Redskins wake-up call

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
6:00
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Yes, the Redskins have Wednesday off (it's like their Tuesday on a normal week) and will resume practicing Thursday. By the way, for those wondering why so much time off, the Redskins are a pretty banged-up bunch. They need rest. Yes, there are areas that need improvement -- specifically young players on defense learning more of what they must do. But that will be a season-long issue. Anyway, here are three areas of interest today:
  1. Not much of an update yet for quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is still using a protective boot on his dislocated ankle. The only thing coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday is this: “He's doing a great job, and like I said, for whatever injury he has, he's probably going to recover quicker than the normal human being, faster than anybody probably. So, it won't surprise me when he comes back. I'm sure it'll be quicker than normal, but he's doing everything he can to get right. What that timetable is, I have no idea. Only his body will know and the trainers.” In other words, who knows when he'll be ready?
  2. Among the items on the blog Wednesday: taking a look at the Redskins' injuries thus far and their impact. Some are big; some not so big. They are not to blame for all the defensive issues, but some have had an impact. Just like youth in some areas has hurt them, too -- at linebacker and defensive back. I'll also take a look at five questions facing the Redskins this week. And there's a video discussing quarterback Kirk Cousins and his up-and-down nature -- a possible reason for that?
  3. Still sounds funny to think that the Redskins needed a wake-up call (not this one) as Gruden suggested after Thursday's loss. But the players still do believe it was necessary. “Coming off a game like Philadelphia where things were clicking for you, you feel really good and say, ‘Hey, maybe we got something here.' A lot of guys felt that way. I'm not saying we don't have that, but it is humbling in a lot of ways to go out there and not have things go that way to say we are a good team, but we're not a great team just yet. We have to focus and give 100 percent effort on every play.”

After time away, Redskins seek redemption

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
5:35
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Redskins confidence took a hit Thursday, which is why they needed a weekend away -- no football, no talk about three losses in four games to start the season. Their coach, Jay Gruden, said a day after a 31-point loss to the New York Giants that they needed a wakeup call. They also needed time away.

Now that they have returned, the Redskins know they have a long road ahead.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we've got to step it up," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said, "and we're going against one of the best teams in the NFL right now so guys are gonna come with their best efforts."

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Alex BrandonThe Redskins took a needed break from football following a 31-point loss to the New York Giants on Thursday.
They'd best, otherwise the Redskins are looking at a 1-4 start after a season in which they lost 13 of 16 games. That's hardly the way to a turnaround. Facing the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at home on Monday night makes for a tough recovery.

"They're not robots, they're human beings," Williams said. "No one plays perfect every Sunday. They have been beaten before. It's not like they're unstoppable. They're a great team, no doubt about it. But anything is possible in the NFL. Anything."

Linebacker Brian Orakpo said, "This is a perfect time for redemption. It's a second chance to go out there and fix the problems and show everyone we're a good defense, a great defense, a great team."

The Redskins are a long ways from being considered a great team. But the players felt good after having the weekend off. It wasn't like having a bye week, but it will enable a banged-up team to get a few extra days rest.

"It feels better to come back fresh, but it also hurts to have a long weekend after the kind of loss we had," Redskins nose tackle Chris Baker said. "You want to get back out there to put more good stuff on film to get that bad taste out of your mouth. We have to string together some wins and get this thing back together.

"Without question we dug ourselves a hole and now we have to dig deep and get us out of the hole we're in."

Guard Josh LeRibeus said players were more "fired up" once they returned -- and listened to an address by coach Jay Gruden.

"Everyone is more optimistic," LeRibeus said. "It's going to get better from here. [Gruden] was focusing on different things we've done, not dwelling on the negatives but that so far we've pretty much beat ourselves. … Even when he's pissed, you know he's going to take the right direction."

Seeing other games over the weekend -- New England was blown out Monday; Dallas, a team considered done before the season began, improved to 3-1 with a lopsided win over preseason darling New Orleans. That's why the players view Thursday as an aberration -- they hope.

"There is that tendency to go, the sky is falling," tight end Logan Paulsen said. "You look around and there's a lot of good teams in the NFL. In some ways it's encouraging and in some ways it's discouraging. Everyone's good. Everyone will be a challenge, especially for this team. That's something we have to reconcile and move forward and be better."

They're hoping a free weekend provided what they needed.

"You could go home and be around what's really important," said Paulsen, who has an infant. "It puts the loss in perspective a little bit. At the time it feels like the world's ending. [Getting away] gets your legs under you a little bit and gets your mind back right."
ASHBURN, Va. -- Tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice, albeit in a limited role, but it at least provided a glimmer of hope that he might return for Monday’s game against Seattle.

Meanwhile, left tackle Trent Williams, corner Tracy Porter, guard Shawn Lauvao and tight end Niles Paul did not practice because of various injuries.

Reed has not played since early in the season opener against Houston because of a strained hamstring. He said he’s still day to day. But, Tuesday, he participated in individual drills for the first time since injuring his leg.

“It felt all right,” Reed said. “I didn’t do too much to try and test it so I can’t say if I’m 100 percent yet or not. The closer we get to the game they’ll test it more.”

The Redskins could be thin at tight end if Paul is unable to recover from his concussion. That puts Reed in a spot where he knows time is the best antidote for a hamstring, but the Redskins need help now.

“It’s really frustrating, man,” he said. “Hamstrings can be reoccurring if you don’t let it heal all the way. So it’s a frustrating situation. The tight end position is short right now so it’s more trying to get out there faster.”

Paul said he was feeling “pretty normal” after suffering his injury in the first half of Thursday’s loss to the New York Giants. He did see a replay of the hit, which occurred on a throw down the middle, over the linebacker’s head but with two safeties converging.

“It was pretty brutal,” he said. “I like to pride myself on being a tough guy and you just shake that off. When I woke up the first thing I asked [Darrel Young] was, ‘Did I make the catch?’ He told me I did.”

Williams did not need an MRI Friday, but said doctors told him there was a slight dislocation in his right knee. They also told him nothing was torn.

“That gives me confidence to know that if I do get a chance I can get back out there,” he said.

Coach Jay Gruden said there was no need for some of the banged-up players to practice Tuesday. Thursday, when they practice again, will provide a better barometer.

Defensive lineman Kedric Golston was able to go through some drills, as was linebacker Akeem Jordan. Golston has not played since the opener; Jordan has yet to play. But Porter, who played a half a game Thursday for his first action of the season, remains bothered by his hamstring.

“He is just taking it very slow right now,” Gruden said.

With Porter aching, the Redskins re-signed corner Richard Crawford because he knows the system.

Redskins locker room quick takes

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Some highlights from the Redskins' locker room Tuesday morning:
  • Tight end Jordan Reed participated in individual drills, but he said he's not yet 100 percent. That's the same response as coach Jay Gruden: He's day to day and does not yet know about whether or not he'll play against Seattle on Monday.
  • Fellow tight end Niles Paul said he was feeling much better after his concussion on Thursday, but like Reed, there's no way to know just yet whether or not he'll play vs. the Seahawks. He'll have to go through the NFL protocol for concussions the rest of the week. Paul was not fazed by the hit, saying, "That's football." And, yes, he prided himself on making the catch. In fact, the first question he asked fullback Darrel Young when he gained consciousness: "Did I make the catch?" Yes, he wants to play Monday.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins did not talk to the media on Tuesday. He'll do so Thursday. But he was upbeat in the locker room, and I'll say this: He understands bad games happen. While others make judgments on what that game meant for his career, he views it as a learning experience. As we headed to the locker room, we saw Cousins talking with defensive end Jason Hatcher out on the field. Not sure what the topic was, just thought I'd point it out.
  • Linebacker Brian Orakpo said they're trying to come up with a different way to protect his left middle finger so he can use it better during the game. He also said he's resigned to this affecting him the rest of the season. More on this later.
  • Another topic: miscommunication and breakdowns. Yes, that will be a story later in the week. Blame coaching all you want, and it's always part of any equation, but the problems are never that simple. There were a lot of times Thursday where the corners were supposed to be in bump-and-run coverage yet never laid a hand on the receiver. Of course, if it happens a couple times, you can blame the guy, but if it happens a lot, it's on the coaches for not getting it fixed.
  • Yes, the Redskins realize the spot they're in. Left tackle Trent Williams said, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize we have to step it up." Especially facing the defending Super Bowl champions.
  • Getting away for several days definitely helped the players. They are refreshed, but now they have to translate that into a good showing Monday. There are definitely some people in the building paranoid that this game could end up being like last week.

video

ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano discusses the downside to recent major draft-day trades.

The Film Don't Lie: Redskins

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:00
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The Washington Redskins’ defense started strong in the first two games, but there were tiny cracks that made you wonder when it came to big plays allowed. Only a few were made, but it was clear it was something to watch -- because it has been an issue for a few years. Sure enough, it’s an issue again.

In the first two games, Washington allowed a combined five plays for 20 yards or more. In the past two games, it has allowed a combined 12 such plays. The Redskins faced quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne in the first two games compared to Nick Foles and Eli Manning in the next two. The latter two have taken advantage of a back seven that routinely leaves targets open -- too often because of a miscommunication or coverage breakdown.

Seattle’s offense has been good in its first three games, but the Seahawks have not been a big-play team. In the first three games they’ve had only 10 plays go for 20 yards or more -- eight passing and two rushing. But be warned: The Giants entered last week’s game with seven such plays and managed five. The Seahawks have a dangerous threat in Percy Harvin.

The Redskins have the talent for a good pass rush, but their jobs are difficult when the back seven don’t do their jobs in coverage or even attempt to disrupt the timing of a route. So the result is quick passes, with the quarterback rarely feeling heat from the rush. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, opposing quarterbacks have thrown 85 passes in 2.3 seconds or less versus Washington -- fourth most in the NFL. That’s 65.4 of all the passes the Redskins have faced.

If Washington’s defense wants to improve, the surest way possible is to eliminate the big plays allowed -- but this has been a trend. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, since 2010, the Redskins have allowed 231 pass plays of 20 yards or more, third highest in the NFL over that period. If this trend doesn’t change, the defense will never achieve what it hopes.

Examining Kirk Cousins' starts

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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Aside from the up-and-down pattern, dramatic conclusions often are reached about Kirk Cousins' future after each game. Here’s a look at his starts and the prevailing thought after those games:

Redskins 38, Browns 21 (Dec. 16, 2012)
Stat line: 26-of-37, 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
What stood out: Cousins struggled from the pocket in the first quarter. But the Redskins did a better job thereafter of moving him and killing the Browns, intent on stopping Alfred Morris, with their boot game. Cousins found a rhythm and repeatedly made big throws.
The takeaway: The Redskins potentially have a strong backup behind Robert Griffin III. For the first time in a long time, it appears Washington is set at quarterback.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/Mark TenallyKirk Cousins had arguably his worst start of his NFL career last week against the Giants.
Falcons 27, Redskins 26 (Dec. 15, 2013)
Stat line: 29-of-45, 381 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
What stood out: Cousins looked sharp and the passing game had a rhythm. The problem, of course, is that he also threw two costly interceptions. It’s a theme. Cousins led Washington on a drive late in the game, but the Redskins failed on the two-point conversion.
The takeaway: Cousins could perhaps increase his trade stock, if nothing else. And while it’s just one start in a season gone bad, is there any way there could be a controversy entering 2014 if this continues?

Cowboys 24, Redskins 23 (Dec. 22, 2013)
Stat line: 21-of-36, 197 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
What stood out: Nothing. He was ordinary. He forced more passes, one of which was intercepted and a couple of others that were not. He made some nice throws, too. But in the fourth quarter he completed just 2-of-8 passes and failed on Washington’s last drive. The Redskins had a minute left starting at their own 13 and moved 4 yards.
The takeaway: One good game and one mediocre one. The jets cooled big time on the idea of a future controversy. And while some stuck with the "he could fetch a first-rounder" line, most realized that was not going to happen.

Giants 20, Redskins 6 (Dec. 29, 2013)
Stat line: 19-of-49, 169 yards, 2 interceptions
What stood out: The coaches appeared intent on killing his trade value by having him throw so much in terrible weather. Cousins was off-target on numerous throws and could have had more than two interceptions. It was the best defense he had faced as a starter.
The takeaway: What controversy? Griffin would clearly be the starter entering 2014. Goodbye first-rounder and likely a second. Some clung to a belief he could fetch this, but it was never realistic.

Eagles 37, Redskins 34 (Sept. 21, 2014)
Stat line: 30-of-48, 427 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
What stood out: Cousins’ poise in the pocket and the timing of the passing game. He built on a terrific relief showing in the previous game. However, in the final two quarters, Cousins completed three long passes but overall struggled against the five-man rush, too often looking hurried. It was a stark contrast to the first half. And the Redskins failed to even get a field goal attempt after taking over on the Eagles’ 41 late in the game.
The takeaway: One great half and one in which he struggled still produced 34 points and 511 yards of offense. So six of his eight quarters in 2014 were very good. Is he the real quarterback of the future?

Giants 45, Redskins 14 (Sept. 25, 2014)
Stat line: 19-of-33, 257 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions
What stood out: Cousins had a pedestrian first half, but a horrendous second one. He forced throws, as he had in the past, and lost the poise that had earned him praise a few weeks earlier. The more Washington struggled or fell behind, the more Cousins pressed to make it all up with one throw. He stared down receivers and bypassed smarter throws to try to score two touchdowns on one pass.
The takeaway: Cool it on the future talk; Cousins’ youth showed (he's 26) and he has some work to do to be a quality starter. But now the question becomes: Can he develop into a quality starter, or is his tendency to turn the ball over -- and, more importantly, the panicked play that leads to those turnovers -- one that will never be fixed?

Redskins wake-up call

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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The Redskins return to work Tuesday with a 10:45 a.m. ET practice followed by an open locker room session. They switched their week around because they have a game on Monday, so they’ll work today and not Wednesday. Here are three areas of interest:

Injuries. That means updates on tight end Jordan Reed -- is he making any sort of progress? My guess is we’ll continue to hear day-to-day in regards to him. It has to be maddening for the Redskins: Reed is a terrific talent. But he’s played seven snaps this season. Niles Paul has put up good numbers, but Reed is a different threat level, especially in the red zone. He can win on plays that others can’t.

The mood of the team. It’s too early in the season to get into a funk, but this is a dangerous time for the Redskins with a 1-3 record and Seattle coming to town. There is so much baggage from last season that it will be difficult for some to feel that this season indeed is different. It’s a challenge for coach Jay Gruden. There are too many mistakes that keep happening, carry overs from last season -- defensive breakdowns; special teams gaffes. Washington must respond with more urgency than it’s shown in a while.

Kirk Cousins’ response. His best games lead too many people to say he’s the quarterback of the future. His worst games lead too many to say he’s not a starter. For now, what Cousins remains is a young quarterback still learning. He made some rookie-type mistakes against the Giants. Not sure if he’ll be talking Tuesday or not. If he does, it’ll be interesting to hear what he felt he learned. Otherwise we’ll wait until Thursday to find out.
[+] EnlargeCutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler said he thought a trade to the Redskins was 'a done deal' back in 2009.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday confirmed a recent report he was nearly a member of the Washington Redskins in 2009, shortly before a trade with the Denver Broncos brought him to his current team.

In a piece explaining some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers that ultimately led to the Bears landing Cutler, the quarterback -- fueled by speculation about former head coach Josh McDaniels' preference of Matt Cassell, and the belief former coach Mike Shanhan would be joining Washington -- reportedly wanted to join the Redskins.

"There were a few teams we got calls about that it was kind of coming down to the wire," Cutler explained Monday during ESPN 1000's "The Jay Cutler Show". "I thought Washington was a done deal."

Former Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato thought so, too. In the CBS Sports report, Cerrato is quoted as saying, "Jay Cutler wanted to come ... because he figured Shanahan was coming anyhow, and so he wanted to come, too. And for the agent (Bus Cook) and everybody, it would have been a very smooth transition."


(Read full post)


Fantasy: Kirk Cousins

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
6:01
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video

Christopher Harris analyzes Kirk Cousins for Week 5.

Washington Redskins failed with technique

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
5:55
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The problem started with the bump-and-run coverage coach Jay Gruden said they employed against the New York Giants. It becomes a problem if the corners don’t get their hands on the receiver -- as the Washington Redskins rarely tried to do in their 45-14 loss.

“We asked them to do it,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “If you’re in bump and run, it’s called ‘bump’ and run for a reason and we just weren’t getting a good piece of them.”

Time and again the Redskins’ corners were beaten off the ball. It’s a function of having two young corners in the starting lineup and a third corner in Tracy Porter who did not play this season until the second half of that loss.

The Giants routinely got clean releases and that allowed quarterback Eli Manning to get rid of the ball fast. In fact, he threw a season-best 27 passes (out of 39) while spending less than 2.3 seconds in the pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He completed 22 of those for 227 yards and three touchdowns. It’s tough to get legitimate pressure on a quarterback throwing so fast.

“We’ve got to do a better job as defensive backs and linebackers when we’re out there playing bump and run -- get hands on them and reroute the guys,” Gruden said. “That wasn’t happening, and when you reroute them, it gives your defensive linemen that extra count to get home.

“Eli was throwing everything on rhythm and didn’t really have to pull the ball down at all to go to his second or third receiver. He was pretty efficient on who he wanted to go to and was able to get it out quick and didn’t really let our defensive line get a chance to pressure him.”

It’s been a season-long problem. The Redskins have faced 85 passes that were thrown in 2.3 seconds or less, fourth most in the NFL. Conversely, they’ve faced 43 passes in which the quarterback was in the pocket for 2.4 seconds or more -- only three teams have faced fewer, and two of those (Kansas City, St. Louis) have played just three games.

There are plenty of examples where receivers took clean releases, leading to big plays. (This was also a result of botched coverage whether via communication errors or simple misunderstanding of the defensive call. More on that later in the week). But here’s what happened on the four touchdown passes:
  • No. 1: Linebacker Perry Riley actually had decent position, but by the time tight end Larry Donnell was on him, he was five yards downfield. Riley lightly touched him, but not enough to cause any disruption – and he might have been worried about an illegal contact penalty. Manning threw a jump ball that Donnell easily won.
  • No. 2: Once again, Donnell got a clean release. At 6-foot-6, 269 pounds he’s tough to jam. But he’s clearly hard to stop when his release is free. This time, he ran at safety Brandon Meriweather, who had outside leverage. Meriweather backpedaled and Donnell then cut back inside without any contact for an easy catch. If Meriweather expected inside help, it wasn’t there: Linebacker Keenan Robinson turned to the three-receiver side at the snap and then back to Donnell’s side. Safety Ryan Clark was shaded to the other side as well.
  • No. 3: Donnell was paired one-on-one with corner Bashaud Breeland, a height difference of seven inches. That’s tough enough and Manning had to salivate at what he saw. Too easy. It’s hard for Breeland to jam such a big player, but if you’re not going to jam him, then you can’t lose on technique. Breeland opened his hips to the inside and had outside leverage, as if knowing he had inside help (safety Ryan Clark was dropping to the inside area). But Donnell crossed him up with a hard plant to the inside that Breeland bought. Donnell then cut back to the fade; this created enough separation to make for another lob pass and touchdown. Breeland is talented, but will undergo numerous lessons this season.
  • No. 4: Another one to the tight end. Daniel Fells released cleanly on a first and goal from the 4-yard line. Riley took the flat where the running back ran. Linebacker Gabe Miller, in the middle, eyed Manning and eventually ran towards Fells. Ryan Kerrigan rushed the passer from that side. I don’t yet know who was at fault; I do know Miller was the closest in coverage and was cut two days later, though it was mostly for special teams.

Redskins re-sign Richard Crawford

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
2:22
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The Washington Redskins' secondary remains an issue, especially with DeAngelo Hall sidelined for the season. So they turned to a former NFL starter and a familiar face.

Sanford
Richard Crawford said via text message that he had been signed to the Redskins’ 53-man roster, while Pro Football Talk reported Washington had signed safety Jamarca Sanford. The team later announced both moves.

Crawford was released in the final roster cuts and later signed to Washington's practice squad. He was eventually released from the practice squad as the Redskins wanted to find bigger corners. Crawford is listed at 5-foot-11, but his strength long has been his knowledge and the Redskins have consistently had breakdowns on assignments this season, leading to open targets and big plays.

Before hurting his knee last summer, Crawford had shown improvement covering in the slot, an area of concern for Washington. The Redskins had signed Tracy Porter to play there, but he might end up starting now with Hall out. He did not start against the New York Giants, but he did open the second half with the starters after a tough first half for rookie Bashaud Breeland. E.J. Biggers covered in the slot for much of last Thursday's game. Crawford can also return punts, which he handled late in the 2012 season.

Sanford started 44 games in five seasons for Minnesota, mostly at strong safety, but injuries prevented him from getting on the field this season. A groin injury cost him the spring workouts and he suffered more injuries in camp, including back spasms and then a strained quadriceps. The latter injury resulted in him being placed on injured reserve and eventually released with a settlement.

Minnesota had asked him to take a pay cut in the offseason. Sanford also plays special teams.

The Redskins also signed linebacker Gabe Miller and tackle Terren Jones to the practice squad. The Redskins announced the latter move; the former move was announced by Miller's agent, Brett Tessler, on Twitter. The Redskins had cut Miller on Saturday.

Thoughts: Sean Taylor story

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
9:00
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Some thoughts on the NFL Network's show "A Football Life" about former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was killed in a burglary attempt at his home in 2007:

  • The network covered the full Sean Taylor, showing the off-field issues and talking about his personal growth.
  • He did not trust easily -- something former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talked about quite often early in Taylor’s tenure here and said again on the show. Williams, now the DC for the Rams, said he had to earn Taylor's trust by always being honest with him. There was also talk on the show that people would soon get to know more about Taylor. People said they could see a change in his demeanor after his daughter’s birth. He was more respectful when declining to talk. A small, thing, yes. You could engage in a little small talk with him. The PR staff at the time -- and I had conversations with them about this before Taylor’s death -- felt he was close to breaking through in that area.
  • That said, he always would have cast a wary eye toward the media. Taylor was like that with everyone, and would especially be that way with a group that could cast him in a certain light. He just wanted to play, not become a celebrity. Teammates such as Clinton Portis and Santana Moss not only attended school with him, but, more importantly, understood him.
  • [+] EnlargeSean Taylor
    Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty ImagesFormer Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor had 12 interceptions in 55 NFL games.
    Regarding the shaving cream pie-in-the-face incident (I was among those talking to Shawn Springs at the time; he was right there), sources told me afterward that Taylor was upset because no one had his back and warned him it was coming.
  • Taylor felt more comfortable with female reporters. Maybe that stemmed from being a young guy, but after watching the show it was clear he had a special relationship with the females in his life. More trust perhaps? I also remember talking to him once while freelancing for the Associated Press. I talked to him about the point of the article and how it would help to have his point of view. He agreed and gave me five minutes -- and was a terrific interview. After it was over, another reporter came out to try to talk with him. Taylor wouldn’t do it; he said he had agreed to talk to me (we did not have some special relationship, but it was more that he had just given me his word and stuck to it).
  • As someone who loves the strategy of the game and how players are deployed, watching Taylor was amazing -- and it would have been even more fun to watch now that the All-22 film is available. "The time and distance he could cover was amazing," Williams said in the show. Yes, it was. The Skins would align him in the slot on one side and have him drop to the deep half on the other side -- nobody does that.
  • What a runner he was in high school -- the vision, the quickness. Man.
  • After his death, I remember talking to players who I thought would say they didn’t really know him, but instead they said how much they had grown to be fond of him. Certainly, some teammates might have felt another way; you can always find someone who doesn’t like another player.
  • All the talk about Taylor's passion for the game, from then-Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in particular, is exactly what people said before his death. Some guys were just born to play football. The way Taylor practiced set him apart, though I didn’t realize how much extra effort he put into working out -- running home from the facility, 100-yard sprints before practice. He was even more about football than I realized.
  • He definitely made mistakes on the field early in his career -- some missed tackles, etc. But you could see the growth, and he was a natural in the middle of the field; he was a playmaker. I’ve said this more than a few times, but he was the perfect safety for the modern era of football because of his speed and ability to cover.
  • Tough to see how deep the emotions remain for those who knew him best, a mourning for who they knew and what he was set to become -- off the field in particular. I don’t think anyone would paint him as some saint, and that shouldn’t happen now. Even Gibbs admitted during the show that after Taylor’s early mishaps, the coaches felt they would have to keep a strong eye on him. It made the show honest.
  • The best thing you can do after someone dies is not rush to judgment -- that is a lesson for many. It’s easier to believe that someone courted trouble than that it could just be a horrible incident in which one person’s crime was simply being at home and sleeping, with his fiancée and baby.

Redskins wake-up call

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
6:00
AM ET
The Washington Redskins have the day off Monday, but will resume workouts Tuesday. They’ll take Wednesday off and practice Thursday through Saturday. Here are three areas of interest:
  1. The Redskins need to add two more players to their roster after cutting linebacker Gabe Miller and nose tackle Robert Thomas. The latter cut was not a surprise, considering he had just been promoted off the practice squad. But the long time between games should give the defensive line enough time to get healthy. Therefore, Thomas wasn’t as needed. For Miller, his special-teams performance was not good enough, so the Redskins likely will find someone who can help there. Miller had a good training camp.
  2. Had a chance to watch the Sean Taylor "A Football Life" over the weekend, so I’ll post some thoughts on that later Monday morning. It was a well-done story, showing the good and bad of his life. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly seven years since he died. Clearly, the emotions of many interviewed remain somewhat raw.
  3. After taking much of the weekend off, I’ll get back to some film watching Monday and want to focus on the defense. The Redskins have young corners and that will lead to growing pains – that’s a favorite phrase of mine this season. But it’s a necessary word. I want to see what’s going on when they play in press and why the rush wasn’t getting home.

Getting to know: Jason Hatcher

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
9:00
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The latest in a season-long series, trying to give you a little more insight into some of the Washington Redskins. This week: Jason Hatcher.

Position: Defensive end

Age: 32

College: Grambling State

Hatcher
Hatcher
Best season: Hatcher recorded a career-best 11 sacks for Dallas in 2013. He also forced two fumbles.

Person you most admire: I would have to say my wife [Natasha]. It's a long story and I don't want to get into it and the way we met, but just the person she is in my life. I don't think I'd be where I am if it wasn't for her.

Biggest obstacle you've had to overcome: Losing my mom [Jane] at age 16. I had to grow up and be a man. I had a son right after she passed. I had to grow up really fast at the age of 16. I didn't have no other choice. I didn't have too many excuses to make. I had to man up and face it at 16 years old. At the end of the day I thank God for the obstacle because it made me the man I am today.

Favorite football memory: In 2007 against the Patriots, I had a fumble recovery for a touchdown -- 29 yards. It felt great, man. I couldn't believe it happened. It felt like it was in slow motion. All the time I was running I was like, I know someone is going to blow the whistle and blow this play dead, I can't be about to score. It was great.

Habit you're glad you have: Yeah, just the habit of working hard. It's a habit for me. It's something I have to do. I feel like if I don't then someone is out there working as hard as I am so I never stop working.

Habit you wish you had: None.

What you like to do away from the field: Spend time with my family, play golf, fish, hunt, do a little Bikram yoga. I'm an OK golfer, I shoot around 95. I like deer hunting, hog hunting. That's about it right now. The yoga helps with my flexibility. It just helps me stay real flexible, keeps my joints real loose. I've been doing it for four or five years now.

What did you dream of being as a kid: Some kind of professional athlete. I didn't know what it was going to be, but I always knew it would be an athlete. I was real good in basketball and I got some D-I offers. But I didn't have the grades at the time and I had a kid. So I was weighing my options, if I should go to school or get a job.

On how he turned to football: I had decided on playing basketball and left football along the way. Then my senior year my quarterback asked me to play. I told him if he played basketball I would play football. So I went out there and played and had a great year at wide receiver. I was fast, man.

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