Washington Redskins: 2014 NFL Training Camp

Washington Redskins cut-down analysis

August, 30, 2014
8/30/14
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Most significant move: Keeping only one running back among the four in contention for what appeared to be two spots in the last round of cuts, Silas Redd, and four overall. The Washington Redskins wanted to add speed and a dynamic runner this offseason, so they drafted Lache Seastrunk in the sixth round and also had Chris Thompson on the roster (they would have tried to sign Darren Sproles had he become free). But the Redskins cut both Thompson and Seastrunk and opted for the undrafted rookie Redd, who earned the spot with a strong summer. Roy Helu will serve as the third-down back with Redd adding insurance. Redd is not as fast as Seastrunk or Thompson, but showed he was worth keeping.

Ditching their picks: Many teams try to justify a draft class and end up keeping almost all of their selections. The Redskins did not, cutting three of their eight picks from April. That’s good in that they’re willing to not force a guy on the roster, but it’s not good if they end up not sticking around on the practice squad. Then it becomes a wasted pick. They likely will try to retain Seastrunk and tight end Ted Bolser on the practice squad. Would they keep a kicker, seventh-round pick Zach Hocker, on the practice squad? Give the Redskins credit for finding and developing undrafted free agents, including Redd, linebacker Will Compton and safety Akeem Davis. The latter two were undrafted in 2013 but have not played in a game and both earned a spot with their summer play -- Compton from scrimmage and Davis on special teams. They lacked good special-teams players at safety last year, but Davis will help.

What’s next: The Redskins could make another move or two before the season opener, especially at punter considering Tress Way has zero career punts. It would be surprising if they didn’t at least work out veteran punters. Also, the Redskins are thin at safety with Brandon Meriweather suspended for the first two games. They kept four, including two inexperienced backups in Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson. Both, however, will help special teams – but the Redskins will have a tough decision to make when Meriweather returns after the second game. The Redskins won't have to make a decision on end Stephen Bowen or wide receiver Leonard Hankerson until after the sixth week as both were played on the physically unable to perform list.

Redskins moves: The Redskins cut RB Evan Royster, RB Lache Seastrunk, RB Chris Thompson, WR Lee Doss, LB Everette Brown, CB Chase Minnifield, S Phillip Thomas, PK Zach Hocker, WR Nick Williams, OL Maurice Hurt, WR Lee Doss, OL Tevita Stevens, S Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, NT Robert Thomas, CB Richard Crawford, TE Ted Bolser, OL Kevin Kowalski and P Robert Malone. They placed NT Chris Neild and LB Darryl Sharpton on injured reserve. WR Leonard Hankerson and DL Stephen Bowen were placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Brandon Meriweather loses appeal

August, 30, 2014
8/30/14
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Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather lost his appeal and will serve his two-game suspension, the NFL announced Saturday.

Meriweather
Meriweather will miss the first two games of the season after the NFL ruled that his hit against Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith in the third preseason game was illegal. It’s the sixth time Meriweather has been penalized by the NFL for a hit.

Meriweather was suspended two games last season, but had it reduced to one on appeal. Meriweather had been playing well this summer, working at his more natural spot of strong safety. The Redskins have not yet said who will replace him in the first two games, but Bacarri Rambo is the most experienced backup and replaced Meriweather in the lineup when he missed some time with an injury.

Meriweather will be placed on the reserve/suspended list. The Redskins have four safeties as of now: Rambo, Ryan Clark, Trenton Robinson and Akeem Davis. Corner E.J. Biggers can play there in certain packages.

Washington Redskins' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
8/29/14
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Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. Plus they like McCoy. So nothing has changed since the original posting. If something happened to Griffin, they would still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two, then McCoy gets left off.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This is, by far, the hardest one to determine. They really like Thompson, but his durability is a major issue. One night hasn't changed that and they could probably sneak him onto the practice squad. I don't see how you can cut Seastrunk after Thursday, not when he reminded all of his speed (they did not need reminders). The biggest question to me is whether they keep Silas Redd or Royster. The latter offers veteran insurance, but Redd ran with a lot of power and shiftiness in open field. Royster can help on special teams, though he is not exactly a stud here. Redd has the toughness that you could use, but he, too, lacks speed. Also, his damage was done against backups. Neither Redd nor Seastrunk is strong in pass protection, but the latter offers speed and that is a desired trait. I could see them going with only four in order to keep another player on defense.

RECEIVERS (6)

Nothing has changed. Still don't see Leonard Hankerson ready for the start of the season and perhaps not for several weeks into it, which could mean a stay on the PUP list. Robinson gets the nod because he has speed, and if they somehow kept Nick Williams over him, they would have no backup with legit speed.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I would be surprised if they kept four. Ted Bolser has improved, but not to the point where he must be on the roster. The only reason I would hesitate on cutting him is because of Reed's injury issues. But I can't imagine he would be added to another team's active roster if he were cut. He will have a chance to develop here.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

This looks like a pretty safe bet, though it is not as if LeRibeus performed the way I thought he might given the work he put in this offseason. Still, you can't keep four tackles and only three guards. Well, I guess you could, but they need two inside. Moses finished fine as did Compton. Perhaps if Moses was further along they could go with eight linemen and only keep Moses as a backup tackle. But I don't think he's at that point yet.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Everything depends on Bowen's health. The Redskins aren't sure when he will return, and that means there is a chance he will be on the PUP list to open the season. But if they feel he could return a couple weeks into the season then they could always keep someone extra here. My guess is that he will return sooner rather than later, allowing them to go with six. Geathers is a space-eater, but does not move as well and lacks the versatility of others, though he looked good Thursday. So this is a close call and could come down between Geathers and a player at another position. Another end who has flashed on occasion, at least in practice, is Frank Kearse. He was OK in the preseason finale, but Geathers was better.

LINEBACKERS (9)

If Brown and Gabe Miller were even going into the preseason finale, then the latter should move ahead after he had a strong game. It wasn't just that he made plays, it's how he made them. He showed awareness and good reactions. Brown does not have practice squad eligibility; Miller does. Sharpton's high ankle sprain and Akeem Jordan's sprained knee complicate matters. If both were healthy, then Jordan is out. But if Sharpton's injury keeps him out longer, then Jordan could sneak on. Not sure that is the case. For now I will go with Sharpton returning relatively soon. They like him better from scrimmage than Jordan. Compton has been on here the entire summer; nothing should change and his ability to play both spots inside is a plus.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Nothing changes here. Chase Minnifield has practice squad eligibility and my guess is they will try to put him there. The coaches expanded Minnifield's role, working him at safety a little this summer. But it would still take a lot to get him on the roster. Otherwise, these are the same five that have been on this list all summer.

SAFETIES (5)
Trenton Robinson is probably better from scrimmage than Davis, but neither would be a big help here. So special teams wins out and Davis gets the nod because he can be a standout. By the way, this makes 54 players, but there will be an exemption for Meriweather, as of Monday. So to beat the rush I'll just put Davis on the list now. Thomas' foot injury, if it is not serious, means they should be covered at strong safety (along with Biggers in a pinch).

SPECIALISTS (3)

Never liked this kicking competition and Zach Hocker made it a tougher call by missing a 39-yarder against Tampa Bay. Forbath's kickoffs remain inconsistent, but he has been solid as a placekicker. If I'm the Redskins, I'm still looking for a punter. Neither Malone nor Tress Way are consistent.

Washington Redskins cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
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Most significant move: The Redskins released veteran backup linebacker Rob Jackson, a move that in truth was only mildly surprising. Jackson was not playing on special teams and did not have the speed the Redskins are trying to find defensively. Jackson will forever be remembered by Redskins fans for his game-ending interception off Dallas’ Tony Romo to clinch the NFC East title in 2012. But his future was in doubt when he entered camp, in part because the Redskins drafted Trent Murphy in the second round. And with young linebackers such as Gabe Miller and Everette Brown having better camps, Jackson was let go.

Young backups: The Redskins will go with a youthful group of offensive line backups after releasing veteran guard/center Mike McGlynn. Again, not a big surprise given his training camp performance. But he had the most experience of the backups. However, if they keep less than 10 linemen -- as they should -- then McGlynn was an easy player to release. They can use guard Chris Chester at center in an emergency if something happens to starter Kory Lichtensteiger. But it also means that the other potential backups include two rookies in Morgan Moses and Spencer Long and two others who have not started a game in guard Josh LeRibeus, who has appeared in five games, and tackle Tom Compton, who has appeared in 15. Both their work has primarily come on special teams. Another potential player is tackle Maurice Hurt, who has appeared in 21 games with nine starts (eight in 2011).

What’s next: The Redskins have a tough decision to make at running back when getting to the final 53. They still have all their running backs and will have to cut perhaps two or three players whom they like. But some of them will be eligible for the practice squad, including Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd. Thompson had a big edge early in camp, but the inability to stay healthy has left him in jeopardy. One other thing to watch: what happens with defensive end Stephen Bowen. If the Redskins feel he’ll be ready early in the season, they might keep seven defensive linemen. If not, he could remain on the PUP list.

Redskins' cuts: LB Rob Jackson, OC/G Mike McGlynn, LB Adrian Robinson, TE Matt Veldman, WR Rashad Ross, CB Bryan Shepherd, LB Jeremy Kimbrough, DE Jeremy Towns, G Adam Gettis, FB Stephen Campbell, WR Cody Hoffman, WR Rashad Lawrence, S Ross Madison and DE Jake McDonough. TE Mike Caussin was placed on injured reserve.

Washington Redskins' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
8/25/14
8:00
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Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. Plus they like McCoy. So nothing has changed since the original posting. If something happened to Griffin, they would still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two, then McCoy gets left off.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This is, by far, the hardest one to determine. They really like Thompson, but his durability is a major issue. If he had stayed healthy, he'd definitely make the roster. Now? I'm banking on his return and a good final game -- otherwise: Practice squad. I can tell you they really have no idea what they're going to do here. While Royster has been productive, his lack of speed is an issue. I like him, but if you keep Royster and Silas Redd, you don't have the backfield you want. There's a reason they like Thompson and drafted Seastrunk. Redd has worked ahead of Lache Seastrunk all summer. However, Seastrunk is far behind in the pass game. I don't think anyone would pick up Thompson, which could factor into the decision. But Seastrunk hasn't shown enough to win a roster spot. It's that simple.

RECEIVERS (6)

Nothing has changed. Leonard Hankerson still doesn't seem close to returning. Hard to imagine he'd not only be cleared in the next two weeks, but also ready for the start of the season. The group of six I have listed have been clearly ahead of the rest.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

All three have appeared to have strong summers while rookie Ted Bolser has had ups-and-downs. They don't need him this season, so they can afford to keep him on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

This one will be interesting. I've gone back and forth with nine or 10 at this spot, but as the summer developed this did not look like a unit that warranted an extra man. I'm keeping four tackles, which is necessary if Moses has to miss even a couple weeks. I also wonder what they were doing by using Chester at center along with Long at right guard against the Ravens for a series. Chester has worked very little at center since joining the Redskins, though he's taken snaps at the spot in some individual drills this summer. Mike McGlynn has not impressed. LeRibeus was off last week. It's not as if he's been tearing it up in games so I'm not quite sure why I put him back on. He needed to play better so perhaps McGlynn would edge him -- or, dare I say it, Maurice Hurt?

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Everything depends on Stephen Bowen's health. The Redskins aren't sure when he'll return and that means there's a chance he'll be on the PUP list to open the season. But if they feel he could return a couple weeks into the season then they could always keep someone extra here. There's a chance of that happening. Geathers is a space eater, but does not move well. Another end who has flashed on occasion, at least in practice, is end Frank Kearse. But Geathers was sought in free agency.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Brown has a small edge over Gabe Miller in part because the latter still has practice-squad eligibility. So the Redskins could cut him and possibly keep him around on the practice squad. Their battle is very, very close so it really could go either way. Sharpton's high ankle sprain makes him interesting, and he must do a better job in what he's asked to do. But he's on the roster for now. If he somehow has to be out a while then Akeem Jordan will get the nod here.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It will be difficult for Chase Minnifield and/or Richard Crawford to make the final roster. But it's not an impossible task. However, it would take dissatisfaction with Porter. Still, Porter can play the slot and the rookie Breeland is not ready for that role on a full-time basis yet. They could keep both Minnifield and Crawford on the practice squad, though the former could be picked up elsewhere.

SAFETIES (4)

I've gone back and forth with five or four at this position. I'm back on four and I don't know why. I like Trenton Robinson, but they could stash him on the practice squad. With Meriweather having issues with hitting -- which could eventually lead to a suspension -- it makes sense to have an extra guy here -- or at least have a viable option on the practice squad. Going with four is a bit questionable. But I think they'll want this extra spot for a player at another position.

SPECIALISTS (3)

I really don't like this kicking competition at all. Very close. Malone hasn't been great, but newcomer Tress Way is not a better option. If Malone gets cut it would be in favor of a punter currently with another team.

Thoughts on RG III

August, 22, 2014
8/22/14
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Some thoughts on Robert Griffin III and this past week:
  • It's going to be a little while before Robert Griffin III truly learns when to throw the ball away, when to slide and when it’s time to make a play. The problem: Not many people have his skills. Not many people are walking around who can run a 4.3 in the 40 and who can throw a ball like he does.
  • The point: Not many can relate to the decisions he makes. That doesn’t make it right or wrong, good or bad, but that is the reality. Yes, that also makes it hard for perhaps fans, coaches, teammates and the media to understand why he doesn’t run "smarter." Griffin also loves lifting weights, in part because he knows the punishment he takes on Sundays. He’s not a big guy; he is strong.
  • I think sometimes Jay Gruden understands and other times he does not. He wants Griffin to throw the ball away. He also knows the mindset of a quarterback. Gruden used to hang onto the ball a while trying to make plays from the pocket with his arm and he used to get punished by defenders. He couldn’t run, but he wanted to make a play. The coach in him, I think, wants Griffin to be smarter and protect himself. The quarterback in him, I think, understands a little bit more.
  • It is sort of like a parent telling their child not to do something that they might have done themselves 20 years ago (not that I know anything about this). But parents have more wisdom about certain matters and Gruden knows full well that he needs a healthy Griffin for 16 games.
  • This is not to say Griffin is right in this regard, but that there will be a struggle -- as Gruden understands. Not every run will be a bad one. You draft Griffin second overall in part because of his multi-dimensional ways. Heck, in camp, the two biggest cheers were for this: anytime Griffin took off; anytime he slid.
  • But you know in order to succeed long-term he can’t just play with abandon. It’s not just about learning how to slide properly, it’s knowing when to hit the turf and it’s knowing when to just throw the ball away rather than run. This is not a problem solved by having a baseball player teach him how to slide. This is about a mindset as much as anything. But, sometimes, it’s also about having a better understanding of the situation: in the preseason, throw the ball away or get down earlier. In any game, don’t make weak throws to the outside against a Pro Bowl cornerback. It’s part of the process -- and the growing pains.
  • A defensive coordinator told me two years ago that a player like Griffin knows he can get seven or eight yards by running, so sometimes he won’t throw unless it’s perfect. Griffin knows he can sometimes avoid bad throws by taking off instead (but it also leads to missed plays).
  • Two years ago there were plenty of times when he ran that he could have passed to an open receiver had he not made his mind up to run so far behind the line (see: Tampa Bay, fourth quarter; scramble into field goal range, but with Santana Moss wide open for a touchdown). But, in Griffin’s mind, if he’s going to run he needs to be decisive. But there was a reason last summer the coaching staff made it a priority to work with him on keeping the ball alive behind the line -- little pump fakes as he ran toward the line to try and con the defense. They wanted him to make the play with his arm -- after keeping it alive with his legs.
  • As far as social media, Griffin is a very public person. Imagine Joe Theismann playing in the era of Twitter. But Griffin has to know it will rub some the wrong way; not every teammate will like his tweets and that’s where his concern must lie. Critics contend he likes drawing attention to himself. If you don’t play well, this becomes an issue in the locker room. Guaranteed. John Beck was a super nice guy; some players did not like him -- one even got up from a table when Beck sat down. Why? He wasn't good.
  • People are motivated differently. Griffin is motivated by little sayings that others would view as corny. Back in the day, some Redskins loved the way Vince Lombardi talked to them, but not all did. I remember Len Hauss telling me once how he disliked Lombardi’s methods. Yet they worked on many.
  • How to solve it: Make plays; win games. Players ultimately don’t care how much they like a guy, they want to win. Help them win and they will put up with anything. How would John Riggins be viewed if the Redskins had a losing team with him? He would have been seen as a player who did not take care of himself or prepare properly and was a distraction. There were coaches on that staff who did not like him. Instead, thanks to winning (and making plays on Sunday): folk hero.
  • I don’t know where this will go with Griffin. I know he must be smarter when he runs, if he wants to last 16 games and have a productive career. I also know he feels he must be himself, which means the occasional tweet about proving doubters wrong and know your why. Those aren’t for me, but I’m not Griffin. It also means playing a certain way. But sometimes it’s not about knowing your why, it’s about knowing what you don’t know -- and trusting those who do.

Getting to know: Andre Roberts

August, 21, 2014
8/21/14
12:35
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The latest in a season-long series, trying to give you a little more insight into some of the Washington Redskins. This week: receiver Andre Roberts.

Position: Receiver

Age: 26

College: The Citadel

Best season: In 2012, Roberts caught 64 passes for 759 yards and five touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeAndre Roberts
AP Photo/Skip RowlandAndre Roberts had 43 catches for 471 yards and two touchdowns last season with Arizona.
Biggest obstacle you have overcome: I don’t know. Other than the small school thing ... You just have to go into it with a different mentality. Honestly, I’m always like I can overcome anything.

Person you most admire: My dad. He’s always been there for me -- both my parents have always been there for me. They come to every one of my games. They’ve been to every game I’ve played since high school and college and in the NFL since I went to Arizona -- and they live on the east coast.

Best moment in football: It was my sophomore year against Furman University when I was at The Citadel. We beat them by three points, something like 54-51 in overtime (Oct. 13, 2007). It was just a great game. I almost returned a punt for a touchdown, helped the team score at the end of the game and had a really great game as a receiver. I’ll always remember that game. I’ve done some things in the NFL that I’ll always remember, too, but that whole game was pretty sweet. (Note: Roberts caught nine passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in this game).

Favorite off-field activity: Golf. Golf is my game. When I’m not playing football I’m trying to work on my game. I’m a 10.2 handicap now. It’s been about two and a half years since I started out in Arizona. There is a course on almost every corner out there, so you can get your golf in. I can hit the ball pretty far and my short game is good. Me and Colt [McCoy] play a lot and he’ll tell you my short game is pretty good. I need to get better with my irons if I want to get my handicap into single digits, but I can drive it pretty well -- and straight -- and my short game is pretty good.

Something people don’t know about you: The fact that I was born in Alaska. I have a military background and I’m sure a lot of people know that by now. But I only lived there for two years, so I don’t remember too much. We went from Alaska to Texas -- I moved around a lot.

Most overrated part of being a pro athlete: I don’t think there are too many things that are overrated. But I feel we are held to a higher standard. We get a lot more things, but we are held to a higher standard and we have to be a certain way all the time.

Most underrated part: How much we have to work to get in the positions that we’re in. A lot of people see what we do on Sundays, but they don’t understand how much we go in the offseason from March until the end of minicamp and OTAs and then in the summer when there’s no football, but we’re out working and trying to get ready for camp, and then you go straight into the season and then to the playoffs. Most people don’t realize how much we work.

Redskins locker room quick takes

August, 20, 2014
8/20/14
12:30
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ASHBURN, Va. -- A few quick items from Wednesday's open locker room session with the Washington Redskins:

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III spoke quite a bit on the topic of sliding and protecting himself. Suffice to say he understands the concerns, but he did feel good about how he handled the last one. I'll have more on that soon.

2. Griffin also reiterated that he threw too late on the out pass to DeSean Jackson. The ball has to come out when he hits his last step of the drop without a hitch. It did not.

3. He likes where the offense is headed and that other parts of the team can pick up the others -- as in, improved special teams or, Monday, the defense forcing punts after a sudden change in its own territory.

4. Running back Chris Thompson said he will try to practice Wednesday, albeit in a limited role. And he's not sure yet about playing Saturday against Baltimore. Yes, he wants to.

5. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall talked about the impact of safety Ryan Clark on the defense. Hall also said safety Bacarri Rambo is "night and day" different from last year. He called Rambo their best defensive player over the first two games.

6. I think you know by now that I really like Bashaud Breeland. Talked to him today about how he has cut down on holding -- and why. Also talked to him about tackling and playing safety at some point in the future. More on this later.

Washington Redskins' projected roster

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
8:00
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Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. Plus they like McCoy. So nothing has changed since the original posting. If something happened to Griffin, they would still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two, then McCoy gets left off.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Chris Thompson needs to return soon or he'll be gone. But Seastrunk has a lot -- a lot -- to prove in the pass game, from catching the ball to protection. Silas Redd could make it more interesting with a solid game against Cleveland. And if they want the guy more ready to play now they'll take Evan Royster. Problem is, he lacks the sort of speed and dynamic ability they want out of this role. This remains fluid and the next three games will determine a lot.

RECEIVERS (6)

Nothing has changed. Leonard Hankerson still doesn't seem close to returning. Hard to imagine he'd not only be cleared in the next two weeks but then also ready for the start of the season. The group of six I have listed have been clearly ahead of the rest.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

All three have appeared to have strong summers while rookie Ted Bolser has had ups-and-downs. They don't need him this year so they can afford to keep him on the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

I wish this could be done Tuesday after a second preseason game so this could look a little different next week (with two games to judge players in that span). So, for now, I'll stick with last week's selections. I'm leaning toward putting tackle Tom Compton back on the list -- coaches felt he was the best of the second unit last week. Josh LeRibeus did not have the sort of night to match the storyline of his big redemption tour. Another up-and-down night against the Browns and I'll take him off -- I'll do it, I tell ya. But will they really keep four tackles? Still, LeRibeus did not play well enough and is now doing so for a new head coach who did not draft him. Pick it up, son.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Bowen is confident he'll be ready for the start of the season; we'll see. The coaches don't know if that's the case yet so he could end up on the physically unable to perform list. If he doesn't return this week, that's where I'll have him next week with Clifton Geathers taking his place. The big fella doesn't move well but can eat up space.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Nothing has changed here. Sharpton's high ankle sprain makes him interesting, and he must do a better job in what he's asked to do. But he's on the roster for now. If he somehow has to be out a while then Akeem Jordan will get the nod here. But, for now, this group stays the same.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Another easy position considering I think they'll only keep five players here with Chase Minnifield still eligible for the practice squad. I've always been a fan of Richard Crawford, whom I consider a future coach. But he's still working his way back from last year's knee injury. Breeland didn't have a good week off the field -- be smart young man -- but continues to impress on the field and excites them about his future.

SAFETIES (5)

Still not sold they'll keep five here. Robinson flies around and plays to contact; tough to leave a guy like that off the roster. But can he help you from scrimmage or is he just a special teamer? He might be tough to keep. Rambo was more aggressive last week, so if that continues against Cleveland he'll strengthen his case. With questions about Clark and Meriweather lasting all 16 games they really need stronger backups.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Considering they've done nothing, there's no reason to change here. The games will dictate the winner.

Redskins notes: Phillip Thomas returns

August, 14, 2014
8/14/14
6:30
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Some quick notes from Redskins Park on Thursday:
  • Safety Phillip Thomas returned to practice for the first time since July 31 after dealing with a hamstring injury. Coach Jay Gruden cracked, “I noticed he was on the field” when asked what he saw of Thomas. Gruden also said Thomas appeared to be moving fine during practice.
  • The Redskins signed tight end Matt Veldman and released defensive end Doug Worthington. Veldman was an undrafted free agent in 2012 who spent time last season on practice squads with Tampa Bay and Detroit.
  • Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather hurt his toe in practice. Gruden said he had a “little blood” underneath his toenail and was limping around. But he should be OK.
  • Gruden remains high on rookie receiver Ryan Grant. When asked after practice if he could be counted on to play key snaps this season, Gruden said, “No question. He’s already proven that he’s capable of moving into that role.” Of course, barring injuries that could be tough considering
    DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts have a firm grip on the first three spots.
  • Not that this should be needed, but Gruden reiterated his desire to use running back Alfred Morris, calling him “steady Eddie.” “If I throw the ball 10 times in a row in practice and he’s in there, he doesn’t say a word,” Gruden said. “A lot of guys would be ripping their chinstrap off, ‘Give me the ball!’ But Alfred is a total team player and a total class act and he’ll get his touches, no worries about that.”
ASHBURN, Va. -- They met a couple years ago, brought together by the ultimate prize in college football. They share a style of play on the field as well, quarterbacks whose legs enhance their game.

But the last thing quarterback Robert Griffin III wants to do is compare himself to Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel or any other quarterback. However, he understands the comparisons – and knows it will remain a big topic leading into their preseason game Monday night.

Griffin
Manziel
“Anybody that wants to compare, I’m sure they’ll just look at us and say both of us are real fast guys that can play backyard football at times,” Griffin said. “We both want to win, and I think every quarterback in the league wants to win football games.”

Griffin also didn’t want to discuss the differences between his game and Manziel's. After all, one is now entering his third season; the other has played one preseason game.

“I’ve played in the NFL. He hasn’t. He went to [Texas] A&M, I went to Baylor. Other than that, we’re all just trying to do our jobs,” Griffin said.

Of course, the other aspect to Monday’s game involves Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Griffin played under him the past two seasons in Washington, with numerous stories dissecting their relationship and how they reportedly did not get along.

Needless to say, they have not stayed in touch with Griffin saying, “I’ll leave that where it’s at” when asked if they had talked.

But he said if he has a chance to speak with Shanahan before Monday’s game, he will.

“Yeah I mean, it’s not that kind of relationship that we wouldn’t talk,” Griffin said. “So if I get a chance to see him, or talk to him, I definitely will.”

Redskins wake-up call

August, 14, 2014
8/14/14
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The Washington Redskins return to practice at 9 a.m. ET Thursday, closed to the public but not the media. Here are three areas I'll monitor:
  • The two-minute work. The defense looked good one day; the offense looked better the next. This is not just about measuring quarterback Robert Griffin III's progress, it's about certain aspects of the defense, too. But, obviously, the sharper Griffin looks in practice the better it is for the offense and the team. He did a better job getting rid of the ball the other day, will that continue (for what it's worth, there were a couple times Kirk Cousins also held the ball too long. With both quarterbacks, you can't just blame them; sometimes other issues are at play. But if it happens a lot then it's an issue).
  • Another aspect of the two-minute work: tight end Jordan Reed's return. He'll be a major target for Griffin, giving him size and speed underneath. He can throw with a different level of trust to him because Reed's size, and ability to catch, means that an off-target throw can still result in a completion. Reed hasn't practiced since Saturday because of a stomach virus. He's expected to practice Thursday.
  • The injury situation as well as corner Bashaud Breeland. The rookie was cited for possession of marijuana Monday night. Not sure we'll have a chance to speak with him or not Thursday. As for the injuries, will corner DeAngelo Hall (back) practice? Is running back Chris Thompson (ankle) still out? Safety Phillip Thomas (hamstring)? The latter two need to get on the field. Thompson might take another day, and Thomas said the other day he was close. If he returns too fast and gets hurt again, the durability issue will be heightened. Hall, at least, is secure in his standing. His absence does give Tracy Porter a good chance to work against the starters.
The past two summers, Washington Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson teased with a big play here or there, showing his speed and what the coaches hoped was his potential. Then the season came, Robinson largely went away and questions remained about his consistency.

Robinson is doing it again. This time, he says it’s different. This time, his coaches say it’s different.

Robinson
The season will determine if they’re right. But for now, they point to subtle changes in his game that give them more reason to believe Robinson is capable of a better season.

“He’s caught the ball well, and that’s something he didn’t do in 2012,” said receivers coach Ike Hilliard, who coached Robinson two years ago before spending last season in Buffalo. “He’s always been a smart kid. Everyone knows his biggest asset is his speed. He’s playing more under control.”

“He’s becoming a more complete receiver,” offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. “He’s showing more route versatility.”

“I feel different,” Robinson said.

He had a decent finish to 2013, with 12 catches in the final four games -- not exactly Pro Bowl material, but he had caught just six passes in the first 12 games. But he still needed to be better running certain routes. Sometimes he was too quick to reach his destination, arriving before the quarterback was ready to throw. Or he’d be open because he ran to the wrong depth -- maybe 5 yards instead of 7. Again, if the quarterback isn’t ready, then even if he’s open it doesn’t matter.

It leads to distrust from the quarterbacks. It’s why they like newcomer Andre Roberts -- they know where he’ll be and when he’ll arrive.

The coaches have always liked Robinson’s speed. They consider him a smart player, one who knows all three receiver positions.

“Every detail is important to him now,” Hilliard said. “It’s around that time. It’s a progression for a young player. He’s turning the corner in a positive direction and he’s putting a lot of pressure on the guys in the room.”

Robinson pointed to one play in particular from the New England game, in which he caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t the slant route for a touchdown or the drift route that got the Redskins out of trouble from deep in their own territory. On a third-and-11 from the Redskins’ 45-yard line, Robinson faced press coverage. But he ran a perfect route -- Colt McCoy threw it a yard or two before he cut, so when Robinson turned around, the ball was there for a 12-yard gain. If he had run it at the wrong depth, it would have been incomplete.

“Timing and depth,” Robinson said. “It’s all about the time of the route. I understand that now. The important part of timing is getting the right depth on a route.”

Last year coaches talked about Robinson being able to run more routes, and they’re saying the same thing this summer. They don’t want him to just be known as a deep receiver. But it helps, too, that he can be paired with other fast receivers so, in theory, defenses shouldn’t know which one will go long. It could open up areas underneath to give one of the speedy wideouts a chance to run after the catch.

“The safety can’t just look at me anymore and just lock in and say he’s going deep,” Robinson said. “If I’m on the field, there’s another fast guy and they’ll have to look at both of us. It changes the dynamic.”

And that leads to more confidence.

“I feel I can do this consistently now,” he said. “I can play good, week in and week out.”

The question is: Will he? Otherwise, he might not be around another summer to answer the same questions.

Redskins' defense: What we learned

August, 13, 2014
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What we learned after watching the Washington Redskins' defense in Richmond:
  • Based on one preseason game, they benefited from the more physical camp run by coach Jay Gruden. It’s a small sample size, but the Redskins tackled better against the Patriots in the preseason opener. If that continues, then you can perhaps thank Gruden. The Redskins barely hit in practice the past four years and routinely struggled to tackle early in the preseason, and that carried into the regular season. They always were among the worst in yards after contact and yards per pass attempt. Broken tackles.
  • If the Redskins tackle well, the defense will be better. Of course, sometimes that also stems from having the right guys trying to make those tackles or putting them in the right spots. But the extra yards allowed killed them (as did big plays, which were not just a result of missed tackles). It was a point of emphasis in camp and, to date, it's been better.
  • They are optimistic, but they were a year ago, too. A lot was out of their control: turnovers by the offense, bad special teams play. But they didn’t exactly lift the rest of the team with their play either. Still, they've shown more energy and that's a start.
  • Kerrigan
    They truly believe they will be more aggressive in terms of play calls and schemes. Doesn’t always mean sending more than four rushers -- the coaches believe they have more versatility and flexibility. It also means freeing up the rushers -- Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo -- to focus more on the rush and not just rushing to contain the quarterback. It is why they can have a better pass rush, but even then a key will be how sound the secondary plays. Tough to know based on camp how that will unfold.
  • The defense has been freed to play the way it wants. Now it’s time to prove what they can do. No more excuses.
  • Keenan Robinson has a chance to be good. He is not there yet; there are times when Robinson is fooled or must pause because of his inexperience. But Robinson will help: as a blitzer, in coverage. He has the speed and size to take plays away in the pass game that would have been completed in the past.
  • Perry Riley could have a good season, more similar to 2012 than ’13.
  • With Robinson and Riley, the Redskins have solid speed inside. They like to put Robinson next to rookie Trent Murphy in their fast nickel -- it creates a one-on-one for Robinson.
  • Clark
    The safety position remains an issue. We still don’t know what Ryan Clark still has left (he is a terrific communicator -- he constantly talks to the cornerbacks about what he is reading from the offense -- and you can’t underestimate that) or if he can last 16 games. The depth remains questionable. Bacarri Rambo was better in the first preseason game, but that is a far cry from being ready to be a consistent quality player or backup. And Phillip Thomas has yet to prove what he can do. The starters need to stay healthy.
  • Trenton Robinson likes contact.
  • Darryl Sharpton likes contact.
  • Both players need to be more disciplined with their assignments.
  • Clark is a celebrity, his profile raised by analyst work and also having played with some fantastic defenses in Pittsburgh. He is one of the few on the defense who understands what it takes for a unit to play at a certain level.
  • Amerson
    David Amerson is a skilled player. He has improved over last year, too, thanks to a strong offseason. But can he become a quality No. 1 cornerback? Not sold on that yet.
  • Brian Baker is a passionate coach who is a stickler for details when it comes to fundamentals. He is huge on talking about the hips and explosiveness. And he even has a drill in which the outside linebackers rush with their eyes closed, keeping a hand on the lineman’s chest so they can feel where the blocker is putting his weight and adjust accordingly. Both Kerrigan and Orakpo say they love drills like this.
  • Jason Hatcher needs to provide an interior push. Alas, we have no idea how he will fit in yet because he hasn’t done much. Despite a good camp for Jarvis Jenkins, there is no one else who can provide pressure inside like Hatcher.
  • The line could be a help or an issue. How is that for decisiveness? Barry Cofield looked terrific last summer; haven’t seen that same level of play this summer, though it’s not like he’s getting pushed around, either. If Hatcher helps, Cofield will benefit -- from less responsibility and also from having more help alongside him at times. Still have no idea when Stephen Bowen will return or what his level will be. Will Jenkins carry his good camp into the season? Even still, will he provide the sort of push they need?
  • Porter
    Tracy Porter is still showing rust from missing the offseason after shoulder surgery. Richard Crawford is showing the same after his recovery from last summer’s knee surgery. But Porter was signed to play the slot; Crawford is in a fight just to make the roster. The Redskins need Porter to help.
  • Bashaud Breeland is a good-looking rookie. He is not ready to start by any means, but the Redskins feel he can develop into one in the future. I like his instincts and toughness. The Redskins needed more of the latter among the young backup defensive backs.
  • Murphy is the first to point out what he must work on in his game. Never seems to be satisfied. Murphy understands how he must play and where his eyes must be. He has applied more pressure when rushing inside than off the edge -- or when angling underneath the tackle. He plays low for a big man. He also needs more work in coverage.
RICHMOND, Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Washington Redskins training camp:
  • Tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice, but did not do much more than catch a few passes off to the side. Reed missed the past three days with a stomach virus that he said might have stemmed from something he ate. Reed said he hasn't been able to eat for "two or three days" but said he'll return to practice Thursday. "I thought it would be over in one or two days but it kept on going," Reed said.
  • Three veterans received the day off: center Kory Lichtensteiger, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and receiver Santana Moss. For what it's worth, Lichtensteiger finished with a strong camp -- his first at center. It's a much better fit for him than guard because of his quickness and because his lack of girth does not hurt him as much in the middle.
  • During Redskins coach Jay Gruden three seasons in Cincinnati, the Bengals only carried two quarterbacks on the active roster. But there's a good chance the Redskins will opt for three, with Colt McCoy serving behind starter Robert Griffin III and backup Kirk Cousins. "I'm very happy with Colt's progress," Gruden said.
  • The Redskins don't play Cleveland in the second preseason game until Monday night, but it's already a topic of discussion, at least in some post-practice questions -- yes because of quarterback Johnny Manziel and the hype machine. Even Gruden referred to him as "Johnny Football" and called him exciting to watch, as did defensive coordinator Jim Haslett the day before. Corner DeAngelo Hall had the best line, though it wasn't really about Manziel. It was a comment on social media. "If social media had taken off around the time when I was in Atlanta and Michael Vick was going on and the south was just taking off, I probably would be president right now," Hall said. "Definitely would have more than 30,000 followers on Twitter."
  • For what it's worth, Gruden said they'll prepare a little for Cleveland starting Friday. He wants the players to get used to how they're going to game plan and go through the process. The game will be televised on ESPN with Gruden's brother, Jon, serving as the analyst. "It'll be an exciting event," Gruden said. "Of course my brother is coming so that will be fun, and Johnny Football. But I want to make it more about our guys, how we perform under the lights and the excitement and show them what we can do."
  • The Redskins ended camp in Richmond with one more practice session closed to the public, then the players signed autographs for the assembled volunteer workers. Rain threatened to unload on the field, but there were only a couple of moments where an umbrella even was needed.

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