NFL Nation: Chris Chester

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.
Two years ago the Washington Redskins had one of the most potent running games in the NFL, a mix of conventional and new school with the zone read option. It worked. They led the NFL in rushing yards, were second in yards per carry and gained more first downs than any team courtesy of the run.

Morris
It wasn’t just the zone read. While the Redskins averaged 6.18 yards per carry with that tactic, they still averaged 4.94 yards on their 401 traditional runs. That average alone was topped by only three other teams. The zone read helped, but so, too, did Alfred Morris being an excellent fit in the outside zone running scheme.

As he improved his tracks on runs, the Redskins’ run game flourished even more. Morris’ ability to plant and cut and make the first defender miss meant the run game would work even minus the zone read aspect.

Last season, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in yards per rush (4.78). They averaged 5.33 yards on zone read carries and 4.65 on traditional runs; the latter number would have left them tied for third.

Here’s the point: The run game has worked the past two years, with or without the zone read option. That’s a big reason why offensive coordinator Sean McVay said shortly after getting his new position that “the run game will be very similar.”

Lauvao
The offseason moves suggest that’s the case. The Redskins added a bigger player at left guard in Shawn Lauvao, but he moves well -- after the Redskins signed him, multiple Browns sources said he’d be a good fit in the outside zone game. Lauvao might not be a great guard, but he’s bigger than Kory Lichtensteiger, now at center, by a good 20 pounds. Lichtensteiger moves better than former center Will Montgomery but is not as strong.

Meanwhile, the two linemen they drafted, guard Spencer Long and tackle Morgan Moses, both can move. The problem for Moses is that in college he was inconsistent getting to linebackers in the run game. It’s yet another area he must improve before he’s truly ready to start. Long, nearly 10 pounds heavier than starting right guard Chris Chester, spent a lot of time pulling at Nebraska but he also plays with strength. The Redskins definitely left yards on the field in the run game last season, sometimes because the backside blockers failed to get their men and other times because Morris needed to make a stronger cut down the field.

On paper, bigger should also equal more ability to play smash mouth when needed, adding more versatility to the ground game. But I’m not sold that Lauvao, for example, is as strong in that sort of situation. That’s not what he showed in Cleveland (whether at the line or when reaching linebackers).

lastname
Bernard
Redskins coach Jay Gruden did not have the run game in Cincinnati that he’ll have in Washington. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a bubble player for the Bengals this season; he carried the ball a combined 498 times the past two seasons. Gruden opted for a mix, with Giovani Bernard receiving 170 carries in 2013, in part because he had no one such as Morris.

Meanwhile, the Redskins actually led the NFL in rushing versus seven-man fronts (275 times for an NFL-best 1,332 yards).

Perhaps Gruden’s influence will result in more carries against five- and six-man fronts. The Bengals had 51 more such plays than Washington a year ago, a function of formation and likely also game situations. Then again, two years ago the Redskins had more runs against those fronts than Cincinnati.

But with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, Gruden has more weapons in the pass game as well. Which, of course, could lead to more spread formations -- and runs against even more favorable fronts.

Helu
Meanwhile, Roy Helu can catch the ball and perhaps he’ll run better out of a shotgun spread formation than in the outside zone. But I can’t imagine him in a Giovani Bernard role; the Bengals’ back had 226 touches from scrimmage last season. Though Helu averaged 4.4 yards per carry, he’s not a move-the-chains runner (eight carries against an eight-man front resulted in a total of 14 yards). Even against seven-man fronts Helu averaged 4.06 yards, which is fine but is much less than Morris (4.96, with an NFL-best 937 rushing yards against that type of front).

The point? Helu will be able to handle the third-down duties again, but there’s little reason to take a whole lot away from Morris. And rookie Lache Seastrunk has a lot to prove -- as a third-down back in particular -- before being ready for anything other than pinch-hitting duty as a runner. But he’s a potentially good fit in the spread. Chris Thompson is, too, but size and durability remain two big issues for him.

Do not assume the Redskins will see fewer eight-man boxes compared to last season. In 2013, Morris only ran 44 times against an eight-man box, which was six fewer times than he did so as a rookie. So it’s not a given he’ll pile up more yards because of fewer eight-man boxes. But given the success of the past two years and that Gruden wants to keep it mostly the same, there’s also no reason to think Morris or the Redskins’ run game will suddenly drop off. That is, unless Gruden falls too much in love with the weapons at receiver.
The Washington Redskins enter their final week of offseason work with a three-day minicamp. It'll look a lot like their OTA practices, but the difference is that this week is mandatory. With temperatures expected in the 90s, or near them, over the next three days, it'll be good preparation for Richmond later this summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
12:30
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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
May 17
10:00
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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).
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.”
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some highlights from Jay Gruden’s hour-long press gathering at the owners meetings:

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

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

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

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

5. He loves Jordan Reed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redskins' owners meetings agenda

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some things to watch for this week at the owners meetings:

1. Compensatory picks. It’s a complicated formula used by the NFL to determine who receives one, but a lot is based on if a team lost more than it gained via free agency the previous year. Or if they lost a high-priced talent. The Redskins' only loss last season was Lorenzo Alexander and they’re not expected to receive one. Here’s a good look at compensatory picks.

2. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said this week would also provide opportunities for trade talks, another way for Washington to potentially fill some remaining holes (in addition to the draft). They have little desire to trade backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, though that could change if another team made an offer that, right now, no one would expect.

3. It’s also not as if the Redskins have a lot of desirable players another team would want to acquire in a trade. They do have some excess along the offensive line, believe it or not, with a glut of guard/center types. But three of them are unproven (Maurice Hurt, Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis). So it makes little sense to trade for one, unless you're a coach who has worked with them like Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But the Redskins deemed those players not ready even at the end of last season. What would make them desirable enough to make a trade now? The Redskins like Kory Lichtensteiger at center so he’s not going anywhere, and I have a hard time believing Chris Chester could be traded for a draft pick. And with only six draft picks, the Redskins don’t have a lot of ability to maneuver. That is, unless they want more immediate help defensively (Jason Hatcher’s window is probably two years).

4. The Redskins made a number of proposals that will be discussed this week. Among them: moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line; eliminating overtime in the preseason; increasing the practice squad from eight players to 10; having one cut during training camp, going from 90 to 53; increasing the active roster from 46 to 49 on non-Sunday or Monday games (except for Week 1); and using the “designated to return” from injured reserve on more than one player.

5. Jay Gruden meets with reporters Wednesday morning. It’ll be our first chance to talk to the Redskins' coach since free agency began, as well as a number of other issues.

Quick takes: Offensive line

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
11:30
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Because I'm thinking too much about the offensive line and what the Washington Redskins are doing:
  • At coach Jay Gruden’s introductory news conference, he talked about wanting to have versatility and variety in the offense. So he wanted to use the zone read (some) and he wanted to run power. Here’s what he said:
    “I like the power plays. I like the gap-blocking plays. So there’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think any offense in the NFL anymore is just, ‘We are this.’ I think we have to adhere to what we have offensively, talent-wise. We can do the read-option. We can do naked bootlegs. We can run outside zone. We can run bubble screens. We can run deep balls. We can do play-action deep things. I think the whole idea to be a successful offense is to be diverse and be good at a lot of different things and not just one.”
  • So it’s no surprise that when looking at offensive linemen in free agency, he’s opted for players with a little more size. That doesn’t mean the Redskins will abandon what they had done in the past. This offseason, offensive coordinator Sean McVay said, “The run game will be very similar." But it does mean that they want players who can perhaps be capable of doing more.
  • McGlynn
    They hosted two linemen Wednesday: former Saints center Brian de la Puente and ex-Colts guard/center Mike McGlynn. De La Puente weighs 306 pounds (former center Will Montgomery weighs 304; Kory Lichtensteiger, who will move to center, weighs between 280-285 but is adding 10-15 pounds in the offseason. I'm anxious to see Lichtensteiger at center; I've long thought that would be his future home and agree with Chris Cooley that he would be good here).
  • McGlynn weighs 325 pounds. The problem here: he struggled big time at guard by all accounts last season. As much as everyone wants to hammer the Redskins’ offensive line, few were worse than Indianapolis’ -- especially in the interior. Where McGlynn started. But he started three games at center and, again, according to those who watched the team on a daily basis, he fared much better.
  • Here’s what ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was in a tough position last season. He started 11 games at guard but he’s weak at that position and was part of one of the worst interior offensive lines in the league with center Samson Satele and guard Hugh Thornton. ... Slide McGlynn to center, which happened three times because of injuries to Satele, and all is better for him because he plays the position better than Satele. ... Colts coach Chuck Pagano had an opportunity to keep McGlynn at center and bench Satele in the playoffs but he decided against it.”
  • And here’s what Stephen Holder, a Colts’ beat reporter for the Indianapolis Star, wrote about McGlynn: “McGlynn was not a strong performer when used at guard this season, but he and the line overall played better when he was the starting center (he started three games). If the Colts offer a contract to McGlynn, expect it to be modest in value and look for McGlynn to have to compete for playing time and/or a roster spot.”
  • De la Puente
    De la Puente did not exactly play with a lot of power in New Orleans. I saw him get moved back in a couple games, but I also saw him be effective when on the move -- whether to block a linebacker or maintain leverage on a defensive lineman.
  • I think he was helped playing with Saints quarterback Drew Brees; the bulk of his throws (54 percent) were unloaded in less than three seconds. Robert Griffin III unloaded in that amount of time 45 percent of the time (according to ESPN Stats & Information).
  • But the point is it’s not as if De la Puente would be a bad fit for some sort of outside zone-based scheme (if they sign him, that is). Actually, he's probably a good fit. Nor would his signing signal some shift to a strictly power-based run game. It does sound as if he was a smart center with the Saints, so that would be good.
  • Newly-signed guard Shawn Lauvao weighs 315 pounds, about the same size as Chris Chester (Josh LeRibeus is bigger, though his listed weight was 315 pounds last season). So if Lauvao and Chris Chester are the guards (not sure yet if that will be the case; if they sign someone else, then I’d imagine a current Redskins linemen could get released and Chester represents $2.7 million in cap savings) then that would give them a bigger tandem than the past couple years. But both are capable of running outside zone plays -- word out of Cleveland is that this style would fit Lauvao. And Chester is not a power blocker.
  • Point is, the Redskins still don't look like they're abandoning what they have done in recent years with the run game. But that doesn't mean it will look exactly the same, and other aspects will be emphasized because Gruden will want to incorporate some of his style. It is his offense after all. Some of the changes they're making, or trying to make, are as much about performance as scheme.

Redskins release Will Montgomery

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
10:52
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The Washington Redskins plan to move Kory Lichtensteiger to center, so the next logical move was to cut the man already in place. That is what they have done, releasing center Will Montgomery, according to a team source. Montgomery later texted ESPN980's Chris Russell to confirm the news.

Montgomery
The move will save Washington $1.93 million against the salary cap. Montgomery had started every game at center the past three seasons for Washington. But the Redskins struggled with interior pressure and wanted to upgrade at the position.

Also, the Redskins signed former Cleveland guard Shawn Lauvao on Tuesday. There is a chance the starting guards could be Lauvao and Chris Chester, with Lichtensteiger sliding inside. Both Chester and Lauvao played right guard last season, but Lauvao has played both sides in the past. At 285 pounds, Lichtensteiger was light for a guard, but his quickness made him a good fit in Mike Shanahan’s outside stretch zone system.

Though the Redskins plan to use the same run-game blocking, they still wanted to get a little bigger at guard. Both Lauvao and Chester are about 310 pounds. Lichtensteiger still plans to add about 10 pounds.

Montgomery was a local product, having played at nearby Centreville (Va.) High School and then Virginia Tech. He’s played with Washington since 2008, working at both guard and center until taking over in the middle full time. Montgomery also spent time with Carolina and the New York Jets.

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.

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.

RG III: I can't take those amount of hits

November, 14, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Robert Griffin III knows he’s going to take a lot of hits. He also knows he can avoid at least some of them. As he continues to play the way he did in 2012, willing to run and not avoid contact in certain situations, the hits will add up.

Not that Griffin is already wondering how these hits will affect him long term or whether they will shorten his career. (Or, perhaps, he’s just not publicly wondering).

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I think a lot of people do. It comes down to, you’ve got to take it week to week and not worry about the years down the road when it comes to those hits. You have the future in mind, but you’re still competitive on that day.”

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky"You dont want to be hit that much. A lot of great quarterbacks dont get hit that much," Robert Griffin III said.
That doesn’t mean he wants the amount of hits he had against Minnesota (18). Denver pounded him as well three weeks ago. Lest anyone think this is just because he runs, just know that a storyline in Indianapolis this season -- as it was a year ago -- was the number of hits on quarterback Andrew Luck. But he’s bigger than Griffin and hasn’t had two ACL surgeries.

“Bottom line, I can’t take those amount of hits,” Griffin said. “You don’t want to be hit that much. A lot of great quarterbacks don’t get hit that much. It’s not just me, it’s a lot of things that go into that. We just have to get better.”

He’s right; it’s not always on him, of course. Last week, the Minnesota Vikings applied quick pressure up the middle, mostly through center Will Montgomery and guard Chris Chester. There are times receivers aren’t winning one-on-one routes enough. But there are times Griffin can help himself. Against Denver, for example, there were times in the pocket that he held the ball for three seconds (though, again that was sometimes caused by receivers not getting open; other times it's a need to get rid of the ball quicker).

And against the Vikings, Griffin said there were two hits in particular he could have handled better. He was crunched at the goal line by four defenders while attempting to score. Running back Roy Helu was wide open in the right flat and could have made a similar dash, but Griffin took off and didn’t see him. Griffin said he could have avoided this hit by sliding, but he was trying to score.

“If I’m put in that situation again, then yeah maybe I will slide,” Griffin said. “I think if I hadn’t slipped, I probably would have gotten in. Once I did slip it was probably best to get down and avoid that hit.”

On the final drive, Griffin kept the ball around the right side off the zone read and cut upfield where two defenders hit him. Griffin pointed this out as another example of a hit he could have avoided by sliding.

“I have to do a better job of that, making sure it doesn’t happen and taking it upon myself to get down earlier,” he said. “I got two good shots in the game I could have avoided ... The other hits I did avoid. I’m OK at doing that, getting down and getting out of the way. [But] I’ve got to do a better job of that. It will come. And then we just have to protect.”

Yes, they do, especially when they have to abandon their play-action game, which gives the line a little more time to block thanks to the hesitation it causes.

"We have to improve there and make sure we keep our quarterback upright,” Griffin said. “It takes all of us. Yeah, I’ve been hit a bunch [recently] and everyone knows it, but you have to move on and make each game a new game and not worry what happened before.”

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