NFL Nation: Pat White

Bills sign QB Dixon to practice squad

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
4:06
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The Buffalo Bills on Tuesday signed quarterback Dennis Dixon to their practice squad.

Dixon
Dixon worked out for the Bills over the weekend along with free-agent quarterback Pat White, coach Doug Marrone said, but neither was immediately signed to the active roster. Instead, the Bills promoted Thad Lewis from the practice squad to start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

However, the Bills will now have Dixon on their practice squad, adding another layer to one of the volatile quarterback situations in the NFL. Dixon was a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 who has three career starts.

The Bills also made several changes to the back end of their 53-man roster. They signed linebacker Ty Powell off the New York Giants' practice squad, signed cornerback Brandon Smith off their own practice squad and waived linebacker Marcus Dowtin and cornerback Johnny Adams.

Powell, who played at Harding, was a seventh-round draft selection of the Seattle Seahawks this season. At 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, he will likely contribute to special teams for the Bills.

At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Smith is the largest defensive back on the Bills' roster. An undrafted free agent in 2011, Smith was out of football last season before joining the Green Bay Packers for their most recent training camp.

Dowtin and Adams both were special-teams contributors for Buffalo.

Meriweather among Redskins inactives

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
6:06
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Washington Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather, limited all summer because of his knee and lately by a groin injury, won't play Monday night against Philadelphia. Meriweather was among the Redskins' seven inactives for the season opener versus Philadelphia.

It's not a big surprise considering Meriweather was limited in practice all week. And, because he's struggled to stay healthy, he's not a player the Redskins want to rush back. Veteran Reed Doughty will start in his place. Doughty gives the Redskins a knowledgable player who tackles well in the box.

But the Redskins are more limited in coverage with Doughty. Last year in Meriweather's one game, for example, the Redskins ran a corner blitz with Josh Wilson that they had not run in previous games. It was done because of Meriweather's speed and ability to rotate onto receiver DeSean Jackson.

The other inactives: Rex Grossman, Pat White, Evan Royster, Jose Gumbs, Josh LeRibeus and Chris Neild.

Again, there are no real surprises here. LeRibeus is third among their backup lineman after a poor spring and inconsistent summer. Adam Gettis can play both guard spots, even though he's only played right guard in games. Neild is the No. 1 backup at nose tackle but with the Redskins expected to play a lot of nickel packages tonight, there's not much need for a backup nose. If starter Barry Cofield was injured, then Chris Baker could play nose.

Royster is more of an insurance policy and might not be active unless either Alfred Morris or Roy Helu aren't going to play that game. Chris Thompson can be worked into various packages and likely will return the ball Monday.

Philadelphia's inactives: quarterback Matt Barkley, cornerback Shaun Prater, offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, offensive lineman Matt Tobin, tight end Emil Igwenagu and defensive lineman Vinny Curry. The Eagles only needed to have six inactive because they had an open spot on the roster after releasing Brandon Hughes. Curry's inclusion on this list was a bit of a surprise.

Redskins notes: Return duties unsettled

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
8:30
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Strong safety Brandon Meriweather was limited in practice because of his groin injury, though his knee is not an issue, coach Mike Shanahan said.

“Hopefully he’s full speed tomorrow,” Shanahan said.

Every other Redskins player was full-go, including nose tackle Barry Cofield and his club-enclosed right hand.

QB watch: Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said there was a simple explanation for having Pat White stay on the roster, even with three quarterbacks ahead of him.

“When you think a guy does have a future and he’s part of your best 53, then I think it makes it easy,” Shanahan said.

The question is: how long will they carry four quarterbacks? The Redskins have a few weeks in which they could afford to keep an extra player at this position, with roster exemptions for suspended defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson. But when those two return after four weeks, two roster moves must be made.

“I don’t think it’s something you’re going to do year in and year out, but when the roster shakes up that way that your fourth guy is one of your best 53, then we will do it,” Shanahan said. “We’ll see what that case is next year. We’ll see if that continues throughout the whole year, but it’s a week-by-week thing. We’ve always got to keep our best 53 and he’s definitely one of those right now.”

Surprising safety: Another player few would have projected on the roster at the start of training camp, safety Jose Gumbs, earned a spot last week. He was signed right before camp started but impressed the coaches with his raw ability.

Here's what defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said about him: “He’s a guy that doesn’t even fully understand the defense yet, but he’s a guy that we thought was flying around, would make tackles, had good cover ability, was fearless, had pretty good football instinct -- things that you don’t have, and we think he will get better and better once he gets within the scheme. He came in late and I was really impressed with what he did the last couple of games. We kept all those guys based off their production in the preseason games. That’s why those games are important.”

Return duty: The Redskins still aren’t sure who will return punts Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Rookie Chris Thompson has fielded more punts in practice than the other candidates, Santana Moss and Josh Morgan, but only because he’s by far the least experienced in this area.

Thompson said catching punts off the Jugs machine in practice is good, but it’s not the same as fielding live punts. The ball is easy to read off the machine, but not off a punter’s foot and that’s been his biggest adjustment.

“We’ll see how he does this week and get a gut feel before the Monday night game and then make a decision,” Mike Shanahan said.

Washington Redskins cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
6:43
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Most significant move: Keeping four quarterbacks with back-from-the-dead Pat White making the roster. Anyone who saw White throw early in spring workouts would not have predicted this scenario. But White, who has been out of the NFL the past three seasons, improved throughout the summer and the coaches genuinely liked what they saw. One coach predicted earlier in the week that he would be on someone’s roster. White showed he can still run and mastered the slant routes and digs. He still needs to work on finesse throws and prove he can make throws into tight windows over the middle, but his improvement was noticeable.

However, keeping four is still a lot. But with Kirk Cousins nursing a sprained right foot and with Robert Griffin III not having played in the preseason, the Redskins might just keep White around for the first couple of games. They have roster exemptions for end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson, both suspended for the first four games, so they could make this sort of move. If Griffin and Cousins both stay healthy, it’s hard to see this being a long-term situation. Still, White made big strides after a rough start.

The Redskins also opted to keep running back Evan Royster, who perhaps saved his job with a strong preseason finale at Tampa Bay. He's one of five running backs along with speedy rookie Chris Thompson.

Gone, but not yet forgotten: The Redskins would like to re-sign a number of their released players to the practice squad, including Chase Minnifield, Nick Williams, Tevita Stevens, Will Compton and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi, among others. Minnifield’s release was a surprise, given how the coaches talked about him during camp and his physical style in press coverage -- and with the loss of corner Richard Crawford. But the coaches liked corner Jerome Murphy’s physical style as well – and his special teams ability. Williams is an intriguing prospect as a slot receiver and punt returner. Ogbeuhi is a raw prospect who needs to spend a year or two on the practice squad.

Safety DeJon Gomes, a fifth-round pick in 2011 and opening day starter in 2012, did not progress in coverage. Though he was better in the box, the Redskins have Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty ahead of him at strong safety. And they opted for Jose Gumbs, signed right before camp, as a swing safety.

The Redskins also placed offensive lineman Maurice Hurt on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The tough cut? Receiver Dez Briscoe. According to a league source, Briscoe would have made the roster had he not injured his shoulder in the preseason finale.

What's next: The Redskins next big moves will occur after Week 4 when Jenkins and Jackson return from their four-game suspensions. At that point end Phillip Merling could be in trouble, along with, possibly White, simply because it would be unusual to keep four quarterbacks all season.

The Redskins lack experienced depth along the offensive line and could always use more help at safety. So if anyone intriguing clears waivers, the Redskins would be interested. They also retain the rights to suspended safety Tanard Jackson, who is now eligible for reinstatement. However, it could take a while for the NFL to grant his return -- if they give it to him at all.

Redskins cuts: RB: Keiland Williams, Jawan Jamison, RB Tristan Davis (from exempt/left squad list). WR: Skye Dawson, Nick Williams, Lance Lewis, Dez Briscoe (designated as injured). OL: Tevita Stevens, Tony Pashos, Kevin Matthews, Xavier Nixon. TE: Emmanuel Ogbuehi. DL: Chigo Anunoby, Dominique Hamilton, Ron Brace. DB: DeJon Gomes, Chase Minnifield LB: Vic So’oto, Will Compton, Marvin Burdette.

Predicting the Redskins' final 53

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
8:35
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This is like picking the NCAA basketball tournament. Most teams are very easy to pick -- going out on a limb and projecting Robert Griffin III on the roster, barring conflicting statements of course. And there are few things I dislike more than picking the final 53. Why? Chance to be wrong too many times. And yet, here I am on the eve of cut-down day sending out projections. Fortunately, I feel good about tight ends, linebackers and the defensive line. And, I think, quarterbacks. But I'm shaky on running back, receiver and the defensive backfield. More fluid parts there.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
They’re in:
Griffin, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman
Out: Pat White

Note: White made strides, and under different circumstances I’d keep him around. Just to see how he develops. But with questions about Griffin’s durability, I’d be reluctant to have White as my third quarterback because of his inexperience. He improved with his accuracy, but still was inconsistent on certain throws. He’ll take time to develop. Would you keep White to groom him as the backup and then trade Cousins in the offseason? Sure. But what if something else happens to Griffin and you hang onto Cousins, just in case? When you listen to the coaches, they definitely like how White has progressed. Their enthusiasm for his progress is genuine. A few weeks ago I would not have written any explanation about why he would or would not stick around.

RUNNING BACKS (5)
They’re in:
Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Keiland Williams, Chris Thompson, Darrel Young
Out: Evan Royster

Note: Royster is a better running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to trade him. (Was told by one coach of another team there would be at least a limited market for him.) Before the Bucs game, I was convinced he was gone. Now? I think it's 51-49 he leaves. Or, perhaps 50.5-49.5. Williams is a better special-teams player than Royster. Both have solid hands, but Royster needs the ball a lot to be effective. So in a pinch he’s not as effective. Though he’s a good fit in a zone-read, the Redskins have a featured back (Morris), a third-down back (Helu), a speed back (Thompson) and a special-teamer do-it-all (Williams). It does not sound as if Williams' shoulder is that bad from Thursday; if it is, then this changes.

TIGHT ENDS (4)
They’re in:
Fred Davis, Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
Out: Emmanuel Ogbuehi

Note: No surprises here. On draft day coach Mike Shanahan made it clear they could keep four tight ends. Paul looked a lot more comfortable this summer than last, thanks to an offseason of work after playing the position for the first time. Reed will help once he becomes more consistent. Ogbuehi impressed them, but there’s no room.

RECEIVERS (5)
They’re in:
Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson
Out: Dez Briscoe, Skye Dawson, Nick Williams

Note: The first five were a lock before camp opened and remained that way throughout the summer. Briscoe could sneak in because of his size, but his hands are inconsistent – that was true last season and again this summer. He had a nice play the other night, but I didn’t like that he got caught from behind. With four tight ends, three of whom are solid receiving threats, and with Helu, the Redskins don’t need as many receivers as in the past. Keep in mind, too, that Shanahan has kept as few as four wideouts in the past (with Denver in 2005 and ’08, according to their opening day rosters). If they keep Dawson or Williams around on the practice squad they should be fine. Neither Dawson nor Williams did enough to warrant a spot. Dawson is quick and was tough to cover in one-on-one drills, but did little in 11-on-11 work. As a returner he was fine, but needed to be great.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
They’re in:
Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Tom Compton, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus
Out: Tony Pashos

Note: The Redskins opt for youth at the backup spots, but while Pashos did show some good things – his hands, strength – I’m not sure he moved as well as needed in this offense. Again, another one I’m uneasy about because I don’t like the inexperience with the backups. Plus Compton’s development at left tackle should give them confidence that he could move to the right side if needed. The problem: Compton did not have a good final game, especially early. Gave up more than you’d like in protection and some issues in the run game, too. He was inconsistent in the opener, but played well in the second and third games. They also have Maurice Hurt, who likely will be on the PUP list. I’m uneasy with the backup guards, even though I do like how Gettis progressed.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
They’re in:
Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Chris Baker, Chris Neild, Phillip Merling
Out: Ron Brace

Note: Merling would have been bumped had Jarvis Jenkins not been suspended. So when Jenkins returns, Merling could be in trouble. But Merling was fine against the run. Golston has played well enough to open at left end; he does a better job than Baker of doing his job here, occupying blockers. Baker too often likes to get upfield and make plays; it can lead to big gaps in the defense.

LINEBACKERS (8)
They’re in:
Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley, London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Darryl Tapp, Bryan Kehl, Nick Barnett, Brandon Jenkins
Out: Will Compton, Marvin Burdette

Note: This is tough for me because I like how Compton has played. He’s a smart, decisive player who was able to defeat blockers in part because he often beat them to the spot. I’d definitely want him on the practice squad. The other question is, what happens when Rob Jackson returns from suspension? Do they cut one of these players? I don’t know who you would cut; Tapp has been a terrific surprise (for me anyway) and Jenkins is safe. So they might end up with nine linebackers when Jackson returns.

CORNERBACKS (6)
They’re in:
DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers, David Amerson, Chase Minnifield, Jerome Murphy

Note: Murphy is a surprise choice; the coaches really like him and he’s a physical player and good on special teams.

SAFETIES (5)
They’re in:
Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Bacarri Rambo, Jordan Pugh, DeJon Gomes.
Out: Jose Gumbs

Note: Gumbs to the practice squad. And, by the way, I’m not confident at all in this position. The Redskins, one league source said, had contacted teams about Gomes a couple weeks ago, seeing if there was any trade interest. Whether or not he’s still on the market – or if anyone would part with something for him -- I don’t know. And if they’re concerned about Meriweather’s durability, perhaps you keep Gomes because he can play in the box and back up Doughty. He’s also a good special-teams player. I'm not anticipating a Tanard Jackson return either. He can apply for reinstatement Saturday. That does not mean he'll be reinstated immediately -- if at all. Remember, it was an indefinite suspension.

SPECIALISTS (3)
They're in:
Sav Rocca, Kai Forbath, Nick Sundberg

Note: If you’re expecting great analysis here, stop reading. Nothing to say. They were in from Day One.

 
TAMPA, Fla. – Observations on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers30-12 loss to the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night.

What it means: Not all that much, really. I can’t say it strongly enough that preseason games, especially the fourth one, have no meaning. I’ve seen teams go undefeated in the preseason and go on to struggle in the regular season, and I’ve seen teams go from dismal preseasons to great regular seasons. The Bucs finish with a 1-3 preseason record. It doesn’t matter. But still, it would have been nice to see Tampa Bay look like it was in sync for just a few minutes of the preseason. That never happened.

Very Goode: Tampa Bay’s highlight of the night came early in the second quarter when linebacker Najee Goode picked off a Pat White pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.

Very bad: I think the Bucs would have preferred to go into the regular season with only two quarterbacks on the roster. But I no longer think they can afford to do that. After watching rookie Mike Glennon (7-of-16 for 63 yards with an interception and a lost fumble) struggle, I’m thinking the Bucs should keep veteran Dan Orlovsky around as insurance in case anything happens to Josh Freeman.

Not what they needed: Tight end already looked like a potential weak spot, with Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree expected to share most of the playing time. But this might be more of a problem area than ever. Crabtree had to be carted off the field with an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. If Crabtree is out for a significant period of time, it could mean more work for Nate Byham, or the Bucs may look for a tight end off the waiver wire.

Not so special: Tampa Bay’s special teams haven’t had a great preseason, and the trend continued Thursday night. The Bucs allowed a punt to be returned 69 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Derek Dimke missed an extra-point attempt. And return man Eric Page had what would have been a 105-yard kickoff return nullified by a holding penalty.

What’s next: The Bucs will trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday evening and begin preparing for their Sept. 8 season opener on the road against the New York Jets.

Redskins vs. Bucs: What to watch for

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:02
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With just about every starter out for Thursday's preseason finale at 7:30 p.m. ET at Tampa Bay, is there much reason to be interested in this game? The biggest part of the night will be an examination of Robert Griffin III's right knee. If they televised that, it might draw higher ratings than the game. But they are going to play and we're going to watch, and this is what needs to be monitored:

How Brandon Meriweather looks. The Redskins need Meriweather to look like he’s ready to play a game and, thus far, they have not been convinced that is the case in practice. Every game he played last season, whether it was in the preseason or the one game against Philadelphia during the regular season, Meriweather made plays. There were breakups, hits and turnovers. If he’s not around the ball a lot; if he’s not making plays; then Meriweather might still be affected by his December ACL surgery.

Many happy returns? The Redskins could use another game with many punts, just to give them a better idea on certain players, such as rookie Chris Thompson. Two weeks ago he looked bad fielding punts; last week he did not -- he was patient and knows how to set up blocks. But those two fumbles from scrimmage loom large, as does his inexperience. Josh Morgan might get a surprise shot here, coach Mike Shanahan said Tuesday. But Morgan was a good punt returner at Virginia Tech, though he’s returned just one in the NFL. Skye Dawson has returned punts throughout the preseason and has done well since two bad returns in the opener (fumble, bad decision). Hard to imagine he’s done enough to warrant a roster spot.

Pat White. He’ll start and play the whole game, capping a summer of terrific opportunities. Thanks to Robert Griffin III’s knee, White received more time than he ordinarily would have as a fourth quarterback. It enabled him to showcase more of what he could do. Could he earn a spot here? Only as a fourth quarterback, and that seems like a big stretch. The Redskins are convinced he’ll be on someone’s roster -- is that legit or an attempt to possibly drum up trade interest (slight long shot). White is not close to where the others on the Redskins are as a quarterback. He has improved, but all he’s shown thus far is an ability to run (already known) and that he can hit the slant/dig route. He needs to show he can go through a progression; that he can consistently hit the out routes. White has definitely improved since we first saw him in spring workouts (when he looked like someone who should not even be invited to camp). He deserves a lot of credit, and I could see another team wanting him as a developmental No. 3. With two young quarterbacks already, the Redskins don’t need such a player, unless they already anticipate trading Kirk Cousins in the offseason (though how could you know that already; what if something happens to Griffin once again?) and want to groom another backup.

Secondary issues. At least those not named Meriweather. Josh Wilson will play, one of the few projected starters who will appear in the game (tight end Fred Davis was not yet scheduled to have the night off as of Tuesday; that's surprising, so we'll see if he actually plays or not). Wilson is coming off shoulder surgery and needs the work. Is there any way he loses his starting job? I can’t go there yet, because rookie David Amerson is still clearly learning lessons. But I can’t imagine Wilson has a stronghold on the position either. Why should he? Two guys to watch are cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Jose Gumbs. Murphy has been a special teams standout, and fared well in limited time from scrimmage; he had a good camp, too. Gumbs is a hitter learning to play free safety. This is, perhaps, the most jumbled of all the positions because they also have Jordan Pugh and DeJon Gomes. Tough to see both making the roster, but it really could depend on the Bucs game.

Who has the big finale? There are players who can change their fate with a big showing in the final preseason game. A year ago Brandon Banks had 156 total yards against Tampa Bay -- 90 from scrimmage; 66 on punt returns -- to clinch a roster spot. Maybe he already had earned one, but this made it definite. Linebacker Robert Henson had a terrific final game in 2009 to jump ahead of fellow rookie linebacker Cody Glenn and earn a spot. A year later Henson lost his opportunity when he blew out his knee in the preseason finale. Who will have that sort of game Thursday night?

Running back battle. My best guess is that the Redskins keep four running backs, in addition to fullback Darrel Young. In that scenario Thompson makes it with Keiland Williams and Evan Royster vying for the final spot. Right now, I’d give Williams the edge. Rookie Jawan Jamison hasn’t done a whole lot this summer and appears to be a good candidate for the practice squad. And if they somehow lost him, oh well.

Receiver questions. Do they keep a sixth receiver? If so, would someone else other than Dez Briscoe be in that battle? Hard to imagine based on what we’ve seen in games and practice. Lance Lewis has a long way to go to be ready to make an NFL roster, and Dawson and Nick Williams both are more suited to the practice squad. What if Leonard Hankerson has a big game? Could he unseat Morgan as the Z receiver? I’d like to see a lot more consistency from Hankerson to make that happen. Morgan makes the tough catches that Hankerson has yet to prove he can make (not the one-handers, but the grabs over the middle when you’re about to be drilled).
Quarterback Pat White remains a long shot to make the Redskins roster. He could, however, get a chance to make someone else’s with another strong preseason showing. White will play the entire preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

The Redskins don’t have a need to develop another young quarterback, with their top two both in their second year. They like what Rex Grossman brings, both on the field and in the meeting room, as a No. 3 quarterback. The Redskins have done a good job calling plays for White, who is comfortable running the ball but inconsistent with his passing -- excellent on slants and digs but high on passes to the outside.

“Pat hasn’t been totally consistent in all his drops in the rhythm of the passing game,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “But he’s gotten better each week. He can still get a lot better.”

White is ineligible for the practice squad, but the Redskins are convinced he’ll be on some team’s roster this season.

“The more football he’s around, the more he works at it, the better he’ll get,” Shanahan said. “He’s as hard on himself as anyone I’ve been around. … It’s just a matter of time that he can be as good as he wants.”

In other Redskins news:
  • Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on veteran linebacker Nick Barnett: “He’s got great football instincts. He knows where to go, he flies around. He [doesn’t] know what he’s doing yet but he knows where the ball is. He just needs reps on the field and once he gets those he’s going to be fine. He’s a good player.”
  • Haslett still likes his depth at corner even after the loss of Richard Crawford, out for the season after tearing his ACL, LCL and MCL in his left knee. Crawford would have been, at best, their fifth or sixth corner. “I feel good about Chase [Minnifield], I feel good about Jerome [Murphy],” Haslett said. “We’ve got enough guys that we’ll be fine.” Murphy has quietly had a good summer, particularly on special teams.
  • Another name added to the list of possible punt returners: Josh Morgan. Coach Mike Shanahan said they might have him return a punt or two against Tampa Bay. However, Morgan has never returned a punt in the NFL (he has run back 15 kickoffs, including 13 in 2009 with San Francisco – and averaged 28.2 yards). But he did return punts at Virginia Tech.
  • The Redskins reached the 75-man roster limit by waiving linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and corner Ryan Mouton with injured designations and waived Jacolby Ashworth with an injury settlement. They also terminated the contract of tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
  • The Redskins also moved defensive end Adam Carriker from the active/physically unable to perform list to the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Carriker does not count against their 75-man roster, but this still leaves open the possibility that he could return later in the season. Maurice Hurt, who is on the active/physically unable to perform list, does count against the 75.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
11:25
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Highlights from the Washington Redskins30-7 win over Buffalo on Saturday, their third straight in the preseason. Somewhere, Don Shula’s boys are getting nervous. Or not. Anyway, here you go:


  1. The running game was terrific, but I need to start with the defense. Yes, the Bills have some issues at quarterback. Kevin Kolb was knocked from the game, but he’s at best an average quarterback. Still, the Bills want to play at a fast tempo and it’s not just about passing the ball; they want to run the ball a lot, too. But the Redskins’ defense forced two three-and-outs in addition to a 10-play drive (aided by a third-down penalty on David Amerson). It would have been good to see the Redskins’ defense face this attack longer, to get a better feel because it can wear teams down. However, the Redskins handled this attack well and one reason was linebacker London Fletcher. To a man, players talk about how communication and conditioning are key to battling that offense. The Bills typically snapped the ball with 20-23 seconds left on the play clock. Yet the Redskins’ D did not look confused or lost. They subbed and were able to use their base and nickel packages. “London is the calming force of the defense,” Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston said. “You feed off his confidence and getting the calls. That tempo is trying to catch you with everyone not communicating. That’s how big plays happen.” By the way, Buffalo managed a first down on only three of 12 series and none in the second half, though when Jeff Tuel is your quarterback for most of the game, that's bound to happen.
  2. It can’t be underestimated how important it is to have someone like Fletcher on the field. It doesn’t mean mistakes won’ t happen; it does mean that they can minimize those mistakes because of his knowledge. “He’s a coach out there and even with the short amount of time we had to get up, we were able to get the calls out and get lined up,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. I haven’t asked Fletcher about this, but there’s little doubt that he’s watched film of Oregon and of Philadelphia in preparation for the opener, and probably has for a while. There’s still no voice in the defensive room that players trust more than Fletcher.
  3. I know one growing trend in the NFL is the use of packaged plays in which the quarterback has the option to either hand off or throw – and only he knows what he’s going to do. Buffalo does that; Philadelphia will do some of that. And Saturday, the Redskins scored a touchdown in that situation. They don’t do this a lot, but it’s certainly not foreign to them. They scored a touchdown two years ago versus Minnesota in this fashion to receiver Jabar Gaffney, and their first drive against New Orleans in the 2012 opener featured several such plays. Anyway, against Buffalo, Rex Grossman spotted the safety in a spot that left him vulnerable – up near the line on the right side. Typically, the safety would have been where receiver Pierre Garcon was headed on his slant. Grossman knew what to do. Watch the offensive linemen on this play– everyone was blocking for a zone run to the right; left tackle Trent Williams went for the linebacker. Grossman stepped that way but threw the slant to Garcon for an easy score. The corner had no shot at making the play – and even gestured to the safety at the end. Don’t blame him at all. “I knew we would get a blitz or he would drop out of leverage,” Grossman said of the safety. A good call and an easy touchdown.
  4. It’s a shame about Richard Crawford on many levels. It leaves the Redskins in a bind for punt returner. I wrote about this elsewhere on the site, but the options are veterans such as Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall. However, coach Mike Shanahan does not like to use key players in this role, and both would qualify. Besides, Moss has not returned a punt since 2009, and Hall has four returns in five seasons. There’s also Aldrick Robinson, who was bad in this role two preseasons ago and didn’t show a lot of improvement last summer. Can they really trust him? Skye Dawson has looked better since two disastrous returns in the opener (a fumble and a bad decision to reverse field). Anyway, Crawford is one of the Redskins smarter players; he’s always struck me as a future coach because of the way he thinks and understands the game. And he had improved a decent amount this summer – after spending the spring working with Redskins Hall of Fame corner Darrell Green. Mostly, this is about Crawford’s returns and I liked how comfortable he was fielding the ball. It looked natural and he (usually) made the first defender miss.
  5. Another option is Chris Thompson. There’s much that I like about Thompson and what he offers, and yet there are two major issues that just won’t go away: durability and ball security. I was pleasantly surprised how he looked fielding the ball. In practice a week or two ago Thompson did not look smooth at all; he twisted his hands awkwardly catching it on the run to his left and he fought the ball other times. However, he looked much different Saturday. “When I got back there I was pretty calm,” he said. It showed. He ran up and caught one on his 31-yard return. He had to backpedal and grab another one and moved to the side. Still, he’s only fielded three punts in a game since high school. It’s hard to imagine they can trust him with ball security at this point. But they absolutely love his speed and his sharp cuts in the open field. Some of this talk makes him sound like Brandon Banks, though Thompson is loads ahead when it comes to character.
  6. Now, for Thompson’s runs from scrimmage. The fumbles are an issue, and it’s clear he’s still adjusting to running in this offense. Of his 15 carries, none went for more than 9 yards. There were some positive signs: He did not dance around, and when he saw the opening he cut up and took what was there. Liked on a 5-yard run in the fourth how patient he was running to his left, then cutting up and running into the gut of a linebacker, moving him back a yard. He only averaged 2.9 yards per run and I’m curious to see when rewatching the game what sort of holes he really had. I saw good signs. However, those fumbles are killers. He showed resiliency in what he did after the fumbles and that’s good. (He actually carried the ball in his left hand on a run to the right, his first after the fumble. Why? Because he's left-hand dominant and felt more secure with the ball in that hand.) But he’s fumbled twice in two preseason games. If you’re going to do that, you’d better make a few really big plays. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case. Can he make the roster? Yes, because the coaches love his speed and he can develop. But he has not yet earned it with his performance (just remember, though, two years ago that Banks had not really earned it either until a big preseason finale).
  7. I liked how rookie tight end Jordan Reed played after a tough debut versus Pittsburgh. In that game, he dropped a pass and struggled as a blocker. Saturday, Reed caught the ball well and blocked even better. Reed competes hard, one reason he’s further ahead as a blocker than the coaches had hoped or realized he would be at this stage. On Keiland Williams’ 23-yard run it was Reed who cleared an opening by driving a linebacker out of the way. It wasn’t his only good block, but it was one good example. He used his hands better and was a little quicker with his feet getting in position. I also like that he makes smooth catches on balls that would be a little tougher for most players of his size at his position. I don’t know when he’ll make an impact, but I like his potential.
  8. Another guy who deserves credit: safety Bacarri Rambo. Didn’t get a chance to talk to him after the game, but you saw one reason why the coaches really like him: The ability to quickly learn. With the tackles it was all about angles rather than desire and after working on it even harder this week, there was a big improvement. Should you be completely comfortable yet with him? No. Even Sean Taylor needed to adjust to this during games; I remember asking Gregg Williams about Taylor’s open-field tackling as a rookie. The difference for Rambo tonight is that he didn’t hesitate. He was decisive and it showed. He tackled running back C.J. Spiller in the open field. Rambo also tackled Kolb in the open field. OK, Kolb isn’t Mike Vick. But what Rambo needed was some confidence in this area, and he received it Saturday. The coaches even gave Rambo extra time when the other starters were out, a smart move. They need him to be solid in this area. One game doesn’t make or break anyone – good or bad – but it was a positive step.
  9. The Pat White show continues. Does it mean he’ll win a roster spot here? Not unless the Redskins do the unlikely and keep four quarterbacks. And while he’s done a nice job running the zone read plays, keep in mind what separated Robert Griffin III on these plays was his ability to provide a triple threat: run, hand off or throw. White hasn’t shown he can be consistent throwing the ball from this look. White has improved greatly since we first saw him in spring workouts and if nothing else he’s shown that if and when he’s cut, it would be wise for someone else to at least take a look. His passing is still inconsistent and while he’s good throwing slants – hitting guys in stride – he has trouble on out routes. Before I go crazy on him I’d like to see consistency throwing into different areas and against different looks. But for a guy out of football for three years White has been far from an embarrassment and has provided jolts of energy on the field. He was very patient on his touchdown run, allowing fullback Darrel Young to do his job and then following behind. It’s just too bad for the Redskins that White is ineligible for the practice squad. White is behind Grossman; that touch throw to Roy Helu on the wheel route was very, very nice by Grossman. Maybe White gets there someday but he’s not close to those types of plays yet. Still, he’s improved.
  10. Finally, running back Roy Helu showed once again what he can do in the open field. As a running back there are still times I’m not in love with him. He gets the yards that are available too often whereas Alfred Morris creates more yards for himself. Morris did just that on his first three runs; each one went for longer than it should have because of his vision or his cuts or all of the above. His patience is exemplary. Helu is learning how to run with a little more patience. He didn’t always set up blockers. But one of Helu’s best runs, a 12-yarder, also coincided with a major negative – a fumble. However, the run was good as Helu pressed the hole well and got the linebackers to overflow to their right. A big cutback lane opened and Helu took advantage. Lucky for him, he recovered his own fumble. On the next play, you saw the dangerous Helu: his footwork was sharp as he was forced to cut a yard or two deep in the backfield because of pressure. Then he made a quick jump cut outside; all tight end Niles Paul had to do was obstruct his man and he did. Helu bounced wide for 17 yards. There’s a big difference between Helu and Morris, but both can be dangerous when used properly. If Helu gets 10 touches a game he will provide some big plays. If you put him on the field in passing situations with tight end Fred Davis and receiver Pierre Garcon and use play action… one of them will get wide open. Get a one-on-one matchup with a linebacker, as Helu did, and it can result in a wheel route and long completion. I’m not about to say this will be the most explosive offense ever, but a healthy Helu certainly provides more options and added firepower.

Observation deck: Bills-Redskins

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
7:56
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Observations from the Buffalo Bills' 30-7 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday:

Kolb has possible concussion: With rookie EJ Manuel sidelined following knee surgery, Saturday's game was supposed to be veteran Kevin Kolb's chance to make his mark in the quarterback competition. However, Kolb left in the first quarter with a possible concussion. On a third-and-5 run on the second offensive drive, Kolb scrambled for 8 yards -- and the first down -- but was kneed in the back of his helmet by a Redskins defender. He stayed in the game for four plays but departed for the locker room soon after. Kolb finished 2-for-4 passing for 16 yards.

Tuel's time: Once Kolb left the game, the Bills were down to just one healthy quarterback. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel saw his most extensive action of the preseason, which was valuable playing time for the Washington State product. Tuel completed 10 of 17 passes for 63 yards, an underwhelming performance on just about any other day. But for Tuel and the Bills, the most important statistic was that Tuel did not throw any interceptions. If the Bills are without Manuel and Kolb for the regular-season opener -- a possibility the Bills must now consider -- then avoiding critical mistakes is what the team will need more than anything from Tuel.

Gilmore injured: Flying under the radar Saturday was cornerback Stephon Gilmore leaving the game in the second quarter with a wrist injury. He did not return. Gilmore is the Bills' top cornerback and is another hit to a position that has seen several players hobbled this preseason. If Gilmore misses any extended action, it would be a big blow to Buffalo's defense.

Defense takes step back: After a strong outing in their win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Bills defense did not have answers for the Redskins offense on Saturday. Buffalo allowed 452 total yards, 27 first downs and 208 yards rushing yards. Part of that can be attributed to an anemic offense -- the Bills were crushed 38:52 to 21:08 in time of possession -- but it was hardly an encouraging sign from Mike Pettine's group. Even without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins were able to get solid performances from Rex Grossman (11-for-21, 171 yards, one touchdown) and Pat White (7-for-14, 96 yards, one rushing touchdown) at quarterback.

Spiller's scare: Running back C.J. Spiller was slow to get up after a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and grabbed his right knee after the play. The injury, which brought coach Doug Marrone onto the field to check on Spiller, turned out not to be serious, and Spiller returned to the game. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Spiller was simply cut on his knee after being spiked.

What's next: The Bills will return to their practice facility in Orchard Park, N.Y., for the first time this preseason before hosting their preseason finale against the Detroit Lions next Thursday. They will have to cut down their roster to 75 players (Tuesday) and 53 players (Saturday) by the end of next week.

Please stop trading Kirk Cousins

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
4:31
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I'm still getting Twitter questions about whether the Washington Redskins will trade quarterback Kirk Cousins. Things on this front ramped up this week once Mike Greenberg started talking about it on "Mike & Mike in the Morning," wondering if the Redskins' signing of Pat White might make Cousins expendable since White theoretically appears to profile as a better replacement for Robert Griffin III than Cousins does.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Kirk Cousins is more valuable to the Redskins on their roster than as a trade chip.
The thing is, no.

First off, White hasn't played in the NFL since 2009 and barely played then. Just because he was a running quarterback in college doesn't mean he can do what Griffin can do, and if he could, he'd have been playing for someone for at least part of the past three years. The Redskins signed White as a camp body who might (read: if he can actually play) help them run more read-option stuff than Cousins can, just to keep that alive as part of the playbook. He's no threat to Cousins' status as the Redskins' starter while Griffin continues his recovery from knee surgery.

As for Cousins himself, I understand Mike Greenberg's point, especially since he's an unabashed Jets fan who's desperate for help for his team at quarterback. And I understand the larger point, which is that quarterbacks are in demand around the league and the Redskins surely could get more for Cousins right now than the fourth-round pick they used last year to draft him. But when you look at this from the Redskins' perspective, it makes no sense at all to trade Cousins.

What Cousins is, right now, for the Redskins is their starting quarterback. They don't know whether Griffin will be back in time for Week 1, Week 6, Week 10 or any week of the 2013 season. Until Griffin is back and cleared to play, Cousins is the Redskins' starting quarterback. Teams don't tend to trade their starting quarterbacks.

And even once Griffin is back, Cousins is more valuable to the Redskins as a member of their team than he is as a trade chip. There's no way to know when a starting quarterback will get hurt, and in Cousins the Redskins have a guy they feel good about plugging in as a replacement when and if Griffin does. He's shown an ability to run their offense. His teammates like and respond to him as a leader. He won a game for them during the nine-game winning streak that won them the division last year. A backup quarterback who gives you the confidence that he can win an NFL game is a valuable commodity. Some teams pay a lot for that. The Redskins have one who plays for peanuts.

There may come a day when trading Cousins makes sense, but that day is not on the 2013 calendar. Ideally, Griffin makes it back at full strength and never gets hurt again, and along the way Cousins shows enough in preseason and as an occasional fill-in to make him appealing to other teams. If all of that happens, then a couple of years from now the Redskins should be able to get a draft pick or two of significant value for Cousins. That's the ideal long-range plan. But things don't always go as planned, and when they don't you need a reliable backup. That's what Cousins is for the Redskins, and that's why they shouldn't even think right now about trading him.
Former West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who's been out of football since 2009 while unsuccessfully pursuing a pro baseball career, is scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins this week, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. White had been scheduled to visit the Giants this week, but he has apparently canceled that visit and now appears likely to join the Redskins. According to CBSSports.com, all that stands in the way is a physical.

White was a second-round pick in 2009 by the Dolphins, who at the time were trying to incorporate wildcat schemes into their offense and thought his abilities as a running quarterback would help them do that. But he didn't thrive with the Dolphins and decided to try baseball again. Now, though, with read-option offenses infiltrating the NFL, White is attempting a comeback in the hopes that he can fit in with the new trend.

The Giants were looking at him as a guy who could play on their scout team, potentially simulating Washington's Robert Griffin III, Philadelphia's Michael Vick and other running quarterbacks the Giants might see throughout the year. But the Redskins, especially with Griffin recovering from knee surgery, likely offer White more of an opportunity to get actual snaps in training camp and in preseason games. They're happy with Kirk Cousins as their backup and as the starter while Griffin recovers, but if they want to show read-option looks in the preseason, it's possible they could use White for those. Even if they plan to use less read-option in 2013, the Redskins have made it clear they want opposing teams to at least think they might.
Thoughts after noting that the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick has gone from undisputed No. 2 quarterback as a rookie in 2011 to fighting for the role on equal footing with two others:
  • Going from second to third on the depth chart would look like a regression for Kaepernick, but it might not mean much for the long term. Circumstances have changed. Alex Smith outperformed expectations last season, earning a new contract and tightening his grip on the starting position. The team signed Josh Johnson, Harbaugh's former quarterback at the University of San Diego. Scott Tolzien, another passer the 49ers liked coming out of college, has gained some seasoning.
  • Kaepernick was facing a significant transition from the system he ran in college. His development was going to take time. It'll be good for him to get extensive reps in the preseason, but Johnson will need playing time, too. The goal, of course, is to upgrade the quarterback position, not make sure Kaepernick appears instantly worthy of the second-round choice San Francisco used to select him. As coach Jim Harbaugh said on the day the 49ers drafted Kaepernick: "We believe in competition. We believe in earning positions around here."
  • The 49ers ideally would have found competition for Kaepernick last offseason. A lockout-shortened signing period complicated those efforts. That cleared the way for Kaepernick to land the No. 2 job unopposed. The 49ers got away with having an inexperienced backup when Smith started all 16 games, plus two playoff games, without encountering the injury problems that sidelined him in past seasons.
  • There's no precedent for developing quarterbacks drafted in second rounds. Each situation has its own dynamics. A year ago, developing Kaepernick on a fast schedule seemed important. Those still skeptical of Smith might feel that way yet. But Johnson, with more experience than Kaepernick, might be better prepared to take over a playoff-caliber team on short notice, should Smith struggle or suffer an injury. It's up to Kaepernick to prove otherwise.

As the chart shows, five of the nine second-round quarterbacks drafted from 2007 to 2011 were third-stringers or had been released heading into their second regular seasons. Chad Henne and Kevin Kolb were second string. Andy Dalton remains a starter heading into his second year. Brock Osweiler, a second-rounder in Denver this year, hasn't had a second season, obviously.

Dolphins should avoid second-round QBs

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
3:00
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Here is a memo to the Miami Dolphins: Avoid drafting quarterbacks in the second round this year.

I'm not very superstitious, but I know a trend when I see one. For Miami, picking three quarterbacks in the second round since 2007 has been nothing short of disastrous.

Lets start in '07 with the first second-round pick: John Beck. This was former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron's quarterback of the future. Beck was taken in the second round (No. 40 overall) out of BYU and showed nothing in his two years in Miami. He threw one touchdown, three interceptions and had a 62.0 passer rating before being traded to Baltimore, where Cameron landed after getting fired in Miami after one season.

The next year, new head coach Tony Sparano was looking for his long-term solution at quarterback. In '08 the Dolphins selected Chad Henne in the second round (No. 57 overall). Sparano backed Henne all the way to the bitter end, when Sparano was fired in 2011 and Henne suffered a season-ending injury. Henne will be let go by Miami this offseason.

Finally, in '09 Miami drafted Pat White in the second round (No. 44 overall) with hopes of adding a dynamic element to the Wildcat offense. The Dolphins were criticized for this pick, because it was clear that White would struggle in the NFL as a conventional quarterback. His only potential impact would be for gimmick plays, and Miami wasted a second-round choice on that possibility. White made just five pass attempts in his one year in the NFL.

It's no secret the Dolphins will look at free-agent options first, such as Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. But when it comes to the draft, they should avoid second-round quarterbacks. They simply don't pan out in Miami.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
12:00
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: schemes and themes.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills went through a defensive overhaul last year under new head coach Chan Gailey and coordinator George Edwards. They morphed from Dick Jauron's 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme to a traditional 3-4 set. The Bills drafted accordingly, but as the season wore on and they failed to stop the run -- they ranked dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed per carry and per game -- they sunk back into a 4-3 mindset and frequently added another defender to the line. They've also hired Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach and linebackers assistant. Wannstedt is a 4-3 devotee. All of this adds up to the Bills being interested in the best available defenders they can find, regardless of whether or not they fit into a preconceived scheme.

Miami Dolphins

Rightly or wrongly, the Dolphins' offensive identity the past three seasons has been the Wildcat. Those days would appear to be over. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee (the man who introduced the Wildcat) are gone. Wildcat trigger man Ronnie Brown and speed-motion back Ricky Williams don't have contracts, and both could be on other teams. The one player the Dolphins drafted specifically to enhance the Wildcat, quarterback Pat White, was released after one season. Miami's new offensive identity has yet to be determined under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Nobody can say for sure what he'll be looking for, but the run game must be strengthened. Head coach Tony Sparano said this week the Dolphins will remain a power rushing team. Brown and/or Williams will need to be replaced, and reliable interior linemen must be found.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are the NFL's most flexible club entering the draft. They own two picks in each of the first three rounds and in three of the top 33 slots. Bill Belichick can go any direction he chooses and certainly will have his staff working the phones for trade possibilities. The Patriots have a rich history of trading back to accumulate more picks, but they might be more open to trading up this year. They have decent youth on the roster, so when you consider the possibility of adding six more players drafted no later than the third round -- plus their picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds -- you have to wonder if there will be room for them all on the 53-man roster. The glut of picks also allows the Patriots to select the best available player and not fret about specific needs with any given pick.

New York Jets

The Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game again and will draft 30th. Head coach Rex Ryan has playfully groused about the late position and the fact the Jets will have to rummage for the best player still on the board. The Jets drafted cornerback Kyle Wilson 29th last year and immediately named him the team's starting nickelback and punt returner. That didn't work out. Wilson started six games, made 19 tackles, defensed five passes and returned 15 punts. While that negative experience could entice the Jets to return to their usual ways and move up in the draft for a prospect they truly covet -- as they did with cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris and quarterback Mark Sanchez -- an inability to trade players until there's a new collective bargaining agreement might make that difficult.

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