NFL Nation: Morgan Moses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
May 17
10:00
AM ET
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.
The pick: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska

My take: The Redskins clearly wanted more size and muscle inside. They added more of it in Long, but this one feels like a reach late in the third round. He missed half the season with torn ligaments in his knee and, though he said he feels fine and is “ready to go” I do wonder if they could have waited another round and picked him up.

If you’ll recall, they made a similar curious pick at guard in 2012 when they made Josh LeRibeus a third-round choice. That hasn’t worked out. Whether or not Long does remains to be seen. But the big difference between the two is Long’s passion for the game. Coach Jay Gruden stressed this point. No one has ever said the same about LeRibeus and I don’t think that sits well with the staff.

Long’s ability to seal openings should help in the zone scheme. But I have no idea if this move will pay off. I understood picking Trent Murphy at 47. Whatever anyone else thinks, he was the best pass rusher left on the board in their minds. I understood taking Morgan Moses earlier in the third. But this one is a more curious pick.

Young guards: The Redskins continue to say the line wasn’t as bad as everyone said. Yet not only is the starting five turning over, by next year Trent Williams could be the only player at the same spot he was in the 2013 finale. A big question now is what happens at right guard. The Redskins still have Chris Chester there, but if they wanted cap relief they could cut him and save $2.7 million against the cap.

Do they have his replacement ready? And who is it? If Morgan isn’t ready, then could it be LeRibeus? There’s always Mo Hurt, but I’d pass. The player I always liked better is Adam Gettis, but he was only around 295 pounds and needs to get bigger. If he does, then he could be one to watch this summer. Regardless, the changes along the line will continue.

What’s next: The Redskins own all their picks in each of the final four rounds Saturday. The Redskins definitely need more young help defensively, but the value in this round could be found at running back and tight end. If they go defense, this is also a good time to look for corner help where they need depth. And they should give serious consideration to some safeties.
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).
The NFL draft is finally here! But we can’t let the day go by without one last look at projections from around the league before the real event takes place at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Longtime ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. provided his final 2014 mock draft Insider on Thursday. We’ve examined his picks since the NFL combine and now Kiper has made his definitive projections on what the Miami Dolphins will do tonight.

Let’s examine Kiper Jr.'s final prediction for Miami:

Selection: No. 19

Kiper’s pick: Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

Analysis: James is a late riser up the draft boards. Few people projected him this early into the first round until a week or two ago when it became apparent other offensive tackles are projected to go higher. A perfect example is Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. He was the favorite for Miami at No. 19 since February. Now, many draft experts believe Martin won’t make it past 12. That has opened the door for second-tier offensive tackles like James to go in the top 20. James is a solid prospect, but he’s not the 19th best player in this draft. Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said all along that they would take the “best available player” in the first round. If they take James at No. 19, chances are that talk was fluff and Miami was set on reaching to fill a need. However, James is a natural right tackle who could start in Week 1. The need is so great on the offensive line that the pick would make some sense. Still, I believe trading back and trying to get a player like James or Virginia’s Morgan Moses later in the first round works better for Miami.
Kelvin BenjaminAP Photo/Bob LeveroneFlorida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin could be an option for the Panthers in the first round.
It's no secret the Carolina Panthers have big needs at left tackle and wide receiver entering tonight's first round of the NFL draft.

But general manager Dave Gettleman won't reach for a player at either position when the Panthers pick at No. 28 if there are players on the team's board who rank higher.

There is also a slim chance, though he covets having picks, that he will trade up for a player at one of those positions.

This is about taking the best player available, not filling a need. If Gettleman can do both as he did last year with defensive tackle Star Lotulelei at No. 14, that is a bonus.

But as Gettleman showed last season in picking defensive tackle Kawann Short in the second round, he will stick with value over potential even if it means going with the same position in consecutive rounds.

"I've said this before, when you reach, when you have made up your mind, you're locked in and you're going to take a position because you feel a need to fill that spot, more often than not you're going to make a mistake," Gettleman said.

Gettleman says there are a combined nine to 10 tackles and wide receivers he considers worthy of a first-round pick. That there is enough depth at both positions to get value in the second and possibly third rounds opens the possibility that Carolina takes what Gettleman calls a "blue goose" pass-rusher in the first.

He "wouldn't be mad if a corner was there."

In other words, don't be surprised by whom the Panthers take sometime around 11 p.m.

With that, here are 10 players (alphabetical order) who could be there for Carolina at No. 28:

  • Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: Adams says he's the best wide receiver in the draft, so he's not lacking confidence. A playmaker with decent size at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds. Led the nation in receptions (131) and touchdown catches (24) this past season. Caught a touchdown pass in 22 of his 26 games and had 38 career touchdowns. Can be dynamic at times and has some of that Steve Smith flair for the dramatics. Not nearly as strong physically as Smith, though. Definitely a player the Panthers have talked to and worked out.
  • Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: One of the more imposing receivers in the draft at 6-5, 240 pounds. A physical player who has the ability to use his size to create space. Doesn't have elite speed, and doesn't always finish plays. Still, he had 15 touchdowns last season, including the game-winner in the national championship game. Has the raw talent teams are looking for, but gets a lot of second-round grades because he is still developing.
  • Ealy
    Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: With Greg Hardy unsigned long term and Charles Johnson showing some age with a late-season knee injury, the Panthers might be tempted to go for this athletic pass-rushing specimen. He had 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks last season. He might be what Gettleman meant when he referred to a "blue goose" pass-rusher.
  • Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: Another potential "blue goose." Had 10.5 sacks this past season and doesn't lack for confidence. He called South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, expected to be the top player taken in the draft, a "blind dog in a meat shop" during the NFL combine. At 6-2 and 252, Ford might be a bit undersized for a 4-3 end, but still a good value at 28.
  • Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: At 6-0, 190 he's a strong, physical player who can be an every-down cornerback or play in the slot, both needs for Carolina. Played linebacker, safety and cornerback at Virginia Tech, where he was a three-time All-ACC player. Considered by many to be the most ready NFL corner in the draft.
  • Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: Gettleman said he wouldn't pass on a "blue goose" defensive tackle even though Carolina drafted Lotulelei and Short in the first two rounds a year ago. At 6-6, 310, Hageman might be too good to pass up if the top wide receivers and offensive tackles are gone.
  • Kouandjio
    Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Before his knees became a medical issue, many had this 6-6, 322-pound left tackle as a top 10 pick. A bad workout at the NFL combine didn't help. But if the Panthers cleared him medically, Kouandjio could be a steal at 28 the way Lotulelei was with his with medical concerns (heart).
  • Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: This is a popular pick for Carolina by many because he is expected to be around at 28 and because he fills a big need. But not everyone has the 6-6, 314-pounder rated as a first-round pick. He definitely has the size and wingspan (35 3/8-inch arms) to make NFL defensive ends run a long way to get around him. It's just a matter of whether the Panthers have him listed as a first-rounder. Not so sure they do.
  • Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: You might be surprised to see an outside linebacker here, but Gettleman said he would take the best player available -- particularly if he was a pass-rusher. Shazier has blazing speed and reacts well to the ball. He had 23.5 tackles for loss last season, but sometimes has issues with his tackling technique. The consideration here is that Carolina outside linebackers Chase Blackburn and Thomas Davis are in their 30s, so this could be a pick for depth and the future.
  • Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian: If he was 6-1 instead of 5-9 he might be a top-five pick. Considered by many to be the best pure cover corner in the draft. That the Panthers were comfortable with Captain Munnerlyn at 5-8 last season means they likely wouldn't hold the size against Verrett. He had six interceptions in 2012 and nine in three seasons. With Carolina's front seven in front of him, he would make the league's second-ranked defense in 2013 better.
PITTSBURGH -- Given a chance to lobby for a tall wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a pass.

Roethlisberger
"Anything to help this team," Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan when asked who he thinks the Steelers should draft in the first round. "That’s the mindset we all need to be in because 8-8 is not good enough and we need to get back to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Whatever the higher powers decide can help this team that’s what I’m going for."

General manager Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers plan to maximize Roethlisberger’s remaining years with the team -- Big Ben said earlier this week that he feels like he can play five to seven more seasons -- by surrounding him with talent.

One former Steelers great said the best way to do that is to bolster the unit that protects the Steelers’ franchise quarterback.

"I think in order for Ben to be successful we have to solidify the offensive line," said Pro Football Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson. "We have to get a big-threat receiver and we have to get a running game back."

The Steelers won’t take a running back until the third day of the draft since Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are poised to get the bulk of the carries in 2014. They could take a wide receiver in the first round, though the position is so deep I think the Steelers wait a little later in the draft before addressing it.

Would the Steelers take an offensive tackle with their first-round pick?

The top three tackles in the class -- Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan -- are unlikely to slip to No. 15 in the draft. But Notre Dame’s Zack Martin could be available there, and he may be one of the safer picks in the draft as teams love his temperament and versatility.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay ranks Martin as the ninth-best player in the draft. He also has five tackles among his 16 highest-rated players in the draft (Virginia’s Morgan Moses is the other one).

It’s hard to see the Steelers using the first-round pick on a tackle given how many other needs they have.

But players they weren’t expecting to be available in past drafts have slipped to them so nothing can be ruled out here.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top: We know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:

Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.

Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.

Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.

Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

On Monday, we looked at the negligible needs, Nos. 10-12. On Tuesday, it was the non-essential needs, Nos. 7-9.

Next up are the secondary (and I don't mean the position group) needs.

4. Receiver: Letting veteran James Jones leave for the Oakland Raiders in free agency was not a huge surprise, but it left the Packers with just two proven receivers (Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson) and one they believe can jump into that category (Jarrett Boykin). There's a group of unproven receivers that could follow what Boykin did last season, when he filled in adequately while Cobb and Jones were injured. That group includes Kevin Dorsey (a seventh-round pick last year), Chris Harper (a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year) and Myles White (an undrafted free agent who played sparingly last season as a rookie).

Possible players of interest: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU; Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; Marqise Lee, USC; Bruce Ellington, South Carolina.

5. Interior offensive linemen: With Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, the Packers are set at guard for the foreseeable future. But center is as big a question mark as ever. What is certain is Aaron Rodgers will have his fourth different center in as many seasons after Evan Dietrich-Smith left in free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's no one on the roster with any NFL experience as a starting center, but the leading candidate is second-year pro JC Tretter -- a former college tackle who did not play a snap as a rookie last season. Even considering the need, the Packers aren't likely to spend a first- or second-day pick on a center. The top centers carry second- or third-round grades.

Possible players of interest: Marcus Martin, USC; Weston Richburg, Colorado St.; Russell Bodine, North Carolina; Travis Swanson, Arkansas; Luke Bowanko, Virginia.

6. Offensive tackle: A year from now, this could be a pressing need depending on what happens with Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod, both of whom are in the final season of their contracts. With the emergence of David Bakhtiari last season as a rookie at left tackle, Bulaga will move back to the right side. But he needs to stay healthy after failing to make it through each of the past two seasons. Sherrod, a first-round pick in 2011, has not contributed since he broke his leg as a rookie, and the Packers declined his 2015 option year. There's no reason to think any of the first-round tackles will fall to No. 21.

Possible players of interest: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama; Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee; Morgan Moses, Virginia; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State; Billy Turner, North Dakota State.

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