NFL Nation: Robert Griffin III

Malcolm Jenkins only echoed what others have said about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the new Philadelphia Eagles safety didn't question Griffin's game, but, rather his ability to stay healthy. At this point, it's a fair topic. Of course, maybe it's not one a player new to the division might want to address. But then again, it was tame compared to his thoughts on the Dallas defense.

Jenkins
When Jenkins appeared on the NFL Network, he discussed the other three teams in the NFC East. He took a shot at Dallas' defense, as well as the New York Giants' ability to protect Eli Manning. Here's what he had to say about Griffin:
"I think the biggest thing we're going to see is [Robert Griffin III] take that next step as far as the cerebral approach to the game. But the biggest concern I have with RG3 is, will he protect himself? And that's a thing he hasn't done early in his career.

"He scrambles, he gets those extra yards, he makes those throws out of the pocket, but takes a lot of unnecessary hits. We've seen the toll that has had on him.

“Last year he really wasn't himself, still trying to recover from that injury. Those kind of hits, when you talk about a QB, it's all about accountability and availability. He's very very accountable, but availability is going to be an issue if he continues to play the style of football that he's used to."

Jenkins isn't the first opponent to wonder about Griffin's durability or his health. In the past year, several players did just that, including Dallas corner Brandon Carr, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks and New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle among them.

But Jenkins is new to the division and his yapping does two things: endear him to Eagles beat reporters and mark him as a target for other teams. With Griffin, there's only one way to prove Jenkins and many others wrong. He needs to stay healthy; it's not about one game or one throw, it's about a season and then a string of them. And Jenkins didn't knock his game, just questioned his durability.

Dallas' defense might feel a little differently about Jenkins. But when a defense ends the season ranked 32nd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, and then loses its best pass-rushers (Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware), well, it leaves little room for anything but criticism. So here's what Jenkins said:
“A couple years ago, their scapegoat was Rob Ryan, and they got rid of him, and he was the cause of all their problems. He went to New Orleans and took the worst defense in NFL history and turned them into a top 5 defense. So he couldn't have been the problem.

“And then you look at this year, I had the best seat in the house when I watched the Saints get 40 first downs in one game. Forty. In one game. So it must be the players.”

And then Eli Manning was the topic. Again, good, honest stuff.
"I think the problem is he was sacked 39 times, a career high last year. If that continues, Eli's best days are behind him. If they can protect him, then maybe, but it doesn't look like it."

When Jenkins played for Ohio State (my alma mater, as you might know), I preferred that he keep quiet. Typically his game spoke volumes. In the NFL, he's been up and down, but there's no doubt he now has a role as a future analyst. As a reporter, I'll never knock a guy for giving an honest opinion. Sort of helps the job, you know?
Shortly after he signed with Washington, receiver Andre Roberts recalled his frustration from the past season. He was Arizona’s second receiver in 2012; he was their third in 2013. His numbers suffered.

Roberts didn’t complain, but it did bother him.

“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “I felt great coming into [2013] and I was hoping I could better my stats and help the offense more. But I wasn’t able to do that. Being a competitor and a receiver who wants the ball every play -- you obviously can’t get the ball every play -- but I have that mentality. Whenever there’s a pass play I want the ball in my hands and I think I can do something special with it. When you don’t get the opportunity, it was definitely really frustrating for me.”

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Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsEx-Cardinal Andre Roberts could be a valuable weapon for the Redskins as the team's No. 3 wide receiver.
Which leads us to now. When he signed with Washington, Roberts envisioned a role in which he’d play inside and outside, being a second option after Pierre Garcon. Of course, that was before the Redskins signed receiver DeSean Jackson.

“Well, I envisioned one thing and then we signed DeSean Jackson,” Roberts said on ESPN 980's "Inside the Locker Room" Thursday. “So I haven’t really thought too much.”

Roberts got paid -- he received a four-year, $16 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. But now that he has the money, he’d also like to have a lot of chances. Jackson’s arrival can help make everyone better, just because defenses will have to focus on taking him away. They can only double so many receivers and, if the Redskins use a lot of three-receiver sets, that means Roberts could be put in numerous one-on-one situations. Roberts likely will play in the slot, but he can play outside as well. Last season, Arizona used him outside in many of its three-receiver sets with Larry Fitzgerald inside.

But the Redskins didn’t bring Jackson here just to be a decoy. And there’s also tight end Jordan Reed to consider when it comes to targets. It’s a good problem for any team to have; that’s a potentially explosive offense. Which is why the Redskins coaches and players, quarterback Robert Griffin III in particular, are thrilled.

It also means players will have to realize they may not get as many targets as they desire. That’s what Roberts dealt with in 2013. His snaps went from 837 in 2012 to 605. His targets dropped from 114 to 73.

“That’s how the league is, that’s how the league works,” Roberts said. “Going into my situation, I wanted to be the No. 2 receiver. But I still don’t how it’s going to work out. Obviously, when you look at how much money is being made each guy, you’d think that’s going to be [the] No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.”

Not only by the money, but by the reputation. Garcon and Jackson will be the primary targets at receiver. The former is coming off a 113-catch season; the latter had 1,333 yards receiving.

Regardless, if Roberts just plays the slot he’ll get opportunities with perhaps more of them coming down field. There’s a reason Washington targeted him so fast in free agency. He also told ESPN 980 that he thinks he’ll be doing a lot of returning. Jackson did that in Philadelphia, but not as much in recent years -- and in his last 32 punt returns combined the past three years he averaged only 5.7 yards. Besides, the Redskins would be wise not to have Jackson return a lot to limit the wear and tear on his body.

“I think I’ll be returning,” Roberts said. “What I want to do is punt return and kick return, if I have that choice. Anytime I feel like I can get my hands on the ball, I want to do it. … If I can get back there and returns some kicks and return some punts for this team, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
The Washington Redskins filled two big holes in free agency -- they hope -- when they landed defensive lineman and pass-rusher Jason Hatcher as well as big-time playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson. Next stop, the draft, where the Redskins don't pick until the second round (34th overall). Several positions would make sense in the second round: right tackle, safety or even inside linebacker.

Todd McShay's fourth mock Insider is now available on ESPN Insider's page and he projects a player to Washington who should make quarterback Robert Griffin III happy.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

One person after another has let it be known how happy Robert Griffin III has appeared this offseason. It’s why I wrote a column on it a couple weeks ago.

But Griffin hasn’t spoken much this offseason, other than the occasional text messages to include in stories. His tweets Monday night, however, were telling. There is not much need to rehash what happened in 2013, but one word was used more than any other over the past year: trust. Griffin did not trust coach Mike Shanahan. Doesn’t matter how the coaches perceived it, it was reality for Griffin.

There is little doubt Griffin has been energized by the offseason, because of the coaching changes and, more recently, the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson. Griffin is working out the way he likes; he’s taking charge of working with others and he had a highly active role in recruiting free agents -- probably more so than most outsiders realize.

Then came this: Griffin retweeted a Pro Football Talk tweet about a Jay Gruden comment regarding his quarterback and the new logo. (Thanks to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, who always has his eyes out for such things). And in retweeting the link, Griffin added this: “Coach supports his players, new year.”

.

Then, after retweeting another PFT link to comments Trent Williams made to the local media regarding Jackson, Griffin added: “Players have each other's back, New Year”. Now, it did not seem like that last part was a big issue last season, especially given the 3-13 record.

.

But it’s difficult not to interpret Griffin’s first tweet regarding the coaches as a decisive nod to what he endured over the past year. This offseason is going so much different for Griffin than in 2013. For the Redskins, it’s a welcomed start.
The NFL's fame and glory machine didn't spit out DeSean Jackson this time around. It just showed him the blueprint.

Jackson is too young and too good for his ugly release last week by the Philadelphia Eagles to end his career. Regardless of anything that came out publicly (or whatever the Eagles or other teams may know privately) about the off-field detriments that undermine Jackson's wondrous on-field benefits, someone was going to pick him up.

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Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAt 27, DeSean Jackson must realize that his relatively young NFL career is at risk.
The Washington Redskins didn't waste time and they didn't scrimp.

But what Jackson got to see was the manner in which the machine will spit him out if he lets it. A team can cut you, it turns out, without explaining why, and can let everyone assume it's because of the way you act and the friends you hang out with away from the field. A team can do this and have the wide NFL world nod in agreement at phrases like "doesn't fit" and "what's best for the football team."

So while the week's debate has been about whether this turn of events is good/bad for the Eagles, good/bad for the Redskins, good/bad for the Jets or any other team that may have been involved or interested, why not take a moment to debate whether this is good for the player? Is getting cut by the Eagles and signed by the Redskins going to benefit DeSean Jackson? Or is the machine determined to spit him out long before his desire and skill level dictate that it must?

I've been talking to people about Jackson for three years now, and here are a few things I believe I know:

Jackson is not an evil person. The Aaron Hernandez comparisons you may have heard or read are shameful and irresponsible. One guy is in jail on first-degree murder charges. The guy we're talking about here appears to have some childhood friends with shady connections. That's a pretty wide gulf, and it deserves to be treated as such in our analysis. We could sit here and say that someone of Jackson's fame and wealth is risking a lot if he refuses to cut ties with people who have nothing to lose. And if he's allegedly flashing gang signs after touchdowns, on his Instagram page or in his videos, as the police officers in the NJ.com story that hit last week minutes before his release say he has, then he's doing himself a disservice.

Jackson is a 27-year-old who's been famous for almost half his life, but he knows the right thing to do with his platform. He goes into schools to speak actively against bullying, talking to bullies, victims, teachers ... anyone who can help with the problem. He doesn't just throw money at his causes; he works actively to help.

But he also conveys an untethered element. He was incredibly close with his father, who died quickly and cruelly from pancreatic cancer in 2009, and people who have spent time around Jackson will tell you the past five years have been rough. I once asked a player in the Eagles' locker room about Jackson and was told, "Not a bad guy, but sometimes you shake your head." I have heard stories about him pouting in the locker room. He himself admitted to dealing poorly with his last contract year; he let it affect him on the field, and he was suspended for missed meetings. Eagles personnel have for years expressed concern about the extent to which Jackson liked to focus on making rap music, sometimes to the detriment of his football business, in their opinion.

And the NJ.com story got into his off-field associations in pretty strong detail. While the national takeaway was the uber-simplistic bit about alleged gang ties, the reasonable takeaway is that Jackson doesn't always make the best-looking choices. What I know about gang culture couldn't fill a shot glass, but I don't think DeSean Jackson is in a street gang.

The problem Jackson has now is that, right or wrong, some people who've been following this story for the past week do think he's in a gang. So the next time the NFL's fame and glory machine finds him caught in the works and tries to spit him out, there's going to be a chorus that thinks it's the right thing to do.

I wonder if he's in the right environment to succeed. The Redskins have a new, inexperienced head coach in Jay Gruden. They have a 28-year-old first-time offensive coordinator in Sean McVay. They have an attention-magnet quarterback in Robert Griffin III who's coming off a year that handed him a slate of his own problems to work out. The Redskins have lost locker-room leadership in recent years, most significantly with the retirement of London Fletcher. One of the top leaders on their offense is wide receiver Santana Moss, whose roster spot one would think is in jeopardy as a result of the Jackson signing. If Jackson is looking for another tether now that the Eagles' tether has been severed, it may be tough for him to find it in Washington.

Which makes it even more important for Jackson to realize what's happened here and work to make sure he's prepared the next time it happens. It's important for a lesson to be learned. Jackson doesn't have to change who he is or what he does away from the field if he doesn't want to. But his is now an at-risk career at the age of 27, and he needs to understand that. The next time the machine tries to spit him out, it's going to have a lot more impetus than it did this time around. Jackson's mission going forward is to fight that off -- to realize he's under a new and frightening kind of scrutiny, and to work to make sure he doesn't give anyone a reason to think he's something he's not.

Leftover thoughts: DeSean Jackson

April, 3, 2014
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  • I know DeSean Jackson said his number was not yet assigned and he mentioned the possibility of still having No. 10. But here's the thing, and I wish I had written this Wednesday: There's no way the NFL would allow Robert Griffin III to relinquish that number and Jackson knows this. It's too ingrained in the marketing, of both the Redskins and the league. I don't know what number Jackson ultimately will wear. It won't be No. 10. Receiver Aldrick Robinsontweeted Wednesday that, "Guess I gotta swag it out in #15 this year." So his No. 11 is available. That would make sense for Jackson: 10 from Philadelphia; 1 from Cal; 11 in Washington. I don't know if that's a done deal -- Jackson said on Redskins nation he might opt for No. 4, which he wore in college. Regardless it makes sense to change. New start for Jackson; new number, too. UPDATE:And then there was this tweet clinching the deal:
  • While many want to portray this as a typical Dan Snyder signing, the sense I got this week is that the organization was all-in and the desire did not just derive from the owner. The coaches wanted receiver DeSean Jackson, too. In the past Snyder steered the ship and pushed for players maybe others did not want. That's not the case here.
  • They were aggressive and that's a Snyder trademark, but that clearly was a good thing in this situation. The Redskins also knew if Jackson left the chances of him signing here would go way down. The aggressive tone begins with Snyder, but there was a sense of urgency by many, including the player.
  • I mentioned to one person in the organization about Snyder being aggressive in this pursuit to get it done and his response was, "This is on Bruce [Allen]." But you also can't dismiss the idea that if the team wants a guy, then Snyder will push hard to close. As he should. But this was a group effort to lure Jackson, from Griffin to DeAngelo Hall to coach Jay Gruden and the front office.
  • I liked Griffin's quote about still needing to accomplish something together. Too many titles have been won here in March and April. Too many things have looked good only to fail. There will be a transition here, just having a new coach and partially new offensive system. But when you have playmakers, you can compensate for the learning curve by just getting the right ball to the right guy at the right time.
  • The Redskins had 39 pass plays offensively of 20 yards or more and six for at least 40 yards in 2013. The Eagles led the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards (80) as well as 40+ yards (18). Only Carolina had less than Washington. Obviously it wasn't all about Jackson in Philadelphia, but he will bring that element to Washington. Griffin needs time to throw long; he also has to connect. But bigger plays will be available.
  • One thing that will help is getting Pierre Garcon open downfield more. In 2012 he was able to do so because of all the misdirection and zone read option fakes that unclogged the middle or caused linebackers to make poor drops. But a year ago it seemed that too often his big yards after the catch came on horizontal routes. So a 10-yard run was sometimes only a 10-yard gain. They need that middle free so a 15-yard catch can turn into 25. With Jackson taking away pressure on the other side, that should help.
  • It also will depend on how teams play the Redskins. Clearly they'll try to take away the big play, perhaps with a lot of two-deep or cover-2 looks. That's when having running back Alfred Morris should help.
  • They can give more option plays to Griffin, where he can hand off or throw a pass and only he knows what he'll do. The Redskins can do what the Eagles did at times last year: Show the zone read to one side, a bubble screen to the other and have a route run down the middle. Lethal stuff when it works.
  • As far as the contract, it's favorable to both sides. Jackson did not get what he might have had he hit the open market as a true free agent. But his price tag was definitely lowered by having been cut. The thinking: There's a reason you've been cut and why other teams are guarded in their desire to land you. That worked to the Redskins favor and allowed a team with around $6 million in cap space to land a player such as Jackson.
  • Jackson's cap hit this season will be around $4.25 million. His base salaries in 2014 and '15 are fully guaranteed ($1 million and $3.75 million, respectively). He receives workout bonuses of $500,000 in the first three seasons of the deal (the fourth year will void). The cap hit would be $9.25 million in years two and three. He has roster bonuses that could total up to $1.5 million this season and $3.75 million in both 2015 and '16.
  • So it's a fair deal for both sides. The Redskins have done well in that regard this season. It's one area that Allen has done well, along with their cap specialist Eric Schaffer.
  • Jackson was asked about Eagles coach Chip Kelly on the conference call. But he turned it around onto Jay Gruden: "He's a very intelligent guy. I saw some of the success he had with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and the Bengals. He has a lot of weapons. He has a lot of toys to mess around with. ... What's better off than to say, 'Let's get it on and have a great year.'
DeSean Jackson wore the number for six years in Philadelphia. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has worn it since he entered college six years ago.

The question now is, who wears No. 10 in Washington?

The newly-signed Jackson didn't sound as if he were ready to abandon that number just yet, though he did wear No. 1 at Cal.

“Well, I definitely am familiar with the No. 10 and Robert Griffin,” Jackson said. “We talked about it a little bit. That hasn't been a decision that's been made yet. Maybe by the time the season starts we'll know. Maybe RG3 will wear No. 3 and I'll get No. 10. We'll see how it goes. You never know.”

Unless Griffin is willing to change, he should retain the number. He's the face of the franchise. He's the quarterback and he's not the one coming to a new team. It's hard to imagine him giving up the number and if he wants it, then by all means Griffin should keep No. 10. He's the one who made that a popular number in Washington -- and, the Redskins hope, will continue to do so in the future.
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The red flags around DeSean Jackson can't be ignored, because by all accounts they're real. And I'm not talking about any affiliations, either. Rather, it's his approach that's more troubling, because that could have a negative impact on the Washington Redskins.

But ... if Jackson is fine ... the Redskins' offense will be explosive. They can pair him with veteran receivers Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and second-year tight end Jordan Reed. They have a sturdy young running back in Alfred Morris, who has rushed for 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. They also have quarterback Robert Griffin III, who already was excited about next season. Now he must be ecstatic.

The common denominator among their receivers: speed. It's probably the fastest group the Redskins have had in a long time. And Griffin's ability to throw the deep ball sits well with Jackson's penchant for catching them in the past. It's what Jackson does best, and it's why he scares a defense so much.

Griffin might not have a laser arm like Michael Vick -- few do -- but it's a very good arm and it's certainly one that should connect with Jackson down the field. There's also Griffin's ability to extend plays with a group as fast as this one. That too should lead to headaches for opposing defensive coordinators in the week leading up to facing this offense.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesDeSean Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
Having Garcon on the other side means teams can't just always focus on one or the other. No doubt defenses will try to force Jackson into underneath routes and try to be physical with him. If they want to play a Cover 2, the Redskins will take seven-man fronts all day with Morris.

As for the wisdom of signing Jackson, my initial take after his release by the Philadelphia Eagles was simple: No, don't do it. They have a first-year head coach in Jay Gruden trying to establish a new culture and are coming off a disastrous ending to 2013 filled with negative stories. The organization has not fared well after such signings in the past. Would it have the infrastructure to maximize a talent such as Jackson, who comes with questions?

Those I've spoken with who have more reservations about Jackson have been front-office types; those who strongly endorse him are coaches. One coach from another team said certain players are worth taking a risk on, and Jackson is one of them.

I do know his talent is such that teams will look the other way because he can do things few others can on the field. His acceleration on deep passes is unmatched. Google "Redskins, LaRon Landry, 88-yard touchdown, 2010" as proof. Jackson causes defenses to worry about him on every play, something that will lead to better opportunities for Garcon & Co.

It's not like Jackson is the perfect player. Durability always will be a concern for a guy who is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. Of course, he's now entering his seventh season and coming off his most prolific year. But those red flags, again, must be considered. Some of the Redskins' leaders who have met or talked with Jackson say he's not as bad as advertised, that he's driven by his late father and plays with emotion. They'll need to make sure that's harnessed for the good. Safety Ryan Clark's arrival definitely helps the leadership aspect.

The Redskins have taken a risk on players in the past who have not worked out, notably defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Running back Clinton Portis had question marks when he arrived -- he wanted his contract re-done -- but was coming off consecutive 1,500-plus yards seasons. He worked out well. Haynesworth did not.

If you don't have a lot of players with Jackson's issues in the locker room -- and I'm talking about guys whose work ethic has been questioned, nothing about purported affiliations -- then you can withstand it, if the leadership is strong. Will Jackson be too high-maintenance? There's no way to know.

For at least the short term, the guess is that Jackson will be fine. Yes, he'll want to prove the Eagles were wrong -- very wrong. If he is indeed maturing, then Jackson will want to show that he's nothing like recent reports. All of that will benefit the Redskins next season. All of that will benefit Jackson, too. The Redskins need this to work after a horrific season; Jackson needs this to work after bad publicity this offseason. This is not a marriage I saw occurring. But it definitely is one of more than just convenience.

Jeremy Maclin's bet could pay off

March, 31, 2014
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Jeremy Maclin was betting on himself when he decided to sign a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.

Maclin
He has a chance to cash in with a big 2014, and that chance got better when the Eagles decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson.

"I didn't really think about it," Maclin said in this Philadelphia Inquirer story. "I think my value is my value, regardless of who I have playing around me. That's my mindset and how I approach the situation."

The question for Maclin is his knee injury. Adrian Peterson has ruined the expectations for every player coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, setting a bar almost impossibly high. He ran for 2,097 yards in 2012 after tearing his ACL. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his ACL but was not the same in 2013 as he was in 2012, and ex-coach Mike Shanahan ended his season early.

The normal progression is it takes a full year for a player to feel whole again.

While ACL comebacks are more common these days, the rehab is still a tedious process. Maclin is expected to be ready to go when training camp begins, but the Eagles could limit his work in the offseason program.

Maclin has big-play ability -- 26 touchdown catches in four seasons -- but he has never had more than 964 yards in a season. He has never caught more than 70 passes in a season. While he knows what Chip Kelly’s offense is about after being around the team, he hasn’t gone through it on the field before.

Patience on both ends will be wise. Maclin will have to be patient with his recovery. The Eagles will have to be patient with Maclin.

The reward for the patience could be big for both sides.

Nearly a third of the league inquired about receiver DeSean Jackson, but not all the teams are known. Two of those teams reportedly have fallen out of the race for Jackson -- and both have coaches who previously worked with him (Andy Reid in Kansas City and Marty Mornhinweg with the New York Jets). The assumption is that this sends up red flags about Jackson; that’s not necessarily the case.

And it’s hard to get a good feel on who is really interested. Oakland and Washington definitely are, though to what extent remains to be seen. Jackson arrives in Washington Monday and will visit Tuesday. Thus far, it’s his only reported visit.

San Francisco’s name came up when Jackson was on the trade block and the 49ers had expressed interest in free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate, among others, before he signed with Detroit. So it would make sense that they’d at least inquire about Jackson. Tampa Bay has said they'd take a look, though it was a rather tepid endorsement.

Here’s a little handicap of some teams that have expressed interest or reportedly want to get in the race:

Washington Redskins
Cap space: Approximately $7 million
Why he’d consider: It’s a premier market in a premier conference. Oh, and they get to play the Eagles twice a year. The Redskins would have a lot of speed offensively with Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed and would be a major threat down the field. Add to it an athletic quarterback who can extend plays and the off-schedule explosions would increase. Robert Griffin III’s deep-ball ability will be important -- and his ability to extend plays. Jackson’s agent, Joel Segal, has definitely taken quarterback play into consideration in the past with his receivers. If Jackson is forced to take a one-year, prove-it deal, this especially would be a factor.
Why he wouldn’t: Because other teams can offer more. Washington can’t compete if Jackson’s strong desire is to return to the West Coast and play for the team he grew up rooting for (Oakland). If they want a more proven coach, San Francisco and Tampa Bay have to be a consideration (if the Bucs are strongly interested, which is debatable). And if San Francisco truly is interested, then the 49ers clearly would offer him a better chance for team success. The Redskins still have other needs to address so they can only spend so much, and it's hard to gauge how aggressive they'll be. But the fact that they have the first visit says something.

Buffalo Bills
Cap space: Approximately $13 million
Why he’d consider: They have more cap room than most teams, so they could offer the sort of contract that could get it done now -- if they wanted to go that high. They need what Jackson provides (though many teams do).
Why he wouldn’t: The Bills aren’t a marquee team and their quarterback situation is questionable. EJ Manuel started 10 games as a rookie and showed flashes, but remains unproven. That has to be a strong consideration. None of their receivers had more than 597 yards last season, so how secure could you be? They have a good young talent in Robert Woods, a solid receiver in Stevie Johnson (nagging injuries, however) and a fast young guy in Marquise Goodwin. But that’s not exactly a Hall of Fame trio. The draft has to be an attractive option, so that could limit what the Bills would be willing to offer.

Oakland Raiders
Cap space: Approximately $15 million
Why he’d consider: Because the Raiders were his favorite team growing up and he played college ball at nearby Cal. Jackson is a West Coast kid, and if his desire to return there is strong, then it will be hard to top. The Raiders need help at receiver so Jackson would fill a big hole. Also, the Raiders have more money than the other teams reportedly interested thus far.
Why he wouldn’t: The Raiders have a wait-and-see approach going on and, while they’d like him, they won’t overspend. So if another team is more aggressive, then Jackson could end up elsewhere. Also, other than going back to California, the Raiders aren’t exactly an attractive franchise. Their coach, Dennis Allen, will enter the season on the hot seat and their quarterback, Matt Schaub, is not known for throwing deep all that often. At this point, it’s uncertain if he remains a quality starting quarterback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cap space: Approximately $12 million
Why he’d consider: They have a potentially strong structure with new coach Lovie Smith. He’s a proven coach in the first year of his regime so he’ll be around several years at least. The Bucs have another explosive receiver to pair with Jackson in Vincent Jackson. Both are dangerous down the field. Oh, yeah, and they have the cap room to absorb a bigger contract.
Why he wouldn’t: Smith’s history suggests building around the run game and the defense. Also, they have a journeyman starting quarterback in Josh McCown and a second-year guy in Mike Glennon, whom the new coach did not draft (and replaced right away). So there are questions at this spot. Their interest is said to be lukewarm, so it’s hard to imagine them overspending for Jackson.

San Francisco 49ers
Cap space: Approximately $4 million
Why he’d consider: It’s the best team, it’s near where he played college ball and it puts him back on the West Coast. They need a receiver who can stretch the field to pair with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Jackson would provide that and then some. They also have a big-armed quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who can let Jackson run under the ball and remind everyone of his explosiveness. Unlike Washington, the 49ers also have a defense that plays at a championship level, so if Jackson wants to produce and win, this could be the stop.
Why he wouldn’t: The 49ers were reportedly interested in pursuing a trade, according to Pro Football Talk. But their cap number isn’t high and they already have talent at receiver. They could opt for the draft, which is deep at this position and has a few players with Jackson-like qualities (though no one can match his acceleration on deep balls). Hard to know what the reported friction with the 49ers between general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh means for the future of either person and, subsequently, a guy like Jackson.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The thing that makes Redskins coach Jay Gruden excited also scares him just a bit. He sees quarterback Robert Griffin III’s ability to do just about anything. He also knows that will lead him to finding more ways to let him do, well, just about anything. Or, at least, overload the playbook.

Gruden
Griffin
“That’s my biggest fear,” Gruden said, “that I’m going to have too many plays for him. I know he’s a very smart guy and he can handle everything mentally, so, my fear is I’m going to have too many plays.”

It was one knock against Gruden in Cincinnati, a point which even he admitted. In 2012, he told Cincinnati reporters that he’d always been criticized for having too many plays.

“That’s always been a thorn in my side, even in Cincinnati. I had too many plays,” Gruden said. “Hopefully, I can taper it back and find plays that work instead of just having too many.”

But just like in 2012, it doesn’t sound as if Gruden wants to cut back on his plays. He likes choices; he doesn’t want to be left short-handed when it comes to possible solutions if certain plays aren’t working.

“It’s better to be a playcaller and have too many plays than to get to the third quarter and think, ‘Oh, [expletive], I don’t have any plays!’ That’s terrible!” Gruden said.

Besides, it’s about being prepared for any situation. For example, he said, if they have a two-tight end package heavy game plan and one gets hurt, they need to find another package.

“You have to have other packages, so it does look like there’s a lot, but they’re really not,” he said.

Ten thoughts (plus 2) on Jay Gruden

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
10:35
AM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some leftover impressions after Jay Gruden's breakfast meeting with the press Wednesday:

1. I've said a few times that he's a breath of fresh air. Here's why: You don't get the feeling he's putting himself above anyone, even though his position puts him at quite a high level. He's personable, he's respectful. Shortly after he was hired, I spoke with him on the phone for a few minutes. After I was done asking him questions, he actually asked one of me. What does that mean? Probably not a whole lot, but I was not used to it. This only suggests that Gruden will be good to deal with from a professional standpoint. That doesn't mean he'll get a free pass.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsCoach Jay Gruden has set himself apart in interviews from his predecessors in Washington.
2. Jim Zorn was personable as well. But from the minute he took over, you knew he was in over his head. He also was a bit goofy with his stories and that did not play well with players and coaches who often wondered where the heck his tales were going.

3. There's zero of that with Gruden. He's at least been an offensive coordinator so being elevated to this job was no surprise, whether people think he should have been or not. Nobody outside of the Redskins felt Zorn should have been a head coach. Some thought Gruden should be one, others did not.

4. One reason Gruden did not want to come to the NFL long ago was because he wanted to enjoy his family, coaching their youth sports and just being a dad. I completely can relate to that sentiment. But I also think it makes him less likely to believe he's smarter than everyone else. Some coaches from the past did not share that outlook.

5. Gruden spoke for an hour at Wednesday's breakfast and said quite a bit that provided insight. Former coach Mike Shanahan often spoke that long, but usually said little -- for obvious reasons, of course.

6. Gruden has a sense of humor. The topic was Robert Griffin III's running and taking too many hits. Gruden, too, hurt his knee when he played quarterback. It was not from running, however. “I hurt my knee because the right tackle missed a block,” he said. You know, that may have sounded funnier when he was talking. Now I wonder if he's not still annoyed. Whatever. It was funny at breakfast.

7. It was very different to see other teams' coaches garner much more attention than the guy leading the Redskins. Chip Kelly, for example, had reporters sitting at the table and then another ring standing behind them, with cameras all around. Gruden had a couple of national guys stop by, ask about Griffin and then leave.

8. Look at the coaches hired by the Redskins under Dan Snyder (outside of Zorn): Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan. All brought a certain level of attention. Gruden's last name does, but despite him being a good quote there will be less attention. Unless they win: Hey, another Gruden who wins! Or unless things go south in a hurry: Hey, another Redskins coach in trouble! Griffin's presence will always bring a high level of attention, however.

9. One question that was asked often during the coaching search about any candidate: Can Gruden command the room? Can he sell his vision and plan? That was typically tops on the list of importance when I'd talk to various NFL people about coaching candidates. Don't know if Gruden can do that or not yet in Washington because he hasn't had the chance. But I'll be curious to hear how that goes. It's a key.

10. So, too, is Griffin's improvement and a defense that must -- must -- show some teeth for a change. They still need a safety. (Yes, Ryan Clark remains in the mix.) They need to prove that the talk in March will result in a better pass rush in September. And they need to cut down on big plays allowed. Do that and Gruden's task is much easier. Otherwise, all the personable traits won't matter a bit.

11. I also wonder how he'll handle the bigger media market and how dysfunctional things can get with this organization. There's no way to know until it happens, of course. But coming from being a coordinator in small-market Cincinnati to being in charge in Washington represents quite a leap.

12. What does all this means for wins and losses? Well, that depends on other factors -- do you believe Bruce Allen can build a winner is one of the big questions, of course. The organization has failed to produce a consistent winner and until it does, there will be massive questions about that ability.

Jay Gruden a good fit with RG III

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
3:15
PM ET
Robert Griffin IIIPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesQuarterback Robert Griffin III is smiling again under new Washington coach Jay Gruden.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- They notice a difference. Robert Griffin III is happier, something just about everyone who has seen him at Redskins Park has picked up on. It could be because he’s not spending his time in Florida rehabbing his knee, as he was doing a year ago. Or that he knows the knee brace likely is a thing of the past.

Or it’s the fresh start that he -- and everyone else, for that matter -- is getting. When the Redskins changed coaches, they also changed the outlook for Griffin. Regardless of who was to blame for the failed relationship between him and former coach Mike Shanahan, the bottom line is it didn’t work. Enter Jay Gruden. Enter an excited young quarterback.

One Redskins employee described Griffin as “18 times happier.” Others echo that sentiment. Whether a happy Griffin translates into a productive one will be answered in about six months. But there is little doubt the offseason has unfolded in a positive way for Griffin.

“Jay sees football through the eyes of the quarterback,” Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of his former offensive coordinator. “It gives him the opportunity for the quarterback to grow through him. That’s really helpful. The offense and everything has to be quarterback-friendly, and that’s important.”

It’s not just Gruden’s arrival. It’s Sean McVay being elevated to offensive coordinator. Like Gruden, McVay offers a more measured demeanor. It’s also the hiring of Doug Williams as a personnel executive. Williams will not coach Griffin, but will act as a sounding board, as someone who played the position at a high level in the NFL and understands scrutiny. The two already have spoken.

“This kid came in here as a rookie and single-handedly raised the play of everybody on that football team,” Williams said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “At the end of the day, you can’t put it all on his shoulders. You’ve got to have some people around him. And I think that’s the course we’re in now. This guy, man, he comes to the office, always smiling, always upbeat, and you can tell his leadership character and the things that he’s got going for him that are gonna take him a long way.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsJay Gruden on developing the offense around Robert Griffin III: "I think it's gotta be a two-way street. It's gotta be something we're both interactive with."
Even Gruden sees how eager Griffin is to get going. But it’s about more than just having a new coach; Griffin also wants to make up for a subpar season and to regain his rookie mojo. But Gruden wants to make sure Griffin, who is often at Redskins Park (though they can’t yet discuss football together), doesn’t burn out.

“He just needs to relax right now. Enjoy the offseason,” Gruden said. “When it’s time, it’s time. We’ll get plenty of time with him to work with his fundamentals, and just don’t stress out over it right now. He’s so anxious and wants to do so well all the time. He’s such a perfectionist that he needs to settle down right now, enjoy the offseason, enjoy the players he’s working out with right now, and have some fun.”

Griffin had to mature; it’s also important to note that he’s still only 24. And, yes, maybe he needs to be treated differently than, say, backup Kirk Cousins. Is that right or wrong? Well, coaching is about knowing how to reach every player, especially one who plays the most important position and who can define the franchise for the next decade.

Shanahan had his way of doing things, and it earned him two Super Bowl titles. As a rookie, Griffin flourished under him: 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 815 yards rushing and 3,200 yards throwing. But, fair or not, Griffin never trusted him, never fully bought what he was being sold. Doesn’t matter who’s at fault, but the reality is that it makes it tougher to grow, both as a player and as a team.

Gruden has never quite relinquished a quarterback’s mindset. Heck, he says he’s still bitter about never getting a shot in the NFL. But maintaining that mindset helps him relate well to those who play the position. In Cincinnati, Gruden and Andy Dalton shared a strong bond. If that develops here, perhaps he’ll coax even more out of Griffin.

“There’s the physical tools to the game and then there’s the mental aspects, where you have to have confidence in everything you do,” Gruden said. “The quarterback needs to know that the coach has the quarterback’s best interests [at] heart. He has to understand that I want nothing more than for him to succeed. Obviously, he’s got my future in his hands. And it kind of works both ways. It would be foolish for me to think I have all the power: ‘You do exactly what I want. I don’t care if you like it or not.’ I think it’s gotta be a two-way street. It’s gotta be something we’re both interactive with.”

If there’s a disagreement, Gruden stressed that he has the final call. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking otherwise. Gruden must be in control, and that concept must be accepted by Griffin. But if they develop a strong relationship, they can weather any storms. Last season, a storm turned into a tornado.

Griffin, now working out with teammates in Arizona, must smile at Gruden's words. It’s a new day for him: a full offseason and a coach known for building strong ties. All that’s left is to produce next season. If that happens, Griffin will give the entire organization reason to smile. Again.

Jay Gruden: No calls on Cousins

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
12:45
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kirk Cousins let it be known early in the offseason he’d welcome a trade. The Redskins let it be known they didn’t want to deal him. And perhaps that’s why Redskins coach Jay Gruden said no team has called them about the third-year quarterback.

That’s fine with Gruden. Robert Griffin III is the clear starter, which is why Cousins said he wanted to go somewhere he had a chance to compete for the position. But the Redskins have a different mindset.

“You need two great quarterbacks on your team,” Gruden said. “You never know. The way Robert plays and the style he plays with you never know what can happen. Injuries are a part of the game. You need two excellent quarterbacks and we’re fortunate to have two of the better quarterbacks.”

Of course, another team could always call over the next month, now that the first wave of free agency is over. And teams did not have to call the Redskins about Cousins this week considering they were all in the same hotel. Still, there's no desire to trade him.

Cousins has two more years remaining on his rookie contract before he could leave via free agency. The Redskins could always opt to trade him next offseason, depending on how Griffin performs and if he stays healthy.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some highlights from Jay Gruden’s hour-long press gathering at the owners meetings:

1. He’s OK if linebacker Brian Orakpo plays out the season on the franchise tag. Sounds like he and the organization wants to see if his production increases, thanks to the promise of being turned loose more and also having an outside linebackers coach.

2. They will move Shawn Lauvao to left guard and keep Chris Chester at right guard. Gruden did not address Josh LeRibeus, but it’s clear from this move that there’s not a whole lot of confidence in him.

3. He certainly understands the importance of maximizing Robert Griffin III. He’s glad that Griffin needs to be reined in when it comes to his desire to push himself.

4. Gruden said if Griffin isn’t comfortable with the read option, they won’t run it as much. He also said he won’t try to stop him from running out of the pocket. Clearly, though, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. But Gruden wants Griffin to feel comfortable on the field. That’s a big issue.

5. He loves Jordan Reed.

6. Yes, they looked for some bigger linemen, but they want big guys who can move. As has been stated many times, they plan to use the same run-game schemes.

7. He’d like Alfred Morris to be a guy who could catch 20 to 25 passes a season. But he said Morris isn’t a natural pass-catcher; has work to do.

8. Gruden is a breath of fresh air. Though there are some things he can’t say, he was as honest as possible without crossing a line.

9. He’s not concerned about Griffin’s knee; wasn’t too deep on him playing without the brace and what it might mean. Why? Because he said the braces are so light these days.

10. He liked watching Chris Thompson at Florida State and seems anxious to work with him. But his durability is a major issue.

11. He said no teams have called about quarterback Kirk Cousins, but added that he wants “two great quarterbacks” because of Griffin’s style of play.

12. Gruden acknowledged he likes to have a lot of plays; apparently he was able to streamline that desire better during his time in Cincinnati. Does not want to overload Griffin, but says the third-year QB can handle a lot.

13. He mentioned the young safeties, but, again, I don’t get a sense that either Bacarri Rambo or Phillip Thomas will be the answer this season. Rambo’s play did not suggest he should be; Thomas’ foot and recovery from the Lisfranc injury makes him a question mark for now.

14. Gruden mentioned Andre Roberts’ versatility as a receiver. I don’t get the sense that the return position is solved by his arrival, however.

15. They're anxious to see Kory Lichtensteiger at center. As for Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, Gruden was a bit complimentary but I don't get the sense they're done looking for another possibility. Or, as they say, "more depth."

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