promise of being turned loose more and also having an outside linebackers coach.

2. They will move Shawn Lauvao to left guard and keep Chris Chester at right guard. Gruden did not address Josh LeRibeus, but it’s clear from this move that there’s not a whole lot of confidence in him.

3. He certainly understands the importance of maximizing Robert Griffin III. He’s glad that Griffin needs to be reined in when it comes to his desire to push himself.

4. Gruden said if Griffin isn’t comfortable with the read option, they won’t run it as much. He also said he won’t try to stop him from running out of the pocket. Clearly, though, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. But Gruden wants Griffin to feel comfortable on the field. That’s a big issue.

5. He loves Jordan Reed.

6. Yes, they looked for some bigger linemen, but they want big guys who can move. As has been stated many times, they plan to use the same run-game schemes.

7. He’d like Alfred Morris to be a guy who could catch 20 to 25 passes a season. But he said Morris isn’t a natural pass-catcher; has work to do.

8. Gruden is a breath of fresh air. Though there are some things he can’t say, he was as honest as possible without crossing a line.

9. He’s not concerned about Griffin’s knee; wasn’t too deep on him playing without the brace and what it might mean. Why? Because he said the braces are so light these days.

10. He liked watching Chris Thompson at Florida State and seems anxious to work with him. But his durability is a major issue.

11. He said no teams have called about quarterback Kirk Cousins, but added that he wants “two great quarterbacks” because of Griffin’s style of play.

12. Gruden acknowledged he likes to have a lot of plays; apparently he was able to streamline that desire better during his time in Cincinnati. Does not want to overload Griffin, but says the third-year QB can handle a lot.

13. He mentioned the young safeties, but, again, I don’t get a sense that either Bacarri Rambo or Phillip Thomas will be the answer this season. Rambo’s play did not suggest he should be; Thomas’ foot and recovery from the Lisfranc injury makes him a question mark for now.

14. Gruden mentioned Andre Roberts’ versatility as a receiver. I don’t get the sense that the return position is solved by his arrival, however.

15. They're anxious to see Kory Lichtensteiger at center. As for Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, Gruden was a bit complimentary but I don't get the sense they're done looking for another possibility. Or, as they say, "more depth."

Resetting the roster: safety

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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Taking a look at the Redskins' safety position a week into free agency. Safety was said to be a primary target; it has not developed that way, however.

On the roster: Brandon Meriweather, Jose Gumbs, Trent Robinson, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas.

Added in free agency: None.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clark
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesVeteran Ryan Clark could be a short-term solution for the Redskins at safety.
In talks with: Ryan Clark. He visited last week and remains a possibility. He's also drawn interest from Baltimore and the New York Jets. There is no rush on his end to get a contract done so he's content to wait and see if the right offer materializes. Clark would be a short-term solution, but he could help develop some of the young players and be a respected voice in the meeting room.

Left in free agency: The Redskins haven't lost any safeties in free agency.

Still unsigned: Reed Doughty. The Redskins backup strong safety, who is always pressed into a starting role, might return. But there's definite division over whether or not that should be the case. The real problem has never been Doughty, but the organization's inability to find a full-time starter ahead of him.

Still on the market: Thomas DeCoud, Chris Clemons, Mike Adams. Really, the list is not long and not impressive. Atlanta cut DeCoud after a poor season; he's best suited most likely near the line of scrimmage. With Meriweather back that's not necessarily what the Redskins need. Clemons has not drawn a lot of interest on the market. The Dolphins opted for Louis Delmas, who barely practiced last season. Adams wasn't anything special for the Broncos, but can play in the box, too. They signed T.J. Ward, but he's more of a strong safety whereas Adams is a free safety. The Redskins clearly did not view the other safeties as better than Meriweather. But they failed in their quest to land Mike Mitchell, who ended up with Pittsburgh. I don't know how close the money was, but it's clear they're not as aggressive as they once were and, as one agent said, general manager Bruce Allen likes to "slow play" this process.

What it means thus far: It's not that the Redskins didn't view safety as a problem, but perhaps not to the extent that others did. By that, I mean almost everyone else. It's also true you can't solve every issue in one offseason. But they signed Meriweather to a one-year deal and it's hard to imagine Clark getting anything other than a one- or two-year deal. So that means Washington will be back in this spot relatively soon. However, it also gives them another year to see if one of the young players can develop -- or to draft someone in the second or third round and groom him for 2015. Perhaps one from among the group of four young safeties can develop in another year or so. Thomas must overcome a tricky Lisfranc injury; not impossible, but tough and it's not as if he was on the cusp of starting before getting hurt. In talking to several who scouted Rambo at Georgia, the problems he showed last year were the same he showed in college that caused NFL teams pause. Not a good sign. I can't imagine, though, that something else won't be done at this position.

Redskins combine prep: safeties

February, 19, 2014
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The Redskins selected two safeties last spring, but one (Phillip Thomas) missed the entire season with a foot injury and the other (Bacarri Rambo) did not look ready for a starting job anytime soon. That’s why they’ll have to take a serious look at the safeties in this draft, with a good chance to do so at the scouting combine over the next week.

Here are four safeties to watch:

Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois): He’s only 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, which is why he’ll still be around in the second round. ESPN's Mel Kiper wrote of Ward that he “isn’t a big player but is a very good one and looks as if he can start early. Likely a second-rounder.” He intercepted seven passes this past season. Ward played well at the Senior Bowl so another good showing at the combine obviously will help him. Ward plays aggressively and showed good coverage skills; he runs through the ball carrier when he tackles. Ward had to cover man (though he did not face great competition in the Mid-American Conference) and lined up at both safety spots. “I think he fits today’s NFL which is coverage ability,” Kiper said, “and the fact he’s around the action so much and makes so many impact plays.”

Antone Exum (Virginia Tech): He’ll be one to watch for any team seeking a safety in the middle rounds. Exum played both corner and safety at Virginia Tech so there’s some doubt over what he’ll play in the NFL. He missed most of last season because of a torn ACL. But he has good size (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) and could be a presence as a safety. Kiper rates him as the sixth best safety.

Dion Bailey (USC): He played both strongside linebacker and safety in college, but at 6-foot and 200 pounds, his NFL future is at the latter (it’s also where he played this past season). Kiper considers him the fifth best safety in the draft. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in coverage drills at the combine. Another player who should be available in the middle rounds.

Ahmad Dixon (Baylor): Kiper rated him as the eighth best safety. Dixon is projected by most as a fourth-round pick at best. Often played in the box at Baylor and played physical in this area. Dixon got in trouble for some hits and will need to fix this area to avoid fines (and penalties) in the NFL. After playing mostly zone (a lot of quarters coverage) in college, he has to show he can cover man and also move from free to strong. The Redskins like their safeties to play both spots.

Jawan Jamison signed off practice squad

December, 10, 2013
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It's not a move that's going to change the Washington Redskins' fortunes, but it is one that could give another young player a chance. Regardless, it's a nice holiday boost for rookie running back Jawan Jamison, who was signed to the active roster Tuesday.

Jamison is the sixth rookie to be on the roster this season. The only player in the seven-member draft class who will not have been on the active roster this season is fourth-round safety Phillip Thomas; he was placed on injured reserve before the season. But the class has a ways to go before it can be considered a good one. For now it looks like one that will yield one standout (tight end Jordan Reed), one contributor and potential starter (corner David Amerson) and a lot of question marks.

Jamison takes the roster spot vacated when Evan Royster was placed on injured reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Jamison, a seventh-round pick, spent the first 13 games on the practice squad. He did not stand out this summer, and barring injuries it's hard to see him doing much, if he's even active. Jamison was known at Rutgers for his ability to make defenders miss once past the line of scrimmage. He also did a nice job in pass protection, though he had a tougher time of that this summer when facing players bigger than those he competed against in college.
ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s tough to judge a draft in less than a year, let alone with four games remaining. But you can measure player' progress and try to gauge where they might be headed. Then you need to wait a couple years.

Thus far, when it comes to the 2013 draft, the Redskins have found one player capable of being outstanding (Jordan Reed) and another who has contributed all season (David Amerson). After that, there are a lot of question marks (as there should be after less than a full season) and potential role players. If you can get two quality starters and a couple key contributors from a seven-player draft, then you’ve done rather well. This class has a ways to go.

Amerson
Cornerback David Amerson (second round): He’s tackled better than I anticipated, especially after watching him in college. You see a lot of the same things from his N.C. State days -- an ability to make plays, but also getting sloppy with his technique at times. He still has all the skills you want and looks the part. He made a game-changing play against Oakland and had a big interception against San Diego. But in the latter game he also was beaten a few times, partly because his eyes were in the wrong place in certain coverages. Which is what happened in college. He can clearly play in the NFL, but can he be a solid starter -- not just start, but play at a higher level? Needs to show a lot more to go that far.

Reed
Tight end Jordan Reed (third round): Have liked him since early in camp because of his athleticism and ability to get open, and his work ethic. Can he stay healthy? That was a knock on him coming out of college, and he’s had to deal with a couple issues thus far, including his recent concussion. He’s a better blocker than I thought he’d be as a rookie. When he was drafted, I didn’t think he’d be a viable replacement right away for Fred Davis because of this. It took Davis a few years to learn to block. But a key point: Reed has worked much harder. It matters.

Strong safety Phillip Thomas (fourth round): On injured reserve. Impossible to say what he might have done; we didn’t see enough, nor did he get a chance to really work on his game once the preseason started because of his injury. I know the coaches liked his progress this summer. It’s a start.

Running back Chris Thompson (fifth round): Also on injured reserve. Made no impact when healthy. In the preseason he looked fast, but that wasn’t the case in the regular season as he misjudged the speed of those trying to tackle him on returns. Because of his size and past injuries, durability always will be an issue. That will limit his role even if he does come through. He has the speed (and quick acceleration) you want, but needs plenty of work. Speed alone won’t cut it.

Linebacker Brandon Jenkins (fifth round): I don’t buy the idea that he would have been a first-round pick had he stayed healthy. He looked like a raw pass-rusher this summer, albeit one who was worth developing. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, which is understandable given who’s ahead of him at linebacker. For now he looks like a role player who, because of his size and ability to run, needs to develop on special teams as well. But I’m intrigued to see how he develops. He showed flashes last summer, but a lot of guys do. Year 2 will tell a lot.

Safety Bacarri Rambo (sixth round): Opened as the starter, but more so because of who the Redskins didn’t have than for his own performance. He tackled poorly, wasn’t a good special teamer and deserved to be pulled. He had the reputation as a ballhawk in college, yet he doesn’t make plays (didn’t see it in practice or games). I love how he’s responded -- he’s tackled much better since his return. The next four games will help him. Regardless, safety will remain an offseason priority. They need a quality starter at this position. If Rambo can develop into a quality backup and special-teamer, then he’s a good sixth-round pick.

Running back Jawan Jamison (seventh round): Still on the practice squad. Wasn’t wowed by him this summer, though there were things to like (ability to make defenders miss with a little second-level wiggle).
*Even if Brandon Meriweather wins an appeal on his two-game suspension, he might still end up serving one game. Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson earlier this season and then-Baltimore safety Ed Reed a year ago both had their one-game suspensions reduced to fines. By giving Meriweather two games the NFL, it would appear, made it so that if the suspension were reduced he’d still sit out a game. I'd imagine someone with Meriweather's repeat offender history would have a hard time getting it reduced to just a fine. Meriweather has three days to appeal the ruling that was handed down Monday.

*The Redskins’ safety situation goes back to their inability to develop a player at that position or find a solution via free agency. They signed an aging O.J. Atogwe right before the lockout. Some executives and scouts I had spoken with said Atogwe was done -- and had been for a year. He turned out to be slow and ineffective. And done. They followed it up a year later by signing a two-time drug offender in Tanard Jackson who was then ... suspended indefinitely (and remains out) for drugs. They signed a player in Meriweather with a history of undisciplined play. Yes, at times he has helped them and when he’s going good the defense is better, but they’re in a bind now because of ... undisciplined play. They signed another aging vet in Madieu Williams, who was only supposed to be a backup but was forced into starting. And looked like an aging vet.

[+] EnlargeReed Doughty
AP Photo/Greg TrottReed Doughty has been a steady contributor at safety for the Redskins.
*This position has been greatly affected by the salary-cap penalty. I’m quite sure they would have signed someone of a higher caliber than the guys they had to settle on. But remember, their first choice a few years ago was Atogwe, back when the cap wasn’t an issue. So there’s no guarantee. But it has to be a top priority in the offseason.

*The only steady player at safety has been veteran Reed Doughty, who was here before this regime. Doughty gets a terrible rap by the fans, but he’s the lone player they can count on -- no off-field worries; no undisciplined play, etc. He’s best as a backup, but he’s a quality one and the Redskins are fortunate he’s still around. He does his job and the coaches know exactly what they’ll give them; they can work with that.

*Yes, they allowed LaRon Landry to leave. Given his two-year run of Achilles' issues, that was a 50-50 call and Landry wasn't all that thrilled with the Redskins' training staff, so he was looking to get out. Even coaches here who liked him were quick to bring up his health long before he left. Landry played every game last season but has missed four because of a high-ankle sprain this year with the Indianapolis Colts.

*Drafting and developing has been a problem too. The Redskins haven’t selected a safety above the fourth round, but they’ve had misfortune (2012 seventh-rounder Jordan Bernstine with terrible ligament tears that ended his time here; 2013 fourth-rounder Phillip Thomas with a Lisfranc injury) and some who didn’t develop (2011 fifth-rounder DeJon Gomes). They also have rookie Bacarri Rambo, a sixth-round pick who went from starter the first two games to inactive the past three.

*Being inactive is a reflection on Rambo’s special-teams performance. But if you lose your starting job, one way to get it back is to become a force on special teams. Defensive coaches love guys like that; also says something about how you respond. If and when Rambo gets back on the field he'll have a lot to prove. He was not ready to start initially (sixth-round picks rarely are) and his inclusion in the lineup always was as much about what they didn't have as what he could do.

*My preseason prediction of who would start at safety? Meriweather and Doughty. Why? Because it’s very, very tough for a rookie low-round pick to become an instant starter with how much they had to adjust to from college and learn. Maybe Thomas and Rambo become the starters in future seasons, but it’s way too early to believe that definitely will happen.

*What could save them, or at least help them, is the versatility of their corners. That’s something they talked about after the draft, following their selection of corner David Amerson. For now, he’s not the versatile one. But they can use E.J. Biggers in a safety role and they have used Josh Wilson in a variety of roles as well as DeAngelo Hall (more so in the past). You need to be a smart player to handle such a role. If they’re saved Sunday, this versatility will be part of the reason. It allows them to do more with their coverages, which has helped a great deal in recent weeks, until the second half Sunday. It hasn’t always worked, but the real issue in the opener versus Philadelphia, when Biggers started at safety, was having to be in a nickel front all game.

*I really don’t know what they’ll do in Meriweather’s place Sunday, though I’d imagine Biggers will play a key role. Can they really trust Jose Gumbs (nine career defensive snaps) or Trenton Robinson (zero career defensive snaps)? Against Peyton Manning? Re-sign Jordan Pugh? The pass rush will need to be outstanding Sunday.

Upon further review: Redskins Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday:

[+] EnlargeWashington Redskins
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPoor tackling plagued the Redskins in their loss to the Packers on Sunday.
Tackling woes: The Redskins' defense already had flaws; it added another one with its tackling. The Redskins consistently give high-powered offenses extra yards because they fail to tackle; they have allowed the most yards after contact this season (208) after ranking sixth in this area last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The problem is that teams are able to spread them out, preventing gang tackling at times. They’re not good enough, and not making enough plays, to overcome this issue. Teams will continue to get them in space, and Washington needs to prove it can tackle. Or else.

Quarterback runs: Is Robert Griffin III not running on zone-read options because of his knee? Because of how defenses are playing them? Because deficits forced the Redskins to abandon it? It’s a good question (why, thank you), and one we’ll try to answer throughout the week. Griffin’s timing in the pocket is off -- yes, a byproduct of missing so much offseason work from the knee injury. It can be subtle sometimes, but the difference in hitting a receiver on the correct shoulder can mean the difference between a 10-yard gain or 20. It adds up. One reason the Redskins gained so many yards after the catch last season was because of the chaos in the back end of defenses, fueled by late linebacker drops as they were worried about defending a multi-option run game.

Brandon Meriweather: There’s a dual issue here with Meriweather, starting with his health after leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion. He’ll now be monitored all week. So the Redskins will spend another week waiting to see whether Meriweather is able to play. Then you have to wonder what sort of punishment, if any, he’ll receive from the NFL. He was not flagged for either of his big hits, but replays showed him leading with his helmet on the first one against Eddie Lacy. Regardless, when he returns they need him more under control with his tackling -- and he needs to prove he can play for longer than a half without getting hurt. His continual health issues make the loss of Phillip Thomas even worse. But just think of the learning curve for a secondary with three rookies in prominent roles. UPDATE: Meriweather will be fined, but not suspended according to Adam Shefter.

Special teams: They’ve flown under the radar a little bit because of the problems elsewhere. But they shouldn’t. The special teams have not done anything to help. That goes for the returns, where rookie Chris Thompson is averaging 19.7 yards on six kick returns and 4.7 yards on three punt returns; one good runback would boost either number. Gunner Niles Paul and long-snapper Nick Sundberg both received 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties Sunday. In Sundberg’s case, the Redskins had pinned Green Bay at its own 10-yard line. It wasn’t a death sentence for the defense that the Packers then started at the 25-yard line. But right now every yard is huge for this defense. And Sav Rocca shanked a 25-yard punt that gave Green Bay the ball at its own 35 in the first quarter.

Redskins morning wake-up call

August, 14, 2013
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RICHMOND, Va. -- The Redskins conduct one practice Wednesday, starting at 12:40 p.m., a highly publicized workout for obvious reasons, as coach Mike Shanahan likes to say. Here's what I'll focus on:

1. Robert Griffin III's practice. Yes, today is finally the day when Griffin takes snaps in 11-on-11 work for the first time in training camp. A Redskins team official told ESPN earlier in the week that Griffin would be limited to facing the scout team. If that’s the case it will not be at the same speed as if would be against the No. 1 defense. Griffin is not scheduled to talk to the media Wednesday, which means it’s one less day to read between the lines and wonder about meanings of well-crafted phrases. But we’ll get thoughts on the latest step in his progress from Shanahan and teammates after practice. “I don’t need it on 'SportsCenter' every time he takes a rep,” Shanahan said, “so we’ll see how he practices and we’ll definitely have a plan for him over the next three days and we’ll talk about it after each practice.”

So, today, the focus will be on the field and not about the Shanahan-Griffin relationship, becoming the most scrutinized pairing since Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But, don’t worry, it’ll get back to that aspect soon enough I’m sure. One way to shelve it? Win games.

2. The Redskins’ secondary. With Phillip Thomas out for the year with a Lisfranc ligament tear, the Redskins have a roster spot they need to fill. The complicating matter in this situation is safety Brandon Meriweather’s health. He has yet to participate in a full practice on consecutive days. He’s recovering from ACL surgery last fall and is the starting strong safety, if healthy. Reed Doughty would start in his absence, but Thomas would have had a role, too. But if Meriweather is healthy -- which is still an if -- and Doughty is his backup, then the Redskins are OK here. DeJon Gomes can play in the box as well. They’re thin behind rookie free safety Bacarri Rambo; Thomas’ injury hasn’t changed that. It also means that someone who might have been cut before this injury will make the roster, whether it’s Gomes, a good special-teams player, or Jordan Pugh, mostly a free safety.

3. The Redskins’ backup offensive linemen. The coaching staff says the team has improved the depth at this spot, but the young guys are unproven in games and it’s clear they still have plenty to learn. In the snaps I watched 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus on Monday, he struggled against veteran Kedric Golston. But I’m curious how tackle Tom Compton and guard Adam Gettis look after getting game action last week. Put veteran tackle Tony Pashos on that list, too. He looks fine against backups, though I wonder about his quickness at this stage. He’s clearly ahead of veteran tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
So people seem to still want the links, so I'll keep rolling them out there for the time being.

Washington Redskins

Jason Reid thinks Robert Griffin III needs to stop questioning Mike Shanahan's plan for his recovery in public. I mean, I'm not down there, so maybe I'm reading things all wrong, but I don't see all the wrong everyone seems to be seeing in what Griffin said. And I'm really not comfortable with the idea of telling someone what to say and what not to say in their news conferences. Griffin and Shanahan need to get along, obviously, but there's little if any real evidence that they're not. The kid wants to play, and when someone asks him if he wants to play, he says yeah. But it's a terrible idea to play him in a preseason game right now, and it's Shanahan's job to make the right decision for him and for the team. Whether he likes it or not. Griffin appears to know this. I honestly don't see the problem.

And in case you missed this last night, rookie safety Phillip Thomas is out for the season with a foot injury. It's not a certainty that a healthy Thomas would have been a contributor in 2013, but given the Redskins' issues in the secondary it was a possibility. At the very least, he loses a year of development.

New York Giants

This is getting talked about a little bit more as Giants camp progresses, the idea that the Giants could show a few different looks on defense this year, including some 3-4-type alignments in the front seven. It's all in the name of staying flexible and trying to handle the many multiple facets they're seeing from opposing offenses these days. And training camp is about experimenting and figuring out what you can and can't handle.

Justin Tuck says he has a medical exemption to the NFL's new facemask rule, and won't have to change his look.

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant remembers being suspended for the final 10 games of his college career for lying to NCAA investigators, and he says he'll be mad if Johnny Manziel isn't suspended over his autograph controversy.

Ernie Sims still believes he has a chance to win the starting strongside linebacker job that appeared ticketed for newcomer Justin Durant.

Philadelphia Eagles

As the Eagles transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, much is justifiably being made of the challenge guys like Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are facing in new positions. But 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox is struggling with some of his assignments as a 3-4 defensive end as well, as the system tries to encourage him to do things with which he's not ultra-comfortable yet.

This year's first-round pick, Lane Johnson, is having a great camp on and off the field. He just became a dad.
Washington Redskins strong safety Phillip Thomas, part of a young secondary that viewed itself as the future, suffered a Lisfranc ligament tear of his left foot and will miss the season, coach Mike Shanahan said.

The fourth-round pick had been working with the Redskins’ second-string defense, though he started in place of Brandon Meriweather in the first preseason game.

Thomas suffered the injury in Washington’s preseason-opening win over Tennessee. On Saturday, Shanahan said initial X-rays had ruled out a fracture as well as a Lisfranc tear. But Thomas visited noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday. With the swelling subsided, Anderson took another X-ray, which showed the ligament tear. Thomas will undergo surgery and face a recovery period of four to five months.

Thomas was not projected to start this season, but the Redskins were hoping for increased depth at a shaky spot. A week ago defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said that Thomas had really figured out how to play in the box. He had started to figure out where to fit against various runs -- it changed based on numerous factors, much more than he had faced at Fresno State.

Because of that, it would not have been a stretch to see him work his way into the lineup, especially since Meriweather is coming off a torn ACL last season and has been limited much of camp. He did take most of the full-team reps Monday, but was held back Tuesday. The Redskins also have veterans Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes, both of whom are best suited as backups. The coaches like Doughty for how well prepared he is and for how he plays in the box. Gomes is better closer to the line as well, but can play deep.

"You lose a guy, the competition still goes on," Shanahan said. "We have a lot of quality players out there."

Redskins notes and observations

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
8:15
PM ET
Notes and observations from Washington Redskins training camp.
  • Safety Phillip Thomas will visit a foot specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, in North Carolina Tuesday to get another opinion on his mid-foot sprain. Coach Mike Shanahan said they just want to make sure there’s no setback. Thomas hurt his left foot in the preseason opener versus Tennessee. Receiver Donte' Stallworth, who re-aggravated his hamstring in that game, sat out practice because he’s still sore. And linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy sat out practice with a sore shoulder.
  • Safety Brandon Meriweather took his most extensive work in practice (the Redskins did not work in full pads) since training camp opened, a positive sign in his recovery after his 2012 ACL surgery. Shanahan was pleased with what he saw. "He had one breakup that I was impressed with down the field. Hopefully there is no setback,"Shanahan said.
  • Linebacker Nick Barnett worked for the first time since signing with Washington, taking snaps with the second-team defense. Barnett, recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, will be monitored closely.
  • Bacarri Rambo learned a lesson while playing against Tennessee on taking the proper angles and not stutter-stepping as he approaches a ball carrier, especially against one such as Chris Johnson. Monday, Rambo approached the shifty Roy Helu in the open field and though the Redskins were only in shells, he took a better angle and did not slow down en route to the ball. Now he needs for that to carry into a game. But having seen it live in the opener, he can now focus even harder on it in practice. Said this before, but that missed tackle could end up being a good thing for him.
  • Pat White didn’t build off his good fourth quarter against the Titans. The trouble he had before that game is the same one that showed up Monday: an inability to pull the trigger. On three straight possessions in full-team work White failed to throw the ball, scanning the field and not finding anyone and eventually pulling the ball down. He was off on other throws as well. There were some decent throws, but White is a ways away from being ready to make this roster. Just too hesitant.
  • Best pass and catch of the day in full-team work: Rex Grossman on a deep post to Dez Briscoe, who made a leaping catch as corner E.J. Biggers flew in front thinking he had a pick. He didn’t. But Biggers had the pick of the day, making a diving interception while flying over Leonard Hankerson's right shoulder. The ball was low and Biggers trapped the ball with his right forearm. Just a nice play.
  • I like the patience Jordan Reed is starting to show on his routes. It gave him problems earlier in camp, but he’s made progress. Reed also made an athletic grab, reaching up high to make a catch from Grossman, earning a “Good catch” from a teammate. Reed is still adjusting and the lost time in practice didn’t help, but he showed flashes Monday.
  • A point of emphasis for the quarterbacks on the run: keeping the ball alive as they run toward the line. It was a problem for Robert Griffin III last season and you can see the quarterbacks showing the ball with a little pump fake as they run, trying to keep the defense from sprinting up hard. The quarterbacks do this even when there’s no defense.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins is throwing with a lot of confidence in camp, fitting balls into tight windows at times. He threw a deep in-route to receiver Santana Moss in which Chase Minnifield had tight coverage. But Cousins put it so that it was just out of Minnifield’s reach and all Moss had to do is reach up and grab it.
RICHMOND, VA -- Veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth, on the bubble for a roster spot, still has a sore hamstring and likely won’t play in the second preseason game Aug. 19 against Pittsburgh. Stallworth missed time last week because of his hamstring and re-aggravated it against the Titans.

“He tried to play through it, but you could see it was bothering him in the game,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he hopes Stallworth, a 10-year veteran hoping to prolong his career, returns for the third preseason game against Buffalo.
  • Rookie safety Phillip Thomas will miss at least a few days with a sore left foot, which he injured in the preseason opener Thursday. But the good news for Thomas is that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said tests have ruled out a fracture or a Lisfranc injury.“They don’t think that’s a problem,” Shanahan said.Thomas started against the Titans, but only because veterans Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty did not play. Still, Thomas, a fourth-round pick, figures into their plans.
  • Undrafted free-agent linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough separated his right shoulder, but Shanahan isn’t yet sure when he’ll return. Shanahan said he’ll know better in a few days.
  • The Redskins cancelled practice Saturday because of a thunderstorm that hit the area. After not practicing Friday and with a scheduled day off Sunday, it could have been a problem. But Shanahan said he was pleased to cancel the workout. Because they don’t play again until Aug. 19, the Redskins will get five days of work next week.“I think the guy upstairs took care of me today,” Shanahan said. “I wasn’t sure about practicing. I felt we were sore as a team and needed rest so I was glad this happened. We had more guys on the injury report today than we have all season. We have plenty of time to practice and get done what we need to get done.”
  • Another on that injury list is rookie tight end Jordan Reed, who has a mid-foot sprain on his right foot and did not play against Tennessee. He would not have practiced Saturday. But he’s now able to walk without a protective boot. His status remains uncertain. Reed, a fourth-round pick, did not practice in the spring while recovering from a quad injury. His growth has been stunted because of the missed time, though with three veteran tight ends on the roster the Redskins can be patient with him. All four will probably make the roster.

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