NFL Nation: Lache Seastrunk

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.

What to expect: Redskins' run game

July, 16, 2014
7/16/14
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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.
ASHBURN, Va. -- After watching the rookies Saturday, here are some first impressions -- and the word first must be stressed. The key will be seeing how they develop from now through minicamp and again this summer. A lot of the flaws, or positives, they showed in college were evident Saturday.

Here's a look at the draft picks from this past weekend:

LB Trent Murphy: Definitely has a variety of moves; did a good job getting to the inside on occasion. Knows how to use his hands – knocked tight end Ted Bolser back on one rush with a good thrust to his chest. Can definitely see why the Redskins feel he can add weight and still be effective. Though strong, he does not appear to be fully filled out.

Murphy needs to work on cutting angles even more and knowing how to finish moves at an NFL level, as coaches discussed with him, like not rounding off too much at the top of his rush. He was not blowing past blockers in camp, but you could see aspects of his game to develop, with his hands and multiple moves -- that, combined with his versatility, is vital and why the Redskins liked him.

RT Morgan Moses: Felt after the draft it would take him a little while and still feel that way after watching him this past weekend. But that’s why he lasted to the third round; it’s tough for a player at his position to start immediately as a rookie. His long arms bailed him out of situations in college and did so again Saturday. But his feet need to catch up quicker.

You could tell he was working on trying to stay low, but at times did not look comfortable because he was bent a little too much at the waist and not the knees. Like Murphy, comes across as smart. (Moses graduated this past weekend.)

OG Spencer Long: Looks comfortable pulling and takes proper angles. Appeared to change directions just fine while pulling, based on a linebacker's movement. In the one-on-one pass drills Saturday, saw him get beat with speed to his outside, but also later saw him anchor well. Saw similar moments -- good and bad -- in his game tape. It’s really tough to get a good feel for a guard in 11-on-11 on some plays because of all the congestion. But he’ll be one to watch in camp.

CB Bashaud Breeland: Physical but will have to learn how to make sure he’s not always getting called for holding or pass interference. He could have been called for holding a few times and pass interference at least once. (He'd work best with a good pass rush; then again, who wouldn't?) It’s definitely something to watch because he wasn’t going against starting NFL receivers. Knows how to play press coverage. Breeland is patient and mirrored receivers well. After talking to him, he has a good understanding of his own game and what he must do.

WR Ryan Grant: He’s smooth in and out of breaks and a mature route-runner; patient. But Grant dropped a few passes (one when he turned his head too soon). He did have one nice grab over the middle with outstretched arms. He made a nice adjustment on another catch. Curious to see if he can get separation against starting corners, especially in man coverage. That’s his challenge moving forward.

RB Lache Seastrunk: First, you absolutely must read this piece on Seastrunk. It’s hard to measure running backs until the games begin. He has terrific moves, but will he always be content to get what’s there and then some or will he look to bounce a lot? We’ll see. His hands were OK when we saw him, but heard there were a few issues in a practice we did not see. One thing that jumped out when talking to Seastrunk: his confidence. He has a lot.

TE Ted Bolser: Did not look like a guy who’d threaten any of the three tight ends ahead of him for a roster spot. When he blocked in college, he too often kept his head down and that got him in trouble at least once Saturday. He’ll need to add strength. Bolser also dropped too many passes Saturday – I think ESPN980’s Chris Russell had him with four at one point. Bolser is a developmental guy, as seventh-round picks should be. But, again, it’s about planning. Niles Paul is in the last year of his contract. They’ll want Bolser eventually to be a move tight end a la Paul -- lining up in different areas; a better blocker on the go than on the line. If Paul leaves and Bolser develops, they have a replacement. That’s how it should work. Plus, special teams will be key.

Place-kicker Zach Hocker: He was accurate, but I can’t say I paid close attention to him. Kickers win their job in games, not practices (unless you’re Shayne Graham and lose it in practice; he was horrendous). It will be an interesting competition with Kai Forbath this summer.
Some thoughts from Redskins coach Jay Gruden on the rookies following Saturday's second minicamp practice:


  1. He likes linebacker Trent Murphy -- a lot. The Redskins' second-round pick lined up at left outside linebacker in the two practices open to the media. Gruden loves Murphy’s variety of moves. And he likes the ability to use him as a third linebacker and play him in different spots – in college he rushed from a standup position on both sides, through the middle, and also from a four-point stance.“He’s another element of the pass rush we drastically need,” Gruden said. “The ability to move him around and do things with him defensively is exciting.”
  2. Gruden also really likes guard Spencer Long and receiver Ryan Grant. Gruden said after four practices watching Long, including two on Friday, “you could see how effective he’s going to be, how smart he is and how physical he can be. He’s athletic enough to do whatever we want in the zone game and smart enough to pick up the blitzes and line stunts. He’s going to be competitive right away.”
  3. As for Grant, Gruden said, “he plays like a 10-year veteran already.” I’ll have more on Grant in a couple days, but he understands how to run routes. That matters.
  4. Two rookies who need a little seasoning? Left tackle Morgan Moses and running back Lache Seastrunk. Moses switched back to the right side after playing left tackle at Virginia last season (but he was on the right side the previous three years). He’ll also have to learn how to block in the outside zone.“It will take him some time,” Gruden said of Moses. “We’re happy with his progress and he has some major, major upside with his size.”

    Seastrunk must adjust to being a pass-catcher in the NFL. That doesn’t just mean showing he can catch the ball, it means knowing how to run routes out of the backfield at an NFL level. It also means being able to pass protect.

    “It will take time,” Gruden said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. He has a long way to go, but he’ll get there.”
  5. Bashaud Breeland’s aggressiveness jumped out (I’ll have more on this in a couple days as well). Gruden said he’ll have to watch the holding, but they like Breeland’s long arms and physical style.
  6. Gruden did not single out undrafted free-agent receiver Cody Hoffman, but Gruden was asked about him. It’s way too early to project how an undrafted player will do, but Gruden did say he likes Hoffman’s size (he’s 6-foot-4). Gruden also said, “He’s a very smooth route runner with natural hands. He doesn’t have the great vertical speed.” Special teams will be huge for a player like Hoffman.
  7. Gruden said of place-kicker Zach Hocker: “Rookie kickers in the NFL, not many of them have had a lot of success but we have high hopes for him. He’s going to compete. He has a strong leg and the added dimension for kickoffs and touchbacks is important. We’ll see how things transpire and how he handles the pressure.”
A few observations from the Redskins rookie minicamp Saturday morning. Keep in mind: This was our first chance to see the rookies. Their heads are swimming with new knowledge. That serves as a warning: Take these for what they're worth. Now, having said that...
  1. Tackle Morgan Moses is a big man and stands out in the crowd -- even among his peers. But Moses will always need to work on staying low in his stance. The first time I saw him try to block, he was moving to his left and lunged -- too bent at the waist on other times, too. He’ll have to work on staying balanced. That's what this weekend is for; to start correcting some of these issues.
  2. But he used his long arms a couple of times to stop Trent Murphy -- also long -- on the pass rush. I’ll be curious to see how he progresses coming off the ball and being able to attack defenders.
  3. Could tell when he was, or wasn’t, driving off the ball by how he set. A light set did not always mean pass protection, though. But it did mean he wasn’t going to drive off the ball.
  4. One thing Murphy will have to learn: how to lessen the gap between he and the tackle. Otherwise, it’ll be hard to use his hands. In a one-on-one rush, Murphy dipped and should have had the advantage, but failed to get it.
  5. After the rush, outside linebackers coach Brian Baker – do not underestimate this guy’s presence – worked with him on dipping his shoulder to complete the move. That’s what this weekend is all about: learning a lesson, then applying it as they move forward. They spoke for another 5-10 minutes after the practice while the other players exited.
  6. Murphy lined up at left outside linebacker all of practice. Eventually I can see him being moved around; it’s what he did in college and it worked.
  7. Guard Spencer Long was beaten in a one-on-one the first time I saw him by tryout linebacker Aaron Davis; speed to Long's outside. But the next time he went, Long anchored well. Saw him do that in college, too; strong base. For what it’s worth, Long said he feels normal coming off his MCL tear this past season.
  8. Did not see all of tight end Ted Bolser’s drops, but others saw them. Did see him get bumped off his route by Murphy -- one thing that was evident on tape is that the ex-Stanford linebacker is comfortable moving in space.
  9. Corner Bashaud Breeland likes to get his hands on receivers, even after the five yards that are allowed. He’s physical and with long arms. He’ll try to get a subtle grab at the top of a route. Just something to watch this summer.
  10. But Breeland, playing right corner, is experienced in press. Used good technique on one jam, getting his left hand on the inside of the receiver and bumping him off stride. Did not see a lot of separation from receivers against him.
  11. Didn’t watch a lot of receiver Ryan Grant, but the one time I did he dropped a pass. Turned his head too soon. I'll pay more attention Saturday afternoon.
  12. Need to see more of running back Lache Seastrunk catching the ball. In one drill where players weave through cones and then catch a pass, saw a drop. But to measure his hands, need to see a lot more and in game situations. He’s convinced his hands aren’t an issue.
  13. In a one-on-one drill designed to help special teams, Seastrunk did one of his classic plant and cut moves. He made a hard jab to the left, let the defender bite and then cut back the other way.
  14. For what it’s worth, Seastrunk told the Redskins he would like a shot at returning kicks. Not sure if that will happen or not.
  15. The first-year guys in camp: linebacker Will Compton, punter Blake Clingan, defensive back Peyton Thompson, safety Akeem Davis and lineman Tevita Stevens.
The first two seasons resulted in big rushing yards and much acclaim. Not to mention a desire for more. Alfred Morris wants it; the Redskins say he can do it. More catches. More yards downfield. More production overall. Former running backs coach Bobby Turner would tell Morris that he was leaving yards on the field. Current running backs coach Randy Jordan delivered the same message.

“You can always find room for improvement,” Morris said by phone. “It’s good to have different coaches who can critique you more because they have an outside perspective.”

Morris has rushed for a combined 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. But he’s caught only 20 passes and both Turner last year and Jordan this offseason have told him he could gain more yards downfield, turning good runs into much longer ones.

First, the passing game. At the owners meetings, coach Jay Gruden said Morris could develop into a 20- to 25-catch running back. Clearly the Redskins would want someone else to handle the third-down role, whether it's Roy Helu this season or Lache Seastrunk in the future.

But with the weapons Washington has at receiver, Morris could be a forgotten man by defenses on early downs. Therefore, it would be wise for him to improve in this area. It’s not just about his hands, though. He said he needs to do a better job running routes against man coverage.

“My focus is building confidence in the quarterbacks as well as the coaches to let them know I can catch,” he said. “I know I can catch the ball.”

Gruden said, "Obviously we want to have him be an all-around back. His hands aren't the most natural, but it's something you can work on."

For Morris, it’s about winning more often on his routes. He said he talks to the receivers and even Helu about running routes.

“I can get better,” Morris said. “Sometimes you get that linebacker that’s real grabby and how to get away from them and set them up is something I never had much experience doing. [Helu’s] one-on-one routes where he wins, sometimes I’m like, ‘How did you do that?’ I always pick brains so I can better myself.”

As for more yards downfield, Morris did lead the NFL with 10 runs of 20 yards or more. He also had five carries that resulted in 30-plus yards, but only one that went at least 40. Morris was sixth in the NFL in yards per rush on those 20-plus runs (29.80), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Morris improved his agility last offseason; this offseason he’s trying to work on a mindset.

“Usually it’s a safety and me or a corner and it’s just making a guy miss to get an extra 2 or 3 or 20 yards,” Morris said. “It’s just being a smarter ballplayer. Sometimes I get caught indecisive in between moves or which direction [to go].”
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers hosted Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk for a visit earlier this week, and while that position isn’t a pressing need they figure to address it later in the draft.

The Steelers should be able to find a back who can help them and complement Le’Veon Bell and newly signed LeGarrette Blount given how much the value of that position has slipped.

The first running back in the 2013 draft wasn’t taken until the second round -- the Bengals started a run on them when they selected North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard -- and players at that position could be pushed down even further in this year’s draft.

“Every year there’s third- to sixth-round running backs that are outstanding backs and this year [that is the case] more than any other because there’s not many teams now that really need a running back,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “There’s three to five [teams] maybe that could take one within the first four rounds.”

That prediction bodes well for the Steelers, who are unlikely to take a running back before the fifth round given the other holes they have to fill with their first four picks.

The Steelers are likely to target a speedy, shifty player at the position since they have a pair of big backs in Bell and Blount.

One back whom Kiper really likes is Kent State’s Dri Archer, though he could be gone before the Steelers draft a running back.

Archer ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the NFL scouting combine and Kiper ranks the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder as the fourth-best running back in the draft despite questions about his size.

Archer had 854 rushing and receiving yards combined last season for Kent State and scored 11 touchdowns, and his speed and versatility would allow the team that drafts the scatback to create mismatches for him.

“Dri Archer could be Darren Sproles in the third round,” Kiper said.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are meeting with a pair of NFL draft prospects today, including potential first-round target Darqueze Dennard.

Dennard, a cornerback from Michigan State, and Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is also visiting the Steelers, are both projected as early-round picks in May.

The 5-foot-11, 191-pound Dennard became the first player in Michigan State history to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football, as he intercepted four passes and made 64 tackles in 2013.

Dennard, who also led the Spartans with 10 passes broken up last season, is widely considered one of the best two cornerbacks in the draft along with Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Dennard as the 19th best player in the draft, a physical cornerback who would appear to be a good fit for a team that needs to get younger in the secondary.

Along with cornerback, the Steelers are expected to address defensive end early in the draft, and Tuitt fits the prototype of one in a 3-4 scheme.

He is 6-5, 304 pounds and has long arms that allow him to fight off blockers. Tuitt, who is projected as a first- or second-round pick, played defensive tackle at Notre Dame and his 21.5 career sacks are tied for the third most in school history.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 prospects for visits prior to the draft, and they met with Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief and Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk on Tuesday.

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