NFL Nation: brandon jenkins

Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester. Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.

Defensive line (6)

This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger.

Linebackers (9)

As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.

Safeties (4)

I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
1. I've mentioned Washington Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker a number of times and wanted to give you more of a feel for him as a coach, just by listening to him during practice with his players. A few things I noticed: He's constantly teaching and reminding players when what they've done is right or wrong. It's constant. He even chastised one player (wasn't quite sure who) for not having his eyes on him when he was speaking.

2. During pass-rush drills, he reminded the players, “don't let them control your body! Keep your elbows tight!” It's a point of emphasis. At one point, he told rookie Trent Murphy, “Give me one good one 93; I need one good one before we move on!” Murphy gave it to him. Baker worked with players on where their hands should be on the blocker at the snap (obviously not low, but he worked on getting the hands right before the snap, too). Baker: “You can't let him get into your chest. The closer you are the higher you put your hands.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassJay Gruden had his coaches concentrating on special teams during the Redskins' minicamp.
3. And, finally, I like that Baker does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to pass rushing. He worked with Brandon Jenkins on his footwork off the snap when positioned at right outside linebacker. It's a little different than on the right side and he wanted to make sure he stayed on the right path from the get-go. But he also told Jenkins, “You can't get it to look like everyone else. You've just got to get it right. Make it work for you.” He also worked with Jenkins on accelerating at the top of the rush -- it's where you win.

4. I don't know what sort of difference one outside linebackers coach can make, but I also know it can't be overlooked. He's a legit coach.

5. Redskins coach Jay Gruden incorporated more of his coaches in special teams drills. It's not as if other coaches in past years did nothing here, but it was noticeable this past week. Secondary coach Raheem Morris worked with the flyers in punt coverage while receivers coach Ike Hilliard showed them how to get off a jam. Baker helped with the tackling drills. Gruden said it enables special teams coach Ben Kotwica to get more out of his allotted 10-15 minutes. There is a definite increased emphasis on special teams, starting from early in the offseason.

6. The Redskins now know they'll face quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against Houston. Not sure it's a big surprise and not sure it really matters. Fitzpatrick was 9-5 as a starter from Nov. 14, 2010 to Oct. 30, 2011 -- that includes the 23-0 shutout of Washington. Since then, Fitzpatrick is 10-23 as a starter. Of course, his first NFL start came against Washington, a 24-9 loss while with Cincinnati in 2005. Fitzpatrick has thrown 106 touchdown passes to 93 interceptions in his career.

7. Three months later DeSean Jackson remains a big topic in Philadelphia. It started, again, with running back LeSean McCoy saying Jackson's release caught everyone's attention. It let them know if you don't buy in, you will be cut. Kelly refuted that notion. “I don't send messages to other players by how I deal with other players,” Kelly told Eagles reporters. “And how LeSean McCoy interprets things … LeSean has a beautiful mind. Sometimes trying to analyze that mind I don't wrap myself around that too much. Or bother myself too much with that. However LeSean interprets things is how LeSean interprets things.” The Eagles do think they have enough speedminus Jackson to still thrive.

8. There was a big to-do over the Patriots having a Jets playbook and that led to a discussion over whether it made a difference. Some who have covered the NFL a long time insist it means nothing; others who have covered it a long time insist it does. With players switching teams all the time, I doubt it's a big secret what's in various playbooks and coaches study so much tape that there shouldn't be many surprises. The bigger issue is when you know another coach's tendencies. I say that because some coaches here in the past felt that part of the success they had against Giants quarterback Eli Manning stemmed from having their playbook. But it also helped that they felt offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't change a whole lot. Tendencies mattered more.

9. One player who must have a strong year for Dallas: cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012, but his impact has been poor. Claiborne has picked off two passes, has battled nagging injuries and lost his starting job last year. This is the time of year for player optimism and Claiborne is no different. Everyone is saying the right things about Claiborne, as you would expect. But they like that he's competing. One nugget: Claiborne pulled a rookie corner off the field in order to face receiver Dez Bryant in practice. "Me and him talked about it before we even started up that we want to be the best and we want to go against each other," Claiborne said. "We feel like we both compete at a high level. I get good work when I go against him and it's vice versa. When I'm not up there, he's telling me to come. We're trying to help each other so we can be the best for our team."

10. The Redskins nearly had Antrel Rolle in the 2005 draft, but he went one pick ahead of them at No. 8 to Arizona, so they drafted Carlos Rogers instead. Rolle, a corner when he came out, continues to improve at safety. Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt said of Rolle, “Before, as far as formations, he didn't see formations. He didn't really see the route concepts. Now, the last two years, it's all coming together for him and he's feeling more comfortable. So with Antrel's ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn't really scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become."
The plan was to watch linebacker Trent Murphy before the draft, knowing that he would be a possibility with the second pick in the third round. But there were a handful of other pass rushers to get to before him. So I never made it. And then they drafted him. So now here’s a mini-scouting report on the Redskins second-round pick (47th overall).

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsStanford linebacker Trent Murphy is a disciplined, if not splashy, choice for the Redskins.
What I liked: Excellent production and solid all-around player. Terrific hands in the pass rush and helped him shed blocks in run support, too. Keeps them tight; quick hands, too. His sacks and pressures not just the result of QBs holding onto the ball. Had one against Michigan State in which he beat the left tackle to the outside with his hands, squeezed inside a (horrible) block by the running back and sacked the quarterback in 2.6 seconds. Saw others in that range as well. Another took 3.3 against USC. Good variety of moves (has a spin move). Understands how to play with leverage --in both the pass and run game -- and when he did, would shed blocks in the run game and get tackles for a loss. Saw him get triple teamed on occasion against USC and Michigan State. Saw two blockers on him a number of times --whether assigned double teams or a guard/running back/tight end helping out. Lined up all over: as an end on either side in a three- or four-point stance; as a standup linebacker on either side. Disciplined rusher; did not see him lose his gap or freelance. Didn’t see him fooled; saw him locate the ball well.

Against both USC and Michigan State -- close games -- Murphy made some of his bigger plays late so the motor runs strong all game. Seems to understand angles. Showed good movement in coverage; the Redskins say he’s a fluid athlete and I would agree. Doesn’t mean he’s a great athlete, but he moves well. Saw him drop in zone; saw him cover backs and tight ends one-on-one. Can’t say he’s great here, but he did move fine. Plays special teams. Saw him rushing the punter and was on field goal protection. In fact, in the Michigan State game, he caught a pass on a failed attempt (nullified by a penalty). Did not see him get taken out of a play by double teams in the run game.

What I didn’t: Is not a great athlete and will not beat linemen with his burst or his speed. Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.86 seconds at the combine. There were times when tackles recovered on moves that should have resulted in greater pressure. If he got you with his hands initially, then watch out. If not, athletic and long-armed tackles would recover. Rounds off his rushes at times, similar to Ryan Kerrigan; in some cases that was because he was rushing to contain (against Oregon, for example). But in other cases it just helped the tackles recover. No explosive moments; it’s just not his game. Has good height at 6-foot-5, but could probably stand to add another 10 pounds or so to play outside and hold up against the run long-term.

Scout's take: One scout provided this assessment of Murphy's game: "An old-fashioned SAM linebacker, not very quick but productive. Not flashy, smart, big but slow twitch as a rusher."

Summary: A lot to like about Murphy, though I don’t know if there’s anything that makes you say, ‘Wow’ or makes you jump up and down. Hence: mid-to-late second rounder. That’s not a bad thing necessarily; it just means he’s not explosive. You need to let his game marinate in your mind a little bit because there are a lot of things he does well. Was he a reach? I don't know; I know what some experts say (some of whom had certain guys rated high who remained on the board in the third or are still undrafted, so who knows?) I know the Redskins liked him before the draft so it really only depends how their board stacked up. He can be a productive player and he’ll be helped by being able to play off better rushers, drawing more solo matchups. He can help on special teams and should add toughness and smarts at the position. It does mean that Brandon Jenkins and Rob Jackson have some work to do. Is he Brian Orakpo's eventual replacement? Not sold on that one yet. If the Redskins find a way to get their starters and Murphy on the field a lot and all are productive, then why break that up?

Free-agent analysis: Adam Hayward

March, 11, 2014
A thumbnail look at newly-signed inside linebacker Adam Hayward:

What he got: Three years, $3 million with a $300,000 bonus.

Quick analysis: Hayward is considered a good leader and solid special teams player, both of which the Redskins needed. He spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay, starting 13 games. He’s 6-foot-1, 240 pounds and runs well. His best time in the 40-yard dash in 2007 (when he was coming out of Portland State) was 4.46 seconds. Having big players who can run is an absolute must on special teams; it’s also one of the reasons Lorenzo Alexander was so good in this area. He’s also considered a good locker room guy. Obviously the Redskins know him well, with Raheem Morris and Bruce Allen both having worked with him in Tampa Bay. You typically do better in free agency when you have a history with a player.

Impact: The Redskins needed to add inside linebackers, but considering Hayward is more of a special teams standout it’s hard to imagine their work here is done. They had been linked to Joe Mays as well; he’s another special teams standout. Tough to see how this bumps anyone off the roster considering they lacked depth. I do wonder what this means for Bryan Kehl, who was supposed to play a similar role. But Hayward, from what I gather, has been a better special teams player. If Keenan Robinson is healthy and Brandon Jenkins becomes better in this area, it would give the Redskins three big players on special teams who can run. They did not have that last season.

Josh Morgan inactive for Redskins

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins hoped wide receiver Josh Morgan could develop into a solid No. 2 receiver. Then they hoped he could fill in as a kick and punt returner. But Morgan hasn't accomplished any of that and, Sunday, he was made inactive.
The Redskins placed Morgan on their seven-man inactive list for their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Morgan, in the final year of his contract, had not made an impact at receiver or as a returner. The latter isn't surprising because Morgan had not returned punts in the NFL -- and only returned seven while at Virginia Tech. Morgan was surpassed as the starting Z receiver by third-year Leonard Hankerson, who is not a big playmaker but has been more productive than Morgan.

This also means undrafted rookie free agent Nick Williams will return punts in his NFL debut. He was signed off the practice squad during the week. Williams returned four punts for a touchdown in college.

Also inactive for Washington: quarterback Rex Grossman, guard Josh LeRibeus, safety Jose Gumbs, linebacker Brandon Jenkins, tight end Fred Davis and nose tackle Chris Neild. Jenkins was active in the first game against Philadelphia as the Redskins wanted more speed in their rush

For the Eagles, the inactives are quarterback Michael Vick, safety Earl Wolff, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, linebacker Jake Knott, receiver Damaris Johnson and tackle Dennis Kelly. Banged-up left tackle Jason Peters will start.

Redskins' Fred Davis inactive again

November, 7, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis was put on the inactive list for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. This time it will cost him.

Davis needed to be active for 12 games this season in order to collect a $500,000 bonus. The initial reason for that bonus was because of Davis' Achilles' injury that ended is 2012 season. The Redskins wanted to protect themselves if he couldn't play much this season -- and reward him if he could. Davis has been a healthy inactive the past four games; he sat out one game because of a sprained ankle.

The emergence of rookie Jordan Reed, who leads all NFL rookies with 38 receptions, and the fact that Davis does not play special teams have kept him inactive. Niles Paul is actually the fourth tight end, but he is active because of his special-teams performance.

There weren't any surprises among the other inactives: quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Chris Thompson, safety Jose Gumbs, offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and nose tackle Chris Neild. Jenkins was active last week as the Redskins wanted more speed in the pass rush. Thursday, veteran Darryl Tapp will be active instead.

Redskins injury report: Healthy roster

October, 18, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins cornerback David Amerson said he's feeling fine and will play against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, barring any setbacks. That's good news for a secondary that has another tough assignment this week. Amerson is listed as questionable on the injury report.
With the Bears' diverse passing game, the Redskins need a healthy secondary to continue its recent solid play. Washington benefitted against Dallas from its ability to disguise coverages, partly because it used corner Josh Wilson in a variety of roles, from slot corner to strong safety. If Amerson had to miss, then the Redskins wouldn't be able to tap into their strength in the backfield right now, which is versatility.

Tight end Fred Davis (ankle), linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle), center Will Montgomery (knee), corner Jerome Murphy (ankle), nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) and tight end Logan Paulsen (knee) are probable.

For Chicago, tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) and corner Charles Tillman (knee) are questionable. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) is probable and his return would be welcomed by a struggling defensive front. Others listed as probable: linebacker James Anderson (back), safety Anthony Walters (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (knee).

Redskins injury report: Reed sits again

September, 26, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed did not practice for a second consecutive day, though coach Mike Shanahan remains hopeful that Reed might be able to play Sunday.

Kicker Kai Forbath (groin), linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle) and cornerback Jerome Murphy (death in the family) also did not practice. Tight end Fred Davis (ankle) was limited and said afterward that his right ankle was still sore.

If Davis and Reed can’t play, the Redskins would have to go with Logan Paulsen, already a starter, and No. 4 tight end Niles Paul. Paulsen is a solid blocker; Paul offers more speed, but he hasn’t really caught on as a pass-catcher from this position. Losing Reed and Davis would hurt in the passing game because they’re the Redskins' best receiving threats at tight end.

Reed’s size and athleticism help tremendously. The sprint rollout that Robert Griffin III threw to Paul in the corner of the end zone late in Sunday’s loss to Detroit would have had a better chance with the taller, more athletic Reed.

But Paulsen has reliable hands and proved he can be an occasional threat, too. Paul had a strong summer catching the ball, but has been squeezed for playing time because of the depth.

“It’s one position where we have more depth than most,” Shanahan said. “It’s always nice to have four guys that can play. Right now we have two guys that are healthy and two that are banged up. Both have a chance to play, but we won’t know until game day.”

Forbath won't kick until Friday or Saturday to see if his groin has improved.

For Oakland, quarterback Terrelle Pryor was limited in practice because of a concussion, according to the injury report. Safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Hunter (quad) and tackle Menelik Watson (knee) did not practice. Linebacker Sio Moore (concussion), guard Lucas Nix (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) also were limited.

Redskins injury report: Jordan Reed sits

September, 25, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins rookie tight end Jordan Reed did not practice Wednesday because of his thigh contusion, but coach Mike Shanahan said Reed has “improved a lot” in the last day and remains hopeful about his availability for Sunday’s game at the Oakland Raiders.

The problem at tight end is that veteran Fred Davis was limited in practice because of a sprained right ankle. He did not play against Detroit after hurting the ankle Friday.

Reed replaced Davis with the starters in the second half of the Week 2 loss at Green Bay. He provides them with a young, athletic target who continues to improve. The Redskins want Davis, in the final year of his contract, to be more detail-oriented.

If neither one can play against Oakland, then Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul would take their places. Paulsen is the Redskins' top blocking tight end; Paul is No. 4 at the position and his main contribution now is on special teams.

Kicker Kai Forbath (groin) did not practice and is not expected to kick until Friday. Linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle) also did not practice.

For Oakland, safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Hunter (quad), quarterback Terrelle Pryor (concussion) and tackle Menelik Watson (knee) did not practice. Linebacker Sio Moore (concussion), guard Lucas Nix (ankle), fullback Jamize Olawale (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) were limited.

Redskins film review: Defense

September, 18, 2013
1. For whatever reason, linebacker London Fletcher is getting blocked more than it seemed he did a year ago. Is that a function of him (finally) showing his age and not being able to get off blocks? Anything that goes wrong with Fletcher will be painted that way. Is it the line not holding double teams as long? Is he having to read the play longer? This could be a byproduct of having to play so much nickel defense in the first two games. Regardless, it was an issue Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRandall Cobb
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsMiscommunication and blown assignments in the secondary led to a long day for the Redskins defense Sunday.
2. The problems are many: missed tackles, missed assignments, miscommunication. David Amerson didn’t hear that one coverage had been changed in which he would have been responsible for the deep outside. Instead, he played as if in a Cover 2 and released the receiver to an uncovered area for 57 yards. On Randall Cobb's touchdown, it appears Brandon Meriweather misplayed it, going over to double Jordy Nelson -- which left linebacker Perry Riley chasing the speedy Cobb. And on the last series, the Redskins somehow had three defenders covering two receivers while Cobb, the Packers best receiver, again ran free off that same side. Was safety Reed Doughty out of position running over to help with two guys already covered? Don’t know. I do know that this happened too often and if not for Bacarri Rambo's shoestring tackle the Packers would have scored again.

3. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took plenty of five-step drops after the first quarter. Rodgers took a five-step drop on his 14-yard touchdown pass to Nelson. By the way, that’s another sloppy play. Either DeAngelo Hall, who appeared to have that half of the field, played too soft or the linebacker on that side, Riley, did not drop far enough. All three linebackers dropped to the same depth, incidentally. That put them about two yards from tight end Jermichael Finley, but it was third-and-goal from the 14 and Finley was around the 10. It left a big window for Rodgers.

4. Rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins played 13 snaps. On his first snap, Jenkins, in a four-point stance, jumped offside on a third-and-6 thanks to a hard count. That’s what drew him off; he was looking at the ball -- as taught -- but Rodgers got him with his cadence. Veteran quarterbacks will test him every time.

5. Amerson was beaten in man coverage on one play in which he could have been called for a hold on receiver James Jones. When Jones gave him a stutter step, Amerson looked back at the quarterback -- and that gave Jones the opening to speed past him. Coaches always say: Keep your eyes on your work. Amerson admitted peeking back at the quarterback in college last season. This time the pass fell incomplete. No doubt he’ll be tested again. I like talking to Amerson because he understands that he’s still learning. Growing pains.

6. I like the way corner Josh Wilson disguises his blitzes from the slot. Wilson rushed free on his sack because he didn’t tip his intention, eyeing the receiver until the snap (Hall usually peeked inside), and then having a lane created by Brian Orakpo rushing upfield and Fletcher rushing at the guard.

7. A year ago the Redskins tackled well and caused turnovers, helping them eventually overshadow their sins. This year? They’re not creating turnovers (one) and they’re giving up too many extra yards from missed tackles. The secondary has been bad at this and Doughty struggled here Sunday as much as anyone. But he was far from the lone culprit and it was an issue before he even entered the game.

8. Here’s an example of the impact on the misses: Amerson missed a tackle on Jones that would have left Green Bay with a third-and-7. Instead, Jones gained 17 extra yards and it became first-and-10 at the Redskins’ 15. Another one: Three players missed Finley after a short catch -- Doughty grabbed at one leg and missed, Wilson missed him five yards later along the sideline, and Rambo missed him six yards later. Finley is big so factor that in, but a good first tackle and it’s second-and-7. Instead it was first-and-10 from the Redskins’ 33.

9. Ryan Kerrigan had a good first quarter, obviously, with two sacks -- showing excellent strength on the first in pushing back the tackle with his right hand. The second was an example of how they hoped things would go. Orakpo drove the left tackle back and Jenkins did the same on the right side, even getting doubled. Kerrigan was aligned just off the ball between Barry Cofield and Orakpo. Right before the snap, Cofield shifted from between the center and left guard to over the center. So when he shot inside to his right, the center stayed with him, freeing a lane on a twist for Kerrigan through the middle. Everyone else collapsed the pocket and Kerrigan eventually corralled Rodgers.

10. Why didn’t Rambo get over to Nelson in time on a third-quarter touchdown? I have not talked to Rambo since Sunday and he initially felt he played that one well. He was in deep middle and took a couple steps to that side before the snap. But Nelson had earlier scored on a post and Rambo had to hesitate a little bit as he ran to his left off the snap to see Nelson’s intentions. Rodgers then made an excellent throw.

Redskins defense: What we've learned

August, 20, 2013
After watching the Redskins’ 24-13 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday, here’s what stood out:

  • It was easy to see how dominant nose tackle Barry Cofield was at times Monday night. It was even deeper than I realized. Two years ago the Redskins coaches predicted Cofield would soon be the NFL’s best nose tackle. I’m not going so far as to say that he is, but I will say he’s improved and now combines athleticism, quickness and brains. Anyway, on the first series he had consecutive plays in which he made a crucial contribution even if it wasn’t a flashy one. First, he was cocked to his right over the center. At the snap, he squared up with center Maurkice Pouncey. As the play went to Cofield’s left, he turned and gained leverage on Pouncey, pushing him back as he ran to that side and made the tackle. On the next play, he and Stephen Bowen both occupied two defenders as linebacker London Fletcher stepped into the hole. Bowen broke free to make the tackle as one of his blockers headed to Fletcher.
  • [+] EnlargeBarry Cofield
    Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWill a strong summer for Washington's Barry Cofield lead to a big regular season?
    On the second series, Cofield made his mark on two other plays, courtesy of swim moves past Pouncey. The center whiffed on his first block attempt. And the second one occurred on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s interception for a touchdown. Cofield was into the backfield fast with another swim move. It’s hard to imagine teams having much success against him on a consistent basis with just one blocker. The same is true of Bowen -- and one of them more often than not will be singled up in pass-rush situations. Cofield got Pouncey again on a swim move -- Pouncey’s hands were low and slow (that motto works for brisket; not blocking Cofield). By the way, my thoughts haven’t changed on Kerrigan since watching the film. A good night.
  • I focused on this in my Ten Observations as well, but it’s really intriguing to see what the Redskins can do with their pass rush and how they can mix and match and create different looks. I love Kerrigan inside in some -- not all -- rush situations because of his quickness off the ball and his ability to play with leverage from his defensive-end days. Just a good changeup. And I like that they can mix and match: one play Kerrigan is over the right guard with Bowen over the left guard. It might be the opposite on the next play, giving that player a quality rusher with different strengths. Washington can rush Kerrigan and another linebacker from a four-point stance, with one standing up. It’ll be more effective with Brian Orakpo, naturally, but it works well thus far because of the various looks. What the Redskins are not having to do, yet, is send extra rushers out of necessity.
  • They did have one alignment in which they used five linebackers and two defensive linemen. Kerrigan was at left end with Brandon Jenkins at right end and Darryl Tapp inside to his left. The Steelers gained nine yards with a quick pass. But it was a first-down play, so it was an example of the Redskins perhaps trying to generate extra push with an early-down pass rush. It helps that Tapp is a former defensive end, albeit in a 4-3 (where the ends can be sometimes 30 pounds lighter than a 3-4 end).
  • Forgot to ask David Amerson about this play, but was reminded of it watching the game again on a 20-yard pass play (the DeJon Gomes late hit). Amerson did not get a good re-route on the receiver and then failed to drop deep enough in the cover-2 look, leaving quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with an easy throwing lane. Amerson, though, continues to look like a future starter. When? He still has a lot to learn and prove, but he’s moving at the right pace. He’s willing to play physical and even though he missed on one tackle -- keep the head up -- he’s not shying from this role.
  • Corner Chase Minnifield was beaten deep by Markus Wheaton on one play, on which he made the tackle. In practices, Minnifield seemed to be beaten more when in off-man coverage, as he was playing here, than in press man. It’s probably because he’s good at disrupting the timing of a play. On the 45-yard gain, it really was just a straight go route with a minimal double move. But Minnifield handled press duties well and I liked how he shed one block from a receiver to make a tackle. Minnifield was aggressive with his hands and was able to control the receiver (Wheaton). You can always work with toughness.
  • Bacarri Rambo is coming up almost trying not to miss the ball carrier rather than to hit him. That was noticeable when Jose Gumbs delivered a few hits while playing in the middle. There was no hesitation. But Rambo is breaking down too much and his angles are off enough that the combination has equaled trouble for him. Rambo isn’t the only one who has struggled with angles, but he is the rookie starting at a spot where he needs to be a sure tackler. During camp Rambo looked like he belonged, and that he was good at correcting his mental mistakes. But one of the areas that’s tough to measure is how he’ll come up versus the run. With LeSean McCoy up in Week 1, the Redskins can’t afford a free safety still learning how to master the proper angles. I like that Rambo forced a fumble after one of his misses (a play in which Rob Jackson blew up the tight end and forced the back into a tough spot). But his struggles illustrate why it's a hard transition. He just needs to be a fast learner, as the coaches say he is in other situations.
  • Ends Chris Baker and Phillip Merling both had strong fourth quarters, but they should. I’d be worried about them if they didn’t; Merling is a veteran while Baker is expected to make the roster. Merling plays with power while Baker’s game is trying to get upfield. I like what Kedric Golston brings at end. I haven’t asked the coaches this directly, but to me it’s a no-brainer to start Golston during Jarvis Jenkins’ four-game suspension. Golston has played well and understands everything this position demands.
  • Saw a mixed night from rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins, who continues to show enough as a pass-rusher. He has a quick get-off at the snap, but what he showed Monday was the ability to play with power, too. Late in the game he knocked lineman Kelvin Beachum off balance by driving into his pads. Earlier, Jenkins affected a throw again by getting his hands into the chest of the left tackle and moving him back. He wasn’t really close to a sack, but he did generate some push. Jenkins had a tough time on a couple plays getting off blocks against the run. Jenkins lined up in a standup position as well as with his hand in the ground. He had success rushing from both ways -- early in the game, against Pittsburgh’s first O-line, Jenkins, standing up, got his right arm into the chest of right tackle Marcus Gilbert and pushed him back. Jenkins does not play with as much power as Tapp, but it was an aspect of his game that flashed Monday.
  • The Redskins still need inside linebacking depth, but that doesn’t mean a guy like Will Compton has no value. I’d definitely keep him on the practice squad. He strikes me as the sort of player who eventually will make it and last a few years.

What we learned: Redskins defense

August, 9, 2013
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. Bacarri Rambo was put in a terrible spot by his front seven on Chris Johnson’s 58-yard touchdown run and, considering it was his first game, he had no chance. There was too much open field, though had he made the play it would have said a lot about Rambo. The fact that he did not just lumps him in with many other safeties. But the Titans' other touchdown run, by Shonn Greene, was a result, in part, of a poor angle by Rambo coming from deep middle. Rambo started too much inside, was a little too slow and any chance he had at making a touchdown-saving tackle was lost. Poor angles have doomed many a safety, and it’s a big reason why I was surprised Rambo opened as the starter from the first camp.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson and Bacarri Rambo
AP Photo/Wade PayneRedskins safety Bacarri Rambo (right) couldn't keep Chris Johnson out of the end zone Thursday, but it was another Titans touchdown that showed Rambo taking a bad angle for a tackle.
2. Keep in mind the Redskins do not do any live hitting or any sort of drills that simulate what Rambo witnessed last night – certainly nothing at that level of speed. A key will be how he develops in this area throughout the preseason. In the end, these plays could be beneficial to the Redskins. Same with the 15-yard late-hit penalty he received at the end of the second touchdown run. He has to play with more discipline. If the Redskins have to start multiple rookies, there will be many lessons learned.

3. Phillip Thomas did a good job on the first play of the game, ducking under the tight end to race across the line and help on a tackle. But he got sucked too far inside on Johnson’s long touchdown run, helping to create the huge opening. Technically Johnson broke a tackle at the line, a shoestring attempt by Brian Orakpo. But in reality nobody had a shot at him because Thomas covered inside, then was blocked; Stephen Bowen and Chris Neild were blocked inside and Orakpo came upfield too far.

4. It wasn’t just the rookies who struggled with angles. Even linebacker Perry Riley took a poor one on a pass completion, leading to a 13-yard gain when Riley went too wide to the inside, allowing Greene to get wide.

5. The difference with Orakpo on the field? On the Ryan Kerrigan sack, the guard blocked Bowen, then allowed the center to take over while he slid to his left in case Orakpo cut inside vs. the tackle. This left Bowen in a one-on-one situation with the center. When the outside rushers Orakpo and Brandon Jenkins pinched the pocket, Titans quarterback Jake Locker could not step up because Bowen had collapsed the middle. Too often last year Bowen received double teams and could not be as effective.

6. Another point on Kerrigan’s sack: It came when he was aligned in a four-point stance vs. the guard. But the real point is that it allowed him to use his favored rip move. One difficulty doing it outside is that tackles can keep a distance and negate this move. Much tougher to do that inside, and sure enough it worked for Kerrigan. It'll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Jim Haslett works his linebacker group in pass-rush situations.

7. I also forgot to note in the Ten Observations another play that stood out with Orakpo: Ducking under the left shoulder of the tackle en route to a sack. It was an impressive display of balance and explosion, one that Michael Roos could not handle. The Redskins had rushers go by linemen last season; not like this.

8. This wasn’t exactly Ken Houston stopping Walt Garrison, but it was a good job by David Amerson to stop Kenny Britt on a third-and-4 pass, leaving the Titans a yard short. Amerson played more physical than he had showed at N.C. State last season. He won’t look pretty in this role at times, but he just needs to be willing. He did allow himself to be cut by a blocker on one run; he’ll learn how to avoid those situations.

9. Brandon Jenkins did a nice job on some rushes, but his spin move will need refining. It did work one time when he dipped his right shoulder into the right tackle and spun back inside. It worked this time. But the next time he tried it, Jenkins appeared to start his spin a bit early and the right tackle had no trouble adjusting. He’s going to be at his best when paired alongside Kerrigan and/or Orakpo. I also think Jenkins will be a nice addition on special teams.

10. Seemed like Bryan Kehl was a step slow to the ball Thursday night, or a step slower than I expected at least. He didn’t really make any plays. Undrafted free agent Will Compton, playing alongside him, was decisive, but he has a ways to go. Roddrick Muckelroy did not distinguish himself, missing a couple tackles. He also got sucked up on a play-action pass on Tennessee’s second-half touchdown in which the flat on his side was wide open.

11. If you saw any of Chase Minnifield’s jams, you understand why the coaches consider him the most aggressive corner in this area. He practically jumps at the receiver and I worry sometimes about him getting off-balance. But I haven’t seen that happen yet. And I like how willing he is to hit.

12. One reason I like Richard Crawford is because he’s a smart player. In talking to him last year, it’s easy to see him becoming a coach someday. So it wasn’t a surprise that he knows how to play as a small corner. On his near-interception, Crawford forced the quarterback into a tough throw by being in good position in terms of his depth. When you’re shorter, you have to understand how to play and Crawford doesn’t have Amerson’s length. So he must be in even better position, and on this play he was.

13. Phillip Merling did what a veteran should do against backups: play well. He’s held his own against the No. 2 linemen in camp and he played with power Thursday. Chris Baker also showed a little bit at times; his best rush came when he remained low – that’s a lot of heft driving a lineman back. Baker did make a play by beating the tackle. There was one time in which he appeared to get upfield too fast and vacated his gap, leading to a hole and solid run.
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.
As he continues his review of last week's NFL draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has a list Insider of players taken in rounds 4 through 7 who he thinks could make an impact this season. One Dallas Cowboys pick, one Philadelphia Eagles pick and three Washington Redskins got mentioned.

Washington Redskins

-Phillip Thomas, S, fourth round: Mel thinks he should have been drafted in the second or third round, and given the Redskins' other options, that he could possibly start right away.

-Chris Thompson, RB, fifth round: Though Redskins starter Alfred Morris was second in the league in rush yards last year, Mel thinks Mike Shanahan has a plan up his sleeve for this big-play threat to get touches as a rookie.

-Brandon Jenkins, OLB, fifth round: Could "crack the rotation as a pass rusher."

Dallas Cowboys

-Joseph Randle, RB, fifth round: Mel calls him the second-most talented running back on the Cowboys' roster after injury-prone starter DeMarco Murray. If that's not a recipe for touches...

Philadelphia Eagles

-Earl Wolff, S, fifth round: With Kenny Phillips' knee a question mark and Patrick Chung still not established as an NFL starter, opportunity could exist at safety in Philadelphia.
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.