It’s an atypical grade and situation for the Washington Redskins. They were disciplined in free agency, chasing players who could help -- not just expensive ones who could help sell tickets.

Because of that, our ESPN Insiders -- Louis Riddick, Bill Polian, Matt Williamson, Mike Sando and Field Yates -- have given them an A-minus in free agency, the fourth-best grade of any team. Only Green Bay, the New York Jets and Seattle received a higher mark.

I’m fine with the grade considering they got defensive starters at nose tackle (Terrance Knighton), end (Stephen Paea), corner (Chris Culliver) and safety (Jeron Johnson). In the first three cases, the Redskins upgraded the position. With Johnson, he adds toughness and physical play but still has to prove he’s a quality starter. Still, having more players with his mindset always helps.

Washington is not done piecing together its roster, but free agency is not meant to solve every hole. The draft must be more important. In recent years they’ve done a mostly poor job in this area. Hence the poor record and numerous holes.

But the prudent thing was to not panic and try to find a player no matter the cost. The best approach to free agency: Stick to your budget. Also, they did not view themselves as being one or two players away. Therefore, don't overspend on one or two guys. Find good players; move on.

They still need another edge rusher and starting free safety and possibly a right tackle. The last spot could be manned by Morgan Moses eventually.

But is last year’s third-round pick ready to handle that role?

Regardless, the team received high marks.

Here’s some of what ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said, “Culliver is the only one they really extended for financially, but if you are going to do it, do it with a corner and do it with someone you're comfortable with. They still need a free safety and they were in the market for some guys who got out of their range, but that kind of discipline signals positive change."

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

The topics for part 2 of the mailbag: the need to rebuild; Landon Collins; Jay Gruden's offense; Jameis Winston and converting corners to safety. Enjoy.

John Keim: They were not a couple plays from being a good team. They lost nine games by 10 or more points; that's not good. By comparison, Tampa Bay, with the first overall pick, had five such games (Tennessee and Jacksonville also had nine; Oakland had seven). That followed a season in which the Redskins won only three games (with six losses by 10 or more points). Compare that to 2004 and Joe Gibbs' first season when they finished 6-10 --they lost only two games by 10 or more points. They also won three of their last five games that season (and made the playoffs in 2005). I felt before last season that this offseason would require a major overhaul defensively just because of age in some cases and ability in others. In the NFL, every bad team can think they were a few plays away but sometimes you need to be honest with yourself. That's what the Redskins are being. They can improve this year, but they would not have done so without some rebuilding.

Keim: No; most projections for Collins are in the 15 range. If you love a guy, fine. But you want elite skills from a top-five pick and analysts/evaluators don't seem to think he has them. The only way I'd draft him is if they trade down, get more picks and if they also determine that either he or Jeron Johnson can do a good job playing deep middle. The knock on Collins is that he's only an in-the-box safety. I haven't studied him yet, but that's the criticism. Just remember: Their goal has been to improve the pass rush. If you get a feared rush, the coverage will be helped. And pass-rushers are prized as much as anything defensively. The goal is to find the best players and reaching strictly for a need goes against that desire.

Keim: They'll make some minor tweaks, based on what I was told. They obviously will try to incorporate plays he works well within the offense, but that's what they tried to do last year. At some point plays have to be made in whatever you're asked to do. That's life in the NFL for everyone. The great quarterbacks make systems, not vice versa. Griffin knows he must get better within this offense --will a second year in it help? It can't hurt. The Redskins seemed intent on turning him into a pocket passer last spring and summer, but they started calling more runs when he returned from his ankle injury --in his last six starts he ran 33 times (12 off zone read; Griffin had one carry for more than 10 yards). But Gruden did say at the owners meetings that he'd like to call plays that allow Griffin to be more decisive with his throws. Remember, Gruden needs to win; he wants his quarterbacks to succeed more than any fan ever will. Job sort of depends on it. In the end, there are situations that can and must improve that will help Griffin -- better first-down runs; better defense; relying heavier on the run game, etc. Those will help. You can only change so much before you just say: produce.

Keim: I haven't studied the corners, so it's hard for me to say. All I know is that the Redskins feel there are some who would be able to make that move. Among the names I've seen by analysts who might make such a switch: Miami of Ohio's Quinten Rollins, Utah's Eric Rowe, USC's Josh Shaw (who has some off-field issues) and Georgia's Damian Swann. Not saying all of them would make that move, but these are corners I've seen mentioned (Rollins did not run a fast 40 time at the combine, which is why some say he might project as a better safety prospect).

Keim: He's a pocket passer, which is what Gruden likes, so in some ways, yes, he is. With Mariota, Gruden would have to endure the growing pains of another young quarterback trying to learn to be a pocket passer. But it seems like there's little doubt Winston will go No. 1 to Tampa Bay. So I don't see any way he falls to No. 5. So the focus is heavier on Mariota because there's a chance he'll be available. My thinking: If he's that good he should be taken No. 2 (my guess is he will). I don't know what kind of pro Mariota will be, but if they take him it's because they feel he can develop and be better for them than Griffin. Also, if they felt quarterbacks from a spread offense couldn't hack it in the NFL, then they wouldn't look at Mariota.


Three thoughts on the Washington Redskins hosting Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, per the NFL Network’s Albert Breer:

  1. Well, no kidding. Any team picking in the top five should host any player projected to go in that range. It’s called due diligence. Even if you don’t think you’ll draft the player, it’s wise to meet with them. That way, you can add more information to your book on him in case he’s a free agent in a few years and you have interest. Good teams have lots of information on every player. Teams are allowed to have 30 players in for visits. Clearly they won’t be drafting all of them.
  2. The Redskins have said they would consider drafting Mariota at No. 5 – both coach Jay Gruden and general manager Scot McCloughan said so at the owners meetings. Listen, if it’s a ruse, then you have to keep it going. And if it’s legitimate interest, then you have to do your homework. Considering the team still has concerns/doubts/whatever about Robert Griffin III, it’s not hard to imagine the interest is real. For what it's worth, Scott Frost is Oregon's offensive coordinator; Redskins coach Jay Gruden was an offensive assistant in Tampa Bay when Frost played there in 2003. And Mariota worked with Gruden's brother Jon earlier this month for his series on ESPN. Good insight is available -- yes, the word is Jon Gruden likes him, but he clearly loves quarterbacks and once was a big fan of Kirk Cousins, too (might still be, I don't know). My own guess is that Mariota will be gone by the time Washington selects. If he’s that good, then someone will trade up to No. 2 to get him – or the quarterback-starved Tennessee Titans will take him. There was a lot of love for Mariota at the owners meetings, but we've entered the poker-playing stage of the draft, so who knows what teams really think.
  3. I have not yet studied Mariota (on the docket for this week), but I have seen him play and I do wonder how he’ll translate to the NFL. Half his highlights involve him running and there aren’t many games where you can get a great feel for how well he’d do in the NFL. Scouts and evaluators I’ve talked to do like him (several have said he’s better than Griffin, but if both were coming out now, the latter, in my mind, would have to go ahead of Mariota). But I don’t know that they love him. That spread system has not been conducive to grooming NFL quarterbacks, but like Griffin, Mariota has talent that should translate and give him a chance to succeed. At that point it’s about more factors than the system you played in college: smarts, leadership qualities, coaching, decisiveness, durability, etc.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

Another week of good questions: from Randy Gregory's status to why can't players have contact with coaches during the offseason and the Washington Redskins' most glaring need. Also, what team will serve as Scot McCloughan's blueprint in Washington. Enjoy.

John Keim: It would be nice, yes. After all, for a lot of players it would only help their job performance -- especially quarterbacks. So much goes into that position; just working out isn't going to help you improve. You have to be studying film with coaches, etc. That's true for any young quarterback. But the rule is there to protect players from feeling like they never get a break. If it becomes a voluntary situation, you might as well label it involuntary because a player would feel an obligation to do more than they might want. They do need time away. Remember, this is what players wanted in the last collective bargaining agreement. Still, it really does hurt the quarterbacks, some more than others. When you're transitioning styles or learning a new offense and you're young (Robert Griffin III)? More time would definitely help.

Keim: I'll answer this in two parts. One, the biggest need would be free safety because right now they have no one they can put back there you could trust. Maybe they'd pan out, maybe they wouldn't but it's a leap of faith. And I'd say a starting right tackle, but a lot of that could depend on Morgan Moses' health and how quickly they feel he can develop. Remember, they drafted him for a reason last year. But perhaps the biggest want would be a pass-rusher. They really want to improve in that area and add another outside linebacker who can pressure the passer. You affect games by pressuring the passer -- and you can help your safeties if you can do so with four players.

Keim: Good question. I was actually thinking about that earlier in the week and my guess would be Seattle. Green Bay is just not aggressive in free agency and McCloughan said that was one difference between him and Ted Thompson. Some of that could be the market they play in, I don't know. McCloughan was active at times in free agency in San Francisco (Justin Smith, Nate Clements) while Seattle has balanced some aggressive moves (trading for Percy Harvin) with building through the draft. Actually, the Seahawks and Niners were relatively similar during McCloughan's time, though Seattle did come across more aggressive in terms of transactions. Not all were major moves, but the Seahawks kept searching. That's more McCloughan's style. Keep in mind, too, that 18 of Seattle's 22 starters in the Super Bowl were draft picks.

Keim: I don't know at this point. Here's what I do know: When McCloughan was in San Francisco, he did not draft anyone who had tested positive for drugs at the combine. When he was in Seattle, the Seahawks drafted a tight end, Anthony McCoy, in the sixth round who had tested positive before the 2010 draft. They also later traded for Percy Harvin, who tested positive in 2009. What I also know is that Jay Gruden spoke highly of Gregory's talent at the owners meetings (the news had not come out yet, but teams already knew). I remember thinking the way he was talking that this was a guy they would be highly interested in, based on his body language and the way he described him: "Randy Gregory, very athletic, man. He can bend and do everything you want as a pass-rusher." However, I really don't know and that's the best I can give you. I would have a hard time with this and I think they would as well; if smoking marijuana becomes a problem to the point you get busted in a huge offseason for yourself, then that's a big red flag. I recall talking to a Redskins executive about this topic regarding a player years ago and his comment was that if it was just a few times, then you could overlook it. But a habitual user is another matter. Red flags. One scout I talked to said he thought Gregory would drop eight to 10 spots because of this issue.

Keim: Tough to say one way or another. I know what I've heard and that makes me wonder if he does. But I have not heard that from McCloughan or with enough conviction from others. What we have heard is that they would not be against drafting a quarterback at No. 5. Maybe that's your answer (unless, of course, it's a smokescreen). His actions will let us know.

PHOENIX -- They hired Bill Callahan because he shared Jay Gruden’s vision of the run game. They also know it could lead to some changes in that part of the offense.

The Redskins’ new offensive line coach will be in charge of the run game, as he was in Dallas last season. In Gruden’s first year, the Redskins used a lot of zone runs while also calling power runs, more so than they had under previous coach Mike Shanahan.

Callahan’s arrival signals a change.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
AP Photo/Nick WassAlfred Morris should get more opportunities to run the football under new offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

“Obviously his staple is being a great line coach, a physical line coach,” Gruden said. “And the running game he brings is more a physical, downhill approach that we employed some last year, but not as many as we could. Part of that is because of the type of linemen we have. We have to adjust our running game to the style we want to be, but we have to make sure we have the linemen in the building to do what we want to do.”

That means finding bigger guys who can move. That’s why they signed Shawn Lauvao last offseason and bumped Kory Lichtensteiger from guard to center, and it’s why they drafted bigger players Spencer Long at guard and Morgan Moses at right tackle. But the latter two aren’t yet starters.

It’s not as if Washington will only use power run schemes. Dallas ran plenty of zone last season and had the best run game in the NFL. The Redskins ran zone in 2012 and ’13 and had a terrific run game (even on non zone-read runs).

“Not many teams are truly one-dimensional,” Gruden said. “We won’t be any different. We’re going to have to change it up a little bit.”

The Redskins haven’t made any additions to their line through free agency, but they love how deep the draft is along the front.

If there are no newcomers, they have to hope Long and Moses develop and that Callahan works his magic.

“He’ll do a great job teaching them the right fundamentals, footwork and all the different combinations that are necessary,” Gruden said. “He’s the best at it. What type of runs we’re going to feature, hopefully it will be a diverse group but we’ll be sound in what we do.”

That also means changes for running back Alfred Morris. But Gruden said they won’t be tough for him. The sense is that Washington will run the ball more next season after doing so only 401 times last season (league average: 428, according to ESPN Stats & Information). Some of that stemmed from game situations; some stemmed from wanting to throw more than they should. It's not as if they couldn't run: they were 14th in the NFL at 4.22 yards per carry. But they weren't good on first downs and they were 24th in the NFL at yards per carry when needing only a yard for first down at 2.30 (and 21st in the NFL with 22 first downs on those runs). So, yes, a little more oomph is needed up front. For Morris, he can rely on his vision, which has been pretty good.

“If you’re a running back, you want to play for Coach Callahan because he likes to run the ball a lot,” Gruden said. “Alfred will be happy. There will be some different styles of runs for him, so for the most part, Alfred’s got great vision and did a great job protecting the football last year, so I think Alfred will be happy with some of the changes.”

  1. The Washington Redskins love what the draft offers along the offensive line, at pass-rusher and at running back. They happen to want players in all of those areas. But just because there are multiple edge rushers projected to go in the top 10, don’t assume that’s where the Redskins will go with the No. 5 pick. That position has value after the first round, too. It still could be the pick -- the only other positions I could see them going at 5 would be receiver (Kevin White, Amari Cooper) or quarterback (Marcus Mariota). A trade would be a definite possibility, but that of course takes two. Given the depth in some key areas, adding more picks -- and therefore more prospects to develop --is attractive. Safety is not deep, which is why they will consider switching one of their current corners if they can’t find one. What they should not do, and I don’t think they will, is draft a safety just to appease others. When you’re trying to build something (or rebuild, in this case) your only concern is adding good players.
  2. They’re trying to show Robert Griffin III support while also allowing everyone to wonder about it with the Mariota talk. They announced Griffin as the starter to allow him to prepare that way during the offseason and to state their belief. But when asked about drafting a quarterback at No. 5, they’ve made no secret that it’s something they would consider. Now, that could just be a tactic to drum up trade interest in their pick. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s always a possibility. It's tough to believe a lot of what you hear, but there are a lot of whispers. And the only way to know that for sure is if Mariota is there at No. 5 and they bypass him. But after what was said and happened last season -- not just with Griffin, but with all three quarterbacks -- it’s not a big stretch to think they would be interested. Griffin is not a guy who needs motivation, but this could also be their way of reminding him where he stands. I really don’t know. At this point, everything is up for debate.

  3. Jay Gruden loves having GM Scot McCloughan around. This is a big year for Gruden; he’s not necessarily entering on the hot seat, but he has to prove he can win in the NFL and improve a team. Those of you who read me last year know that Gruden received mixed reviews from people I talked to around the league before he was hired. Yes, a big key is the quarterback (regardless of who it is), but the Redskins need to build a team that can win without great quarterback play. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis talked about how excited his former offensive coordinator was because of McCloughan’s arrival. It gives him a solid football man high up in the front office whom he can trust. Gruden said, “We have the same goal in mind, no hidden agenda, just find the best players and win football games here and we’ll get along great.” Hidden (some not so hidden) agendas have been an issue at Redskins Park. Will this pairing work? Don’t know. But I definitely believe with Gruden there are no agendas. He never came here seeking power, he just wanted to coach. For McCloughan, this could be his last chance to run a team; he needs to make this work. One thing Mike Nolan said McCloughan did well in San Francisco was work well with him and what he wanted.

The end seemed to be a foregone conclusion at the end of the Washington Redskins' season. Santana Moss, coming off a 10-catch season, would retire. Except that Moss made it clear he'd like to play. And now coach Jay Gruden said there's a chance they might re-sign Moss.

"We're keeping a close eye on Santana," Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "You know, that's something that we know where Santana is and he knows where we are, and something may work out down the road."

A lot of it depends what the Redskins do at receiver over the next month, including the draft. After that, they can determine how many more bodies they need at receiver and whether Moss would be the right choice. His contract last season suggested nothing was a lock -- he received only $65,000 in guaranteed money. But it was clear during camp that Moss was much better than those behind him. So he earned a roster spot.

But it's not as if he was used a lot: Moss was inactive six times.

If he returned, Moss would be in a similar situation. The Redskins have their top three receivers in Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. They have a young receiver in Ryan Grant. There's not much after this four, however.

Moss' best days passed him a while ago, but he's also just one year removed from a 42-catch season. He's not going to help much on special teams. But there are other attributes Moss brings that Gruden likes.

"I could always play with Santana. Santana's a great person," Gruden said. "He's great in the locker room for us. He knows all the positions. I know he's going to be in great shape, and I would not hesitate one bit to call him."

PHOENIX -- The Redskins weren’t going to add Darrelle Revis so they settled on the next tier of cornerbacks. That’s where Chris Culliver entered the picture.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden called him a “major target for us.” That’s why they felt good after signing the ex-San Francisco corner earlier this month. He’ll start at corner, with his playing partner still to be determined. It could rest on DeAngelo Hall’s health as he returns from an Achilles injury.

It wasn’t just Culliver’s skill that jumped out at Gruden. There were other qualities, including toughness and competitiveness, he mentioned first. It’s what he said Monday as well. Clearly, they sought a mindset along with talent.

“I like his toughness,” Gruden said of Culliver. “He’s a great tackler, a great competitor you could see that on tape, and he has the ability to travel with the good receivers. We’ll see the Dez Bryants and Odell Beckhams in our division and give him an opportunity to do that.”

For what it’s worth, Gruden also loves the mindset of last year’s rookie, Bashaud Breeland, and said he developed into a defensive leader.

Back to Culliver. My take on him: After watching a handful of Culliver’s games following his signing, I kept watching more to try and see his flaws. It’s not as if I thought he was the best corner, but he played very well -- not a lot of separation ever by receivers; not a lot of times tested down field; disciplined with his eyes. He handled press coverage well, staying patient and not opening his hips too early, which prevented receivers from typically getting an edge at the line -- sometimes they would. I liked how he played to his help. Here’s the write-up. The big question mark will be off-the-field maturity. But the Redskins say they’re not concerned.

Now, back to Gruden’s take on him. Again, it comes down to getting a competitor. The more players who are this way, the better you become. Players all have a level of it, or they would not be in the NFL. But some have a lot more. The Redskins say Culliver has more.

“You see a corner who wants to stick his head in there and make tackles and really fly to the football and challenge the ball when it’s in the air,” Gruden said, “and challenge people in bump and run. You can see him competing on every down in every phase, getting his hands on people at the line, running to the football, doing a great job in run support. There’s not a lot of weakness in his game.”

Some thoughts on Washington Redskins GM Scot McCloughan following the owners meetings in Phoenix:

  1. I’ve heard the Redskins express plans that have sounded smart in the past. I’ve also heard those plans change every other year; they were never committed to a plan because there really wasn’t an organizational philosophy to support one. You need a belief that shapes who you are and what you want to be. For the first time in a long time, I think they have a guy who can help in this area in Scot McCloughan. There are always ifs involved here: If he handles the off-field issues and if the team allows him the freedom to build how they need to build.
  2. [+] EnlargeScot McCloughan
    AP Photo/Nick WassGM Scot McCloughan has a chance to establish a new organizational philosophy in Washington.

    McCloughan learned from guys like Ted Thompson and John Schneider and when you talk to them or you talk to others who were part of that tree, you realize they know exactly what they’re looking for in a player.

  3. I'll make this clear: One person does not change an organization. Too many people here have failed to build a consistent winner and until he's surrounded by more of his guys, and if others don't butt in, then it will require more patience. History has not been kind to those who feel the Redskins just made the move that will turn them around. Let's see.
  4. Jay Gruden must prove he can be a good head coach. I'm on record saying how much the quarterback(s) must improve, but that's one person. Just like I've written that good quarterbacks can still succeed behind bad lines, so too can a team still play better despite less-than-ideal quarterback play. You can't pin seven wins in two years on one player. Regardless, McCloughan is a good start.
  5. Listening to Jacksonville coach and ex-Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, for example, talk about not falling out of love with, say, a corner just because of a poor 40 time. Rather, is there an attribute that compensates? What if a guy is physical with long arms? He can play press coverage, get physical at the line and all of a sudden that 40 time is not a deal-breaker. I’ll have more on this in a future post, but it was a glimpse into a thinking that he learned in Seattle during McCloughan’s time as an executive.
  6. If you’re going to try and develop players, the key is finding out what a guy does well and putting him in position to do that. McCloughan grew up on this philosophy. Every coach might espouse this belief but not every one practices it. McCloughan is not a coach, but he and Gruden talk an awful lot and if you’re on the so-called same page in this area, you have a chance to find good players.
  7. It’s also about sticking to a philosophy in free agency. The Redskins won’t become Green Bay East when it comes to building a roster almost exclusively through the draft. They don’t need to be. But when you listen to Schneider and Thompson, two men who have had great success, they know what they want. Seattle has taken some shots with trades and free agency, but their core was built a certain way.
  8. I’m not going overboard in saying that everything will be great. There are other factors that will determine his success: Again, it can’t be just one guy in a place that has a belief and philosophy, it has to be an organizational one. So much more work remains for this franchise to ever be turned around.
  9. I also like how McCloughan is not tied to any player and how he recognizes they were not one or two players in free agency from becoming a contender. And that the goal is just to add good players through the draft regardless of position. When you win as little as the Redskins have for much of the past decade, nobody should ever feel safe. Nobody.
  10. Right now there’s a positive vibe when you listen to McCloughan talk about working with Jay Gruden or even offensive line coach Bill Callahan. McCloughan really seemed in sync with Callahan as far as what they want in a lineman. I’ll be curious to see what they do here in the draft. It does not mean they’ll take one high, but it does mean they might have better luck finding one later in the draft, something the Redskins haven’t had in years.
  11. The last offensive lineman who wasn't a first- or second-round pick to become a quality starter for them? Probably Mark Schlereth, a 10th-round pick in 1989. There have been others like Derrick Dockery in 2003, but he had a short shelf life here and I did not consider him anything other than ordinary. Other than that? Zippy. So from 1989-2014, the Redskins drafted 28 offensive linemen in Rounds 3 or later and only one developed into a quality starter. Now, last year’s third-rounders Spencer Long and Morgan Moses might get there and Tom Compton is still around as is Josh LeRibeus. But, still, that’s bad. If McCloughan and Callahan can change that thanks to their shared vision, a foundation will be set.

PHOENIX -- Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden recognizes it’s not just about Robert Griffin III. Everyone on their roster must improve. Every other quarterback must take steps in a positive direction. When a franchise wins a combined seven games in two years and when your rookie year as coach results in four wins, it’s not about one player.

However, that one player is the one who can help elevate them to a much better spot. Hence the heavy focus on Griffin. It’s about Gruden learning more about Griffin; it’s about Griffin doing more of what Gruden wants. It didn’t help that Griffin missed six games because of a dislocated ankle last season. Nor did it help that it was his first season in Gruden’s system. Conversely, he could help himself with better play. It’s a merry-go-round of issues that has continued to plague the franchise. It’s never one issue; it’s always a lot.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsJay Gruden wants to see Robert Griffin III be more decisive with the ball.

But developing a fourth-year quarterback would go a long way towards returning to success.

“Robert has a good understanding of our system and what we want and I think I have a good understanding of what he is as a quarterback,” Gruden said. “He’s a quarterback still in the developmental stages. I have a good understanding of what he needs and he has a good understanding of what we’re looking for, and hopefully, moving forward, he’ll be a more confident and decisive quarterback, and I’ll have a better understanding of what he’s comfortable with and give him opportunities to succeed.”

Gruden already named Griffin the starter entering this season, but has also made it clear if he doesn’t play well that backups Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy will be ready.

“I don’t know how much of his confidence has wavered up and down,” Gruden said of Griffin. “You’ll have to ask him. But I think Robert has always been a very confident guy, a very confident quarterback, and I don’t think he’s ever lacked in that department. But if he has wavered a little bit because of the last couple years, then it’s good for him to come into this year, knowing that he’s the starter and that the guys are behind him, and the coaches and we’ll see what he can do. He’ll have every opportunity to succeed.”

Hiring Matt Cavanaugh to serve as quarterbacks coach can only help. Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay handled that job last year, but eventually found it taxing. Cavanaugh will focus harder on the details for all three quarterbacks. For a quarterback still adjusting to passing more from the pocket, that can only help Griffin.

“Sometimes as a coordinator, you have to really work on the big picture,” Gruden said. “You have to read defenses, you have to audible here, you’ve got to do this, this and this. Well what about my footwork? And that’s where Matt comes in and can really hone in on the finer details of the position. You know, your hands, how you’re going to stand in the shotgun, six-inch step. There are so many details that a quarterback has to understand that are vital to the success of the play.”

For Griffin, he’ll make another trip soon to see quarterbacks guru Terry Shea and also get together with teammates for a workout. He can watch film on his own, but is not allowed to talk football with his coaches.

Gruden said one area he wants Griffin -- and the other two quarterbacks -- to improve in is becoming more decisive. It was a big knock last season. They’d also like to see him stay healthy.

“It’s just a matter of maintaining that health and keeping him upright in the pocket,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to do a good job of protecting him, obviously, and I’ve got to a good job of calling plays that are conducive to getting the ball out of his hands, and he’s got to do a good job of protecting himself. It’s a touchy subject.”

PHOENIX -- The hope now rests with the development of one player and the health of another. Of course, that could change in next month's draft if the Washington Redskins select a right tackle. For now, it's either Tom Compton or Morgan Moses who will start at that position.

[+] EnlargeMorgan Moses
AP Photo/ Evan VucciMorgan Moses, right, played just 120 snaps of his rookie season because of a Lisfranc injury.

With Compton, it's about building off nine starts this past season -- he struggled in pass protection at times. With Moses, it's about being healthy after a Lisfranc injury -- then gaining experience he didn't get a lot of last season. He played 120 snaps.

The Redskins, though, also point to a draft deep in offensive linemen. So that's another potential option. But they spent a third-round pick on Moses a year ago and clearly still see something they like. The question is: When do they think he'll realize that potential? If it could take a while, they could opt to draft a tackle in the upper rounds. The Redskins have made it clear they're interested in adding good players and if that means taking a tackle in the first round, then that's what they'll do.

For now, it's Moses or Compton. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he wasn't sure when Moses would be fully recovered, saying he hopes it's for the spring workouts. But they'll have a better idea when players return April 20 for offseason workouts.

"He's doing good, he's been working hard," Gruden said of Moses' rehab. "He should be ready to go."

The question is, can Moses develop quickly enough despite the injury and inexperience? Coaches last summer raved about his ability to learn quickly. That will come in handy if they tweak the blocking system at all under new line coach Bill Callahan.

They also love his size at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds.

"It won't be hard at all, as long as he comes into camp ready to go and gets a whole offseason with coach Callahan and understands what we're looking for at that position," Gruden said. "Morgan's a smart guy. He'll pick it up quickly, what we're looking for and what coach Callahan needs him to do. He'll have the opportunity, no doubt. Tom will have a great opportunity. I'm sure we'll add a couple pieces in the draft and rookie free agents to come in and compete, too. It'll be an interesting battle.

"[Moses] has a chance to be a good, solid right tackle for us. Tom Compton did some good things. He got beat from time to time like a lot of tackles do. With another year under his belt he has a chance."

Randy Gregory failed combine test

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Outside linebacker Randy Gregory, a potential top-10 NFL draft prospect, said Wednesday that he tested positive for marijuana in February at the scouting combine.

"I blame myself," Gregory told in revealing the positive test. "And I know it sounds cliché, but there's really no one else I can blame."

Gregory, who starred at defensive end for Nebraska the past two seasons, admitted he has a lengthy history with marijuana, saying he began smoking after graduating from high school. He tested positive for the drug in January 2014 and April 2014 at Nebraska, according to the report, and faced being kicked off the team had he failed a third test.

He said the positive test at the scouting combine resulted from high levels of the drug that lingered in his system even though he had not smoked marijuana since December.

"I was worse at Nebraska than I've ever been at any other time of my life," he told "But I know how I am now. I think if teams really look at how I am now more so than the past, they'll see I'm making strides to get better, as a person and as a player."

He said he now is focused on his "dream" of playing in the NFL.

"I don't wake up every day saying, I'd really love to go smoke," he said. "It's not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn't. In the past, hell yeah, it's been a struggle. It really has been."

The positive test could send Gregory down draft charts. In their latest mock drafts, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had Gregory going seventh overall to the Chicago Bears

(Read full post)


Dan Graziano and John Keim discuss what they learned about the Redskins' offseason plans during the NFL owners meetings.

PHOENIX -- Trent Murphy could become the sort of pass-rusher the Washington Redskins need. It also wouldn't be enough. That's why Redskins coach Jay Gruden would love to add another pass-rusher, adding versatility and more of an ability to pressure the passer.

[+] EnlargeRedskins
AP Photo/Tim SharpThe presence of Trent Murphy (93) allows the Redskins to draft a player they feel could help immediately as a pass-rusher but may take time to develop against the run.

It's an area they had hoped to fix last offseason. It's one they hope to fix this offseason, too. Part of it would be Murphy's development, but the other part would be adding another talent. They could add one with the fifth overall pick, but considering the depth at this position they could select one later instead. The Redskins were interested in free agent Pernell McPhee and wanted to re-sign Brian Orakpo, but they capped their spending for both players who ended up going elsewhere. They signed interior rush help in Stephen Paea.

"To add another pass-rusher would be outstanding, whether it's first, second, third, fourth, whatever round we get. There are some good pass-rushers in this draft -- not just early, but late," Gruden said.

The list of guys who could go early is long enough to let them know they could get a good player if they so desired. It's interesting to hear Gruden's take on the players who would be around at No. 5.

"You know, they are different. They're different pass-rushers. It's interesting," Gruden said. "You know, you've got Shane Ray, who's a good pass-rusher. He's got good speed. You've got Vic Beasley. He's excellent. Randy Gregory, very athletic, man. He can bend and do everything you want as a pass-rusher. Obviously, Dante Fowler, very explosive, strong, big. There are some great options out there as far as pass rushers are concerned. That's exciting."

They're different, too. Some are better in third-and-long; some on first-and-10.

"You want a guy that can do a little bit of both," Gruden said. "You want a guy that can hold up in the running game on first down and obviously transition from playing the run to getting a pass rush and some of the play actions but then have the ability on third down-and-8 to be a game-type changer. I feel like there's four or five guys in this draft that can be that."

Murphy's presence allows them to draft a player they feel could help immediately as a rusher but might take time to help vs. the run. Murphy showed as a rookie last season he could set the edge in the run game. But he can improve as a rusher. Even if he does, and they add someone, it would only make them more dangerous.

Murphy adds versatility, with the ability to stand up in their base package but play end in their nickel. And Gruden says he has the skills to improve as a rusher.

"Trent has great hands. He needs to develop more strength," Gruden said. "He's very young up top and he'll get a lot stronger. He has the hands, he has the hips, he has the flexibility to get a good pass rush. We have to continue to work on his get off and some of his strength, which I think we can develop that. From a talent standpoint and toughness standpoint I like Trent. I think he has a bright future."

PHOENIX -- The choices, right now, aren’t ideal. That doesn’t mean none of them will work, but it’s also the spot Washington finds itself in at free safety.

Their safeties, as in the past, will be interchangeable. But ideally they’d like someone who could play deep middle and that typically will fall on the free safety. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said they could opt for one of the safeties already on the roster: Akeem Davis, Phillip Thomas, Trenton Robinson or Duke Ihenacho. They signed Jeron Johnson to start at strong safety.

They also could draft one, though it’s widely acknowledged to be a weak class at safety. They could draft a corner and turn him into a safety. Or they could switch one of their current corners to safety.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsA switch from corner to safety by DeAngelo Hall could make sense for the Redskins.

“There have been some guys who make the transition to safety and have done a great job,” Gruden said. “That’s to be determined, but there are definitely options available.”

Because it’s only March 25, it’s too early to get concerned. A safety could become available via release (possibly Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson). But if the Redskins don’t find someone before or during the draft, they can always contemplate a switch in the spring or camp -- once they see how the returnees fare.

Here’s my quick take on the three players who could make the switch:

DeAngelo Hall: He has the smarts to do it and Gruden was realistic about his future at corner coming off an Achilles injury and being 31. “Sometimes you can get away with losing half a step,” Gruden said, “if you know where to go and understand the route concepts and how to play.” Hall understands all of that, but if he's lost a little more? Then a position switch is a possibility. The one concern I’ve heard raised by others involves his durability. But coaches will say that smarts is a main factor in making such a switch, along with great range and ball skills. Because Hall is nearing the end of his career, the move makes sense, unless they feel one of the younger players won't make it at corner.

Bashaud Breeland: While he starred in some games, Breeland showed how much he needed to learn in others. Still, he was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. He showed he could play in the slot, a role he might play this season as well. Gruden said, “What Breeland did was he brought a competitive style to our team back there. At the end of the year, if you ask a lot of our defensive guys, he was one of our leaders. Just the type of guy he is, the type of player and competitor he is. People feed off that energy.” Again, though he’d have to learn a new position, he did show an ability to learn quickly and is a good tackler. But corner is a more premium position and the Redskins might want to keep Breeland there -- depth here is vital. While Breeland's style could work well at safety, his ability to be a physical corner is a big plus.

David Amerson: He had a disappointing season, but he’s still only 23. He would not be my first choice, mainly because of the coverage mistakes that hurt him last year. He has trouble maintaining eye discipline, which would not go away playing deep. He would have range, but would have to show he has the necessary discipline. However, playing deep middle is not the most complicated spot. Still, he’s a corner with good length and talent so if it’s a more premium position, why switch him now? “He needs to make a major jump moving forward,” Gruden said.