Redskins notes: Hatcher as advertised

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Some leftover notes from Monday:
  • Punter Tress Way deserves a mini game ball for what he did Sunday, not only averaging 49.8 yards per punt with a net of 42.5 but also finishing with three touchbacks while kicking off. With Kai Forbath injured, Way took over and was fine Sunday. His kickoffs rarely went over 3.6 seconds, with one at 3.1. But it didn’t hurt Washington Sunday because he typically had good distance. Coach Jay Gruden said when Forbath is healthy, he’ll return to kicking off.
  • The Redskins inserted Trenton Robinson into the game Sunday for two reasons: One, Bacarri Rambo (released Tuesday) gave up a bad play and, two, he had been practicing well. “Trenton has had a couple good weeks of practice. He’s been a special team demon for us, and after the play at the end of the half, we thought we needed a look at Trenton,” Gruden said. Robinson did give up a big play in the second half, however.
  • This quote could have been paired with the story on the Redskins’ pass rush from earlier Tuesday. But it works anywhere. It’s Gruden talking about defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, who has been terrific for the Redskins. He plays all over the line -- in their base defense at either end, in their big nickel at tackle, and in their fast nickel anywhere they need him. There’s a reason he was a focal point in free agency. “He is a great motivator, keeps the guys up on the sidelines and keeps everybody accountable to playing hard and you can feel everybody feeding off of it,” Gruden said. “When you get the push up the middle, it opens it up for everybody else and you saw [Ryan] Kerrigan get four (sacks) and [Brian] Orakpo had one and a half or two and it gets everybody involved ... He has been everything we hoped for and more, so far.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are relying heavily on rookie receivers Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Together, the trio has 19 receptions through the first two games.

How does that stack up against other rookie receivers across the league? Pretty well, actually, especially when you break it down by targets, which is a true measure of how much a receiver is utilized.

Here’s a look at the top rookie receivers in terms of targets. Based on a benchmark of 50 catches being a very good season for a rookie -- only 42 have hit that mark since 1995 -- we’ll use the qualifier of having a minimum of three targets per game. That equates to 48 catches by the time the regular season ends.

Here’s the list of the top-targeted rookie receivers through Week 2 (minimum eight targets):

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina (16 targets): Eight catches for 138 yards and one touchdown.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo (16): He leads all rookies with 11 catches for 148 yards and one touchdown.

Allen Hurns, Jacksonville (14): He has six catches for 123 yards and leads all rookies with two touchdown catches. He has one drop, which could have been a long touchdown reception.

Marqise Lee, Jacksonville (13): He has eight catches for 73 yards.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay (12): Has nine catches for 86 yards.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (12): He and Watkins are the only rookies with double-digit catches. He has 10 for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Taylor Gabriel, Cleveland (10): Has five catches for 26 yards.

John Brown, Arizona (9): Has five catches for 57 yards and one TD.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (9): Has five catches for 75 yards.

Ryan Grant, Washington (8): Has five catches for 57 yards, all of which came last Sunday against Jacksonville.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia (8): Has three catches for 54 yards.

Marcellus Wiley, Max Kellerman and Plaxico Burress debate if Redskins QB Robert Griffin III's ankle injury was a fluke.

Campaign takes aim at NFL, Redskins

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
[+] EnlargeRedskins
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesDistrict of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was one several speakers hoping to put pressure on the NFL for its handling of the Redskins name Tuesday as part of the "Change the Mascot" campaign.

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. senator says she will introduce a bill to eliminate the NFL's tax-exempt status because the league has not taken action over the Washington Redskins name.

The announcement by Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington state was one of several initiatives presented Tuesday during a Capitol Hill news conference aimed at increasing pressure on Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

The "Change the Mascot" campaign also said it was sending a letter to the other 31 NFL team owners asking them to use their "position of authority" to end the league's "promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur."

Some speakers linked the issue to the NFL's handling of recent incidents involving domestic violence and child abuse. Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said they were symptomatic of the league's "moral arrogance."

(Read full post)

Under review: Redskins' pass rush

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Yes, Jason Hatcher has an impact on the pass rush. It didn't happen on every one, but it certainly showed on a number of the Washington Redskins' 10 sacks. There were a few other ways to explain their success Sunday: rush design; game situations; winning one-on-one battles and a bad offensive line.

This was not a case of a quarterback holding the ball too long. Also, Chad Henne was not only sacked a lot, but he was hit 18 times. Finally, of the Redskins' 10 sacks, four occurred on third and 9 or longer.

Anyway, here's the anatomy of a 10-sack day:

Down and distance: Third and 10, Jags' 24-yard line.
Who got the sack: Brian Orakpo, Hatcher.
Time: 3.3 seconds
Why it happened: Hatcher started inside, but both the left tackle and guard went with him. So he cut back to the outside and forced his way around the tackle. That left the fullback and running back to face Orakpo. He used power to get inside. Hatcher had a tougher road perhaps, but both deserved credit for half a sack. Credit the coverage, too.

Down and distance: Third and 3, Jags' 41
Who got the sack: Hatcher, Perry Riley.
Time: 2.1
Why it happened: Riley had a clean rush from the left side with the right tackle and guard doubling Ryan Kerrigan. The center anticipated Hatcher rushing straight up, but instead he went to the outside to get around. And the left guard could not help because Brian Orakpo rushed at him. Hatcher used his right arm to keep the guard off him when he did see him.

Down and distance: First and 10, Jags' 43
Who got the sack: Kerrigan.
Time: 2.9
Why it happened: Bootleg to the right side out of the hurry-up; Kerrigan started in, changed direction well and went right at Henne. Nothing more complicated than that.

Down and distance: First and 10, Jags' 39
Who got the sack: Riley
Time: 2.9
Why it happened: The Jaguars faked a stretch zone to the right, but Henne then dropped straight back. But they left Orakpo unblocked on the other side. Because he was closing fast, the left guard, after slanting right, left Riley to pick up Orakpo. Riley then tackled Henne.

Down and distance: Third and 9, Jags' 26
Who got the sack: Hatcher
Time: 3.5
Why it happened: Good coverage. Good leverage (Hatcher). Good power (Orakpo). The Redskins rushed six in a fast nickel alignment, with Trent Murphy, Riley and Orakpo aligned on the right. Hatcher, over the right guard, won with a rip move. He lowered as he went into the guard and won his matchup. Henne could not slide to his left because Orakpo had driven the tackle back. Hatcher feasted.

Down and distance: Second and 10, Jags' 20
Who got the sack: Kerrigan
Time: 3.2
Why it happened: I'll put it kindly and just say the Redskins won one-on-one matchups. The Jags figured Toby Gerhart could block Orakpo. What? Orakpo beat him inside and prevented Henne from eluding Kerrigan, who beat the right tackle inside. The tackle had set for an outside rush.

Down and distance: Third and 15, Jags' 15
Who got the sack: Kerrigan
Time: 2.6
Why it happened: The Redskins rushed four. The fullback gave the right tackle help inside so Kerrigan rushed wide, using good hands to get around the edge. With Hatcher, Orakpo and Keenan Robinson aligned on the right, the Jaguars' focus to that side with their line. Kerrigan feasted.

Down and distance: Third and 10, Jags' 43
Who got the sack: Ryan Clark, Robinson
Time: 2.4
Why it happened: Play design resulting in one-on-one matchups and a free rusher. In the fast nickel, the Redskins aligned Kerrigan on the left with Hatcher shaded between the right guard and center and Robinson in between. Murphy and Orakpo were on the right. The fullback went to the Redskins' right where Orakpo was and where Riley showed blitz. Both dropped into coverage. Hatcher slanted inside as did Robinson. Kerrigan went wide. That left a big hole for Clark, who grabbed Henne at his feet and then Robinson won inside. Also, the coverage was good; Henne pumped early but no one was open.

Down and distance: Third and 4, Redskins' 9
Who got the sack: Frank Kearse
Time: 2.3
Why it happened: Hatcher's presence; Kearse's effort. Kearse stunned the left guard, whose hands were too wide, with his hands to the chest. That's it. The center couldn't help because, after the right guard attempted to cut Hatcher, he slid to that side.

Down and distance: First and 10, Jags' 27
Who got the sack: Kerrigan
Time: 2.6
Why it happened: Hatcher's presence; Kerrigan's effort. Kerrigan drove the right guard back, got off him and tackled Henne, who took a three-step drop from shotgun. The center could not help because he was helping the left guard double Hatcher.

Fantasy: Pierre Garcon

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16


Christopher Harris analyzes Pierre Garcon's value after a disappointing Week 2.

Fantasy: Kirk Cousins

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16


Christopher Harris analyzes Kirk Cousins' value heading into Week 3.

Ryan Clark unimpressed with blowout win

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
ASHBURN, Va. -- Ryan Clark has a message for teammates: Don’t be too impressed by Sunday. It’s one not often delivered in Washington, but Clark wants them to know that Jacksonville is not a good team and what happened Sunday, well, should have.

It’s one of the reasons the Washington Redskins like having Clark around. He’s played for winning teams in the NFL -- two Super Bowls -- and another one in college at LSU. He knows what a winning effort must look like over 16 games, not just one. Part of it is not falling in love with what you did the previous week. Like Sunday, when the Redskins held Jacksonville to 148 yards, recorded 10 sacks and won 41-10.

“Going into this week we can’t throw a party, can’t hang balloons around lockers,” Clark said.

Don’t get Clark wrong. A 31-point win in the NFL is always good, regardless of the opponent.

“The way we were rushing, I could have kept my clothes on from before the game,” he said. “I did absolutely nothing. It’s why I feel decently good today. I’m excited about that. It was good.”

But ...

“In my honest opinion, this is a team that’s waiting around until they can get Blake Bortles ready to go,” Clark said. “That’s how you’re supposed to play against a team like that, a team down its No. 1 receiver and missing a very good receiver due to suspension. You’re supposed to play well against them. It’s not any barometer of how good we can be this season or how good we were [Sunday].

“If there’s a guy who can’t block Ryan Kerrigan, then Ryan Kerrigan should beat him off the ball and make sacks. Should he make four? I don’t know about that. That’s Ryan going above and beyond. There’s a guy who can’t block [Brian Orakpo], he needs to beat him. A guy can’t block [Jason Hatcher], he needs to beat him. Guys who can’t beat [David Amerson] and [DeAngelo Hall], we need to cover them. That’s what you do against a team that’s better than you.”

The Redskins won Sunday despite losing -- in the past week and during the game -- a starting tight end, nose tackle, quarterback and receiver. That’s good. But for Clark, it only hammered home his point even more.

To him, this is what it meant:

“That you played a team that wasn’t very good that day and you capitalized on mismatches and opportunities that you have. Jacksonville, they’re trying to find themselves, figure out who they are as a team. It was a good week to have new guys come in and play. Sunday (against Philadelphia) we’ll know. When we step on the field against an NFC East opponent picked to win the division. For me it’s about preparing for that, not talking 41-10. When I watch film I want to figure out why it wasn’t 50-0.”

It’s an approach Clark saw his previous teams take. You can't scoff at a lopsided win in the NFL. But if the Redskins want to truly do anything, it’s an approach they should adopt as well.

Inside Slant: NFL Week 2 QB Report

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Let's take our weekly deep dive into the Sunday performance of five NFL quarterbacks, using data supplied by analyst Jacob Nitzberg via ESPN Stats & Information. After all, the numbers don't always speak for themselves.

Matt Cassel
Minnesota Vikings
WEEK 2 vs. NE: L, 30-7
NEXT: 9/21 at NO
CMP: 19
ATT: 36
PCT: 52.8
YDS: 202
TD: 1
INT: 4

There was a staggering inability to get the ball downfield. Cassel threw eight passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air. Three were intercepted and all eight were incomplete. His longest completion traveled 8 yards. Cassel is 1-for-11 on such passes this season. It's the first time in at least six years that a quarterback has started in Weeks 1 and 2 without more than one such completion. ... All four of Cassel's interceptions came when in the pocket and while facing four pass-rushers. His QBR when facing standard pressure this season is 17.5, by far an NFL low.


Cassel is emerging as a quarterback who must play it safe; hope for a big-time running game to emerge -- a tough sell in this offense. Since the start of 2013, he has completed 34.3 percent of passes that traveled 15 or more yards in the air, fifth-worst among 38 qualified quarterbacks. His struggles downfield seem in stark contrast to the type of quarterback who succeeds in coordinator Norv Turner's offense.

Kirk Cousins
Washington Redskins
WEEK 2 vs. JAC: W, 41-10
NEXT: 9/21 at PHI
CMP: 22
ATT: 33
PCT: 66.7
YDS: 250
TD: 2
INT: 0

Cousins got the ball downfield in a way that Robert Griffin III was unable to in Week 1. Of his 250 passing yards, only 73 came after the catch. (In Week 1, 160 of Griffin's 267 yards came after the catch.) Much of Cousins' production came outside the numbers (153 yards), and he was particularly successful throwing to his right (10-of-13 for 110 yards and both touchdowns). ... He completed all eight passes on third down, converting six, and his favorite receiver was tight end Niles Paul, whom he targeted eight times for seven receptions and a drop.


For one game, at least, Cousins proved an effective pocket passer in his debut with coach Jay Gruden. His only rushing attempt was a kneel-down on the final play, and his downfield success is worth monitoring as Griffin recovers from a dislocated ankle.

Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers
WEEK 2 vs. CHI: L, 28-20
NEXT: 9/21 at ARI
CMP: 21
ATT: 34
PCT: 61.8
YDS: 248
TD: 1
INT: 3

All three of Kaepernick's interceptions came against four or fewer pass-rushers. He also was sacked twice against standard pressure. This speaks to Kaepernick taking too long to release the ball and ultimately throwing into a flooded zone. It's also worth noting that Kaepernick seemed to be pressing on first down, where he took three of his four sacks and threw two of his interceptions. His QBR on first down was 0.1, by far the worst of his career. ... His second interception resulted in the largest swing of win probability (81.4 percent to 55.5 percent) of any play during the weekend.


It wasn't all bad for Kaepernick, who completed 7 of 8 passes and rushed for 66 yards on third down. But overall, the numbers paint a quantitative portrait of what we all saw live: Kaepernick struggled finding open receivers, spent too long in the pocket and pressed when he finally released the ball.

Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers
WEEK 2 vs. DET: W, 24-7
NEXT: 9/21 vs. PIT
CMP: 22
ATT: 34
PCT: 64.7
YDS: 281
TD: 1
INT: 0

Newton was excellent against the Detroit Lions' blitz, completing 9 of 11 passes for 101 yards in those situations. It was the second-highest completion percentage of his career against the blitz. ... Most of his success Sunday came on short passes; he completed 12 of 14 throws of 5 or fewer yards past the line of scrimmage and 10 of 20 passes that traveled more than 5 yards in the air. (Receiver Kelvin Benjamin did catch two passes that traveled at least 15 yards, however.) ... Newton completed his first 11 passes on first downs, keeping the Panthers in manageable down and distance for much of the game.


Smartly, the Carolina Panthers played it safely as Newton recovers from a rib injury. His short passes and just two designed runs -- tying a career low -- illustrated their intent.

Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers
WEEK 2 vs. SEA: W, 30-21
NEXT: 9/21 at BUF
CMP: 28
ATT: 37
PCT: 75.7
YDS: 284
TD: 3
INT: 0

Rivers threw just four passes that traveled more than 15 yards downfield. His longest traveled 24 yards in the air. ... He threw 25 passes of less than 11 yards downfield, completing 21 and two for touchdowns. Rivers completed all eight play-action passes for a 93.8 QBR on those plays, a stark contrast to the 24.7 QBR the Seahawks allowed last season on play-action. ... The Chargers skewered the Seahawks' standard pressure, completing 22 of 25 passes for 211 yards and all three touchdowns to tight end Antonio Gates against four or fewer pass-rushers.


Rivers and the Chargers just pecked away at the Seahawks, maintaining time of possession on a hot day rather than trying to make big plays. Gates was the finisher, catching two of his three touchdowns on third down.

Redskins cut Bacarri Rambo

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Bacarri Rambo entered training camp in danger of not making the roster. But he showed the Redskins what they hoped to see -- an improved player who was more aggressive and a better tackler.

But when the games began, Rambo reverted to old and bad habits. It cost the Redskins two huge plays and, Tuesday, it cost Rambo his job.

The Redskins cut Rambo to make room for the return of suspended safety Brandon Meriweather. A source confirmed the move, which was first reported by Fox Sports. It was not a surprise. Many speculated Rambo was in danger of being released after a second consecutive bad play on Sunday. In the season opener, Rambo missed a tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins, turning a bad play into a worse one. Rambo did not blow the coverage, but his inability to tackle Hopkins in the open field, taking a bad angle, made it a 76-yard touchdown catch -- and killing momentum Washington had gained with an early 6-0 lead.

Then, in a 41-10 win over Jacksonville on Sunday, the one big play allowed by the defense again involved Rambo. On a 63-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis, Rambo took a bad angle to the pass on the right side -- undercutting Lewis but making a feeble attempt on the ball. When Lewis caught the ball, he took off for the end zone with Rambo in pursuit.

Rambo struggled as a rookie sixth-round pick. He was made a starter from the opening day in part because of other issues at safety. But he consistently missed tackles and eventually lost the starting job. Rambo ended up starting three games last season and played in 11. He was a non-factor on special teams, too, which did not please the coaches. But Rambo looked better in the preseason and earned a roster spot. When Meriweather was suspended, the Redskins inserted Rambo, a natural free safety, as the starting strong safety. Both of his mistakes, though, came when he was playing deep where he's supposed to be better.

The Redskins also have safety Akeem Davis, who excels on special teams, and Duke Ihenacho, claimed off waivers after the final cuts. They also have Phillip Thomas on the practice squad, still recovering from a foot injury this summer.

Redskins wake-up call

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
The Redskins have the day off -- the players do, that is. The front office will be busy Tuesday. Here are three areas of interest:
  1. Who will the Redskins cut? They'll have to make a move with Brandon Meriweather returning this week. They have to activate him off the suspended list, which means someone from the 53-man roster will have to go. They just signed Akeem Davis off the practice squad last week, but I wonder what will happen with Bacarri Rambo. The Redskins trusted him enough to start him in place of Meriweather. But there's no way they can trust him downfield after the first two weeks. He was benched in the second half against Jacksonville. Rambo looked better this summer, but it hasn't translated to the regular season. Today will be an interesting day. They also might work out more quarterbacks, or, perhaps, sign one of the three -- B.J. Coleman, Ricky Stanzi and Pat Devlin -- they worked out last week to the practice squad.
  2. I'm going to re-watch the game Tuesday as well, focusing defensively on Jason Hatcher and the impact he makes. It's tremendous, but I want to see it more in detail -- see how often other players are set up by what he does or by how the line reacts to him. Hatcher could turn out to be one of the Redskins best signings in a while because of the added dimension he provides. Offensively I want to watch more of how Kirk Cousins operated.
  3. I talked about this in my Sunday notes, but it's worth repeating Tuesday, or at least sharing another example of Ryan Clark's outlook. He clearly understands the approach a winning team must take; it's not one that many players have always had in Washington. Later this morning I'll have a story with Clark talking about why Sunday's win, while nice, was more an indictment on Jacksonville more than anything. Certainly keeps guys from getting too full of themselves. At least that's the hope.

Jay Gruden calls RG III injury a 'fluke'

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden knows Robert Griffin III's track record in the NFL when it comes to injuries. And it hasn't been good for the third-year quarterback. He has now exited games with: a concussion, a knee injury, another knee injury and a dislocated ankle. All that in 31 career games.

But Gruden called these injuries unfortunate.

"The more injuries mount on him, it just becomes more of an issue I guess from a lot of people that think his durability is in question, but this is an unfortunate injury," Gruden said. "You know he had an unfortunate knee injury and this was a fluke deal where he's rolling out and got his ankle caught in the ground in an awkward way. I don't think it speaks to his durability. I think they're just fluke injuries. Hopefully when he recovers from this, it'll be the last one he ever has."

Gruden also addressed other issues pertaining to the quarterback:
  • He's not thinking about what happens if Kirk Cousins is playing well when Griffin is ready to return. "Well, we'll cross that bridge when that comes," Gruden said. "Right now, we're going to prepare with Kirk Cousins as our starter and Robert's going to rehab, and all decisions after that will come after that. But right now, we're going to go try to do the best we can and get Kirk ready to go and beat Philadelphia."
  • Colt McCoy becomes the No. 2 quarterback and the Redskins might sign a player at this position to the practice squad. They could use a third quarterback if only to help in practice -- or in case something happens to either Cousins or McCoy. The Redskins worked out three quarterbacks last week: Pat Devlin, B.J. Coleman and Ricky Stanzi.
  • If something had happened to Cousins Sunday, then receiver Andre Roberts would have been the emergency quarterback. In the past, the third quarterback could be placed on the active roster during the game if the other two quarterbacks were hurt. That's no longer the case.
  • Gruden said he did not think the field played a role in Griffin's injury. "It was just an awkward angle. He was rolling out and he saw DeSean late and he stiff-armed the linebacker and I think he just landed awkwardly on his ankle. It was a great throw by him to get it out, but I think it was just an awkward, one-in-a-million type injury."

The NFL Live crew discusses if the Redskins and better off with Kirk Cousins starting at quarterback.

Redskins Photobomb Reporter

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15


Redskins players Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall and Stephen Bowen photobombs ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim.

Redskins hopeful to have DeSean Jackson

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson has a shot at playing against his former team Sunday in Philadelphia. But Redskins coach Jay Gruden said they likely won’t know for sure until later in the week.

Jackson suffered a grade one sprain of his left shoulder and is day to day. But there is cautious optimism about his availability.

“[It] depends on if he can play with the pain,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He'll be good to go for Sunday, but we'll have a better idea probably Thursday or Friday to where he is."

Meanwhile, running back Roy Helu also is day to day with soreness in his knee. And corner Tracy Porter, who has not played the first two games because of a hamstring injury, is improving. Gruden said there’s a chance he could be ready Sunday or the following game against the New York Giants.

Gruden said tight end Jordan Reed remains uncertain for Sunday with a mild hamstring strain. Gruden said he just wants to see Reed practice and feel good afterward. If Reed doesn’t practice by Friday, Gruden said he likely would miss the game.

“It’s one of those things -- it is hard because you don’t want to rush a guy back and have them re-pull it or do more damage,” Gruden said. “But you also want to see him out there practicing before he plays because he needs the reps. All these guys do. It’s hard to come out on Sunday and play without taking any reps, especially at the tight end position for how much they have to know.”