NFL Nation: Jordan Pugh

Brandon Meriweather faces suspension

October, 21, 2013
It’s one thing for Brandon Meriweather's hits to cost him money and even for them to cost the Washington Redskins' defense some yards. The latter hurts, and this team isn’t good enough to always overcome those mistakes.

It’s quite another when they cost Meriweather games, particularly at a time when the Redskins are trying to build any sort of momentum and face arguably the NFL’s best quarterback Sunday and another top QB the following Sunday.

The NFL is considering a one- or two-game suspension for Meriweather, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It leaves the Redskins in a major bind because Meriweather plays a position where they have no depth -- and they don’t know yet whether Reed Doughty will be able to start Sunday because of a concussion. There’s a reason the Redskins have used E.J. Biggers and Josh Wilson more at safety in recent weeks than any of the other backups. Bacarri Rambo? He hasn’t shown any reason to believe he’ll do a better job at safety than Biggers. He responded to being benched by not improving on special teams and eventually being inactive.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Meriweather
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesBrandon Meriweather already has been fined this season for a helmet-first hit on Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy in Week 2.
There’s no unsigned safety who could come in and help, though they could always turn again to Jordan Pugh. But what, exactly, would that get them? And before anyone asks (and they still will), Tanard Jackson is still suspended, and if you haven’t heard an update, it’s because nothing has changed. Jose Gumbs was a surprise roster addition out of training camp, but he's played only nine snaps in his career. You want him lining up deep against Peyton Manning?

With Meriweather in the lineup, the Redskins have an exuberant player capable of making solid tackles, when he's not leading with his helmet. They can run blitzes like they did Sunday where David Amerson is sent from the numbers, knowing Meriweather can rotate over in time to defend even a speedy receiver. It’s a little wrinkle that helps the defense.

So he obviously has merit. But that obscures the larger point about Meriweather. Is he capable of change? Yes, it’s tough for a defensive back in the modern NFL to sometimes know how to hit a receiver. He’s not a big guy at 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, so it’s not as if he can just form tackle everyone to the ground. It’s a romantic notion, but not always realistic.

Meriweather grew up watching a different game that safeties could play. You want to call him a headhunter? Go ahead. The NFL agrees with you, if the numerous fines and likely suspension mean anything.

“I think they’re trying to be safe, and I think the only way to be safe is to do what they’re doing,” Meriweather said. “But at the same time, this is tackle football. A job of a safety is to instill fear, and you can’t do that with pulling up.”

No, you can’t. But you also can’t take two or three steps and hit a receiver who already has dropped the ball, as he did on Brandon Marshall in the end zone. That’s not the effects of a new rule; that’s just undisciplined football. When a player has a history of that, it will continue to haunt him (just like it did with Mark Carrier back in the day).

Meriweather's lack of discipline hurt him in New England and Chicago. It’s hurting him here -- as well as the Redskins. Others may view Meriweather as a bad guy; we’ve seen him as a fun player to interview. Is he a bad guy? I don’t have that evidence from my dealings with him.

But this isn’t about whether he is a good or bad guy. It’s about how he plays. And he plays a reckless style that puts his team in a bind at times. Only now there’s a difference between it costing his team 15 yards and costing him games.

And this isn’t just about his hits on Sunday. It’s about a player with a repeated pattern of making the same mistake. You can dislike the new rules all you want -- and I’m not always a fan of them either -- but if they lower the speed limit on the roads I drive, I still have to obey the law.

The first penalty was evidence of the new NFL. But I also saw Bears corner Charles Tillman deliver a strong shoulder blow when Robert Griffin III ran out of bounds on one play. No, it wasn’t a bang-bang play as they are with receivers, but it was still a good, solid hit. So it can be done.

The Redskins can’t cut Meriweather because they have zero legitimate alternatives. The NFL will teach him a lesson, and the Redskins will cross their fingers and hope that he learns it. History suggests that’s a long shot.

Redskins defense sacks Raiders

September, 29, 2013
OAKLAND -- As Ryan Kerrigan turned the corner, he just needed a little more help. That’s when everything worked in concert. The defensive tackles collapsed the pocket so Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn had nowhere to run. And the defensive backs did what they had done for most of three quarters and left no one open.

So Kerrigan turned the corner, stripped the ball from Flynn and nose tackle Barry Cofield pounced on the loose ball. Two plays later the Washington Redskins' offense scored the clinching touchdown.

A much-maligned defense did more than just participate in this win. They swung the momentum with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie David Amerson, cutting the score to 14-10. They kept it going with seven sacks of Flynn, a pocket passer behind a line that could not protect him. Washington more often than not only needed four rushers, allowing it to play coverage with seven.

The Redskins' defense was helped by facing Flynn, starting for the injured Terrelle Pryor. The Redskins found out for sure that Flynn would be starting Sunday morning. They had prepared all week for Pryor. Flynn held the ball at times too long.

“When we knew Flynn would play, we [knew] we had a little more opportunity to get there,” said Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, who had two of the sacks. “He stays in the pocket longer than Pryor would.”

The Redskins’ secondary had been roundly criticized for their play in the first three games but they largely did their job Sunday. The Raiders had only two plays of 20 yards or more -- the Redskins had surrendered eight such plays in the past two games combined.

They mixed their coverages, rotated safeties Reed Doughty and Jordan Pugh -- even lining corner Josh Wilson up deep middle on at least one occasion. They played a lot of man, some three-deep zones and cover-2. Meanwhile, the front four was able to win one-on-one battles -- and then used games up front to create more. One of Kerrigan’s two sacks came off of one. Cofield also had two sacks.

“We did a good job mixing it up,” Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. “Any time the back end is working the front end is working. We didn’t get a lot of chances to make plays on the ball because they beat us to the punch.”

It helped that the Redskins could rush with a lead in the second half for the first time this season. Three of their sacks came after they took a 17-14 lead – and Flynn was forced to run on two other occasions, getting tackled for short gains.

“It felt great,” Orakpo said. “We haven’t did it all year. It’s exactly what we talked about throughout the week, if we get a team that plays a conventional offense that tries to make plays downfield, holding the ball gives us an extra second we’re gonna get there. When stuff isn’t going your way, quarterbacks always try to make plays happen downfield and that gave us an opportunity to get there.”

Washington Redskins inactives

September, 15, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Redskins will use place-kicker John Potter instead of injured Kai Forbath in rainy Green Bay on Sunday. Potter has never attempted a field goal in the NFL, but he was in the Redskins' camp this summer and has a strong leg for kickoffs. There were days in training camp where Potter looked pretty good on field goals, then other days where he was inconsistent with 40-yard line drives.

But there were no other surprises among the inactives. The other six are quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Evan Royster, safety Jordan Pugh, safety Jose Gumbs, nose tackle Chris Neild and guard Josh LeRibeus. The fact that two safeties are inactive suggests they have confidence that strong safety Brandon Meriweather will hold up in his first action of the season -- and his first regular-season game since Nov. 18 against Philadelphia. Pugh and Gumbs both play free safety, though they worked with Pugh this summer on playing more in the box.

The fact that Neild again is inactive suggests the Redskins will use a lot of their nickel package again. Neild plays almost exclusively in their base package as Barry Cofield's backup.

The good news for Washington is that Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett is inactive. He's their most experienced safety and his absence last week did not help in the Packers' loss at San Francisco.

Inactives for Panthers and Redskins

October, 23, 2011
CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers and Redskins just announced their inactives for Sunday’s game.

For Carolina, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, safety Jordan Pugh, running back Mike Goodson, tight end Richie Brockel, linebacker Omar Gaither, tackle Lee Ziemba and defensive tackle Frank Kearse are inactive.

For Washington, receiver Donte Stallworth, safety Oshiomogo Atogwe, cornerback Byron Westbrook, tight end Chris Cooley, linebacker Markus White, tackle Trent Williams and defensive lineman Darrion Scott.

Checking the injuries that matter most

September, 23, 2011
The final injury reports are out, so let’s check on the most significant injuries around the NFC South.

Carolina safety Charles Godfrey (concussion) is listed as doubtful and coach Ron Rivera said he doesn’t expect any miracles. That likely means Jordan Pugh will move into the starting lineup. Cornerback Chris Gamble tweaked an ankle in Thursday’s practice, but took part on a limited basis in Friday’s practice. Rivera said he expects Gamble to play against Jacksonville.

Tampa Bay linebacker Quincy Black (ankle) missed his third straight day of practice and is listed as doubtful. That likely means Dekoda Watson will start in Black’s place on the strong side. Middle linebacker Mason Foster is expected to wear the radio helmet, which Black had been wearing. Foster will call the defensive signals and is expected to remain on the field for passing downs.

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) is listed as doubtful and cornerback Tracy Porter (calf) is questionable. If Vilma can’t go, Jo-Lonn Dunbar likely will get the start, but the Saints have been rotating their linebackers steadily this season. Patrick Robinson is the likely starter if Porter doesn’t play. The Saints went ahead and ruled receiver Marques Colston and kicker Garrett Hartley out for Sunday’s game with Houston.

There’s positive news on the injury front out of Atlanta. Center Todd McClure, who missed the first two games with a knee injury, is probable and participated fully in Friday’s practice. If he’s able to go, McClure’s experience and leadership should only help an Atlanta offensive line that’s struggled in the first two games. Also, quarterback Matt Ryan (knee) is probable and practiced fully on Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. As expected, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux will be out with a knee injury. The Falcons also declared cornerback Kelvin Hayden out with a hamstring injury. That likely means the Falcons will turn back to Chris Owens as the nickel back.

Observations on the Panthers

August, 13, 2011
Now we know for sure that John Fox no longer is coaching the Carolina Panthers.

If you saw their preseason opener (a 20-10 victory against the New York Giants) on Saturday night, there was plenty of evidence.

There was offensive creativity. There were passes to the tight end. Young quarterbacks were allowed to take shots down the field and not forced to play like each mistake would be their last. Oh, and we also saw quite a bit of Armanti Edwards.

All of the above were either illegal or heavily frowned up on in the Fox regime. Under Ron Rivera, they all are encouraged.

We still don’t know for sure if Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen will open the season as the starting quarterback, but we do know whoever wins that competition might actually have a chance. Clausen and Carolina’s offense had no chance last season as Fox took conservative offense to a whole new level.

In new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s system, it’s pretty obvious the Panthers are going to use their tight ends a lot and, once Steve Smith gets back from an injury, they could have a deep passing game.

Heck, Edwards could even be a part of the deep passing game. The wide receiver, who Fox refused to play as a rookie, caught a 36-yard pass from Newton to help set up a field goal late in the first half. More importantly, Edwards had two very impressive punt returns.

Some other observations on the Panthers.
  • Without Smith and David Gettis, who will miss the season with a knee injury, the wide receivers had trouble getting separation from defensive backs. Smith’s return will help and we all know what he can do, but the Panthers need someone else to step up on the outside.
  • Newly-acquired tight end Greg Olsen got off to a very nice start. He had three catches for 58 yards and caught a touchdown from Clausen. Olsen’s performance brought back memories of Wesley Walls and Jeremy Shockey's going to get his share of passes.
  • Speaking of tight ends, Gary Barnidge, who currently is No. 4 on the depth chart, is helping his cause. He had a nice game and could challenge Ben Hartsock for the third tight end job.
  • Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart only made cameo appearances, but both ran well. As much as we talk about the new offensive scheme, Williams and Stewart are too good for the Panthers to go too far away from the running game.
  • Speaking of running back, Mike Goodson has plenty of talent and he showed it last season when Williams and Stewart were banged up. But Goodson had trouble holding onto the ball Saturday night. He’s not going to earn playing time if that continues.
  • There’s strong competition for the backup spots in the defensive secondary. A couple of young guys who helped themselves with good performances were R.J. Stanford and Jordan Pugh.
  • Derek Anderson, who was brought in to provide a veteran presence for Newton and Clausen, connected with rookie Kealoha Pilares on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass. It was a short throw and Pilares took off down the sideline. Pilares also had a nice tackle on the punt coverage unit early in the game.

Carolina inactives and lineup changes

October, 10, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As expected, the Panthers will be without injured receiver Steve Smith, safety Sherrod Martin and offensive tackle Jeff Otah.

Those three highlight Carolina’s list of inactives, which also includes running back Tyrell Sutton, linebacker Jamar Williams, center Chris Morris and defensive tackle Andre Neblett.

David Gettis will start in Smith’s place and Geoff Schwartz will start for Otah. The Panthers have not announced who will start in Martin’s spot at free safety, but it’s likely to be rookie Jordan Pugh.


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