NFL Nation: Will Montgomery

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos hire a new head coach in the coming weeks, he might or might not know if Peyton Manning plans on returning for the 2015 season.

On Tuesday, John Elway said he’s OK with that.

"There’s no question candidates are going to want to know where Peyton is," the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations and general manager said. "At that point in time, I’m going to say the same thing I’m telling you all right now: We don’t know exactly what he’s going to do. We just have to wait and see, you know, and go from there."

[+] EnlargeJohn Elway
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsBroncos GM John Elway said that Peyton Manning is "still playing as well as he's ever played."
Elway outlined what he felt the timeline would be for Manning to decide whether he would return to the Broncos for a fourth season, his 18th NFL season overall. It was clear, however, that Elway believes Manning will be back and Elway wants Manning back behind center for the Broncos.

Asked if he felt Manning would play for the team in 2015 as part of the Broncos’ next step, Elway simply responded, "I do."

Elway then added he met with Manning on Monday, just hours after the Broncos had lost 24-13 to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC’s divisional round. In that sitdown, Elway said he told Manning to take his time with the decision -- as many as four to five weeks, which would put the Broncos on the doorstep of a new league year and the start of free agency March 10.

"We sat and talked about the game. I said, ‘The last thing we’re going to talk about at this point in time, having been through what you’re going through now, Peyton, we’re not going to talk about your future,’ because he needs to get away," Elway said. "I knew as a player, the last thing after that last game that you want to do is talk about your future. … I told him, ‘Let’s not even go into the future. Just know how much we want you back, but you need to take the time and get away from this.’ … But the bottom line is we want him back, and it’s going to come down to what Peyton wants to do."

Manning, who dealt with a right thigh injury over the last two-and-a-half regular-season games to go with Sunday’s loss, was 26-of-46 passing for 211 yards and one touchdown against the Colts. The Colts clogged the middle of the field, which essentially dared Manning to beat them deep up the sidelines with throws outside the numbers, and Manning struggled with his accuracy on those throws.

It was a strategy most of the Broncos’ past 10 opponents, from the Nov. 2 loss in New England to the Colts on Sunday, employed much of the time. In those 10 games Manning, threw 18 touchdown passes to go with 12 interceptions.

Also in those past 10 games, including Sunday, the Broncos were 1-4 in games Manning attempted at least 40 passes.

Asked Tuesday if, from a football perspective, he believed Manning still had at least one more season of top-end play left in him, Elway was clear there as well.

"I think he does. I think that we’ve seen what he did this year," Elway said. "Obviously, 10 games into the year, we had a little shift as far as what we did on offense, trying to create more balance. So therefore it was something new for him because he hadn’t had that balance before. So therefore, it was a bit of an adjustment for him, and I think he did a heck of a job adjusting. And so everyone’s trying to tie it to the numbers, but if you think about Peyton Manning and you think about the numbers that he’s put up for his whole career and the numbers he put up in the last six games -- I think we won four or five of them in that stretch -- they just weren’t quite the numbers, but Peyton was still making the right decisions and still playing as well as he’s ever played."

After a season of spotty play in the offensive line -- the Broncos made four lineup changes during the season, including taking an All-Pro selection at guard in Louis Vasquez and moving him to right tackle. The Broncos surrendered a league-low 17 sacks in the regular season, but every season Manning's team surrenders among the fewest sacks because of his ability to diagnose and get rid of the ball.

The Broncos allowed too much pressure up the middle, where Manning needs the most room to stride into the throw -- they surrendered two sacks on three-man rushes in one game early in the season -- and the position figures to get an overhaul in the offseason. Guard Orlando Franklin and center Will Montgomery are unrestricted free agents.

"Having been a quarterback, he knows I’m going to try to take care of him and that offensive line," Elway said. "I think, yeah, we always want to protect the quarterback. I think that change in scenery for those guys might help them also, and some of them, we’ll do what we can do this offseason and try to help them also."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach John Fox said the team took a look at Richie Incognito earlier this week to see if the free-agent guard would be an improvement to the roster.

Incognito, who was suspended by the NFL in 2013 and the final eight games last season as a key figure in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal, visited with Broncos officials Monday and worked out for the team. The Broncos did not elect to sign Incognito, but team officials saw enough that they would consider signing him later in the season if the team suffers an injury or two in the position group or if they believe Incognito, 31, would be an upgrade on the depth chart as the season progresses.

“It was productive,’’ Fox said following Wednesday’s practice. “ … We’re always looking for avenues to improve the team, it was a productive visit.’’

Asked if the visit was productive enough to consider signing Incognito in the future, Fox said;

“I don’t want to get into speculation,’’ Fox said. “I can just tell you he visited … we did a lot of research, it was productive … We’re always trying to create competition, we do it every offseason, whether it’s through the draft or free agency,’’ Fox said. “That’s the nature of the beast, we all understand that. We’re always going to pursue any avenue we think improves the football team.’’

The Broncos tinkered plenty with the offensive line this season. First they moved Chris Clark out of the lineup for the Oct. 19 game against the San Francisco 49ers and put Paul Cornick in at right tackle. They then moved Cornick out of the lineup this past Sunday against the Oakland Raiders -- Cornick had a shoulder injury in practice last week, but the Broncos were poised to make the change anyway -- and move three players to do it.

Louis Vasquez went to right tackle where he made his first career NFL start at the position from right guard, where he was an All-Pro in 2013, Manny Ramirez went from center to right guard, and Will Montgomery went from being Ramirez’s backup in the middle of the offensive line to start at center.

The Broncos have had 36 rushing plays of either no gain or negative yardage, and they have allowed three sacks off three-man rushes.

Incognito’s past is something the Broncos have researched plenty. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen (John Jerry and Mike Pouncey) engaged in persistent harassment of Jonathan Martin, who left the Dolphins in October 2013. Incognito was suspended and missed the final eight games of the ’13 season. He has been a free agent since his contract with the Dolphins expired.

Martin was later traded to the San Francisco 49ers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers worked out Incognito in August but did not sign him. Incognito has started 102 games at guard in his career.

The Film Don't Lie: Broncos

November, 11, 2014
A weekly look at what the Denver Broncos must fix:

The Broncos unveiled a new-look offensive line against the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday and saw enough from the new grouping that head coach John Fox said he expected to start the same lineup again this week against the St. Louis Rams.

While the Raiders do feature Khalil Mack, who has forced his share of holding penalties and has pressured opposing quarterbacks with some regularity, the Raiders are currently last in the league in sacks with eight. And the Rams’ defensive front, at least the defensive front the Rams have showed the past four games -- 16 sacks combined, including eight against the San Francisco 49ers -- figures to be a notch above.

With Louis Vasquez at right tackle (his first career start at the position), Manny Ramirez at right guard (where Vasquez was an All-Pro last season) and Will Montgomery getting his first start at center, quarterback Peyton Manning wasn’t sacked and the Broncos rushed for 118 yards.

But the Raiders were able to affect Manning and disrupt the Broncos for most of the first half Sunday when the Broncos were in three-WR sets. They got enough push to deflect four of Manning’s passes at the line of scrimmage, forced Manning into an intentional grounding penalty and forced two interceptions, one coming when defensive end Justin Tuck deflected the ball and dove to make the interception -- all in the first half.

Including their time with the Titans, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams may have faced Manning more than any coaches in the league. They figure to pound away at the Broncos’ new look, especially to the right side of the offense into Manning's face as he sets to throw, to see if the group is up to a more significant challenge.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

November, 9, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos' 41-17 win over the Oakland Raiders in Coliseum.

What it means: For almost two quarters, the Broncos looked as if the hangover from the loss to the New England Patriots was still in the offensive huddle. Peyton Manning threw two early interceptions and had at least four passes batted at the line of scrimmage to go with an intentional grounding penalty. The Broncos hung in with defense and finally kick-started things with a 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown from running back C.J. Anderson. Denver closed the first half with two touchdowns in the last 2:44 before halftime and won going away, pulling several starters when the fourth quarter started, to keep a grip on first place in the AFC West.

Stock watch: The Broncos, in search of more consistency in the run game, have changed things up on the offensive line and tried a variety of players running the ball. On Sunday, Anderson tossed his hat in the proverbial ring with a touchdown that was his career-long play to go with 90 yards rushing. Anderson showed the kind of physicality and explosiveness the Broncos had been looking for.

Jury is still out: The Broncos made three changes to the offensive line for Sunday’s game when they moved Louis Vasquez from right guard to right tackle, shifted Manny Ramirez from center to right guard and put Will Montgomery in at center. A Raiders defense that was fairly gassed by midway through the third quarter may not be the best gauge, but the trial run with the new look came with mixed results. Oakland's pass-rushers got pressure on Manning early on. Manning had four passes batted down and two interceptions. The starting linemen were flagged four times, including three false starts, before the fourth quarter was two minutes old.

Game ball: Manning had the ninth five-touchdown game of his career -- and he did it in three quarters. Demaryius Thomas had his sixth consecutive 100-yard receiving game and Julius Thomas had a two-touchdown game, but it was Anderson who made the right-place, right-time play to shake the game loose for the Broncos as they turned what had the look of a road stumble in the first half into a rout.

What’s next: The Broncos (7-2) will make their third consecutive road trip as they head to St. Louis to face the Rams in an early game next Sunday. It’s a rare 1 p.m. ET kickoff for the Broncos (just their second this year), and they haven’t always looked their best in recent seasons in the early time slot. The Rams, having seen what the Raiders did against the Broncos' offensive front, figure to aggressively rush Manning.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Denver Broncos grind their way through their offseason work as a team in the oh-so-early Super Bowl conversations, they have unfinished business.

There is the depth chart at running back, some uncertainty at middle linebacker and making sure the players they signed in their free-agency binge enter the fold smoothly. Oh, there is also a little one-in-a-million shot they need to come through.

Not the Wes Welker make-it-rain-at-the-Kentucky Derby one-in-a-million shot, but an important choice about what might be the most important number when it comes to what the Broncos’ offense does for an encore after its record-setting, 606-point season in 2013. Their magic number is five, as in the five starting offensive linemen charged with protecting quarterback Peyton Manning: the five guys charged with protecting the franchise’s fortunes.

"We feel good about our options," Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said. "We feel like we have the guys on the roster to do what we need to do."

Broncos coach John Fox wants to address lineup options about as much as he wants to talk about injuries. So on more than one occasion, Fox, in his eternal quest to move on to the next question, has said the Broncos will try "a million" combinations on the offensive line through OTAs, this week’s minicamp and training camp.

So far they are a little short of a million, but they have tried some things here and there. And it really boils down to two, perhaps three, combinations.

Orlando Franklin's move from right tackle to left guard was made to maximize Franklin’s abilities; many scouts in the league believed that Franklin would be a better guard than tackle when the Broncos selected him in the 2011 draft. The move also helps Denver adjust to life without guard Zane Beadles, who signed with Jacksonville after the Broncos didn't offer him a chance to stay.

Franklin also gives the Broncos more bulk on the interior, more power, more options in dispersing the inside rush that any defense will believe is key to getting to Manning. So far in team workouts, that move looks to be one that will stick.

The Broncos, even in non-contact work, have flashed some power looks on the interior and will potentially have a better inside run game at their disposal. Although running the ball more efficiently has a spot fairly high on the team’s offseason agenda, the bottom line up front in a Manning-centered offense will always be keeping the man with four neck surgeries in his medical history out of harm’s way.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clady
Harry How/Getty ImagesThe return of starting left tackle Ryan Clady should improve Denver's pass protection.
And the Broncos prefer to do that by blocking five-on-whatever much of the time. Last season the team played out of the three-wide-receiver set at just over 70 percent of its snaps in the regular season, and that total hovered closer to 90 percent in its three playoff games.

Much of that time was spent with a catch-first tight end in Julius Thomas in the formation as well. So their own Five Guys franchise has to get it done.

Franklin’s move inside, with All-Pro Louis Vasquez already working on the right side, gives the Broncos one of the bigger, perhaps biggest, guard tandems in the league. The Broncos would be comfortable with either Manny Ramirez, who started at center last season, or free-agent addition Will Montgomery in the middle of things. Ryan Clady, as he returns from last season’s foot injury, appears ready to reclaim his spot as one of the league’s best at left tackle.

So that leaves right tackle, a position that defenses repeatedly attacked with the pass rush last season, especially down the stretch into the playoffs. Chris Clark, who's more proficient as a pass-blocker than he is in the run game, has spent most of the time with the starters in the offseason workouts.

Clark filled in for Clady after Week 2 last season and got the job done for the most part. Rookie Michael Schofield, a third-round pick, should get a look as well, but given that Franklin is the last rookie this coaching staff has started up front on offense, Schofield would need to not just be as good as Clark but win the job handily in camp.

Veteran Winston Justice has taken a spin or two on the right side as well, but at the moment it looks like Clark or Schofield. Either way, defensive coordinators see what the Broncos have done in free agency and the draft, adding receivers, adding speed, and they saw what the Seattle Seahawks did to the Broncos' offensive line in the Super Bowl.

Plenty of those defensive coaches say although it’s scary to aggressively come after Manning with the rush, they might do it more in an effort to disrupt Denver's timing.

"We’re going to look at a lot of things," Fox said. "We’ve got some time, and that’s what the offseason is for. We’re going to use the time we have and make the decisions we think are best."

Manning is Manning, which is to say he won’t get sacked much no matter who is in front of him. He has been sacked fewer than 20 times in nine of his seasons as a starter, and last season he was sacked 18 times in 659 pass attempts -- or just once for every 27.3 attempts.

But for the Broncos and Manning the question isn’t sacks -- it’s damage and getting him through one week into the next. The Broncos have to limit the hits on their 38-year-old quarterback, who has had a spinal fusion. Two low hits in particular in a four-sack game by Robert Mathis last season almost derailed the Broncos' plans and put Manning in an ankle brace for the rest of the season.

So as folks crunch all the numbers to sum up the Broncos’ potential in the coming season, one still stands out as they prepare to adjourn until training camp.

It’s five. As in the right five.
videoENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The pick: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan

My take: The Broncos, having already told Orlando Franklin he will move from right tackle to left guard, were on the hunt for a right tackle prospect in the draft’s first two days. The Broncos saw the prospect they wanted in Michigan’s Michael Schofield. He has the potential to play both guard and tackle, which is the kind of flexibility the Broncos hoped to find. Schofield started 10 games at left guard in 2011 to go with 26 starts at right tackle in 2012 and 2013 combined. He’s a gritty player who showed himself to already be proficient in the run game. Schofield is a good enough athlete to have run the 110 hurdles for his high school’s track team in suburban Chicago. He should get the chance to compete for the right tackle spot right away.

Spin the wheel: This pick adds another player to the mix as the Broncos work through the combinations in the offensive front. Coach John Fox said earlier this offseason the team would try “a million" groupings in the offensive line during offseason workouts. With Franklin’s move to guard, the Broncos probably will work Schofield and Chris Clark at right tackle. Newly-signed center Will Montgomery was signed in free agency with the idea he could be a starting center, where he will battle Manny Ramirez.

What’s next: The Broncos have picked as expected thus far with a cornerback, wide receiver and offensive lineman in their first three picks. That leaves them in a position to look at linebackers down the board, especially one who could compete for the middle linebacker job.
With just 14 words fired off over Twitter on the first day of the Denver Broncos' offseason program, Orlando Franklin confirmed a move in the offensive line the team's decision-makers have considered for quite some time.

Franklin, whose Twitter profile begins simply with; "Right Tackle for the Denver Broncos," confirmed his move to left guard Monday, the opening day of the Broncos' team workouts in 2014. Following the team's first full gathering with the team's strength and conditioning coaches since the 35-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Franklin sent:


Though Franklin learned of the decision Monday, this is something Broncos officials had considered last spring and were considering once again shortly after the season ended, when they had made the decision to let guard Zane Beadles test the free-agent market. Beadles signed a five-year deal worth $30 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly after free agency opened last month, a deal worth far more than the Broncos would have been willing to spend.

The Broncos made no offer to Beadles' representatives, though Beadles had played in every game and started every game but two in his four years with the team. That departure left a hole in the team's plan up front.

The Broncos, searching for more power in the middle of the offensive line for much of the past two season, had considered moving Franklin to guard during the 2012 offseason. They worked him there at times during training camp, and head coach John Fox has said Franklin took some reps inside during last year's regular season as well.

The Broncos then jumped out a year ago to sign Louis Vasquez to a four-year deal -- the longest free-agent deal the Broncos signed last March -- and in return Vasquez gave the Broncos an All-Pro season at right guard. But the defenses that gave the Broncos the most difficulty, most notably the Seahawks in the title game, often did so with pressure in the middle of the field.

[+] EnlargeOrlando Franklin
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsOrlando Franklin will give the Broncos more pop in the run game at left guard. With his long reach he will be difficult for inside defenders to handle in the pass game as well.
As a result the Broncos are trying to answer lineup questions at left guard and will take a look at center as well.

Franklin has started 47 games at right tackle since he was the second of the Broncos' second-round picks in the 2011 draft (the 46th pick overall). At the league meetings last month, Fox said Franklin "was prepared to play guard last year."

It won't be an unfamiliar position for Franklin, who started 25 games at left guard in his career at the University of Miami before starting at left tackle in his senior season. And there were many scouts who believed when Franklin entered the '11 draft he would be a better guard in the NFL over the long haul.

Franklin is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2014 season. He will give the Broncos more pop at the point of attack in the run game. His reach -- he is 6-foot-7-inches tall -- will make him tough to handle for opposing defensive tackles on the inside in pass protection. His chief hurdle will be to block on the move in the run game when the Broncos go to more of a zone look, but the Broncos have been of the mind it will help them overall to move him inside.

With Ryan Clady's return at left tackle, Chris Clark will get the first look at right tackle and Will Montgomery, who signed as a free agent, will battle Manny Ramirez in early offseason work for the starting center spot. When the Broncos signed Montgomery in the second week of free agency, they did so with the feeling he would push, and could win, the starting center job.

But make no mistake, the Broncos will still give a long look to potential swing tackles in the draft as well as swing players inside who can play both center and guard. In the latter scenario, the Broncos won't have to look far for a player who could fit the bill in Colorado State's Weston Richburg.

Richburg started 50 consecutive games for the Rams and never missed a game -- a streak that included him snapping with his left hand at times during the 2011 season after he had fractured his right hand. Richburg is athletic, savvy and only added to his quality résumé on the field by performing well at his pro day in Fort Collins, Colo., last month.

The Broncos also believe Vinston Painter, a 2013 draft pick who spent much of last season on the team's practice squad, is a potential fit at right tackle down the road as well.

In the end, Fox has said they will use only one criteria to pick Peyton Manning's personal protectors. Fox said they are "trying to get our best five on the field and there will be a lot of different formulas for that ... we'll work a million combinations."

And on the first day of offseason work Franklin's shift to the left was the opening move.
After center Will Montgomery's contract was filed with the NFL last week, the Denver Broncos used up most of what had been allotted to spend in these initial weeks of free agency. And they intend to stick to the budget.

"You know you're going to have some bumps in the road and we don't want to get so close [to the limit] you can't adjust," is how Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has put it. "We'll ease back after our initial work and keep our eyes open."

Montgomery signed a one-year deal last week that carries a salary cap hit of just more than $1.5 million. Montgomery will get a $50,000 roster bonus in August to go with another $75,000 bonus in Week 1 of the regular season.

Before the signing the Broncos had just under $6 million worth of workable salary cap space, so that total is close to $4 million at the moment. That figure includes just the top 51 players and with the May draft still on the docket. The Broncos will need to keep enough room to count all 53 players on the roster when final roster cuts are made this summer and to cover the potential of players on injured reserve.

The Broncos currently have seven picks in next month's draft and have allotted room for that.

So unless they want to release a player, they're largely done signing any free agent beyond a no-bonus, one-year minimum deal. Because they have spent most of the cash they had on hand in recent weeks, the Broncos have even tweaked the last two deals they've done -- Montgomery and Emmanuel Sanders -- to pay the bonuses later.

Sanders gets the actual payment of the bulk of his "up front" money in a bonus payment next year.

Before free agency started the Broncos were among the teams in the best shape in terms of "dead" money -- salary cap charges for players no longer on the roster -- but did add a bit in recent weeks. They are still among the 11 teams with fewer than $6 million in dead money charges, but they added the bulk of theirs since the end of the season and the start of free agency.

They took a $2.1 million hit when the second year of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's original contract voided five days after the Super Bowl. They also took a $1.83 million dead money charge when Chris Kuper retired last month.

Those two players account for 67.8 percent of the Broncos' current dead money total. The charge for the player who has been gone the longest is $500,000 for running back Willis McGahee, who was released last spring.
The Denver Broncos moved to bolster their offensive line Tuesday as former Washington Redskins center Will Montgomery agreed to terms on a one-year deal, according to two team sources.

Montgomery, who is set to enter his ninth season and has spent time at guard in his career, started every game for the Redskins over the last three seasons. Montgomery gives the Broncos more flexibility as they make a decision on how to replace Zane Beadles at left guard. Montgomery also played in Carolina for Broncos head coach John Fox in 2006.

Beadles had been the starter there since his rookie season in 2010 but signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly after free agency opened last month. This past week at the NFL's annual spring meetings Fox said the Broncos will "work a million combinations" in the offensive line during offseason workouts and perhaps training camp before making the decision.

The Broncos could move right tackle Orlando Franklin to left guard and with Ryan Clady's return to left tackle use that opportunity to move Chris Clark to right tackle. Fox said Franklin was prepared to play guard last season, but the team elected to move Manny Ramirez to center and keep Beadles at left guard with Louis Vasquez at right guard.

Franklin started at guard during his college career at the University of Miami and there were scouts who believed he would eventually be a better guard in the league than tackle. So, even with Montgomery's signing, the Broncos will give plenty of thought to moving Franklin and playing Clark at right tackle.

However, Montgomery gives them more options. They could also simply plug Montgomery in at center and play Ramirez at left guard. Ramirez played at right guard in 2012, but the Broncos wanted better play on the interior following that season and signed Vasquez to a four-year deal a year ago.

With about $6 million worth of workable salary-cap space before Montgomery's signing, the Broncos had been talking to representatives of a smattering of offensive linemen. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said last week the team would be looking to sign a veteran to a shorter deal and did not want to use up too much of the remaining room.

Montgomery had been released by the Redskins just after free agency opened last month, a move the team made to save $1.93 million against the salary cap. The Redskins were also looking to get more physical on the inside, having played with zone run scheme under former coach Mike Shanahan, which put a premium on movement skills rather than man-on-man power.

"We're going to try a lot of things and guys are going to work at multiple spots," Fox said last week. “We want to be ready to do what we need to do, like I've said you only take seven guys into a game for five spots, if something happens there is about three different re-coils for that."

Redskins hosting Brian de la Puente

March, 19, 2014
The Redskins planned to shift guard Kory Lichtensteiger to center, which is why they released their incumbent starter. They might have another option: free-agent Brian de la Puente.

de la Puente
The former New Orleans starting center is visiting the Redskins Wednesday. The Redskins released their starting center, Will Montgomery, last week.

Lichtensteiger already knew he was going to move to center and planned to add about 10-15 pounds, bulking up to play for coach Jay Gruden after playing at a lighter weight for Mike Shanahan.

De la Puente started at center the past three seasons for the Saints. He broke in with Kansas City in 2008, but did not play a game and didn’t play in ’09 and ’10, though he was with five other teams during that span either on the practice squad or in training camp.

If the Redskins sign de la Puente, it would be their second free-agent acquisition along the line. Washington signed guard Shawn Lauvao on the opening day of free agency.

Here’s a scouting report on de la Puente from Saints reporter Mike Triplett:

"De la Puente could be in high demand this offseason as a proven starter who has played at a high level for the last three years. Like the rest of the Saints’ offensive line, he struggled at times during the first half of the 2013 season in both his run blocking and pass protection. But he finished very well during the second half of the year and in the playoffs -- returning to the consistent level we saw in 2011-12. De la Puente isn’t a mauler up front, but he’s got a good combination of power and athleticism -- which has served him well in the Saints’ versatile offense that relies so much on pass protection and screen passes. And his experience as a signal-caller for such a sophisticated passing offense will only enhance his market value. De la Puente certainly fit right in on a Saints offensive line filled with diamonds in the rough. He joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Cal in 2008, but he bounced around with San Francisco, Kansas City, Carolina and Seattle before landing on the Saints’ practice squad in 2010. He then earned the starting job over veteran Olin Kreutz early in the 2011 season."

Redskins release Will Montgomery

March, 14, 2014
The Washington Redskins plan to move Kory Lichtensteiger to center, so the next logical move was to cut the man already in place. That is what they have done, releasing center Will Montgomery, according to a team source. Montgomery later texted ESPN980's Chris Russell to confirm the news.

The move will save Washington $1.93 million against the salary cap. Montgomery had started every game at center the past three seasons for Washington. But the Redskins struggled with interior pressure and wanted to upgrade at the position.

Also, the Redskins signed former Cleveland guard Shawn Lauvao on Tuesday. There is a chance the starting guards could be Lauvao and Chris Chester, with Lichtensteiger sliding inside. Both Chester and Lauvao played right guard last season, but Lauvao has played both sides in the past. At 285 pounds, Lichtensteiger was light for a guard, but his quickness made him a good fit in Mike Shanahan’s outside stretch zone system.

Though the Redskins plan to use the same run-game blocking, they still wanted to get a little bigger at guard. Both Lauvao and Chester are about 310 pounds. Lichtensteiger still plans to add about 10 pounds.

Montgomery was a local product, having played at nearby Centreville (Va.) High School and then Virginia Tech. He’s played with Washington since 2008, working at both guard and center until taking over in the middle full time. Montgomery also spent time with Carolina and the New York Jets.

RG III: I can't take those amount of hits

November, 14, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Robert Griffin III knows he’s going to take a lot of hits. He also knows he can avoid at least some of them. As he continues to play the way he did in 2012, willing to run and not avoid contact in certain situations, the hits will add up.

Not that Griffin is already wondering how these hits will affect him long term or whether they will shorten his career. (Or, perhaps, he’s just not publicly wondering).

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I think a lot of people do. It comes down to, you’ve got to take it week to week and not worry about the years down the road when it comes to those hits. You have the future in mind, but you’re still competitive on that day.”

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky"You dont want to be hit that much. A lot of great quarterbacks dont get hit that much," Robert Griffin III said.
That doesn’t mean he wants the amount of hits he had against Minnesota (18). Denver pounded him as well three weeks ago. Lest anyone think this is just because he runs, just know that a storyline in Indianapolis this season -- as it was a year ago -- was the number of hits on quarterback Andrew Luck. But he’s bigger than Griffin and hasn’t had two ACL surgeries.

“Bottom line, I can’t take those amount of hits,” Griffin said. “You don’t want to be hit that much. A lot of great quarterbacks don’t get hit that much. It’s not just me, it’s a lot of things that go into that. We just have to get better.”

He’s right; it’s not always on him, of course. Last week, the Minnesota Vikings applied quick pressure up the middle, mostly through center Will Montgomery and guard Chris Chester. There are times receivers aren’t winning one-on-one routes enough. But there are times Griffin can help himself. Against Denver, for example, there were times in the pocket that he held the ball for three seconds (though, again that was sometimes caused by receivers not getting open; other times it's a need to get rid of the ball quicker).

And against the Vikings, Griffin said there were two hits in particular he could have handled better. He was crunched at the goal line by four defenders while attempting to score. Running back Roy Helu was wide open in the right flat and could have made a similar dash, but Griffin took off and didn’t see him. Griffin said he could have avoided this hit by sliding, but he was trying to score.

“If I’m put in that situation again, then yeah maybe I will slide,” Griffin said. “I think if I hadn’t slipped, I probably would have gotten in. Once I did slip it was probably best to get down and avoid that hit.”

On the final drive, Griffin kept the ball around the right side off the zone read and cut upfield where two defenders hit him. Griffin pointed this out as another example of a hit he could have avoided by sliding.

“I have to do a better job of that, making sure it doesn’t happen and taking it upon myself to get down earlier,” he said. “I got two good shots in the game I could have avoided ... The other hits I did avoid. I’m OK at doing that, getting down and getting out of the way. [But] I’ve got to do a better job of that. It will come. And then we just have to protect.”

Yes, they do, especially when they have to abandon their play-action game, which gives the line a little more time to block thanks to the hesitation it causes.

"We have to improve there and make sure we keep our quarterback upright,” Griffin said. “It takes all of us. Yeah, I’ve been hit a bunch [recently] and everyone knows it, but you have to move on and make each game a new game and not worry what happened before.”

Redskins injury report: Healthy roster

October, 18, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins cornerback David Amerson said he's feeling fine and will play against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, barring any setbacks. That's good news for a secondary that has another tough assignment this week. Amerson is listed as questionable on the injury report.
With the Bears' diverse passing game, the Redskins need a healthy secondary to continue its recent solid play. Washington benefitted against Dallas from its ability to disguise coverages, partly because it used corner Josh Wilson in a variety of roles, from slot corner to strong safety. If Amerson had to miss, then the Redskins wouldn't be able to tap into their strength in the backfield right now, which is versatility.

Tight end Fred Davis (ankle), linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle), center Will Montgomery (knee), corner Jerome Murphy (ankle), nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) and tight end Logan Paulsen (knee) are probable.

For Chicago, tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) and corner Charles Tillman (knee) are questionable. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) is probable and his return would be welcomed by a struggling defensive front. Others listed as probable: linebacker James Anderson (back), safety Anthony Walters (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (knee).

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

October, 14, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Reality check: For the fourth time this season the Redskins had a quiet locker room. But there was more of a shell-shocked look on the faces of the players. Nobody is more surprised by the 1-4 start than the Redskins’ players and coaches. “Lack of execution is costing us games,” running back Alfred Morris said. There’s still a long ways to go, and perhaps that’s why Reed Doughty spent several minutes "coaching" up Jerome Murphy in the locker room, going over scenarios and different plays. But they all know time is getting short.

Ouch: Cornerback David Amerson left the game in the second half with a concussion. Coach Mike Shanahan did not have an update after the game, but Amerson will be evaluated throughout the week. Special-teamer Bryan Kehl said he felt something pop in his knee on the Cowboys' second-quarter punt return for a touchdown. The killer on that play: Kehl had the angle on returner Dwayne Harris. "I would have made the tackle," Kehl said. He'll undergo an MRI. Long-snapper Nick Sundberg suffered a knee injury as well. Shanahan was not sure how serious it was, but Sundberg could not finish the game.

Dead zone: The Redskins had three trips inside the red zone, but settled for field goals of 20, 32 and 33 yards. Meanwhile, the Cowboys had four trips in the red zone and came away with three touchdowns. That’s a 12-point difference. “I think we had a solid game, but we need touchdowns instead of field goals,” Redskins center Will Montgomery said.

Redskins Film Review: Offense

September, 24, 2013
1. Left tackle Trent Williams had a terrific game a week ago at Green Bay. But I have not seen the Pro Bowl performer in the Redskins’ other two games, including Sunday. He gave up too much pressure, especially for a guy who has the talent to be an elite player at his position. Williams has played a lot better. I’m not going to point out every mistake, but he did not sustain blocks at the second level. In the fourth quarter he allowed inside pressure. Williams was caught leaning outside and this mistake led to Robert Griffin III getting hit. Several plays later Williams set wide and was still beaten outside, leading to another Griffin hit. Earlier in the game he was called for holding to wipe out a 32-yard gain; he was aggressive against the end and was beat inside. Not used to seeing that sort of pressure allowed by Williams in one game.

2. Fullback Darrel Young blocked well all game; he’s improved each year as a blocker and while he hasn’t been even an occasional weapon yet, he is helping when he’s in the game. Young had a key block on Pierre Garcon's end-around on the first play of the game. He blocked the end a few plays later on a zone read. And he had a pancake block on a defensive end. The end sort of slowed when he rushed, but Young lit him up. Later, he popped rookie end Ziggy Ansah (whom I like, by the way; has a good future). There was one time in which the Redskins wanted to throw a screen to Young, but the Lions read it and Griffin couldn’t throw the ball.

[+] EnlargeWashington's Pierre Garcon
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins are looking for more depth at receiver to complement Pierre Garcon.
3. Receiver Pierre Garcon puts in as much work as anyone at catching the ball and it continues to show in games, where his hands have been reliable. Yes, I know: He’ll now drop several passes next week. But through three games and even in the preseason his hands have been strong. Though I’m not sure Garcon and Griffin are on the same page when it comes to the quarterback’s knee, they definitely are in synch most of the time on the field. Griffin can throw with more trust in Garcon’s direction because of his ability to shield defenders and withstand big hits.

4. Their timing or reads aren’t always the best on deeper routes. It happened in the Eagles game where Garcon and Griffin read a play differently, leading to a bad miss. It happened Sunday; can’t tell if Griffin thought Garcon was going to run a deep comeback or turn out. Garcon did not have a step on the defender, though he could have gotten inside him. The pass ended up about 5 yards from Garcon.

5. The two did connect well on a back shoulder pass in the second quarter. Both have to read that right and they did, with Garcon turning out once he failed to gain leverage on the defensive back. The pass was right there. Garcon has been as productive as hoped for this season.

6. Tight end Jordan Reed threw a nice block on running back Alfred Morris' 30-yard touchdown run. The Lions’ defensive end lost contain on the outside and that enabled Morris to get wide. But Reed also did a good job moving his feet to get around. In the times where I’ve seen Reed not hold his block, it’s usually related to his footwork as much as anything. On this one, he did a good job. Reed also did a nice job on a 10-yard Morris run that was nullified by Garcon lining up wrong. Again: footwork.

7. That last play also was set up by classic Morris: on an inside toss, the linebackers flowed hard to the playside and he cut back to the left to an opening, then juked a safety and cut inside. He also showed good vision on his touchdown as a defensive back filled a gap that he was going to cut into. But Morris bounced wide and won the footrace. He’s playing at a high level the past two games.

8. Also, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh started controlling the middle even more in the second half. Not sure I’ve seen a tackle with the motor Suh has -- the guy played 70 of the 73 snaps Sunday. That’s phenomenal. And he was dominating late. Three times over four plays (covering two series), Suh made a huge impact. First: penetration through the middle (against center Will Montgomery) to force a 13-yard loss on a sack. Next: He shed guard Chris Chester and caught Garcon on a smoke route to the left for 5 yards. Next: He got past Chester to the outside, reached out and slowed Morris, holding him to three yards when more would have been available.

9. Nick Fairley = Albert Haynesworth. In many ways.

10. Kory Lichtensteiger has played better than he did a year ago, perhaps helped by being one more year removed from his surgery. He made a block Sunday that I don’t think he would have made a year ago. Fairley swatted Lichtensteiger aside, knocking him a couple yards to the inside. But Lichtensteiger regained himself, peeled back inside and dove at Fairley, preventing him from hitting Griffin.