NFC East: tom compton

The Washington Redskins enter their final week of offseason work with a three-day minicamp. It'll look a lot like their OTA practices, but the difference is that this week is mandatory. With temperatures expected in the 90s, or near them, over the next three days, it'll be good preparation for Richmond later this summer.

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

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

Offensive design: During the OTAs, we saw a lot of situational football – red zone, third downs, two minutes, etc. Hoping we get to see even more, to get a better sense of who the Redskins might be this season. Thus far, Griffin has operated a lot under center and in shotgun during certain situations. Coach Jay Gruden sounds intent on developing him, so this helps. (Not that the other staff didn’t want to develop him; it had Griffin as a rookie and then with no offseason. Tough to develop a player who can’t practice. How it would have handled it I don’t know.)

Rookie improvement: Rookie tackle Morgan Moses knows the issue he has with staying low and has worked on it since the OTAs started. Over three days, how much improvement will he show? How about Trent Murphy? His spin move has been terrific (mostly against young players); how much else will he show? Bashaud Breeland seems to have improved and, with Tracy Porter’s durability an issue, he could be a plus for the Redskins. But is he still grabbing too much? It’s hard with the running backs to tell a whole lot, so Lache Seastrunk’s true impact won’t be known until the games start. Thus far he hasn’t stood out. Is guard Spencer Long looking more comfortable?

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

Offensive line: There will be an interesting battle along the line this summer, even if it’s just for one of the backup positions (especially at guard). If the Redskins keep nine offensive linemen, that means two players from this group might not make it: Mike McGlynn, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton. This assumes Chris Chester keeps his job (not a lock). And they’re not going to cut Long or Moses. Remember, they signed McGlynn in free agency and his ability to play center helps. The others have some work to do.

David Amerson’s progression: He’s had a quiet camp and I mean that in a good way. It’s not like he’s messing up or getting beat and looks lost. Does that continue this week? Amerson’s continued improvement (plus a lack of cap room) is among the reasons the Redskins are not one of the teams who have inquired about recently released corner Brandon Flowers, according to a source.

DeSean Jackson: Needs to make sure he exits these three days with a good hamstring. If he’s fully recovered, it’s always impressive to watch his speed. He’s not the fastest player I’ve ever covered (Darrell Green), but he is explosive.

Coordinator chatter: We should get our first chance to interview special teams coach Ben Kotwica this week, as well as defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Will be nice to finally hear more of what they think about their groups after the spring workouts end.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyzing the Redskins young linemen

December, 5, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Two mornings a week at 6:30, Washington Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster brings in the young linemen to the meeting room. They analyze the previous day's practice. Then, after practice, they'll stay on the field an extra 10 minutes or so to work on what they've seen on tape.

The goal is to give them more instruction and push them closer to being game ready. Foerster says they are ready. That doesn't mean they'll play, however. Just that they like where the second-year linemen -- Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis and Tom Compton -- are headed.

"I've said to them, ‘You guys are all ready to play,'" Foerster said. "They've progressed as far as they can as practice players. There's nothing like game reps. That's when we'll truly know where they are. But if you're preparing a guy to play who never played an NFL game, you'd look at all three and say they're as ready as they're gonna be; time to put your feet to the fire and see where you are."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsJosh LeRibeus, left, and Tom Compton participate in drills during training camp earlier this year.
They'll all likely remain on the sidelines. There's no indication the Redskins are going to make any changes in their offensive line this week -- or, perhaps, for the rest of the season barring injuries.

So if they're ready, then why not?

"We'll play the best players," Shanahan said. "That's coaches [decision]."

As in Mike Shanahan.

In the meantime, here's an update on where the three young players are at according to Foerster:

LeRibeus

His offseason was bad and it set the stage for a preseason that began rough as well. LeRibeus, a third-round pick, showed up for spring workouts approximately 30 pounds overweight. Foerster said he would have competed for a starting job had he taken the offseason more serious.

Here's Foerster: "During camp he had to get himself back to where he was a year ago. That took the better part of camp. While he played well in preseason he still wasn't back to the form where he finished the year before. Unfortunately for him he went home for a few months and didn't take care of business. It took all offseason and then he had injuries when he came back so his progress could have been sped up during the offseason and got him back to where he was sooner. Then the offseason he got injured because he was not in shape. It was a vicious cycle for him.

"If he had to play you'd have the same player he was a year ago. You'd like to be better than that because he did get play time last year. He had more chances to develop because he did play last year. From the start of the season to where he is now, I feel good that is at where he left off a year ago."

As with the other two linemen, LeRibeus has improved at understanding the offense and knowing more than just his responsibility. Foerster remains upbeat about LeRibeus. He's no longer focused on center, just the guard spots. Foe

More from Foerster: "Josh has the quickness. He may not be as good in top-end speed as Chris Chester and Kory [Lichtensteiger], but this is a 325-pound guy that has the same quickness. He's not as fast, but he has the size and the power to go with the quickness. Not many guys at that sizes can be quick enough to play in this zone run game and the things we're trying to do. That's his advantage. If he can keep everything else in place, stay in shape and stop on top of things, then that's his strength."

Gettis

He works at both guard spots after sticking primarily to right guard in his first two training camps. Foerster wanted him, and the others, to get proficient at one position before asking them to learn another.

Foerster loves how Gettis, a former fifth-rounder, can anchor. He has strong legs, which help him overcome weighing only 292 pounds. Gettis did a much better job this summer at blocking the linebackers in the run game.

Foerster: "He's really worked hard. He came into camp and had a great offseason, got a lot more reps in camp. His pass pro always has been good and he had to improve his run game and he did a great job improving that in the offseason and preseason. It's coming off the ball, his understanding of where he's going to run and his angles. He got to the second level on blocks; those were his issues and he's done a much better job."

Compton

After spending his first two summers at left tackle, Compton started working on the right side after the final roster was set. Now he takes an equal amount of reps at both spots. Foerster said it would have been difficult for Compton to play the right side early in the season.

The big issue they worked on in the offseason was strength. Compton, a former sixth-round pick, struggled on counter moves because he lacked the strength to re-direct defenders. Therefore, when they'd cut back inside, he had created no gap and they had an instant edge.

Foerster: "Tom had a long way and strength was number one. You couldn't begin to teach him on technique because his strength was so poor. Once he'd get to the point of contact he couldn't maintain a block. Now he's to the point where his strength is very good. He worked hard and is diligent on his technique, going against [Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan] also helps him out. His thing now is honing his technique and becoming a technically sound person. As a tackle you have no room for error. Every guy has something they can fix and how disciplined are you to fix that? Tom has a lot more holes than others who have played in the league but he continues to work and do those things."

Looking at the Redskins' young players

December, 4, 2013
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The Washington Redskins should not start playing young guys just because they’re out of playoff contention. I’m with coach Mike Shanahan on this one: You can do more harm than good by taking that philosophy.

This isn’t baseball where you have September call-ups that you can give at-bats. If you play a guy, say, along the offensive line who isn’t ready, then your quarterback could be in jeopardy. It makes no sense. Not every young guy projects to being part of the roster in the future, either.

Some young guys are just on the roster because of injuries to others. And just because fans or media want to see a guy doesn’t matter; the coaches analyze every practice tape and have a good sense of what players can do or what they know. Others can see athleticism or talent, but it’s often what you know and are capable of learning that makes the difference.

Some young players -- I’m looking at guys who are rookies, first- or second-year players -- already are getting time: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, Chris Baker, Aldrick Robinson (technically his second year because he spent almost all of his rookie year on the practice squad), Bacarri Rambo and David Amerson.

Here’s a look at the young guys who aren’t getting a lot of time right now and whether or not they should:

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsKirk Cousins has attempted only nine passes this season.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins: The coaches like him a lot, but he should only play if Griffin gets hurt. That is, unless you don’t think Griffin is the future. I don’t think that’s the case. If they do play Cousins, then you'll get to enjoy an entire offseason of you know what. What about drumming up trade value? Personally, I'd hang onto him another year; keep him as long as possible for insurance purposes. If you like him, why rush a trade? I have a hard time seeing anyone trade a high pick for Cousins based on his first two years, but as they say, it only takes one.

Wide receiver Lance Lewis: He shouldn’t play more than he is; he’s still relatively raw and needs more time to develop in practice and in the offseason.

Wide receiver Josh Bellamy: Recently signed off the practice squad. Not ready.

Wide receiver Nick Williams: I could see him being a factor in the future, depending on who’s coaching. With Santana Moss likely in his final four games in Washington, I’d continue to work Williams into the lineup as the Redskins have been doing.

Left guard Josh LeRibeus: He’s a young lineman and former third-round draft pick. That should add up to playing time in a lost season. But after a disastrous offseason and poor showing in the preseason, there’s nothing to suggest he should be playing. Which is not a good sign. He needs a strong offseason.

Right guard Adam Gettis: I’d love to see him get some snaps. At 292 pounds, the undersized Gettis has excellent lower body strength, which somehow allows him to anchor despite getting moved back in protection. He was an improved run-blocker this summer. Chris Chester has not played as well as last season. Still, I'd be careful here. If there’s a coaching change, I’m not sure either player would return: Chester because he’ll turn 31 in January and Gettis because he’s smaller and would not fit every system.

Offensive tackle Tom Compton: Another guy I’d like to see get some snaps. Tyler Polumbus has been better than last year but has had issues recently and certainly shouldn’t have a stronghold on the position. Compton looked better this summer than as a rookie and, ideally, in Year 3 he’d be ready to become a contributor. Regardless, the Redskins need to upgrade the line.

Linebacker Brandon Jenkins: For now he’s just a pass-rusher and there are others clearly better than him. He has work to do in the offseason.

Safety Jose Gumbs: Future special-teamer. I don’t see any reason he should be playing right now.

Corner Chase Minnifield: He shouldn’t be playing ahead of the other corners and really needs to be better on special teams. Even if they clean house at this position, I wouldn’t see him as anything more than a guy fighting for a roster spot in 2014. I love his attitude and physical style, but he needs to show he can play a variety of coverages. He’s a smaller press corner. Another offseason of work with no knee issues should help him.

Safety Trenton Robinson: Special-teamer. He’s gotten some snaps, but there’s nothing to suggest he should be muscling his way into more time.

Shanahan: Young players must earn time

December, 2, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins season turned bad long ago. Mike Shanahan doesn't want to make it worse -- which is what he says playing young players just for the sake of it would do.

That means the coaches will continue to play the best players and not just those who are the youngest, in the hope that they develop.

Shanahan
Shanahan
At 3-9, the Redskins have been eliminated from playoff contention. In truth, they were never really in it given their poor and inconsistent play all season. The other reality is that many young players already have played, with the notable exception of the backup offensive linemen: guard Josh LeRibeus, guard Adam Gettis and tackle Tom Compton.

But a losing record and only four games remaining does not equal opportunity for every young player.

“If two guys were very, very close you may go in that direction,” Shanahan said. “It all depends on the competition. Players know when you're playing for the future. Players know that your job is to play the best players that give you the best chance to win. If you want to see a team turn on you, just go start playing younger players and start playing for the future.”

The Redskins have used a number of first- or second-year players already this season. They've used young players in the secondary, at quarterback and running back. Gettis, LeRibeus and Compton have spent the year as backups, though Compton has entered in short yardage or goal-line situations.

Shanahan would not say whether or not any of those three would get more time, even as parts of the line struggle.

“There are a number of guys that are very close,” Shanahan said. “Are they there yet? If you're going to put a guy in that's close, you're not playing your best player, then what you've told your team is you are evaluating these young guys and you really don't care about the game. What you do care about is the future. If you want to lose a team, that's the first thing to do. Now, if that person warrants a chance to play because it's very, very close in competition that's a different story."

The Redskins coaches see the young players in practice and, if they're on the scout team, they'll get to watch them work against starters. It gives them a good sense of a players' ability.

"Just because a guy is on the practice squad or because you're out of the playoff race doesn't mean somebody is going to be elevated just to see what he can do in a game," Shanahan said. "The best players are going to play and they've got to earn the right."

Redskins roster analysis: Offense

September, 1, 2013
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Taking a look at the Redskins offense by position -- are they better or worse at each spot? No group suffered a drop off from a year ago, thanks in large part to every starter returning. It's not an aging unit, either, so the experience should help considering there were six new starters in 2012. It's real hard to make a case that any group suffered a drop off. In fact, I don't think any did.

Quarterbacks (4): Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman, Pat White

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsLed by Robert Griffin III, the Redskins appear to have a strong group at quarterback in 2013.
Note: White was the only surprise. He progressed throughout camp, but will his stay be short-lived? With Jarvis Jenkins and Rob Jackson suspended for four games, it’s doubtful the Redskins stick with four quarterbacks for too long. Still, he deserves a lot of credit for forcing his way onto the roster after starting at such a low point in the spring.

Better or worse than 2012: Better, mainly because Griffin and Cousins are a year older and therefore more advanced in the offense -- yes, that’s true even with Griffin coming off an injury. Now, the asterisk comes with Griffin's durability and it could take him a couple games to return to the dynamic player he was pre-injury. But he's a smart kid who will evolve as a passer, particularly in his ability to diagnose schemes sooner. And because of Cousins' emergence, this position is more sound. If Grossman is your No. 3 QB, you're doing well.

Running backs (5): Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Chris Thompson

Note: No surprise that they kept five. Thompson deserved a spot, thanks to his speed and natural running ability. He sets up blocks well and can cut sharply. Yes he fumbled, but that’s a correctable issue. He’s still learning as a punt returner, but he’s dangerous once he gets started. And, again, his style is excellent. For a little guy with speed, he doesn't dance and doesn't try to hit the hole too hard. He's patient, then explodes. Royster was telling friends he was pessimistic about his chances. That was before a big final game against Tampa Bay, which helped him knock out Keiland Williams. The Redskins have some variety here: A standout rusher in Morris; a third-down back in Helu; change-of-pace guy in Thompson and insurance in Royster. This is, potentially, a strong group.

Better or worse than 2012: Better. Morris is a better runner; Helu is healthy and Thompson is a legitimate speed guy. And if something happens to either Morris or Helu, they at least know Royster can handle either role. Good depth here. Real good.

Receivers (5): Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson

Note: This is the fewest they’ve kept at this position under coach Mike Shanahan in Washington (though he kept as few as four on a couple occasions in Denver). Had Dez Briscoe not hurt his shoulder in the preseason finale he could have been on this list. But they likely will place at least one receiver (Nick Williams) on the practice squad. Lance Lewis is another possibility. As a unit I’m not wowed by them, but I’m also not underwhelmed, either. Garcon is excellent and Moss is a reliable and clutch target in the slot. They need Morgan and Hankerson to blossom at the Z receiver spot. Morgan needs to show he’s regained explosiveness lost in his 2011 ankle injury. Hankerson needs to show consistency. Robinson is an occasional threat behind Garcon. If something happens to Garcon, then this group doesn’t instill fear in the opposition. However, with receiving threats at tight end and running back, this group does not have to carry the passing game. And I like that each one knows the offense well; makes a difference.

Better or worse than 2012: Slightly better. If Garcon plays every game, then that’s a big help. But did the others look dramatically different than 2012? Debatable. Hankerson dropped too many passes in camp; Robinson looked better, but he did so last summer, too. Morgan looked more explosive on some cuts. If he can show that during the games, then this group will be better. Regardless, the passing game can flourish with what they have. The scheme gets receivers open.

Tight ends (4): Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed

Note: I’ll be curious to see how they develop this group in the passing game. Davis, once again, is playing for a contract and should get plenty of chances. Paul showed improvement as a blocker this summer and dropped one ball in training camp practices. Reed showed flashes this summer of what he could eventually become; he just needs time. Paulsen is Mr. Reliable; a strong-handed target and solid blocker. Having multiple tight ends can cause matchup problems for defenses. It can also help on plays such as the bubble screen, where you can split better blockers out wide in some cases (Paul).

Better or worse than 2012: Better. Paul has improved -- his footwork is better on blocks and, this summer, caught the ball well -- and Reed gives them terrific depth. Davis doesn’t appear to be affected much by last year’s ruptured Achilles. Paulsen is consistent.

Offensive line (8): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Tom Compton, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis

Note: The starting five was never really in doubt. Tony Pashos showed some positives at right tackle, but he did not move as well as Polumbus. Still, minus Pashos, they’ve left themselves with inexperienced backups. That doesn’t mean they can’t handle the job, but until you do it in a game it’s just speculation. There was noticeable improvement in both Compton and Gettis. LeRibeus? He had a chance to build on a good showing versus Seattle and instead failed to get in the necessary shape, setting himself back.

Better or worse than 2012: Same. The starting five’s consistency makes this group go. They work well together, a necessary trait in a zone-blocking scheme in which you need to know how the guy next to you handles certain combination blocks. Right tackle will again be scrutinized until Polumbus reduces the amount of pressures allowed. If he does, then this group can claim they were better than in 2012. Even with those issues last year the offense averaged 6.2 yards per play. The inexperienced depth is a concern – they’ve combined for zero starts and five games – or, at the least, bears watching. I'd say if something happens to Williams they're in trouble, but any team that would lose a Pro Bowl left tackle with his athleticism would suffer a big drop off.

Redskins roster battle: Offensive line

August, 28, 2013
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Taking a look at the key ongoing battles for Washington Redskins roster spots. Today we check in on the offensive line:

Projected number: This is a little like the NCAA basketball tournament projections, except that you can't see me moving names around on my whiteboard. Considering I don't own a whiteboard, you're not missing much. As of now, I'm projecting eight players make the cut here.

Locks: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus. No surprises considering this was the starting line last year and has been the starting line throughout training camp. There was no real challenge to Polumbus, despite two veterans being signed in the offseason. Besides, Polumbus would be a lock as a swing tackle if nothing else.

[+] EnlargeTom Compton, Josh LeRibeus
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsTackle Tom Compton, right, looks much improved over 2012, while guard Josh LeRibeus, left, has rebounded after a bad start to camp.
Looking good: T Tom Compton, G Josh LeRibeus, G Adam Gettis. Both Compton and Gettis have progressed a great deal compared to this time last season; I really like Compton's development. He’s much stronger and is more able to control blocks in both the run and pass game. He had his best game versus Pittsburgh, blocking rookie first-round pick Jarvis Jones. The more Compton develops, the more I could see him challenging Polumbus someday. Gettis has improved in the run game, an area in which he struggled last year. He blocks with an attitude and is stronger than expected given that he’s a smaller guard. He has a knack for anchoring in pass protection despite getting stood up. I would love to have seen him against starters, but he did his job against the backups. LeRibeus improved in the past two games after a really bad opener, which followed a bad offseason in which the coaches were unhappy with his conditioning. But he was a third-round pick last season, and they liked how he played in relief of Lichtensteiger during the playoff loss to Seattle.

On the bubble: T Tony Pashos, C Kevin Matthews, G/T Maurice Hurt. Really, the only guy who might be kept from this category is Pashos. Hurt likely will open on the physically unable to perform list, so he’ll stick around. If I had to pick right now, I’d probably keep Pashos off the list. I like parts of his game: He’s aggressive with his hands, much more than the other tackles. He’s strong. But I did not see him moving as well as the other tackles, a byproduct perhaps of his ankle issues from 2011. If the Redskins feel Compton has progressed that much, then they have a backup right tackle (it’s not as hard of an adjustment going from left to right). This would leave them without a veteran backup, which could be an issue. They kept Sean Locklear two years ago and Jordan Black last year. It’s a leap of faith with the youngsters, and that could be Pashos' best hope. He has improved after missing all of last season, but I'm not sure it will be enough. They could keep a one-position player if there was no alternative, but with Compton's ascension, I think they have one. Really, the decision to keep Pashos could come down to whether or not they keep six receivers and/or five running backs. These coaches like skill players.

Redskins vs. Bills: What to watch

August, 23, 2013
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Here's what I'll be watching when the Redskins host the Bills at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the third preseason game for both teams:

  1. The pace of Buffalo’s offense. I wrote about this Friday morning, but Buffalo likes to use a fast-paced attack, something the Redskins’ season-opening opponent, Philadelphia, does as well. How will the Redskins handle this? What will the Redskins do if caught in a personnel grouping that isn’t the best for what Buffalo’s offense has on the field? Because the starters will play only 15-20 snaps, it will provide only a small test -- the pace can take its toll over the course of a game -- but it will be a help nonetheless.
  2. Safety Bacarri Rambo’s progression. I’d play him more than the other starters, or at least in the final preseason game, just to give him more chances to tackle in the open field. He clearly needs the work. He might end up starting, but he still has yet to truly win the position. At this point he’s in there by default. He has a lot of skills to offer, but if this area doesn’t improve it’ll cause big problems.
  3. Corner Josh Wilson. He’ll make his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games while his surgically repaired shoulder continued to heal. Wilson remains the starter, ahead of rookie David Amerson. But Wilson is not coming off his best season and was asked to take a pay cut in the offseason -- so it’s not as if he’s firmly entrenched at this position. He’s much more knowledgeable about the defense than Amerson and, with a rookie safety, that matters. The Redskins can’t afford a lot of defensive backs learning on the go, though Amerson has looked good at times. But Wilson still needs to play well.
  4. [+] EnlargeBacarri Rambo
    AP Photo/Wade PayneRookie safety Bacarri Rambo (29) needs more work on his open-field tackling to avoid headaches later.
    Backup running backs. There’s no doubt who the top two players are at this position (Alfred Morris and Roy Helu -- but you really didn't need me to tell you that, did you?). Is Evan Royster in any danger? The problem is, the rookies have yet to show that they deserve a roster spot. Chris Thompson has flash, but he’s barely done anything in practice, let alone a game, in part because of injuries. Coaches are big on players being available; can they rely on Thompson in this area? His speed is intriguing (and speed is why Mike Shanahan, among others, initially fell in love with Brandon Banks in 2010). So it matters. But based on performance Thompson still needs to prove he belongs. I like Jawan Jamison’s running style, but the same applies to him. Royster is an average runner, so he’s no lock. Keiland Williams is a good special-teams player, but not much help from scrimmage.
  5. Veteran backups. Specifically linebacker Nick Barnett and receiver Donte' Stallworth. Barnett, the ex-Bill, isn’t worried about any sort of revenge; rather, he needs to show that he can still play at a certain level. This will be his first chance to do so. The Redskins have a pressing need for inside linebacker depth, and having a former starter who is familiar with this defense would help. As for Stallworth, he’ll make it only if the Redskins keep six wideouts. He’s played special teams sparingly in his career, but will have to show he can help there to stick around. And stay healthy. Lingering injuries never help aging vets.
  6. Right tackle. If Bills defensive end Mario Williams plays -- he went two series in the opener and did not see time last week -- then Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus will have a good game to measure any progress. Polumbus did not have a strong game last week. Nobody else has taken first-team reps at right tackle. But along with watching Polumbus, I want to keep an eye on veteran Tony Pashos. He’s Washington's most aggressive right tackle when it comes to using his hands, but what does he have left? The Redskins likely would need to keep nine linemen for him to make the roster. And Tom Compton is still working on the left side, but he’s coming off a strong game.
  7. Nose tackle Chris Neild. With Barry Cofield sidelined by a fractured bone in his right hand, Neild will get a chance to work against the Bills’ starting line. He’s not in danger of being cut, but this is a good opportunity to face quality blockers.
  8. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed. He struggled as a blocker last week, mostly, it appeared, because of inconsistent technique. He was not overpowered, which is a good sign for him. But he does need to help in this area. Reed also dropped a ball last week; I’d like to see him get a chance to display his athleticism.

Redskins offense: What we've learned

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
5:35
PM ET
After watching the Redskins’ 24-13 win over Pittsburgh, here’s what stood out:

  • It’s too bad the Redskins’ offense didn’t play more than one quarter against Pittsburgh’s starters. It’s not like it would have provided a better picture -- the Redskins were explosive last year and didn’t do a whole lot versus that defense, except drop passes. But the Steelers force you to execute well because of their discipline. They move fast and at times it was difficult for the Redskins’ linemen to stay on their men or to even get to them. The Redskins managed a combined 23 yards and one first down against Pittsburgh's starters. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 2 of 3 passes for 19 yards. Left tackle Trent Williams managed well with his sprained left wrist and never really was in trouble in pass protection, though he did not get to a couple blocks in the run game.
  • The offensive lineman who really stood out, at least with the second unit, was left tackle Tom Compton. That’s the best I’ve seen him play (granted, the sample size isn’t huge, but I’ll include practices as well). I liked that he was facing rookie Jarvis Jones, who has a thing or two to learn but who is a talented first-round draft pick. The sort of guy Compton needs to do well against. Compton showed excellent balance and technique. On one rush, he was aggressive with his punch but Jones got into him a little. However, Compton was able to reset and anchor. That happened on another occasion as well. Later, Jones beat him off the snap another time, but Compton recovered to shove him off his path. His run-blocking was fine, too. All in all, a solid night.
  • [+] EnlargeLeonard Hankerson
    Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Leonard Hankerson was a bright spot for Washington on Monday night, recording a TD catch.
  • Rookie tight end Jordan Reed had some mistakes that were evident Monday night and therefore didn’t seem to have a good game. It didn’t get better watching the game again. I think you know I like Reed’s athleticism and potential, but his preseason debut was a tough one. Reed didn’t finish his route on a Rex Grossman pass, leading to an interception. He also had a drop. Reed’s blocking was uneven. In some cases it was technique -- his arms were a bit too extended on one block and he lost his man. Next play, he whiffed on his block. He did show good technique on a block on one run and also moved his man out on another. Reed was able to get outside in a pulling action (though he failed to hold his block). The good part for Reed is that he moves well. He just needs to improve.
  • This is where not having the All-22 available yet hurts because on the first-quarter sack of Cousins, I’d love to see what he was looking at on the right side. Cousins had time to look off and could have dumped the ball over the middle for a first down. But it’s tough to ping him for that without knowing what he saw. I do know he was sacked in 2.8 seconds so there was enough time to find another option (if that was even an issue).
  • There were a couple runs by running back Alfred Morris, and others, in which one more block would have resulted in a gain of 10 or more yards. That’s football, of course, but it was evident on a handful of plays. Fred Davis was the culprit on one such play, leading to a 4-yard Morris run. The path should have been more outside, but Davis lost his block, forcing a quicker than anticipated cut upfield. He cut just as the hole closed. Morris’ best run, an 11-yard dash, was negated by a Tyler Polumbus hold. But Morris showed some of what was visible at camp: his quick cuts (don’t remember them being this fast last year). On this play, Morris should have been tackled for a short gain at best yet managed a good gain because he cut so sharply in a tight area.
  • Polumbus worked against a starting defensive player for one quarter and allowed a sack and was called for holding. Not every play was bad; early on he handled LaMarr Woodley; Polumbus’ shoulders were square as he rode out the linebacker to the outside. But Polumbus was beaten for the sack, a result of Woodley’s quick and powerful hands. Later, Polumbus' hands were wider than desired as he was driven back by Woodley. Next play: hold. Polumbus’ run blocking was fine and he did a good job shoving blitzing safety Ryan Clark out wide. He was OK against the Steelers’ second string, but needs to become more consistent.
  • Receiver Leonard Hankerson did a good job against man coverage. Got open on the touchdown with a hard stem to the outside, selling the corner route, then cutting inside. He got free against the linebacker on the first play from scrimmage with a similar step, selling an out cut. That’s what you call a mismatch. Hankerson could have caught a pass down the right hash -- it was a tougher, but far from impossible catch. The sort a guy makes if he wants to become more than just a fourth receiver with occasional flashes. Like he did on the touchdown, with the one-handed grab. Now, let’s see it again next week.
  • Saw some good and bad with Josh LeRibeus, getting driven back on a couple occasions where he seemed slow with his hands. But after the past week I anticipated worse. LeRibeus really did himself no favors with his offseason work. At the end of last season he seemed close; that’s not the case right now. Right guard Adam Gettis was fine; there’s definitely something to build on there.
  • Running back Chris Thompson showed some of his burst on his first carry, a quick cut on an outside zone to the right. He was able to burrow through the opening for seven yards. Obviously his big issue was the fumble, but he also needed to show a little more patience on his next carry. He got within maybe two yards of his linemen before cutting back and never sold the linebackers that he might stay on his original path. So when he cut, there was no room. When the offense works right, and he’s patient, the defense’s movement will be used against them -- and that prevents many clean shots on the petite running back.
  • Did like Jawan Jamison’s patience. He’s a good fit in this sort of system, though it would be nice if he were a couple inches and 15 pounds heavier. He gained 20 yards on five runs; I liked a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter where he exhibited patience and cutting ability. Jamison looked like he was headed wide and the linebacker flowed that way, creating a cutback lane for a 6-yard gain. It wasn’t some highlight run, but it was an example of a good one. Thompson’s explosiveness still bears watching, but Jamison knows how to run. If only…
  • Receiver Aldrick Robinson didn’t take a vicious hit after his deep catch near the end of the first half. But it was a tough grab. One thing I’ve been impressed by him this summer is his ability to hold onto the ball after a big hit.
[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/Steve HelberKirk Cousins is impressing scouts and is becoming a solid No. 2 quarterback.
Heading into the second preseason game, here is an update on the 2012 draft class:

  1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III (first round): Still recovering from his knee surgery. The Redskins say he’s on pace to start the opener, but more needs to be seen.
  2. Guard Josh LeRibeus (third round): Whatever I can say is not as strong as what line coach Chris Foerster said about him Thursday. Foerster said LeRibeus not being in great shape is “very disappointing.” Foerster called LeRibeus a work in progress and said he’s still catching up to the others when it comes to getting in shape. The tough part is that LeRibeus, who missed much of the spring workouts because of a hamstring injury, had a lot of ground to make up. “It will happen at some point, but at this point he has a lot of work to do. Obviously the offseason program, a lot of it is voluntary and if you’re not here and working hard… But maybe if you’re not working as hard as you should and you come back overweight, it just puts you behind. Then he had the injury to add on to that. … He still has a big hill to climb to be in a position to be where he was.” Foerster liked how LeRibeus played in relief during the Seattle game. He worked some at center last year, but in camp was only at left guard.
  3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins (fourth round): Keeps improving. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said he’d trade a first-round pick for him -- not sure how many teams would agree with him right now given the small sample size. But the point is Cousins continues to improve and has impressed not only the Redskins, but others. If nothing else, he’ll continue to be a good backup whose value keeps moving up. With Griffin’s health in question, the Redskins need such a player.
  4. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (fourth round): Done for the season after tearing his left pectoral muscle. His season ended prematurely last November after he tore the right pec.
  5. Guard Adam Gettis (fifth round): The coaches like how he’s progressed, particularly as a run blocker. He had some solid blocks in the run game vs. Tennessee. He still shows strength in pass protection, even when defenders get into his pads. “He was always a good pass blocker,” Foerster said. “His area was in the run game and he continued to be a good pass blocker and has improved in the run game.” Gettis has worked only at right guard.
  6. Running back Alfred Morris (sixth round): It’s hard to say how much he’s improved because there’s no live tackling in practice. Morris has looked a little quicker with his cuts in the open field. The Redskins are optimistic that he’ll have more long runs this season; his longest last year was 39 yards. Morris is much more comfortable in the offense, and he did not feel that way for the first four or five games in 2012.
  7. Tackle Tom Compton (sixth round): Saw progress in some areas a week ago, specifically with his strength. He will get beaten and is still developing, but he did a better job knocking rushers off their initial path, making it tougher for them to beat him back to the inside. “Now he’s in a position to where he has improved those things,” Foerster said. “It’s still [about] technique. The thing about Tom that’s so exciting, as with Gettis, is the progress they made from the last preseason game [in 2012] against Tampa. It’s like, ‘Wow, if they can keep improving, you really might have something.’ Tom still has work to do. He’s not a finished product. He has a lot of development to do.” Compton has worked exclusively on the left side. The Redskins want him to develop at one spot before trying to see if he can play on the right side. It stands to reason that if he can handle left tackle, he could shift to the right side if need be. But, for now, the Redskins lack a proven backup swing tackle.
  8. Corner Richard Crawford (seventh round): Best punt returner on the roster and an improved corner. Understands the game, which helps him overcome size limitations. Quickness in the slot and ability to mirror receivers helps, though his size could hurt him. Still, he knows better how to play to the help of the defense, something he did not always do last season.
  9. Safety Jordan Bernstine (seventh round): Released. His knee injury last September was a bad one.

What we learned: Redskins offense

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
4:26
PM ET
After rewatching the Redskins' 22-21 win over Tennessee, a few opinions were solidified, some shifted a little and a few discoveries were made:

  1. Initially I wondered if Roy Helu was a little too fast to the hole, not setting up his blockers enough. Not sure that was the case, though his quickness to the hole was noticeable. He had a good night, but against the Titans’ starters he managed only 20 yards on seven carries. He had two runs that totaled 23 of his 57 yards. One area he differs with Alfred Morris is yards after contact. Morris excels in this area for two reasons: He lowers his pads and lets his legs drive him through the defender. Helu too often fails to lower his pads enough to enable him to run through a defender. He did lower his pads in a red zone run, picking up an extra four yards. But, typically, he was picking up the yards that were available.
  2. Helu’s two longest runs occurred in the second quarter. Another one, a 19-yarder, was wiped out because of a Josh LeRibeus penalty. But Helu’s effort was outstanding. Tight end Logan Paulsen got moved back a few yards, taking Helu off his intended path. He had to swerve around Paulsen. Helu bounced wide and picked up 18 yards, including six after contact. Two plays earlier, Helu pressed the hole well, getting a yard behind the line. He chopped his feet on the cut, but because he’s quick it didn’t slow him down en route to 11 yards.
  3. Not a lot more on Kirk Cousins. What I saw re-watching the game is exactly what I saw last night: A young, poised quarterback who is comfortable running this offense. Nothing more to add.
  4. [+] EnlargePat White
    Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsPat White, in his first NFL action since 2010, completed 5 of 8 passes and ran for 33 yards and a score.
    Quarterback Pat White has come a long way from when we first saw him in the spring, when he looked like someone who wouldn’t get an invite to training camp. But he has improved since then and will occasionally make an impressive pass in practice, driving the ball to the receiver. Accuracy has been an issue in camp. But for a guy in his first NFL action (albeit against many players who will get cut) since 2010 it was a nice return. Enough to warrant a roster spot? Not after one good fourth quarter of a preseason game. White made three clutch plays (one of which would have resulted in a touchdown if receiver Lance Lewis hadn’t fumbled the ball into the end zone. White did a nice job rolling to his right and throwing downfield across his body with accuracy. And his ability to extend a play in the red zone always is a bonus.
  5. But the majority of his reads were quick followed by short throws and he has a long way to go before he masters this offense enough to play in a game and read defenses at a necessary level. He has not looked sharp all the time in camp and often holds the ball too long. Still, he has a good outing to build upon and it’s something he should feel good about. It could lead to more action in future games and, perhaps, tempt another team to sign him whenever he comes free.
  6. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is working on keeping his hands tighter and shoulders more square. At times you see it working. But in camp he struggled when he’d allow Ryan Kerrigan to get his hands into his chest first. Saw it happen against Tennessee, too. He was a bit slow getting his hands in place and Derrick Morgan get into his chest. Not that it mattered: The Redskins gained 10 yards on the play. But this is an area Polumbus must continue to perfect. The Redskins want him to -- need him to -- reduce the amount of pressure he allowed last year.
  7. Aldrick Robinson struggled as a blocker last year and still gets driven back too much, sometimes causing him to unintentionally pinch the hole. But he did hold onto some blocks. This is an area he needs to do well in considering it's a key part of the stretch zone system. Robinson was inconsistent catching the ball, though I liked how he hung onto the ball when safety Bernard Pollard drilled him out of bounds after a catch. But the Redskins lack strong challengers to the top five. One of them, Dez Briscoe, had the trifecta: He dropped a pass, lost his block that led to a tackle, and was called for a false start. Leonard Hankerson had one of his good nights. He’s had those before -- the key is having several of those in a row. I liked how patient he was on his receiver screen, causing the defense to commit outside while he took off inside behind center Kevin Matthews and LeRibeus. Hankerson ran a good in-and-out route as well.
  8. Left tackle Tom Compton isn’t ready to be a starter, but he showed some positive signs. Last season Redskins line coach Chris Foerster talked about the need for him to get stronger, needing to knock rushers off their path so when a counter move occurs, Compton can react quickly and in time. He did just that on one first-quarter block against the defensive end, getting him off-balance on his initial move, which enabled Compton to react in time to the counter. Compton allowed pressure, getting bailed out by Helu on one edge rush and losing his man inside on another. But he had his good moments, too.
  9. Wrote this after the game and will do so again: LeRibeus needs to pick it up. He struggled too much Thursday night for a player picked in the third round a year ago. He also has talent, as he showed in relief during the playoff loss to Seattle -- and on some plays Thursday. But LeRibeus gets himself in trouble by lunging and getting off-balance. It led to a whiff on one attempt and pressure on others. He also had a hold that negated an 18-yard run by Helu. LeRibeus knows he has to play better.
  10. It had to be encouraging for the Redskins when Josh Morgan caught an in-route on third-and-5 and then, because of a quick catch-and-cut, add seven yards after the reception for a total of 13 yards. It wasn’t a huge play but it could be a positive sign. His ankle, which had seven screws in it last year, is healthy now and he said it will result in more explosion. It’s been tough to see it in camp, but he did it last night in a tight window, sandwiched between two defenders. Curious to see how this evolves for him.
  11. I’ll be honest: I don’t always know how right guard Adam Gettis anchors against bigger linemen. The 292-pound Gettis gets stood up a lot, yet doesn’t always get driven back. His college coach, Kirk Ferentz, once told me how freakishly strong Gettis was and he’s right. Still, the Redskins coaches don’t like seeing him get stood up like that. But for the most part he was fine (he did allow a pressure). Really, it wasn’t bad for a guy who missed several days recently with a hamstring strain.
  12. Finally, we learned that, by going for two points late in the game, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is not a fan of overtime in preseason games. To which we say: Thank you.
Highlights from Monday's Washington Redskins' practice:

  • Monday was the first day the Redskins’ defense played with all of its starters on the field as DeAngelo Hall (ankle) and Brandon Meriweather (knee) returned to work. Jarvis Jenkins worked with the starters, too, after spending more time with the second unit last week.
  • One thing that secondary coach Raheem Morris stresses to his young defensive backs, particularly the safeties, is communication. He constantly was shouting at each of his rookie safeties, notably Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas, to remind them to talk loud. Morris was pleased with how Rambo handled this, “Way to talk Bacarri!” But he implored Thomas to talk “Louder! Louder! Louder!”
  • [+] EnlargeBrandon Meriweather and DeAngelo Hall
    Geoff Burke/USA Today SportsBrandon Meriweather and DeAngelo Hall have been making progress from their injuries.
    Thomas did do a good job in the box on one read, coming up closer to the line based on the formation. He read the quarterback’s eyes, forced a tight window and subsequent incomplete pass with his coverage. Thomas is slowly coming along with his play in the box.
  • Second-year left tackle Tom Compton has had an uneven camp thus far. One problem he had last season was being unable to react to a counter move, partly because his initial punch at a defender wasn’t strong enough to knock him off line. Compton continues to allow inside pressure -- and not only to established players.
  • One player who has jumped out on occasion is rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins. He has a ways to go and the games will be vital for him. But he got some work with the starting defense and faced the No. 1 offense. However, right tackle Tyler Polumbus handled Jenkins. One area Polumbus focused on this offseason -- keeping his shoulders square and his hands in tight on the defender -- was on display against Jenkins. Polumbus must prove he can be that consistent against quality pass-rushers, though he did a good job on a wide rush by Ryan Kerrigan. The third-year linebacker has had more success rushing inside the tackles with his counter move this camp.
  • It was second-year right guard Adam Gettis' first day back after his hamstring injury. So you have to take that into consideration. But he had a bad habit last season of getting stood up by his man. Gettis had the leg strength to sometimes anchor in these situations, but the coaches want him to get stood up much less. However, that’s what was happening to Gettis on Monday. Just something to watch.
  • Corner Josh Wilson intercepted two passes Monday, with one coming in a two-minute situation when he stepped in front of the receiver to grab a Kirk Cousins pass.
  • It’s hard to imagine anyone but Roy Helu ending up as the third-down back for Washington. He’s done a decent job in pass protection and he remains their best receiving threat out of the backfield. He also had a nice run today, running with excellent pad level through the hole.
  • Mike Shanahan talked about the need for Leonard Hankerson to be more consistent in camp. Thus far, that has not been the case. Hankerson dropped two passes this afternoon; both were very catchable. Shanahan said the same about Aldrick Robinson and aside from one day in which he dropped three passes, he has been consistent. Robinson made a nice grab in tight coverage against Chase Minnifield along the sideline. Though Robinson isn’t big -- he’s 5-foot-10, 181 pounds -- he has done a good job in camp of holding onto passes after being hit.
  • Cousins is obviously not as mobile as Robert Griffin III. But Cousins understands how to move in the pocket and showed a subtle slide to his left to elude pressure, then reset and threw to Pierre Garcon. Cousins makes one or two really nice throws each practice. He’s not afraid to throw into tight windows, which will lead to big-time throws and occasional trouble.
Injury report: Hall returned to practice after spraining his right ankle a week ago. Meriweather participated in the bulk of practice, a good sign for a player who missed a week of practice. The test for Meriweather is how his surgically-repaired right knee feels Tuesday. Rookie running back Chris Thompson also practiced. He, too, has been in and out after ACL surgery last fall. Thompson looked quick in the open field; durability will always be an issue with him… Receiver Devery Henderson missed practice due to a death in the family. …Rookie tight end Jordan Reed bruised the top of his foot and will undergo an MRI Monday night.

Quotable: “Last year and this year he lost a good 10 pounds. He decided to be in the best shape he could possibly be in. He had a great offseason and you see the dividends from being in great shape… He has continued to do that this year. He is in excellent shape. You can see some of the plays he has made thus far at camp, see that he is hungry and he is going to play at a very high level.” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan on wide recei er Santana Moss.

Redskins: Morning Wake up Call

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
8:53
AM ET
Three things on my agenda today as the Washington Redskins return to practice -- a morning walk-through and a 3:20 p.m. ET practice -- following an off-day Sunday:

1. Robert Griffin III will conduct his weekly media session after the morning walk-through, which usually ends around 11:30 a.m. The plan for Griffin remains the same as it’s been for the previous four practices when he attempted 17 passes in the 7-on-7 work. Griffin clearly is still seeking consistency in his passing touch. Saturday, he did not use good mechanics on several throws. They were so off at times that I wondered if he was trying to simulate the sort of throws a quarterback must sometimes make under duress -- you can’t always get your feet around; you sometimes must throw from different arm angles. So I’ll be curious to find out if that’s ever the case (he does work on moving and escaping from the pocket during practice, but only when he's by himself).

2. The secondary’s health, most notably Brandon Meriweather. Yes, corner DeAngelo Hall has missed a week with a sprained right ankle, but he’s out of the walking boot. He just needs more time to heal, but when he returns, he’ll be fine. But Meriweather, coming off ACL surgery in December, worked early in camp but since then has taken part in only a few snaps. That’s never a good sign. On Saturday, he said there’s a chance he’ll do more Monday. The Redskins are thin and inexperienced at safety; they need Meriweather healthy.

3. Trent Williams' left wrist. It clearly bothers Williams, who has had to wear a hard cast with heavy padding on his wrist the past three practices. He can’t use his left hand when he plays and it hurt when he had to jab his hands into the defender. This is as much something to watch for the near future as it is for Monday. Williams, who played with a severe deep thigh bruise down the stretch last season, said he wants to practice. He’s one of the Redskins’ most indispensable players. Second-year Tom Compton has worked as the No. 2 left tackle, but has a ways to go.
Lots of people asking about the Washington Redskins' "right tackle battle," but I don't think there is one right now. Mike Shanahan said during minicamp that people who were starters last year go into training camp as starters. And while he may not knock your socks off, the fact is Tyler Polumbus didn't do anything last year to cost himself the job. Yes, they brought in Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos as other options there, but if you'll recall, they signed those guys before they re-signed Polumbus, so as much as anything those moves were hedges in case the position was open and they needed someone to fill it.

No, I think the Redskins plan to start the same five offensive linemen who started 16 of their 17 games last year, because continuity matters, because certain of them (Trent Williams at left tackle, Will Montgomery at center and Chris Chester at right guard) played very well and because they believe Robert Griffin III as a running quarterback helps mask some deficiencies. But as the guys at csnwashington.com discuss in this post here, the question about the Redskins' offensive line is whether they have enough depth to withstand injury, or to replace someone if performance should dictate that someone need to be replaced.

For me, the issue isn't whether Pashos is a better option than Polumbus to start at right tackle. It's whether guys like Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton have advanced enough (or can advance enough in the next couple of months) to be reliable backups. Because what happened last year with the Redskins' line -- staying so healthy that they started the same five guys in all but one game? That doesn't happen every year. Those are the offensive line issues to watch in camp -- the ones at the backup spots. Because the odds are, someone's going to need to emerge from those ranks and help out at some point in 2013.
There are two things to keep in mind when assessing the Washington Redskins' 2013 draft. First, their first-round pick was spent as part of last year's Robert Griffin III deal about which they have no regrets. And second, the work they did in free agency to bring their 2012 roster back almost completely intact meant that they didn't feel compelled to use the draft to address immediate needs. They returned their entire starting offensive line intact, they retained their starting cornerbacks at reduced salaries, and linebacker London Fletcher put off retirement for a year. The only position at which they may have felt the need to find a Week 1 starter was free safety.

That's not to say positions like right tackle or cornerback couldn't use an upgrade. But given the constraints imposed by the second year of the salary-cap penalties, the Redskins did enter this year's draft with relatively few obvious holes to fill. So instead, they took players with upside -- guys they think have a chance to be great in the long term as opposed to adequate in the short.

[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesCornerback David Amerson was drafted with the future of the Redskins' secondary in mind.
Cornerback David Amerson, selected in the second round with the Redskins' first pick of this year's draft, needs help staying disciplined in coverage and must work on his tackling. But he knows how to make a play on the ball, and Mike Shanahan believes that's a lot harder to coach into someone than those first two things are. Amerson doesn't need to play much this year, with Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall starting and E.J. Biggers as the No. 3 corner. Get him with secondary coach Raheem Morris and see if he can shore up the trouble areas and make him into something special.

Tight end Jordan Reed, the third-rounder, is basically a great big wide receiver who can line up as a "move" tight end the likes of which more teams are using these days. It's odd that Shanahan took such a poor blocking tight end, since he prioritizes blocking even among his wide receivers, but Reed is another guy who's shown an ability to make big plays and create mismatches in opposing secondaries. Deployed correctly, he could help make the offense more explosive.

Safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo were fourth-round and sixth-round selections, respectively. Because the position is vacant, it's not crazy to think either or both could compete for the starting free safety spot this year. But that's not the main reason they were picked. Shanahan took these players because they represented good value at their slots and played a position at which his roster is thin. He's playing the percentages with guys who were playmakers in college, and if one of these two ends up being a starter, that'll help this look like a good draft in retrospect. If both do, he's struck gold.

Running back Chris Thompson and pass-rushing outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins, both taken in the fifth round, were good college players whose value dropped due to injury. Seventh-round running back Jawan Jamison played through an ankle injury last year at Rutgers and left school early to try to help pay the medical bills for his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. These three represent depth (with upside potential) at positions where there's no such thing, in Shanahan's eyes, as too much depth.

This Redskins draft is a perfect example for those who say you can't grade a draft until three years down the road. It's possible that literally none of these picks pan out. But most of them were picked because they carry at least a chance of becoming stars, and when you can find potential stars in the middle and late rounds (and you already feel you have a deep roster), that's what your draft goal becomes.

Redskins fans might feel better if they'd grabbed an immediate starter at safety in the second or third round. D.J. Swearinger may have fit that description and was still on the board when they took Amerson. The fact that no offensive linemen were taken has stirred some concern, but the Redskins drafted mid-round offensive linemen last year and are still developing guys like Tom Compton and Josh LeRibeus. No crying need to add to that depth just yet. The Redskins approached this draft like a confident division champion that likes its roster and was looking for high-end talent it felt was being drafted too late. That's what they took, and now it's on their coaching staff to make this 2013 draft look good.

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