NFC East: Ryan Clark

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.

Camp preview: Washington Redskins

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South


NFL Nation's John Keim examines the three biggest issues facing the Washington Redskins heading into training camp.

A rookie coach: Jay Gruden showed during the spring that he’ll coach with energy, creating a different vibe at Redskins Park. He’ll catch passes, defend receivers, throw a pass or two. And he looked for coaches who bring a similar energy. The difference was noticeable throughout the spring workouts open to the media.

Gruden, too, is a players’ coach, which can be viewed as positive or negative (all related to wins and losses).

Thus far, his relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III has been all positive. If that continues, it’s a major boost to the organization after the toxicity of last season, regardless of who was at fault. It helps that Gruden is able to keep his ego in check; you don’t get the sense that there are any ulterior motives with him.

Having said all that, we have no idea how Gruden will handle a season in charge. What if there’s an issue with Griffin? What if the defense doesn’t produce and he thinks the Skins need to tweak their scheme? Will Gruden be able to make those hard decisions when necessary? In-game and in-season adjustments matter greatly, and Gruden has to prove himself in this area. He was not a unanimous hotshot choice to be a head coach, but the Redskins believed in him and thought he could handle the job. But now a first-time head coach has to do what established coaches such as Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan failed to do: lead a consistent winner. And he has to do that with general manager Bruce Allen, who has all the football power for the first time in his career.

Robert Griffin III’s rise: Griffin was viewed as a savior in 2012, setting records as a rookie and helping the Redskins win the NFC East title for the first time since 1999. His future, and that of the organization, looked tremendous -- even though when they were 3-6 it appeared they had the right quarterback, but not the right team.

Then came last season. And harsh judgment on Griffin and his future. Even as a rookie there was skepticism about whether Griffin’s career could last given all the running he did (sometimes by design, other times by necessity and other times because of poor decision-making). But last season, his mechanical flaws were critiqued more harshly, and his ability to develop as a pocket passer was questioned. Meanwhile, anonymous-sourced stories abounded about his ability to lead the right way and develop as a passer.

Griffin went from a beloved figure two years ago to one who now engenders sharp opinions one way or another. Now his personality is even questioned. Griffin can regain the love, but he’ll have to turn a strong offseason into an even better regular season. His road to redemption is not a long one, but he just has to get it done. Considering this is the first real NFL offseason he’s had, it’s not a big leap to think he’ll play better than in ’13 – even in a new offense. The Redskins’ ability to give him quicker reads with receivers more capable of winning at the line will help.

Where's the D? Washington improved its pass rush by adding a coach devoted to it (Brian Baker), signing a free agent (Jason Hatcher) and drafting another outside linebacker (Trent Murphy). That, combined with holdovers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, should give the rush a boost. Corner David Amerson gives the Redskins a young player, whom they love, to build around in the secondary.

But will that be enough to improve the defense? There are plenty of other question marks on a defense that remains in transition. Washington might have as many as five starters age 30 or older; this is not a once-great defense hanging on, it’s a once-struggling defense trying to get better. The D will receive a boost from the above additions, but still needs more.

The Redskins have to prove they are not a boom-or-bust defense. They tackled poorly in the back end last year, one reason they ranked 32nd in yards per pass attempt at 7.58. They have a new starting inside linebacker, Keenan Robinson; since being drafted in 2012, he has 11 career tackles, two torn pectoral muscles and zero starts. Safety Ryan Clark has been a solid player and is a terrific leader, but he needs to show he can still play at age 34. If a defense needs to be strong up the middle to win, the Redskins have this: a solid nose tackle in Barry Cofield, question marks at inside linebacker, and question marks at safety. While Griffin’s play garners the headlines, the defense holds a major key to success.
The sad part of the tale for Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson is that he got another chance. And another one. And another one.

Jackson
And now he deserves no more, after news Wednesday that the NFL has suspended Jackson again for violating the NFL's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. It's sad because he keeps doing this to himself. It's sad because whatever he's doing with his personal life now has such a hold on him that he's tossed away a precious career, one that could have set himself and his family up for life.

Now, it's no longer about football for him -- and, in truth, it hasn't been for a while. Rather, it's about beating a far tougher opponent than what he faced on the field, one that could destroy him. Yes, Jackson has made bad choices. Yes, he put himself on this path. But do you really think this is the path he wants? Being suspended four times by the NFL, causing anguish for his family and personal embarrassment? Taking drugs puts your life on a slippery slope; you can choose to do them for a while and then, after a while, they choose for you.

My colleague Mike Jones pointed this out on Twitter earlier Wednesday, but it's true: When asked in May about changes he had made to his lifestyle, Jackson really didn't have a lot to say. It would have been easy to say he stopped going to certain areas, or that he'd been in rehab, or he stopped hanging around certain people. He did talk about having to change his lifestyle. The problem is, issues with drugs become a shadow, something that's impossible to outrun without a lot of work or help.

When he returned, the Redskins were not expecting a lot from him unlike when they signed him in 2012 and anticipated him being a starter. They were left with an ineffective Madieu Williams when Jackson was suspended that August.

Now they have Ryan Clark, who was firmly ahead of Jackson on the depth chart. He's reliable, available and a leader. The only way Jackson would have bumped him from the lineup is if Clark's play had slipped. Or if Jackson had somehow regained some past glory.

I also thought it was a little odd that Jackson was not in great shape when he returned. I would have thought he'd have been working hard to get ready and take this last chance seriously. It wasn't as if he was grossly out of shape, but he admitted that staying in shape wasn't at the top of his priority list. No, it most certainly shouldn't have been. But it should have been part of an overall package of turning his life around.

Again, it's a shame. Jackson did this to himself, and he knows it. He didn't let fans down, he let himself down. And, yes, while I know some do not have any sympathy for him, he still warrants it. You know him as a player; he's more than that. His career is over. But his fight continues.

Jay Gruden energizes Redskins

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
12:45
PM ET
Jay Gruden AP Photo/Nick WassIn a short time, Jay Gruden has brought a more relaxed atmosphere to the Washington Redskins.
The energy is different, as it always is when there’s a new coach. New drills, new voices, a new vibe, new storylines that don’t involve backroom drama. The Washington Redskins needed it, badly, after a 3-13 season punctuated by anonymous swipes at star players and a few at the coaches. Reputations were altered; the direction of the franchise changed.

Life is calmer now for the Redskins. (Well, if you don’t count the storm over their nickname.) That’s the result of hiring Jay Gruden, whose candor, insight and friendliness provides the franchise a breath of fresh air. But also an unknown: Though opinion around the NFL was split on his hiring, Gruden has passed the first test of his tenure by laying a solid foundation. And the Redskins head into training camp next month energized.

It’s about a new trust, felt by players and coaches. Gruden has made it clear from the get-go: This is about the players. There’s a different level of ownership by the players and even some of the coaches. Maybe it helps that Gruden took a different path to reach this point, starring in the Arena League for many years, but he coaches without much of an ego, or at least not one that overwhelms him. He didn’t come to Washington with a system, he came with beliefs in what he wanted to run and fused them with what worked well here in the past. Not all coaches operate that way.

Any change after such a disastrous season feels like a good one. Any new voice feels like the right one, especially when the new guy is a lot different than the old one. Mike Shanahan loved having total control; Gruden favors delegating authority. Shanahan did not jump into drills to provide a look for the offense (others would); Gruden will do just that. Not that one way is the right way. And, of course, one of them won Super Bowls and the other hasn’t won an NFL game yet. That’s why, for now, all we know is that the offseason has been a mostly good one for the Redskins.

Griffin
The feel-good offseason started with quarterback Robert Griffin III’s work. He got the necessary work in that he could not get last season because of his knee. He worked hard on his mechanics and will continue to do so; he looked much more relaxed around Gruden than under Shanahan. He’s not wearing a brace; he can be more himself. He’s as confident as he’s been in a while.

However, Griffin also is still learning to be a pocket passer. That doesn’t just mean throwing a pass from the pocket, but also knowing when to run and where and how quickly to go from your first option to your second or third. It doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t do it, but it does mean there’s an ongoing transition that will take time. Nor does it mean he won’t make plays in the process. If he’s more himself, why wouldn’t he? There are things he does well as a passer; the trick for Gruden is incorporating those while he improves in other areas. Knock the Shanahans all you want, they coaxed a terrific season from a rookie quarterback two years ago.

Jackson
DeSean Jackson’s arrival might not be the same feel-good story because there’s some risk involved, but it certainly can be cause for optimism. The guy is a playmaker; the Redskins needed a playmaker.

But Jackson is an emotional player, and the Redskins need to successfully harness that and know how to deal with him. The good news for Washington is that Griffin made it a point to learn what motivates Jackson and bond with him. That helps now; it needs to pay off during the season.

The defense can feel good, too. It added pass-rushers in Jason Hatcher and, the Redskins hope, Trent Murphy. They have a vocal leader at safety in Ryan Clark. They’ve added two outstanding linebacker coaches in Kirk Olivadotti (inside) and Brian Baker (outside), the latter of whom has focused heavily on pass rush techniques. They’ve talked a great game about a more aggressive pass rush.

Hatcher
Hatcher
But as the Redskins exit the spring, Hatcher is coming off knee surgery, joining two other key players along the defensive line in that regard. The defense might have five starters 30 years or older and there are questions about what certain players have left.

Then there’s Gruden. Players have talked about the new energy in practices, stemming from him and his new hires. Coaches like him because they have more freedom -- to hire, to implement ideas, to coach. It matters. It’s too early to say he changed the culture; Shanahan was said to have done the same thing. But Gruden has changed the mood. There’s a different level of passion, stemming from his energy and the coaches. It rubs off on players. Because of that, it (should) enable him to command the room, a pre-hire criticism. That is, as long as you bring in the right players who won’t abuse that trust. It’s a fine line.

Is he organized enough? That was a knock before he was hired. Then again, his offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, is ultra-organized. Can Gruden command the room? How will he handle it if the defense struggles and he feels they should tweak or change their coverages or philosophy? Or how will he handle in-game adjustments, clock management? Player discipline?

We’ve learned a lot about Gruden, but there’s so much more to learn -- questions that can’t be answered until the season begins. Until then, the Redskins can feel optimistic. They’ve been at this point before. The next step has always been the hardest.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
12:30
PM ET
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.
They wanted more versatility, giving them the ability to fool the quarterback or at least make him wonder. And that would give the rush an extra second, they hope, to make a difference.

"As you know, great quarterbacks," Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last week, "if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezCan Brian Orakpo & Co. give coordinator Jim Haslett a bevy of options to work with in the coming season?
The latter part has been an issue for a while. The ability to be exotic will help coordinator Jim Haslett, but it won't cure all. Still, is the Redskins' defense more versatile?

Let's take a look:

The Redskins do have some versatility up front. Chris Baker can line up at either end or nose tackle and can play in the nickel. Barry Cofield plays nose, but can rush in nickel. Jason Hatcher can play end and serve as a legitimate interior rusher.

Stephen Bowen's effectiveness as a rusher decreased the past two years and he's now coming off an injury. So it's tough to include him with the others for now. Jarvis Jenkins can play either end, but has yet to prove he's a quality pass-rusher.

Still, they do have more versatility along the front with an improved Baker and the addition of Hatcher. Is it enough?

They also have it at outside linebacker where they now have three players who can line up in a variety of ways to rush the passer with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and now Trent Murphy. All three are fine rushing with their hand down or standing up; from both sides or even through the middle. Now, whether Murphy will be effective in doing so, it's impossible to say without having seen him in a game. But, in theory, it provides options for Haslett and the ability to use different looks and a better variety of blitzes.

But what that group offers is not just the ability to move around, but to provide different looks for a tackle (or even a guard). After blocking Orakpo much of the game, a left tackle might not be prepared for, say, Murphy's spin move. They can throw a curve at a player just by sending someone different at the right time. At least that's what the Redskins hope. Everything always sounds good at this time of the year.

I'm not sold yet that Brandon Jenkins is at this point; need to see more proof of his versatility. Rob Jackson can help, but he's not as versatile as the others.

They do have some versatility at corner with a couple players having the ability to line up at safety. Both DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers have done so in the past, though there's a difference between lining up there and being effective in this role. Neither is really a great option back there to defend the run, but in providing a different look in coverage? Sure. It's also about being able to play different coverages and they'll have to prove they can; too many teams picked them apart last season and it wasn't just because of the rush.

Also, one reason they wanted to draft corner David Amerson was his ability to perhaps do the same thing. He did not do this as a rookie. He has the skills to be more versatile, but I'd worry about the eye discipline among other things needed to handle this role. But it's a next logical step for him. Rookie Bashaud Breeland could develop here, but he needs to learn corner first -- and how to play it without being too grabby.

However, they don't have the versatility at safety. They lack a starting player who can cover man to man (we have no idea yet what Tanard Jackson still has left, let alone if he'll even start or can handle such a role). Brandon Meriweather did enable them to sometimes run different coverages because he had the speed others did not to get to vacated areas -- like when they want to blitz a corner from the outside, not just the slot. But he's far removed from his Pro Bowl days, so mistakes are made and tackles are missed.

Ryan Clark's strength was always in being in the right place at the right time, dissuading the quarterback from challenging his area. He's lasted this long because he's smart. If he does that again, the Redskins would be happy. But occasionally covering man-to-man? That's different. And if the Redskins want to grow the defense the next step is finding someone who can. The more versatile the secondary is, the more you can throw off a quarterback with various looks.

Redskins offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Washington Redskins’ offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins hope Trent Murphy, who had 15 sacks in 2013, can breathe life into the pass rush.
Best move: Improving the pass rush. Washington's rush the past two seasons was too inconsistent and lacked variety. Signing Jason Hatcher to provide an interior push and drafting Trent Murphy to add to the creativity part -- it gives the Redskins potentially three outside linebackers who can rush -- should make a difference. Murphy, obviously, has to prove his worth but the fact that they continued to address the rush is pivotal and telling. They also helped here by adding linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist.

Riskiest move: Signing receiver DeSean Jackson. His reputation took a big hit after his release in Philadelphia, but the Redskins knew he was risky before certain stories were written. Jackson has major playmaking potential, but he also must prove the stories about his work ethic and approach aren't true. If so, he'll provide a big boost. The Redskins did mitigate the risk by giving him a contract that would provide cap savings after only two years if they cut him.

Most surprising move: Not doing more at safety. The Redskins signed veteran Ryan Clark to start at free and mentor young players, re-signed Brandon Meriweather and returned once-suspended Tanard Jackson. They did not draft a safety. They need the young players to develop or they'll be trying to stock this position again.

Under the radar move: Bolstering special teams. The Redskins signed a handful of quality special-teamers and found players in the draft who could provide immediate help in this area. They brought in linebackers Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, who can provide help. They drafted Murphy and Bashaud Breeland, who should provide more. It wasn't talked about enough, but it's an important development.
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.
The Redskins knew Tanard Jackson would be reinstated soon. What they don’t know is how much help he can provide. For the time being, he’s considered a bonus. If he works out, that’s great. If not, they won’t be harmed.

As long as the Redskins continue to take that approach, they can’t be let down -- as they were two years ago. But it also should not, and will not, alter their plans on draft day. One team source said there's nothing they will or won't do based on Jackson.

Jackson
While I’ve heard they view Jackson as likely being more productive than a rookie would be, it’s tough to really know that considering how little he has played lately. He has missed two straight seasons and has played in only 10 games since 2010.

So if a safety they like a lot somehow falls to them at No. 34, then the Redskins would and should draft him. Of course, that assumes they like that safety over a handful of other spots they'd like to address. It would be a serious mistake -- and a big leap of faith -- to pass on someone just because Jackson has been reinstated. The previous time they counted on him, it left them with Madieu Williams as the starting free safety.

At least now they have Ryan Clark ahead of him. But they still need more at this position, especially if the young safeties don’t develop.

Jackson was just starting to play really well, albeit in preseason, when the NFL suspended him in 2012. But he was active and all over the field and definitely looked like a player who would help. I remember talking to him about how well he was doing and how he was starting to look like his old self -- pre-shoulder injury, pre-suspensions. But he also was more subdued than I would have expected for a guy rounding into form. A couple of days later I learned why: I had spoken to him before he had been suspended (something that had been in the works for a while).

The Redskins have been able to plan for a little while for Jackson’s reinstatement -- it was not a secret that this was a possibility -- but there are still so many unanswered questions.

What sort of shape is he in? CSN Washington’s Rob Carlin spoke with Jackson about this in the fall. Still, it’s hard on anyone to be away this long and still be in the sort of shape necessary to play in the NFL. How much of the defense has he retained? This isn’t a huge deal because he’ll have plenty of time to learn. The Redskins have added to their defense since Jackson was suspended, but again, there’s plenty of time. It helps that he'll have the same defensive bosses: Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris, the latter of whom also coached Jackson in Tampa Bay.

Can he stay clean this time? Of all these questions, this is the only one Jackson should truly be worried about, given his history.

And one more: Can he still play? Another question that can’t be answered anytime soon. It’s not just about the seasons missed, it’s about the training, being around the game, sitting in meetings and working out in the offseason. Jackson turns 29 in July, so he’s still in his prime, albeit late. But this is a lot to overcome.

The Redskins aren’t expecting much from Jackson. That’s the best approach to take. Anything they get would then be a bonus.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
1:10
PM ET
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
 
In the fifth part of our re-examining series, I take a look at cornerback where the Redskins made a couple moves, though only one key addition. Already this week I've discussed safeties, the pass rush, receivers and the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDeAngelo Hall is back for his seventh season in Washington.
What they’ve done: Re-signed DeAngelo Hall, re-signed E.J. Biggers, signed Tracy Porter, let Josh Wilson leave via free agency.


Problem solved: Tough to say that considering it’s largely the same group that’s returning. But the corner play wasn’t nearly the same issue as safety. Porter is coming off a solid year and should be improved over Wilson in the slot in coverage. Amerson’s progression will be a big key here. Hall isn’t going to get better but if he duplicates last season they’d be happy; Biggers is fine as a fourth corner. They still could use one more corner to compete with Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford. Overall this group still has a lot to prove.

Projected starters: Hall and Amerson with Porter in the slot.

What must happen: Amerson must be able to handle a starting role after serving as the No. 3 corner during his rookie season. Amerson definitely improved throughout the year, cutting down on his mental lapses in coverage. He was better with his eyes throughout the play later in the year. He learned to play press coverage last season, which should be a good tactic for him because of his long arms. He needs to show consistency and prove he can handle consistently tougher assignments as a starter (though it’s not as if he only played lesser receivers; he did a good job vs. Denver’s Eric Decker, for example). Amerson will have to show he can handle run game duties, too.

Porter has to play at a comparable level to 2013 -- I know what some rankings say about him, but those who watched him every game and in practice called him the Raiders' most consistent corner. In the games I watched of him this offseason (Indianapolis, Denver and Dallas), he was solid. He showed good patience in the slot while facing receivers such as Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Miles Austin (and occasionally Eric Decker or even Dez Bryant, who was a mismatch inside against him). When Porter allowed bigger catches, it typically came off an excellent move and good throw because he still had tight coverage. He’s willing to play the run, but Wilson was stronger in this area. And Porter showed he could blitz from the slot. Porter’s previous seasons weren't that strong, which is why he’s on his fourth team in four years. Injuries have been an issue in his career; last season was his first playing 16 games and only his second of more than 12. So staying healthy is a big key. Hall needs to maintain the same level of intensity he showed in 2013 when facing many top receivers. He played well and was most effective in press coverage. Hall also turns 31 this season and he was not as consistent in other coverages.

Address in the draft: Sure, but not until the later rounds. It would be a waste to select a corner in the second round knowing they would serve as a No. 4 at best. It’s not like, say, outside linebacker where they’d be used in packages to bolster the pass rush. What if the corner is by far their best on the board? OK. But short of that, they can address the position later in the draft and try to develop the player. They need depth right now, not starters (you can debate the quality of them; but they’re invested and it’s not a need). Next year? Different story. Minnifield and Crawford still have something to prove; the former spent most of the year on the practice squad and the latter missed all season with multiple torn ligaments. It’s asking a lot to expect him to be at the same level he was entering camp last summer. When he entered camp he and the coaches felt good about how he had improved in the slot. The feisty Minnifield has to show he can be effective in more coverages than just press.

Last word: This group will definitely be helped by increased quarterback pressure. Too often last season the coverages didn’t seem to match the rush, for whatever reason. And when they’d play zone, that’s when they’d get into trouble. They’re not good enough to just play press man all day. Few corners are so they must be able to play a variety of coverages. But if you know the pressure will get home, then you can play tighter even in zones. If safety Ryan Clark has anything left, he’ll also help in two ways: making sure everyone is lined up right (sounds little, but it’s not) and providing trust that he’ll be where he’s supposed to, allowing the corners to play accordingly. It matters.

Here's what I know as of Tuesday morning regarding receiver DeSean Jackson and the Redskins:
  • There is not yet a deal, according to multiple sources. But to say it doesn't look promising for the Redskins would be wrong. Very wrong. However, I've seen them close to making other big acquisitions over the years only to lose out at the last minute (Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal). So until a contract is signed, nothing is done. Various reports out of Philadelphia have called it a done deal (97.5's Tim McManus and ABC-6's Jeff Skversky). Skversky caught up with Jackson at Dulles airport. Perhaps that's what Jackson is telling people. Royal told people the same thing a couple of years ago. So did Cutler. Hence the caution.
  • Would I be surprised if it doesn’t happen? At this point, yes. And I think those who have spent time around Jackson in the past few days would say the same thing. One person said he was very confident it would happen.
  • Jackson will visit Redskins Park Tuesday and meet with the coaches and members of the front office. He dined with some of the coaches Monday night.
  • Though I wonder if this is a unanimous decision in the organization, I was told that coach Jay Gruden really wants Jackson. I was also told that Jackson was very, very high on his desire to join the Redskins. When both sides really want something, it's the first, second and third steps toward making that happen. But even the person who said Jackson was that high on the Redskins acknowledged that the money had to be right. So desire won't trump all.
  • There is a great deal of excitement by the players over Jackson's potential arrival and what could be done in this offense. There's a sense by some that Jackson is driven as much by his late father as anything and that he's not as bad as portrayed.
  • And the addition of safety Ryan Clark adds even stronger leadership in the locker room to help diffuse any potential situations. Some things always pop up, but some players need more attention.

Jay Gruden: 'We've made progress'

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
1:00
PM ET
The Redskins bypassed the expensive talent, knowing they needed more than one or two players. So they opted to rebuild their 3-13 roster a different way: by adding depth. Naturally, that pleased their coach.

Jay Gruden sees a roster that’s already improved. Yes, he should say that regardless.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaCoach Jay Gruden said he's pleased with how the Redskins have added depth at inside linebacker.
“We’ve made a lot of progress as far as our team’s concerned with free agency,” he said. “The big thing with free agency was we needed some players to help our depth.

“Obviously, we wanted to get everybody, but you have to have a plan of attack. You have to circle certain guys or a position and really go after it and come out of free agency with something because there’s no guarantee that you can get even the top guy that you have as a priority. So, I think we did a great job and I’m happy where we’re at.”

They obviously added an interior pass-rusher in Jason Hatcher and three inside linebackers (two of whom, Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, will compete for the starting job).

“We attacked very well,” Gruden said of that position. “We answered that [inside linebacker position]. We added some good players and it’s going to be a very competitive position in training camp.”

Those moves provided Washington help on special teams, giving them a key for any good unit: bigger guys who can run. All three have carved out careers because of their work there, even when they’ve started. The Redskins lacked enough players like this a year ago and the results showed. They still need to work on this area at safety. When you have good safety and linebacker depth, special teams benefits.

They’ve also added offensive line depth, with Shawn Lauvao, who will start at left guard, and Mike McGlynn, who gives them an experienced backup.

“Some of the marquee guys just got a lot of money, and good for them,” Gruden said. “We needed more quantity as opposed to just one guy at a huge price. I think we went about it the right way.”

While there were rumblings in some circles that the stain of Washington’s finish, and the drama surrounding it, was an issue for some free agents, Gruden said it wasn’t for those they met.

They’re still awaiting word from receiver Kenny Britt and safety Ryan Clark. Both visited; both remain possibilities. Tight end Owen Daniels also visited, but it does not appear anything is imminent with him. Gruden said he knows how players are eventually lured somewhere.

“This is a heck of a franchise, but when it’s all said and done it’s usually about the money -- usually,” Gruden said. “There are some teams I wouldn’t think would get any players. It wasn’t an issue, really. The type of players we have in place with DeAngelo Hall and [Brian] Orakpo and Robert [Griffin III] and Pierre Garcon, this is an attractive franchise for players.”
It was a busy day Thursday and there could be more action Friday. So let's take a look ahead and then look back:

Scheduled visits
CB Walter Thurmond
Note: I have not heard that his visit has been cancelled after the Tracy Porter signing and interest in Brandon Browner. So as of now it looks like he’ll still visit here (originally scheduled for Friday). He also has visited with Jacksonville and tweeted Thursday that he was visiting with San Francisco that afternoon. Lots of frequent-flyer mile potential here.

CB Brandon Browner
Note: The Redskins just signed Tracy Porter, but clearly want to add more corners to go with DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. They want to upgrade this position, but I also wonder what they have in mind because every one of these corners is capable. I have a tough time believing Thurmond or Browner or Porter, based on their experience, would want to be a fourth corner. The NFL Network reported Thursday night that Browner had agreed to a deal with New England. But Browner’s agent, Peter Schaffer, vehemently denied a deal had taken place to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But Schefter reported this morning that Browner will visit with New Orleans after his stop in Washington (while also negotiating with New England and Oakland).

TE Owen Daniels
Note: Daniels arrived Thursday night and will leave after a visit Friday. He visited with Green Bay, but the Packers re-signed tight end Andrew Quarless afterward so it’s uncertain if the Packers still have any interest. The Redskins could use another pass-catching tight end to pair with Jordan Reed, coming off a concussion and limited to nine games as a rookie last season. They still like Logan Paulsen, but he’s a blocker. Niles Paul has not developed into that second pass-receiving threat after two years playing the position. Daniels has 365 career receptions, including 62 in 2012. But he was limited to five games and 24 receptions this past season because of a fractured fibula. Houston cut Daniels earlier this offseason. Given his age (31) and some durability concerns (he’s missed a combined 18 games the past four seasons, but only two in 2011 and ’12), he’d probably be best in a role where he’s not the primary pass-catching tight end. If healthy, he'd also provide good insurance in case Reed isn't durable.

Players of interest
OT Donald Penn
Note: The former Tampa Bay tackle’s first stop will be in Oakland. There’s a feeling that Penn’s play dropped off a decent amount at left tackle last season, but that a move to right tackle could be a good one -- and that’s what the Redskins would want him to play.

Waiting on
FS Ryan Clark
Note: He visited Thursday and, according to agent Joel Turner, it was “very good.” Of course, that’s how they’re usually termed; sort of like every surgery an athlete has was successful until we find out later that it wasn’t. Still, it must have been pretty good because both sides were still talking after it was over. Clark has interest from other teams, but his agent declined to say where he was headed next -- or to characterize the negotiations with Washington. Stay tuned on this one.

LB Anthony Spencer
Note: He visited Thursday as well and the Redskins remain in talks with him. If healthy, he's an excellent linebacker (or, at least, he was before 2013). Spencer played just one game last season because of microfracture knee surgery, and he's also 30. But if he can still play, Spencer could be used as a situational pass-rusher and, depending on his deal, provide insurance in case Brian Orakpo leaves after this season. Spencer played mostly on the left side in Dallas, but would occasionally flip to the right.

Done Deals
CB Tracy Porter
Note: Experienced in the slot and coming off his best season, but now playing with his third new team in three years since leaving the New Orleans Saints.

DL Jason Hatcher
Note: He'll turn 32 before the season, but will fit nicely in the Redskins’ defense with his ability to play outside in a base package and inside in their nickel. One Redskins source said Hatcher's ability to disrupt against them last year was the best they had seen in a couple years.

DL Clifton Geathers
Note: He's a big fella at 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds. In a game of leverage, that sort of height can be difficult. Last season with Philadelphia was the first time he had played in all 16 games since entering the league in 2010. He’s worth taking a shot on because the Redskins already have some depth at this position so it's not as if they're in trouble if he can’t play.

LB Daryl Sharpton
Note: Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, which could explain why he signed for just one season. If healthy he could start. He’s considered better against the run, but that’s what the Redskins want first and foremost from this position.

He’s out?
OL Bruce Campbell
Note: For a guy who has done nothing in his career (nine games, zero starts, let go by two teams), he’s sure been mentioned a lot. The contract he agreed to showed up on the NFLPA site, but it was never signed. The Washington Post reported that he underwent shoulder surgery this past fall (he was not on a roster) and that could have led to an issue with his physical. But according to The Baltimore Sun, Campbell will visit with the New York Giants. Yes, it happens where one team has an issue in the physical but another team does not. There's still a chance he ends up back in Washington. But considering the agreed-upon deal was for one year and worth a maximum of $715,000 this season, he's far from a lock to make the roster even if he does eventually sign.

Ryan Clark to visit Redskins

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
5:15
PM ET
The Washington Redskins' hole at safety could be filled by a familiar face: Ryan Clark. The former Redskin and Pittsburgh Steeler said on ESPN that he will visit with Washington on Thursday.

Clark
Clark played for the Redskins from 2004-05, but not for the current defensive staff (though inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti was here during that time). But after 24 starts, Clark signed with Pittsburgh in 2006 and formed a strong safety tandem with Troy Polamalu.

Clark was a free safety in Pittsburgh, but played both safety positions in Washington. The Redskins run the same scheme as Pittsburgh, so there wouldn’t be a big transition. Clark has missed only four games in the past six years.

Washington missed out on safety Mike Mitchell, who opted to sign with Pittsburgh -- to replace Clark. The Redskins were not strong bidders for Jairus Byrd, who signed with New Orleans. The question will be: What does Clark, at 35, have left? He obviously would be used to mentor and help groom the young safeties such as Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and even Trenton Robinson and Jose Gumbs.

The Redskins could always opt to also re-sign safety Brandon Meriweather to a small deal as well. If they re-sign Reed Doughty, it would be as a backup and special teamer. His return is not a lock, though some in the building would like to see him return.

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