NFC East: Tyler Polumbus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key for Moses will be limiting how often that happens. If he can, he has a chance to become a quality starter someday.

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.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
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For Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, we're talking Robert Griffin III and the Hall of Fame (what!?), which offensive alignments the Redskins might favor, defensive sets against Philadelphia, the offensive line and more. Enjoy.
video The pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

My take: Had the Washington Redskins selected Moses at No. 34, or maybe even 47, I don't think I would have liked the move. At 34, you need to get a player close to being a starter, whether from Day 1 or not. But, certainly, at some point in their rookie year they need to be a key contributor, especially as a right tackle.

After watching Moses' games, however, he did not seem like a player close to being ready to start. There was too much inconsistency. He did fare well against some good pass-rushers, but he also struggled to play with his knees bent and that led to problems.

In the third round, he's excellent value. If Moses takes to NFL coaching, then the Redskins possibly have talented bookends at tackle.

But if not? They'll be back in this spot again in a couple of years.

New line: The Redskins did not view their line as the problem everyone else did after last season. Or so some in the organization said. However, they clearly weren't content, either. In reality, it was as bad as they thought considering 60 percent of their starting five might change from last season.

Drafting Moses serves as more evidence that they wanted a lot more from their front five.

If Moses develops and ends up starting this season, then there would be new players at two positions with a third playing a new spot. The only players in their same spot from last year are left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester.

For now, Tyler Polumbus will remain the starting right tackle, as he probably should. It's hard to imagine Moses progressing fast enough to bump him right away. But Polumbus is unsigned after this season. The Redskins perhaps didn't see the line as a huge issue, but it's clear something had to change.

What's next: The Redskins own another pick in the third round, the 78th overall. They had been actively trying to trade, perhaps to add more picks. They still need to add depth at corner, safety, tight end and running back (a pass catcher).
Taking a look at the ways the Washington Redskins could go not only in the second round Friday, but beyond -- and why.

Right tackle

The case for: Tyler Polumbus is not the long-term answer and, in fact, his contract is up after this season. Though he improved last season, it's clear the organization would like an upgrade. They could find a future starter -- whether Day 1 or not remains to be seen -- at 34. Or they could find a guy who might take a year or so after the second round.

The case against: Tough to make a case against drafting a right tackle, especially because there are some good ones available at that spot. That, combined with a need for the position -- even if Polumbus starts they need his eventual replacement.

Names to watch: Cyrus Kouandjio. The main reason he's available is because of questions surrounding his knees. But he was also inconsistent in pass protection (much better against the run), another reason he fell. Some teams have definitely been scared off because of his knees -- he has a degenerative issue with his knees, according to ESPN's Stephanie Bell. But he's also had no problems since his 2011 ACL surgery and, in fact, never missed a practice, had pain or swelling. So there's a risk-reward here and some positive signs mixed with concerns. And the Redskins' relationship with Dr. James Andrews, whose office performed the surgery on Kouandjio, is important and helpful here. If he can't play tackle, Nevada's Joel Bitonio, could move easily to guard. They also showed interest in Jack Mewhort, Morgan Moses and Antonio Richardson. I would not draft Mewhort or Richardson at 34; Moses' ability suggests he should go the highest of these three. We'll see.

Receiver

The case for: The Redskins need depth with Leonard Hankerson still uncertain following ACL surgery. Aldrick Robinson is entering the last year of his contract, too. Both have shown flashes but for one reason or another (yes, injuries a part) haven't put it together. Also, if the receiver they pick can return punts and kicks, that's even better.

The case against: They have three starting receivers -- and all are under contract for the next three seasons. Whoever they get, barring injuries, would end up being a No. 3 at best.

Names to watch: Marqise Lee is still available. But this is a deep draft at receiver so finding one after the second round is a distinct possibility. They also expressed interest in receiver Cody Latimer before the draft. He's an interesting player, faster than realized given how he was used at Indiana and because of injuries.

Tight end

The case for: Washington can use another pass catcher opposite Jordan Reed. Logan Paulsen is a blocker and an occasional pass threat, but they could use more given Reed's durability issues. Niles Paul remains on the roster, but is a free agent after this season.

The case against: Tough to make a strong case against adding another one at some point. At 34? Seems a big stretch considering Reed would still be the primary target if healthy. But in the third or fourth round? Sure.

Name to watch: Jace Amaro. More of a guy who would line up wide, but has definite receiving skills.

Running back

The case for: They clearly would like another pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Alfred Morris is set as the full-time ballcarrier, but Roy Helu is not set as the third-down back.

The case against: The second round is too high for this position given the needs elsewhere. But if they pick up another third? Then this spot becomes one worth watching (though the fourth round is fine here as well).

Names to watch: De'Anthony Thomas, Dri Archer, Charles Sims, George Atkinson III.

Guard

The case for: Though the Redskins signed Shawn Lauvao, they still have questions inside. Chris Chester, who struggled last year, returns. The Redskins could opt to draft another player here and plug them in immediately. Chester would then be in jeopardy of losing his job (releasing him would save the Redskins $2.7 million against the salary cap.

The case against: They did invest inside during free agency and still need a right tackle. For them to take a guard in the second round, it would have to be someone who was head and shoulders above.

Names to watch: Xavier Su'a-Filo. The UCLA guard is No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list at this position. Some tackles, such as Bitonio, might eventually end up at guard. Cyril Richardson has the size to play tackle, but his game might translate more to guard. He's a third-round guy.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The problems didn’t always stem from their play. They had their issues, but not all of the protection breakdowns resulted from their protection. That didn’t mean the Washington Redskins were satisfied with their offensive line. At the scouting combine, Redskins coach Jay Gruden mentioned the linemen getting pushed back on occasion. And in free agency two of the team's bigger moves involved the line: The signing of Shawn Lauvao and the release of center Will Montgomery.

The Redskins have also brought in several offensive linemen for visits (tackle Bruce Campbell, who agreed to a deal but never signed, remains a possibility, but would be a depth guy not a potential starter). There is still a good chance they will draft a right tackle as well.

Here are some things we picked up from Gruden during his hour-long breakfast at the owners’ meetings:
  1. Lauvao
    Lauvao will first get a shot at left guard, with Chris Chester staying at right guard and Kory Lichtensteiger sliding to center. Of course, perhaps one of the young guards could beat out a veteran, but you don’t sign Lauvao and expect him to do anything but start. Gruden never mentioned Josh LeRibeus, but it’s a bad sign for him that they signed Lauvao. A former third-round pick entering his third year should be ready to start. Safe to say Gruden isn’t impressed or else there would be no need to bring in someone else.
  2. Gruden said he likes Lauvao’s attitude: “He’s a very tough player. He can get to the second level like you’d like, but he’s a stronger type lineman. ... He played next to a great center [in Cleveland] and they did some great things. But Shawn brings an attitude. He likes to get down and dirty, and that’s what you’d like your offensive linemen to be like.”
  3. Gruden said he’s relying on line coach Chris Foerster’s recommendation that Lichtensteiger can be a good center. “I have faith in his assessment,” Gruden said. “We’re hoping he can make that transition. He’s a great athlete. We think he can be a natural center, with the types of moves he has. It’s a matter of seeing him and make sure those shotgun snaps are consistent any time. A lot of guys project to center because they have great movement, but if you can’t shotgun snap, it’s hard to play center. But hopefully, [at] training camp and OTAs we’ll get a great look and he’ll be able to do that. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
  4. One reason the Redskins abandoned LeRibeus at center? Inability to shotgun snap. And if the Redskins use a lot of pistol, the center has to not only shotgun snap, but instantly come off the ball. Usually a shotgun snap with no pistol has the linemen in pass protection. There is an adjustment.
  5. Britt
    Williams
    Gruden had this to say about the line getting pushed back (which he mentioned at the combine): “Everybody talks about our line getting pushed back a little bit, and it could be true. Most of them do get pushed back on third-and-12. We’ve got to do a better job on first-and-10, second-and-8, or second-and-7. I think the style of running attack that Chris Foerster has incorporated here is a solid, sound attack. It’s something we want to continue doing.”
  6. Gruden talked about this when asked about wanting to get bigger up front: “I don’t think there’s a reason why you can’t get a little bit bigger and still do the same thing. I think that’s more of our thing: try to get a little bit bigger. Some of these big guys are athletic. Trent Williams is the most athletic guy on our team, probably. But those big, huge, athletic guys are hard to find. But we’re going to keep trying."
  7. Finally, right tackle. Tyler Polumbus has the job for now, but it did not seem like the Redskins had abandoned any desire to find more competition. But Gruden didn’t have a sense of urgency here, either: “When you’re 3-13, you’re really not happy at any position. Right tackle is one that lot of people point at that needs improvement. But when I watch him play, I thought he did a pretty good job. We have some depth there also, and some guys that can come in and compete that are on our roster. Obviously, you’d like to have Pro Bowlers across the land, but I think for how we play, he’s pretty solid.”

Polumbus tops Redskins bonus list

March, 24, 2014
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The Redskins did not come close to the season they wanted. Their players still benefitted when it came to performance-based pay.
Sixty Redskins received bonuses, with 10 topping $100,000 in extra pay, according to figures released by the NFL management council. The bonuses are given to players whose performance time tops their salary level. Tackle Tyler Polumbus topped the list with a $190,601 bonus. The bonuses will be paid on April 1, 2016. Quarterback Robert Griffin III received a $27,047 bonus.

Here are the top 10 Redskins who earned bonuses:


Tackle Tyler Polumbus $190,601

Cornerback David Amerson $173,375

Running back Alfred Morris $167,854

Safety Bacarri Rambo $162,807

Tight end Logan Paulsen $142,295

Receiver Aldrick Robinson $134,758

Linebacker Perry Riley $129,997

Running back Roy Helu $125,260

Tight end Jordan Reed $108,461

Tight end Niles Paul $103,475

Here's the full list of players and their bonuses.

Redskins can free up more space

February, 4, 2014
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Monday was the first day teams could start releasing players -- and therefore putting in waiver claims when applicable. The Redskins obviously did not release anyone Monday. Nor did they claim anyone off waivers. As of now, Washington will have approximately $30 million in salary-cap space (which could change once the NFL releases the cap figure for 2014). So the Redskins don't have to free up a lot of room. Except that re-signing Brian Orakpo could be expensive and they have an entire secondary of free agents -- so they'll have be to re-signed or replaced. At some point the Redskins might need more room.

Here are some Redskins players to watch now that they can make moves:

Defensive end Stephen Bowen (potential savings: approximately $2 million): Bowen is scheduled to count $7.02 million against the cap in 2014. He also has just one year left on his original contract and if released, the dead money from his deal would count $5.04 million against the cap so the Redskins would save nearly $2 million. If not for his knee injury, Bowen would not be on this list. It’s not as if he was playing great before his injury, though his play against the run remained solid -- and that was his primary job. But he had microfracture surgery this past season and that’s never a good sign for a pro athlete. He turns 30 in March.

[+] EnlargeChris Chester
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWith a new regime in Washington, guard Chris Chester could be a cap casualty.
G Chris Chester (potential savings: $2.7 million): He’s signed through 2016, but will count $4.3 million against the cap this season. If they cut him, the final $1.6 million of his original $4 million signing bonus would go against this year’s cap, giving the Redskins an additional $2.7 million in savings. Chester played better in 2012 than this past season, but the Redskins did not consider any of the young guards good enough to challenge him. It helps Chester that line coach Chris Foerster will return and that they’ll use the same running game. But if the Redskins want to not only re-sign key players, but pursue other big free agents, then Chester could be a casualty. Jay Gruden’s guards in Cincinnati all weighed over 300 pounds; Chester, at 305 pounds, is borderline here. He's also 31 and the Redskins have several young offensive linemen behind him. The reason you drafted them was for situations like this if you want to make a move. Of course, one of the young guards is Adam Gettis, who is lighter than Chester and the other is Josh LeRibeus, who messed up his second season with a terrible offseason.

DE Adam Carriker (potential savings: $2.98 million): Most players who have had multiple surgeries on their quad in the past 18 months would not be in his situation, still pursuing a roster spot. The Redskins would have cut him last summer had he not worked the way he does. But Carriker will count $6.5 million against the cap in 2014. If they release him, it would save Washington $2.98 million. They could always re-sign him to a lesser deal; considering he’s missed 30 games the past two years combined Carriker lacks leverage. As of now, Carriker would account for nearly 20 percent of the salary-cap space on defense. He might return and be fine, but that’s an awful lot to commit to a player in his situation.

C Will Montgomery (potential savings: $1.93 million): He’ll count $3.43 million this season and, though he’s signed through the 2016 season, his contract voids five days following the Super Bowl in February 2016. If they released Montgomery the Redskins could save $1.93 million against the cap. The Redskins would then need a starting center, of course, but could always move Kory Lichtensteiger from guard. Lichtensteiger will need to gain weight regardless; by the way, if they cut him it would free up $1.1 million.

RT Tyler Polumbus (potential savings: $2.5 million: His base salary is $1.5 million and he also has an annuity that will pay him $1 million based on play time and would be considered likely to be earned, therefore it would count against the cap). If the Redskins find another starting right tackle, be it Tom Compton or someone else, they could free up extra money by releasing Polumbus, unless they want to keep him around as a swing tackle. Polumbus improved, but the Redskins could upgrade here.

P Sav Rocca (potential savings: $1.2 million): He’s entering the final year of his contract and will have a cap number of $1.36 million. If released, the Redskins would save $1.2 million. Rocca’s been inconsistent the past two years and while this is moderate savings, they’d still have to sign a punter so it’s not like they could use a lot of this savings and apply it elsewhere. But in the end they could save some money with another punter.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 24-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

What it means: The Redskins have lost seven consecutive games, tying the franchise record for the longest streak since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. They're now a well-earned 3-11. They also lost seven in a row in 1998 and ’94. Sunday was yet another example of a team that just can’t make plays when needed. The defense allowed Dallas to drive 87 yards for the winning touchdown drive. The special teams allowed yet another long return to open the game in bad fashion, and the offense did not help itself in the red zone and with another turnover. Though the Redskins can claim they played better and were, once again, close, the reality is that they’re just not good enough to win. They consistently played bad football all season, and this game was no different. The defense, minus Brian Orakpo, didn’t apply enough pressure, giving quarterback Tony Romo way too much time. It led directly to two touchdown passes.

Red zone woes: The Redskins had excellent field position much of the day, but their first two trips in the red zone did not end well. After an 18-yard punt return by Santana Moss, the Redskins had a first down at the Dallas 37. They ended up kicking a 36-yard field goal. Their next drive was excellent, moving from their 21 to a third-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 2-yard line. But consecutive penalties left them at third-and-12, and another field goal followed. When you play close games, series like these lead to losses.

Saying goodbye: This was the final home game for linebacker London Fletcher as well as a number of other Redskins. The coaching staff also might have coached their final home game. It’s still hard to imagine owner Dan Snyder allowing this regime to continue, though strange things can still happen. But for Fletcher, it was no doubt his last home game and he was the last Redskin to leave the field, surrounded by numerous photographers -- and getting a nice hand from the fans. Fletcher did not leave with a great game, finishing with one solo tackle. He was out for much of the winning drive as the Redskins used six defensive backs.

Quarterback watch: Kirk Cousins was OK in his second start of the season, completing 21 of 36 passes for 197 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It’s his third pick in two starts and each came off a bad throw and not a forced one or bad decision. Cousins had some nice throws, including one with right tackle Tyler Polumbus right in his way. But overall there was nothing special to his day, and he failed to get a first down on the final series.

What’s next: The season finale at the New York Giants. The Redskins already have clinched last place, so they’re left once more playing for pride. But it’s not as if the Giants have anything at stake, either.

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.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts and observations after the Washington Redskins' 24-17 loss to the New York Giants:

What it means: The speculation over Mike Shanahan’s job will increase dramatically. The Redskins are now 3-9, have lost four in a row and have shown no signs whatsoever this season that they are a good team. It’s one thing to lose at home to San Francisco, which is just a better team. It’s another to lose at home to a 4-7 team when you proclaim to still be capable of playing well. On national TV, no less. The Redskins have some serious questions to ask as an organization, which should have been the case before this game. But there’s no doubt this team has put owner Dan Snyder in a position where he has to consider every alternative. We know all the excuses for the Redskins -- cap penalty, Robert Griffin III’s knee. But that will never explain all that’s gone wrong this season or in this game.

Stock report: Down -- right side of the Redskins’ offensive line. Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus had a rough night against the Giants and Justin Tuck in particular. Tuck had success no matter who he went against. Chester in particular has to play better. Down -- The ability to stay poised in close games and play winning football. Hasn’t happened this year. Up -- linebacker Brian Orakpo. He finished with two sacks and played the run well.

Bad hands: The Redskins could not hold onto the ball on their final drive of the game. They dropped the ball three times on the drive, including one by tight end Fred Davis at the Giants’ 30-yard line. Then, on the final play, receiver Pierre Garcon had the ball stripped from him after catching a pass on fourth-and-1 that would have resulted in a first down.

Up next: The Redskins play a third straight game at home, this time against Kansas City. The Chiefs enter with a three-game losing streak.

Statistically speaking: Penalty breakdown

November, 14, 2013
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The Washington Redskins, believe it or not, have improved when it comes to penalties compared to last season. It just seems as if it hurts them more this season. But the Redskins rank 16th in the NFL with 57 penalties, averaging 6.6 per game (compared to 5.6 for their opponents). A year ago they were flagged for 115 penalties, fourth most in the NFL.

Here is how the penalties break down:

Most called penalty: Holding. The Redskins have been flagged for holding 17 times. Their 14 accepted holding penalties rank fifth in the NFL, as does their 12 offensive holding penalties. Among the teams ahead of them for offensive holds: New Orleans (league leaders with 17), Green Bay and Seattle. Last season, the Redskins were called for 20 holding penalties, including 15 on offense. The Redskins have passed a lot more this season, which would explain some of this: They've already attempted 346 passes compared to 442 for all of last season. Players have said they've seen more "exotic" blitzes than last season.

At the top: Five of the top 10 least penalized teams have winning records: Indianapolis (3.7 per game), Chicago (4.4), New England (4.6), Arizona (5.7) and Green Bay (5.8).

At the bottom: Only three of the most penalized teams have winning records: Detroit (6.9), Seattle (8.0) and the New York Jets (8.4). The last one is the worst in the NFL.

Offensive penalties: The Redskins have the 13th most offensive penalties (27).

Special teams penalties: The Redskins have the third most special teams penalties (14).

Defensive penalties: The Redskins have the eighth fewest defensive penalties (16).

Penalty yardage: The Redskins have lost 511 yards in penalties.

Nullified yards: The Redskins penalties have nullified an additional 93 yards gained.

Biggest offender: Right guard Chris Chester, center Will Montgomery and quarterback Robert Griffin III lead the Redskins with five penalties apiece. Chester has been called for a team-worst four holding penalties (and one false start). Montgomery has been called for two holds, an illegal peelback, a false start and a facemask. Griffin has two intentional groundings, a false start and two delay of games.

Rest of the line: The other three offensive linemen have combined for four holding penalties: Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus both have one; Kory Lichtensteiger has two (his only penalties). Williams also has two false starts; Polumbus has one false start.

Reversal: Lichtensteiger was flagged a team-worst 12 times last season, including seven false starts. Chester and Montgomery only received only two penalties apiece last season. Chester had two false starts; Montgomery had a clipping penalty and a false start. Polumbus only had two penalties last season, neither of which was a hold.

Pass interference penalties: One – on David Amerson and it was declined. They had nine last season.

Others with multiple penalties: Perry Riley (3), Logan Paulsen (3), Darrel Young (3), Jerome Murphy (3), DeAngelo Hall (2), Brandon Meriweather (2), Chris Baker (2), London Fletcher (2), E.J. Biggers (2), Pierre Garcon (2), Josh Morgan (2), Nick Sundberg (2), Amerson (2), Leonard Hankerson (2).

Redskins Gameday: Ten Thoughts

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
12:30
PM ET
1. It's the same as last week: If the Washington Redskins want to consider a late-season playoff push, then they must beat Minnesota Thursday night. They absolutely need to prove that they can play well in consecutive games, something they have not done all season. It's a big difference from last season and it's why any talk of a turnaround can't begin until they do so. Minnesota is not a good team, but that doesn't matter. Playing well does. If they play well and get to 4-5, it makes the following week's game at Philadelphia a huge one.

2. A big factor in Thursday's game? Health. And the Redskins easily have the advantage in this area. Minnesota might be without two starters on the offensive line and already lost solid tight end Kyle Rudolph. Their secondary is ailing. Still, no team that's 3-5 should feel overly confident. That's why I loved the Santana Moss quote that NBC-4's Diana Russini tweeted Thursday morning: “How is this an easy game for us when we aren't even that good?!"

3. The Redskins have done an excellent job against Adrian Peterson in their previous four meetings, though one ended prematurely because of his torn ACL. Still, in four games, his longest carry has been for 32 yards. Last season on his 17 carries against them, the Redskins used an eight-man box on all but four carries. Three times the Vikings spread the field and forced six in the box, but Peterson only gained a combined seven yards.

4. The key? The ability of nose tackle Barry Cofield and end Stephen Bowen in particular of holding double teams. Time and again the inside linebackers, at least one of them, was unblocked and able to fill a gap. When a lineman would peel off the double team to block, one of the defensive linemen would help plug the middle (Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston helped here, too). This happened time and again; the double teams were slow to break. Also, Minnesota has struggled this season when it comes to its double teams. The Redskins say Peterson's showing last week was helped by how Dallas' front four play, more intent on getting upfield. The Redskins' front wants to play more lateral and it can disrupt the double teams better.

5. Another key last season was that the Redskins did an excellent job swarming Peterson and forcing him to cut back inside. One run that exemplified what must happen occurred in the first half. On a run up the middle, both London Fletcher and Perry Riley were unblocked, forcing Peterson to try and bounce wide. As Peterson tries to get outside, corner DeAngelo Hall comes up aggressively and takes him down with a low hit. They need that sort of run support from the corners against a guy like this.

6. Whether you like Jim Haslett as a defensive coordinator or not is up to you. But he understands this is a player's league. I was struck by his answer Wednesday regarding the goal-line stand when he referred to the defense as "them." Well, he's part of it, too. And trust me when I say: some coordinators here in the past would not have said it like that. But Haslett realizes they're the ones that had to make plays and did so. (What he didn't mention: Hall was covering Antonio Gates on the fade stemmed because of a change in their goal-line package from the previous week when they got caught with one defensive back as Denver passed the ball). Haslett has his flaws. But he has a good understanding of the players' mentality.

7. Left tackle Trent Williams knows the challenges of playing in a dome against a pass-rusher such as Jared Allen. He only has three sacks, but Williams isn't about to relax. Playing in a dome removes the chance to disrupt timing through snap counts. “He always gets a great jump off the ball, so that becomes magnified,” Williams said. “You always peek at the ball, but [now] you try to time it up better and you have to be on your technique. One false move and he's on the quarterback.” On the other side, watch for end Brian Robison's spin move; used it to sack Dallas quarterback Tony Romo last week. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus can't let him get his hands into his chest.

8. Quarterback Robert Griffin III needs to build on last week's game with another strong outing. It'll be tough to match his completion percentage (71.8), but he needs to be efficient and avoid bad decisions, or take too long, as he did the previous week against Denver. Like the entire team, you can't say Griffin suddenly found himself because of what he did last week -- just like you couldn't say he was never going to develop because he played poorly versus Denver. Again: He's a young quarterback still enduring growing pains as a passer. But the Vikings represent a good chance for him to gain more confidence. They haven't applied enough pressure (17 sacks in 332 pass attempts). They allow a lot of completions (67 percent) and they're missing two defensive backs Thursday. Griffin should play well, if he's patient.

9. One reason the Redskins can feel a little better about the second half of the season is the quarterbacks they won't be facing: elite guys who are difference makers. In the first eight games they faced Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Only Stafford and Cutler aren't among the top-seven rated passers this season. In the second half, the Redskins play only one quarterback currently rated in the top 15 (Atlanta's Matt Ryan).

10. The Vikings' numbers against the run look solid: 3.8 yards per carry allowed. However, they've faced only two teams that currently rank in the top 18 in terms of rushing in Chicago and Green Bay. They allowed 4.7 and 4.3 yards per carry, respectively, in those losses (and a combined 309 yards). The Redskins are running the ball well.

Redskins Film Review: Offense

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
11:00
PM ET
Thoughts and observations after re-watching the Washington Redskins' offense versus Chicago:
  • The Bears made it their mission, it seemed, to slow running back Alfred Morris. But it’s one reason why the bootlegs worked so well: when Morris was in the game the backside ends and linebacker more often than not went right to the ball. When Roy Helu was in the game they were more apt to play contain. It made a difference on some of Helu’s runs. Also, the Bears often aligned their linebackers 2 or 3 yards off the ball, allowing them to shoot gaps quicker. At times, the Bears’ linemen would hit the gap behind the direction of the play, causing a Redskins’ lineman to turn back a little to reach them only to have a linebacker rush through on their outside shoulder. Didn’t always work.
  • After watching the game again, I can see why the Redskins went with the reverse to Aldrick Robinson. They had Morris in the backfield and the ends typically had crashed. But on the play before the reverse, the end started up first, as if playing a bootleg, then went to the ball. He took the same action on the next play, but continued upfield and tackled Robinson.
  • Helu did a terrific job in the red zone for a couple reasons. He did a better job setting up blockers than he has on some other runs. His cuts are terrific, too. Helu runs better in the red zone, where defenses overflow to stop plays and can’t react to his quick cuts. But when Helu is in the game teams often anticipate a pass. And this enabled the Redskins to stay balanced with their approach in the red zone, always a key to success here. On two of Helu’s runs, the backside linebacker and end played contain, anticipating a bootleg by Robert Griffin III. The first time, a 14-yard touchdown run to the left, I don’t think they would have made a difference regardless (guard Kory Lichtensteiger, tackle Trent Williams and receiver Pierre Garcon all had good blocks). The second time, on a 10-yard to the right side, I think they would have had a chance to stop him sooner.
  • One of Helu’s best runs occurred on the final drive, his 8-yard run around left end. I’m still not sure how he picked up any yards. Center Will Montgomery was driven back on a stretch zone to the left. Because of this he bumped into Helu, who stumbled, yet recovered to bounce wide for 8 yards. Good blocking kept the lane open, but Helu’s balance saved him.
  • The Redskins forced the Bears into a nickel defense on Helu’s game-winning touchdown. That meant tight end Logan Paulsen had to seal a safety inside instead of a linebacker when Helu cut back. Easy pickings.
  • I love the no-huddle as a changeup, but there are times when the defense looks confused and that I think it hurts the offense, too. Or, at least, does not work to their advantage. The Redskins lost yards on one such occasion when the defense clearly wasn’t set, but perhaps by being unsure and even a little out of position it helped the Bears.
  • The no-huddle worked well, too, when they used a fresh back. It was effective when Helu was in the game in the first half and they used it, his speed overpowering a tiring defense. In the second half, the Redskins went to some no-huddle looks with linebacker Lance Briggs out of the game; very smart considering he is the Bears’ defensive leader.
  • I could go on and on about Jordan Reed. I won’t. Well, maybe a little. And I’ll have more later in the week from tight ends coach Sean McVay about him. But I love how Reed sells his fakes and is fluid in his cuts, allowing him to maintain his speed downfield after a hard plant one way or the other. It enables him to gain a little more separation. He creates yards sometimes on subtle plays that don’t look fantastic, but others would not make. Like the 10-yard catch-and-run in the right flat. He has to turn inside a little bit, but could grab it, turn and keep going.
  • Here’s another example: On Reed's 26-yard gain during the game-winning drive, he caught a pass over the middle (thanks to a zone read fake that sucked all three linebackers to the ball and left a wide open alley; yes, this play continues to work). First, he gained separation against safety Major Wright on the left side, getting open by about 3 yards. He caught the ball around the 34-yard line and kept running to his left as the other safety Chris Conte approached. Without slowing Reed gave an exaggerated move outside and cut back inside Conte. He looked like a running back and it helped him gain an extra 7 yards.
  • This was either a subtle change or just a good heads-up play by right tackle Tyler Polumbus. First, he did a rather solid job in this game. A couple bad moments, but overall solid. But I loved what he did on Morris’ 9-yard run on third-and-1 late in the game. The Bears had crashed hard all game on the zone read and this time was no exception as end Shea McClellin was headed inside again. The Bears had success against Morris doing this. Typically McClellin faced no resistance. But this time Polumbus delayed leaving on his block for a split second, enough to bump McClellin. It prevented him from crashing harder and was a help. It’s not the sort of wow block that makes highlights, but it did contribute.
  • Morris carried three times in the fourth quarter for 30 yards; Helu ran five times for 9 yards in the final quarter. Helu gained 30 yards on four red zone carries. He gained of his 41 yards on four red zone carries. He gained 11 yards on seven runs between the 20s.

Redskins Film Review: Offense

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
5:50
PM ET
Thoughts and observations after rewatching the Washington Redskins' offense against Oakland:

  1. The hurry-up offense was a fantastic strategy and clearly worked. It created momentum for the offense and it tired out the defense. It also forced the Raiders’ defense into basic looks and mostly seven-man fronts, which allowed the Redskins at times to create numbers advantages that they could not do initially.
  2. On the first two series the Raiders changed their front look on almost every play. As the no-huddle drive unfolded, they were forced to stay in a basic 3-4 look much of the time. After the initial play, the Raiders never used an eight-man box on the ensuing eight plays. Running back Alfred Morris gained 8 yards on his first carry out of this because of the numbers: Even though Oakland had four of its front-seven defenders aligned to the Redskins’ right side, Washington still ran that way. It had four blockers to counter: guard Chris Chester, tight end Logan Paulsen, right tackle Tyler Polumbus and tight end Niles Paul. Each won their block; Morris gained 6 of his 8 yards before contact. Two plays later he gained 9 yards because of his patience: Morris ran to the left side and waited for Paul to gain control of his man. Once he did Morris shot inside. And one play later, this alignment created a four-on-three situation to the Redskins’ right as Morris gained 7 more yards.
  3. Another consequence: fatigue. Give offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the staff credit for how they called this sequence. They called a bootleg to the right followed by an outside zone to the left followed by an outside zone to the right. They kept the interior running side to side and tired them out. Defensive end Lamarr Houston was not showing a lot of energy running from the backside on Morris’ 9-yard run. Their linemen did not have the same pop off the ball and were a little more upright, making them easier to block.
  4. To show (OK, tell) you the difference: On the first play of the game the Raiders had eight in the box, including six on the line. This forced Paulsen to take an outside release en route to the inside linebacker, a tough path. Morris gained no yards. In the hurry-up, they did not have to contend with such looks.
  5. [+] EnlargeRoy Helu
    Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRoy Helu saw his most extensive action of the season against the Raiders, running for 41 yards and a touchdown.
    Running back Roy Helu still gets to the hole too fast at times, but on some runs he compensates with such quick feet that it doesn’t matter. On a 7-yard run early in the fourth quarter, Helu hit the hole a bit fast, but it caused the linebacker to fill the hole. Thanks to blocks by Trent Williams (once again, not his best game) and Kory Lichtensteiger -- and Helu’s own quick feet -- he cut back to the left for a positive gain.
  6. Helu’s 14-yard touchdown run displayed his subtle cuts, which influenced three defenders. Helu hit the hole through the left side and appears headed back to the right. Because of this, a linebacker engaged with Chester starts to widen that way, eventually causing him to bump into an oncoming safety. The other safety, Charles Woodson, aligned on the defense’s right between the hash and the numbers, sprinted at Helu. Again, Woodson thought he was going to the right. But Helu cut back and Woodson couldn’t get a clean shot at him because of his angle and that momentum carried Helu into the end zone.
  7. Oakland has a loud stadium considering it only holds 53,549. But, as you know from the RFK Stadium days, passion and an enclosed stadium equals noise. Especially in the end zone to the Redskins’ left. On one play in the third quarter, after the snap Williams was still in his stance and Polumbus had just barely gotten out of his. Meanwhile, the Raiders had a good jump and the end raced inside Polumbus; Williams allowed penetration also on this 1-yard loss for Morris.
  8. Credit Lichtensteiger for an assist on the 16-yard pass to Pierre Garcon on third-and-7 in the second quarter. He initially blocked down to help center Will Montgomery. But the Raiders tried to overload this side and Lichtensteiger had to kick back to his left to pick up a blitzing corner. It bought Robert Griffin III time.
  9. It’s noticeable that Leonard Hankerson is running more consistent routes and it’s leading to more catches (though the Redskins have been passing a lot more too, which helps all the receivers). And this is the first time in Hankerson’s career that he’s gone four straight games with at least two catches. But let’s not go crazy yet. He still has to prove he’s a quality No. 2 receiver. He did have a nice catch-and-run for 17 yards off a formation I love: the stack. It works great versus man coverage. This time, Hankerson was positioned behind and to the right of Santana Moss, covered by Tracy Porter. Moss ran into Porter at the snap, then cut to his right. That enabled Hankerson to break underneath and gain 12 yards after the catch. Well-designed and executed.
  10. This is why it’s good to have guys like fullback Darrel Young on the team. On Garcon’s 15-yard screen pass in the first quarter, Young starts blocking cornerback Mike Jenkins at the 24-yard line; he kept driving him back to the 34, lost a little control and then regained it and shoved him another three yards and then toward the sideline. At the end he gave him an extra shove. Young plays with attitude.

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