NFL Nation: Niles Paul

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.
Some Redskins items from recent days that you might have missed:

More work: Quarterback Robert Griffin III will work with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea next week. Griffin worked with Shea earlier this offseason for a week, but wanted another tune-up before training camp begins July 24. Shea focused hard on Griffin’s fundamentals, including narrowing his base, getting his feet to turn with his body in the pocket and raising where Griffin held the ball -- at times last year he held it too low, leading to a wind-up throw. Griffin clearly has worked hard this offseason. I'm curious to see how that pays off this summer and during the season. He’s also said to have his explosion back, as has been discussed for a while – as multiple people have talked about seeing a difference in that area. But the real key for him is developing in the pocket. Griffin needs to succeed without that extraordinary explosion, though it certainly does help when defenses fear your legs.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesWashington hopes the offseason work Robert Griffin III has put in will pay off in the fall.
Skepticism over RG III ranking: Last week Mike Sando wrote a terrific piece, ranking quarterbacks based on a poll of executives and coaches and evaluators . Griffin did not fare well, being placed as a tier 3 quarterback tied with Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. The rankings prompted Kevin Seifert to question why Griffin had fallen so far after just one bad season; he also asked if they had forgotten a record-setting 2012 season. People fall in and out of love quickly in the NFL and I think Griffin is the latest example. Watch how fast opinions change if he gets off to a good start.

Vinny on Snyder's fight: Former Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato knows Dan Snyder well, which is why he doesn’t think he’ll abandon his fight to keep the nickname. Snyder is not going to suddenly think the other side has a point, not when he views the matter much, much differently. Besides, what has been evident over the years is that he’s ultra-competitive and does not want to lose this one. Cerrato’s point is one that others have mentioned, too: The only way Snyder might relinquish the battle is if (and he stressed if) he somehow gets a new stadium out of it in a decade or so.

Family torn on name: The Wetzel family is a pivotal one in the Redskins’ battle over the nickname as Walter Wetzel is the one who designed the current logo used on the helmet since 1972. Wetzel’s son, Donald, tells The Washington Post – and has told other outlets in the past – that he’s proud of the name and the logo. But his nephew told the Post that he definitely is on the other side with his thoughts. Guessing this is a microcosm of the debate played out among Native Americans.

Redemption: A lot of Redskins have talked about getting the “bad taste out of their mouths” from last season. Niles Paul joined that chorus in an interview with Omaha.com. Paul said, “This is clearly a redemption year for us, and we want to let that be known.” I did a two-week look at players with something to prove, but there’s no doubt the organization as a whole has a lot to prove. But the Redskins have said the right things in the past only to do ... nothing. They can back up these words if Griffin rebounds, the pass rush is terrific, the tackling in the secondary is a lot better and the inside linebackers produce.

Polumbus tops Redskins bonus list

March, 24, 2014
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The Redskins did not come close to the season they wanted. Their players still benefitted when it came to performance-based pay.
Sixty Redskins received bonuses, with 10 topping $100,000 in extra pay, according to figures released by the NFL management council. The bonuses are given to players whose performance time tops their salary level. Tackle Tyler Polumbus topped the list with a $190,601 bonus. The bonuses will be paid on April 1, 2016. Quarterback Robert Griffin III received a $27,047 bonus.

Here are the top 10 Redskins who earned bonuses:


Tackle Tyler Polumbus $190,601

Cornerback David Amerson $173,375

Running back Alfred Morris $167,854

Safety Bacarri Rambo $162,807

Tight end Logan Paulsen $142,295

Receiver Aldrick Robinson $134,758

Linebacker Perry Riley $129,997

Running back Roy Helu $125,260

Tight end Jordan Reed $108,461

Tight end Niles Paul $103,475

Here's the full list of players and their bonuses.

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 14

December, 9, 2013
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A review of four hot topics following the Washington Redskins' 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

Shanahan’s status: As Monday began, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan remained employed. He looked exhausted or perhaps resigned to his fate Sunday night when he left FedEx Field nearly 90 minutes after an embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. There have been too many recent stories detailing relationships -- Shanahan and Robert Griffin III; Shanahan and Griffin/Dan Snyder and Kyle Shanahan and Griffin -- and too many losses on the field to think this situation can be salvaged. Four years into the regime, the roster still needs a lot of work. The salary-cap penalty didn’t help, but free agency has been mixed for Redskins anyway, so to think it would have solved everything is incorrect. There are reasons to change regimes other than failed relationships. Aside from Griffin, the team leaders have publicly endorsed Shanahan’s return, and privately, players support him as well. But with a 24-37 record, they haven’t backed their support up with the sort of success the organization wanted.

Garcon
Garcon
Morris
Griffin’s status: On any other Sunday, the fact that Shanahan did not commit to Griffin to start the following week would make huge news. But it got lost in the drama of Shanahan’s job and the dynamics of various relationships. Shanahan would only say they’ll “talk about it later.” If there was no doubt, Shanahan would say so. It could be a moot point, as Shanahan might not even be the one making that decision. And it’s becoming clear he won’t be the one making these decisions in 2014. Still, for now, Shanahan isn’t sure whether he wants Griffin or Kirk Cousins to start against Atlanta. Shanahan is a strong believer in Cousins, and Griffin has been inconsistent at best. It also makes you wonder whether owner Dan Snyder would stand for something like this, knowing the future implications. Playing Cousins to “see what you have” doesn’t make much sense because Griffin remains the future. Just like it doesn’t make sense to bench Griffin just to keep him healthy. If he is the future, he needs to play and play a lot. If you’re not sold on that, then that’s a reason to play Cousins, or maybe also if you want to send a parting shot to the current starter. Regardless, it’s just more drama in Washington -- because there wasn’t enough already.

Special-teams mishaps: Niles Paul was as upset as anyone after Sunday’s game because of the special teams’ performance. He blamed it in part on players’ mindsets, saying that some guys project themselves as future starters, so they don’t prepare right for special teams. The thing is, on punt and kickoff coverage, there aren’t a lot of young players who are even guaranteed of a roster spot next season, let alone a starting job. On kick return Sunday, there were four players who are in their first or second years -- Bacarri Rambo, Jose Gumbs, Josh Bellamy and Trenton Robinson. Rambo already is starting (he was knocked for his special-teams play earlier this season). On punt coverage, 10 of the 11 players have been in the NFL for at least three years. The exception: Robinson. No, it’s not about young guys who don’t get it. Rather, it’s about veterans who don’t do it well. This unit was put together poorly.

Milestone marker: In a bad season, two Redskins offensive players have been consistent producers -- receiver Pierre Garcon and running back Alfred Morris. Both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark Sunday; Morris has now rushed for 1,027 yards, while Garcon has a career-best 1,017 yards receiving. Morris’ overall yardage total won’t match his 2012 number of 1,613 yards, but that’s not his fault. Morris is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has run the ball only 37 times combined in the past three games, two of which were blowouts. He’s also averaged 3.7 yards or fewer in those games as teams focused hard on stopping the Redskins' run game. Still, Morris has had a strong year running the ball in an offense with so much inconsistency. Garcon has posted big numbers, though he doesn’t have many big plays and has caught just three touchdown passes among his 89 catches. His longest catch is 44 yards, a function of a passing game that is either inaccurate downfield or doesn't get enough time to throw certain passes. Garcon is averaging 11.4 yards per catch, his lowest figure in his five seasons as a full-time starter. But he’s done a good job being able to catch and run, especially on screens, and is the lone receiver who worries a defense.

Four Redskins sit out practice

December, 4, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Four Washington Redskins did not practice Wednesday and two others were limited, a tough way to begin a week in which they’re trying to snap a four-game losing streak.

Tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), safety Brandon Meriweather (sternum contusion), safety Reed Doughty (concussion) and left tackle Trent Williams (foot contusion) did not practice. Doughty, however, was cleared to practice but the coaches kept him out.

Fullback Darrel Young (hamstring), linebacker London Fletcher (ankle) and corner DeAngelo Hall (hip and back) were limited. Tight end Niles Paul, who missed last week with an illness, was a full participant in practice.

Williams was walking in a protective boot Monday, but said, “I feel fine. Got a bone bruise. It’s fine, though.”

Reed missed Sunday's game with a concussion suffered against Philadelphia and missed the past two games. He said he was going to play Sunday even though he felt more symptoms.

"I wasn't going to say nothing, but they noticed it in me and got it out of me," Reed said.

He had two concussions at Florida.

"It's worse now," Reed said. "In college I didn't miss games."

For Kansas City, tackle Branden Albert (knee), tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion/knee), linebacker Justin Houston (elbow), receiver Dexter McCluster (not injury related) did not practice. Defensive end Mike DeVito (knee) and safety Kendrick Lewis (knee) were limited.

Jordan Reed, Darrel Young inactive

December, 1, 2013
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The Washington Redskins expected tight end Jordan Reed to play Sunday night against the New York Giants, but a pregame headache will sideline the rookie for a second consecutive game. Earlier in the day, a team official told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Reed would play. But after warming up the Redskins decided he would be inactive.

Reed
Fullback Darrel Young also will be inactive for a second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. Young expressed optimism throughout the week that he would play. Compounding matters at this position is that tight end Niles Paul will be inactive after missing three practices this week with an undisclosed illness.

Paul served as Young's replacement last week, but now when the Redskins need a fullback they'll have to use one of the two tight ends active Sunday night: Logan Paulsen or Fred Davis. They'll also miss Paul and Young on special teams. However, it will be a good chance for Davis to show what he can still do. The problem is, quarterback Robert Griffin III had developed a strong level of trust in Reed, especially on third down.

The other Redskins inactives: quarterback Rex Grossman, cornerback Chase Minnifield, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and guard Josh LeRibeus.

The Giants' inactives: quarterback Ryan Nassib, cornerback Corey Webster, running back Brandon Jacobs, cornerback Trumaine McBride, tight end Adrien Robinson, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and offensive lineman Stephen Goodin. Also, James Brewer will start at left guard for Kevin Boothe, who shifts to center to replace injured Jim Cordle. With McBride and Webster out, Jayron Hosley will start at corner.

Jordan Reed will play against Giants

December, 1, 2013
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The Washington Redskins were optimistic all week about tight end Jordan Reed. So it was no surprise that a team official told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Reed will play Sunday night against the New York Giants.

Reed
Reed had missed the Nov. 24 game against San Francisco because of a concussion suffered the previous week. But he had been passing his concussion tests this week and was limited in practice all week. Reed said earlier in the week he had no doubts he would play and coach Mike Shanahan said he would go barring any setbacks.

The athletic Reed is a valuable weapon for Washington, with 30 of his 45 catches resulting in first downs. He also has 14 receptions on third down and has become a trusted target for quarterback Robert Griffin III. His absence was felt against the 49ers as the other tight ends struggled with their blocking and didn't contribute as receivers.

The real question will be: Who joins him at tight end? Niles Paul was sick all week and Shanahan said he'd likely be limited to special teams if he was able to play. That means Fred Davis could be active for a second straight game. Also, if fullback Darrel Young can't play because of his hamstring, then the Redskins need their tight ends to handle duties at this position, too. Young will be a game-time decision.

Redskins notes: Reed limited in practice

November, 27, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was limited in practice Wednesday, a positive step in his recovery from a concussion.

Reed did not play against San Francisco on Monday because of the concussion suffered a week earlier at Philadelphia.

Reed
“If there are no setbacks, he should be OK,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

The Redskins could have used Reed on Monday night, as the tight ends struggled with the speed and athleticism of the 49ers' outside linebackers.

Tight end Niles Paul (illness) and fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) did not practice.

Meanwhile, for the New York Giants, running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), cornerback Trumaine McBride (groin), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and cornerback Terrell Thomas (knee) did not practice. Receiver Hakeem Nicks (abdomen) and corner Corey Webster (ankle) were limited.

In other news:
  • The Redskins still have one roster spot to fill after releasing corner Jerome Murphy and placing defensive end Stephen Bowen on injured reserve Tuesday. Shanahan said they’re considering a couple of players, but that there is no rush. It might take until the end of the week before they sign another player.
  • Shanahan said he was reluctant to use Santana Moss earlier this season on punts. But after numerous struggles on that unit, he turned to Moss on Monday. (Moss returned one punt for 13 yards.) "I talked to Santana and wanted to know if he wanted to go back there and he said, 'Coach, anything to help the team out,'" Shanahan said. "Sometimes, I don’t always want to put a veteran back there for obvious reasons, but he said, 'Hey, whatever I can do to help the football team I want to do,' and I thought he was our best choice to get a little spark going."

Reed, Bowen sit out practice

November, 21, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed and defensive end Stephen Bowen did not practice for a second consecutive day, though it remains uncertain what their status will be for Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Safety Jose Gumbs (ankle), corner Josh Wilson (infected toe) and fullback Darrel Young (hamstring) were limited.

If Reed can't play, then Fred Davis will get his first shot to play since Oct. 13 at Dallas. Davis has been inactive in large part because the Redskins like Reed better as a pass catcher and Logan Paulsen better as a blocker. Davis does not play special teams, so the Redskins keep Niles Paul as the third tight end.

The coaches say Davis' practice habits have improved since they started making him inactive. Davis is a free agent after the season.

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 10

November, 8, 2013
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A review of four hot issues following the Washington Redskins' 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:

Blown leads: The Redskins led Denver by 14 points late in the third quarter and lost. They led San Diego by 10 points in the fourth quarter and needed a goal-line stand to force overtime. And they blew a 13-point lead against Minnesota. A different theme each week, but the same result. Against the Broncos, the offense imploded, and that turned a defensive gem into a fourth-quarter nightmare. But the past two games it’s been on the defense in those times. They forced one punt by Minnesota, none in the second half. The Vikings, playing with two line backups and without their starting tight end, scored on all four possessions. But don’t just blame the defense. After an opening drive field goal in the third quarter, Washington’s offense responded this way: three plays, 7 yards, punt; five plays, 7 yards, punt; three plays, minus-4 yards, punt. At a time when the Redskins needed to change momentum, the offense stalled. This happens to bad teams.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsOne silver lining for the Redskins: Alfred Morris averaged 5.3 yards per carry on his way to rushing for 139 yards.
Ground attack: Alfred Morris’ season probably won’t be viewed the way it should because of the Redskins’ record. But the kid is having a terrific year, as he showed again Thursday with 139 yards on 26 carries. He had one run in which he broke four tackles and another run where he turned a 3-yard loss into a 2-yard gain. Morris long ago proved that he was so much more than a byproduct of the zone read-option. Now, it’s his presence that opens up possibilities for others. Did they stop going to him in the second half? He only had nine carries after all. But the main culprit was the lack of third-down success. He carried the ball on each possession, though when the Redskins went to hurry-up mode on the final drive he was replaced by Roy Helu.

Costly fouls: The Redskins can point to several non-calls that troubled them and, sure, they have a point. But what they need to do is quit committing fouls that hurt themselves. They’ve proved they’re not good enough to overcome such mistakes. They had a roughing the passer penalty, a personal foul and an unnecessary roughness. All three led to Minnesota touchdowns. Defensive lineman Chris Baker’s roughing penalty added 15 yards to a 21-yard completion. (Yes, it looked questionable, but the point is about overcoming adversity.) Next play: Adrian Peterson was stopped for a 3-yard loss. Next play: Peterson wasn’t stopped for an 18-yard touchdown. Darrel Young had a personal foul that added 15 yards to the end of a 20-yard punt return, giving the Vikings a first down at the Washington 41. Another Peterson score capped the drive. And linebacker Perry Riley’s unnecessary roughness penalty was only half the distance. But instead of a third-and-4 from the 5-yard line, it became first-and-goal from the 2. Next play: Peterson touchdown.

Return game: Niles Paul provided a mini-lift for the kick return game, serving as the main returner for the first time this season. Josh Morgan has struggled in that role and Chris Thompson isn’t yet an option. But each of Paul’s three returns went beyond the 20-yard line, which is almost cause for some sort of Gatorade dousing based on prior runbacks. Morgan’s effort is there, but he still hasn’t proved he should be the primary returner on punts, either. The Redskins just don’t get any spark from special teams. At all.

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

November, 8, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:

Moss
Stinging defeat: Perhaps no loss has stung the Redskins quite the way Thursday's did. Fullback Darrel Young sat at his locker, full uniform on and shoulders slumped, after most had showered. Receiver Santana Moss, one of the chattier interviews, wasn’t in a talkative mood. “Sucks,” he said. “I don’t have much to say.”

Confusion: Reporters felt like they were in a pinball machine in the cramped quarters of the visiting locker room, especially when trying to figure out what happened on the botched fake punt -- going from one player to another and then back to ones who had already talked. Turns out upback Reed Doughty gave a signal that most, but not all, heard. The one who didn’t know it was a fake was gunner Niles Paul. Which is why he never looked back for Sav Rocca's pass. It wouldn’t have mattered considering there was a false-start penalty that blew the play dead. Just another botched special-teams play.

Missed opportunity: Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan looked shocked and drained of emotion as he spoke to the media, discussing his dropped interception that would have resulted with Washington having the ball deep in Vikings' territory or a touchdown. “The ball just ate me up I guess,” Kerrigan said. “I made that play a couple times in my career. It’s tough. I work too damn hard to drop that pass. It’ll eat at me until I get a chance to make that play again and I make it.”

TE Fred Davis among inactives

October, 20, 2013
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis is inactive for Sunday’s game at Chicago, likely as much a coaching decision as an injury one. However, there has been a sense that Davis hasn’t fully recovered from his sprained ankle earlier this season.

Davis
Davis, the starter until earlier this season, has been replaced by rookie Jordan Reed as the main pass-catching threat and is not as good a blocker as Logan Paulsen. Therefore, Davis is the third tight end -- and he’s not a key special teams player. That’s why Niles Paul remains active. Davis' attention to detail hasn't always pleased the coaches and they have other tight ends they view as better -- and better workers.

The other Redskins inactives: quarterback Rex Grossman, safety Bacarri Rambo, running back Chris Thompson, linebacker Brandon Jenkins, guard Josh LeRibeus and nose tackle Chris Neild. No real surprises from this group; Rambo’s stock has fallen mightily, but this is just a continuation of that decline. His special teams play is a big reason why he’s no longer active.

Redskins are anything but special

October, 14, 2013
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Robert Griffin Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports"We're close on offense," Robert Griffin III said. "But close doesn't do it in this league."

ARLINGTON, Texas -- He targeted special teams, a good place to start after the Washington Redskins’ latest loss. Darrel Young, his voice going a mile a minute and full of fire, stopped with this unit, blaming them for the loss. He could have continued on to other aspects of the team. And nobody would have stopped him. When you’re 1-4 and you had designs on contending for a division title and perhaps the Super Bowl, there’s no simple reason you lost. Again. There’s no simple way to turn it around.

Play better? Of course.

The problem is there’s no one spot that’s consistently failing the Redskins. It’s all of them. The offense can’t generate points in the first half, constantly putting the team in a deficit. They’ve trailed at the half in each game. The defense struggled for the first three games, yet they did their job in Sunday’s 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. And there is the special teams. The woeful special teams.

“Every phase they kicked our butts [on special teams],” Young said.

“That was the worst special-teams performance since I’ve been here,” Redskins special-teamer Niles Paul, in his third season, said. “We were outplayed in every phase of special teams. Just a meltdown.”

But this isn’t just about the special teams. It’s about a team that can’t find its way, one year after it ended as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. If Robert Griffin III hadn’t gotten hurt in that Seattle loss. It seems so long ago. And it seems like more than an offseason between then and now. It feels like a lifetime.

“It’s definitely an awkward feeling,” Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said of their start.

Chances are, their fans are feeling something other than awkward.

It’s also tough to see it getting back anytime soon to that pre-Seattle-injury point, when they felt with a healthy Griffin they could have gone on a long run. It’s not just the 1-4 record; it’s the way they've gotten to this spot. Just overall sloppy play. Before the game, one Redskins team official said they just needed to go out and play well. That way, even if they had lost, they could see something upon which they could build.

What do they build off of this game? The defensive performance was solid, limiting Dallas to one legitimate scoring drive (the first one of the game). But they could not stop the Cowboys in the red zone. Yes, it was a better showing than the defense had in the first three games. Heck, they held receiver Dez Bryant to 36 yards and harassed quarterback Tony Romo into a 72.9 passer rating. They held Dallas to 213 total yards. You look at those numbers and you think one thing: Washington won.

Instead, the Redskins lost by 15. Goodness.

An offense that seemingly took a step forward against Oakland before the bye week regressed Sunday night. They couldn’t stop a Dallas pass rush despite the Cowboys losing end DeMarcus Ware. They couldn’t convert in the red zone. They turned the ball over twice, once inside their own 5-yard line. One step forward; two back. Griffin looked more spry; it didn’t matter.

“We’re close on offense,” Griffin said. “But close doesn’t do it in this league.”

No, it does not. Sure, the Redskins show signs of life at moments. But they’re not playing winning football. Sometimes that’s a tough term to define, but not when you watch this team. Too many penalties. Too many missed tackles. Too many breakdowns.

“I feel every week we’re getting better,” running back Alfred Morris said. “I’ll stand by that. But at the same time it seems like we get better in one area and we take a step back in another area. You can’t do that and win games.”

[+] EnlargeDwayne Harris
AP Photo/James D. SmithAfter a penalty wiped out a good punt and forced them to kick again, the Redskins watched Dwayne Harris return the punt for a touchdown.
They’re not good enough to overcome 12 penalties for 104 yards, as they had Sunday night. If you’re good and you commit that many penalties you’re considered aggressive, and perhaps that undisciplined style is part of your charm. When you commit that many and you’re 1-4? They question your discipline and coaching and say you don’t do the little things well. It’s all true.

When you’re playing like the Redskins are now, you have an illegal-motion penalty on a fourth down, wiping out a punt that left Dallas at its own 16-yard line. So you kick again. And the returner, Dwayne Harris, takes it 86 yards for a touchdown -- and you lose one of your top special-teams players along the way in Bryan Kehl, who hurt his knee on the play.

“We found the enemy,” Young said. “It’s us. … It sucks. At the end of the day it’s unfortunate, but we have to move on from it.”

That’s all they can do. The question is, how do you fix this? The Redskins need to prove they can play well for an entire game. That, not the number of games, is the answer. If they don’t start doing that, they can play 20 games and still keep finding ways to lose. It's good for the Redskins that the defense is playing well; it'll have to play even better.

Not that they’re counting themselves out. They won’t do that, nor should they.

“I don’t feel like a team that can’t rebound,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I don’t feel like a team that is out of it. I definitely don’t feel like that. We’re going to go back to work. All the losses hurt. They should hurt.”

If they don’t turn it around soon, they’ll start to hurt even more. An entire season would then come crashing down.

Washington Redskins injury report

October, 11, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen is listed as questionable because of his sprained left knee, which he suffered in the win over Oakland two weeks ago. Paulsen was limited in practice for a third straight day.

If he can’t play, the Redskins would still be OK at tight end with Fred Davis, rookie Jordan Reed and Niles Paul. But Paulsen is the Redskins’ best run-blocker at tight end. They like to have a balanced look at tight end, with Paulsen and a pass-catcher in Reed or Davis. It enables them to sell play-action passes better.

Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle) is questionable. Nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) is doubtful.

For Dallas, running back Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and defensive end Edgar Jones (groin) are out. Linebacker Justin Durant (groin) is questionable after being limited in practice Friday. The good news for Dallas is that receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) is probable, as is defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (neck).

Five Thoughts: RG III's development

October, 7, 2013
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  1. Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur was encouraged by Robert Griffin III’s outing against Oakland because he saw something he hadn’t seen a whole lot of in the first three games. It’s a good sign for Griffin moving forward. “He finally was able to make some big-time off-schedule plays in key situations,” LaFleur said. “He’s getting more comfortable and confident.” As you’ll recall, it wasn’t just Griffin’s eluding the corner blitz and running to his right to hit running back Roy Helu en route to a 28-yard gain, it was him stepping up in the pocket and finding Helu for 15 yards on an earlier third down (Griffin's third-down numbers need improving; 52.3 completion percentage; 73.3 passer rating though it was 105.9 versus the Raiders -- 7-of-13 for 104 yards and a touchdown). Griffin also got outside the pocket and found Niles Paul for 16 yards when he could have run.
  2. Griffin
    LaFleur said those plays show maturation in Griffin’s game. A year ago, those receivers were open, but Griffin often decided way too early to tuck the ball and run. Therefore he never saw them -- and often took unnecessary hits. “He knows where our guys are going to be now whereas in Year 1 it’s survival mode. You see what you see," LaFleur said. "He didn’t see Niles [against Oakland] but he knew he was going to be there and that’s why he threw to him. ... It shows that he’s growing as a quarterback to make those plays as well. A lot of guys get in situations where it’s dicey and the [route] concept hasn’t shown itself yet and no one’s quite open and they’ll take off and run.” Griffin tried to do that against Detroit late in the first half; because of it he missed a receiver breaking open downfield late. He slid out of the pocket to the left, had the ball poked away and recovered his fumble. But against Oakland it was different.
  3. More on this particular topic because it’s a big one for Griffin, and it’s why his legs remain vital to his game. Griffin can improve as a passer from the pocket, but his legs always will be a factor. That doesn’t mean having to run the zone-read but it does mean getting outside the pocket and making plays, with his arm or legs. The more he extends plays and then hurts teams with his arm, the more he can limit hits and sustain his career. Remember, the questions about his durability do not just apply to running the zone-read; there were scouts and draft experts who wondered pre-2012 draft about him surviving in the pocket, too, because of his leaner frame. Anyway, LaFleur was encouraged. “Again, you like to see that body movement, not only for us but for himself to prove that he can make that play.”
  4. LaFleur also noticed a steady improvement in Griffin’s mechanics over the first four games. “In this last game his footwork compared to the first game was much more smooth. Better weight transition in his throws as well.” The Washington Post’s hard-working reporter Mike Jones took a look at this same subject during the bye week. Here’s my report on Griffin’s game against Oakland, providing a detailed look at some progress (and areas that still must improve).
  5. Can the Redskins and Griffin still be effective with the zone-read option? The Washington Post’s Mark Maske interviewed a number of people to look at this, more so from how it's being defended it league-wide. Two weeks ago I talked to some Redskins players about this topic because it’s clear the zone-read runs have not been as effective. But a lot of this is because of Griffin’s lack of explosiveness in the first couple of games. Defenses have given him the outside on some runs because they knew he wasn’t going to run -- or would not be as effective if he did. And it’s not as much that defenses have figured out new strategies to deal with the zone-read. What’s happened is that they’re sticking to their assignments better, showing less hesitation at times on the run. Detroit took away some of the zone-read simply because its tackles won one-on-ones against the Redskins' interior. Still, in a nutshell, defenses are more prepared. But the zone-read play-action fakes still work as the amount of time it holds the linebackers is often about the same as last year (around 1.9 seconds). Last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin ran off the zone-read 43 times for 344 yards (8.0 per carry) and gained 1.02 yards after contact. This season? He’s rushed four times for 19 yards out of this look with .25 yards after contact. The trickle down is that running back Alfred Morris, who averaged 5.25 yards out of this look in 2012 now averages 3.18 yards per carry. Last year he gained 2.30 yards after contact -- partly because of hesitation as defenses weren’t sure who would have the ball, leading to arm tackles. Now, with Griffin’s legs not as big (yet?), Morris gains only 1.27 yards after contact. If Griffin regains more of his old explosiveness, it'll be interesting to see what happens to these numbers.

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