Washington Redskins: Barry Cofield

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. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester (which I don't think will happen; I think he'll start). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.

Defensive line (6)

This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways.

Linebackers (9)

As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.

Safeties (4)

I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.

Camp preview: Washington Redskins

July, 17, 2014
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's John Keim examines the three biggest issues facing the Washington Redskins heading into training camp.

A rookie coach: Jay Gruden showed during the spring that he’ll coach with energy, creating a different vibe at Redskins Park. He’ll catch passes, defend receivers, throw a pass or two. And he looked for coaches who bring a similar energy. The difference was noticeable throughout the spring workouts open to the media.

Gruden, too, is a players’ coach, which can be viewed as positive or negative (all related to wins and losses).

Thus far, his relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III has been all positive. If that continues, it’s a major boost to the organization after the toxicity of last season, regardless of who was at fault. It helps that Gruden is able to keep his ego in check; you don’t get the sense that there are any ulterior motives with him.

Having said all that, we have no idea how Gruden will handle a season in charge. What if there’s an issue with Griffin? What if the defense doesn’t produce and he thinks the Skins need to tweak their scheme? Will Gruden be able to make those hard decisions when necessary? In-game and in-season adjustments matter greatly, and Gruden has to prove himself in this area. He was not a unanimous hotshot choice to be a head coach, but the Redskins believed in him and thought he could handle the job. But now a first-time head coach has to do what established coaches such as Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan failed to do: lead a consistent winner. And he has to do that with general manager Bruce Allen, who has all the football power for the first time in his career.

Robert Griffin III’s rise: Griffin was viewed as a savior in 2012, setting records as a rookie and helping the Redskins win the NFC East title for the first time since 1999. His future, and that of the organization, looked tremendous -- even though when they were 3-6 it appeared they had the right quarterback, but not the right team.

Then came last season. And harsh judgment on Griffin and his future. Even as a rookie there was skepticism about whether Griffin’s career could last given all the running he did (sometimes by design, other times by necessity and other times because of poor decision-making). But last season, his mechanical flaws were critiqued more harshly, and his ability to develop as a pocket passer was questioned. Meanwhile, anonymous-sourced stories abounded about his ability to lead the right way and develop as a passer.

Griffin went from a beloved figure two years ago to one who now engenders sharp opinions one way or another. Now his personality is even questioned. Griffin can regain the love, but he’ll have to turn a strong offseason into an even better regular season. His road to redemption is not a long one, but he just has to get it done. Considering this is the first real NFL offseason he’s had, it’s not a big leap to think he’ll play better than in ’13 – even in a new offense. The Redskins’ ability to give him quicker reads with receivers more capable of winning at the line will help.

Where's the D? Washington improved its pass rush by adding a coach devoted to it (Brian Baker), signing a free agent (Jason Hatcher) and drafting another outside linebacker (Trent Murphy). That, combined with holdovers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, should give the rush a boost. Corner David Amerson gives the Redskins a young player, whom they love, to build around in the secondary.

But will that be enough to improve the defense? There are plenty of other question marks on a defense that remains in transition. Washington might have as many as five starters age 30 or older; this is not a once-great defense hanging on, it’s a once-struggling defense trying to get better. The D will receive a boost from the above additions, but still needs more.

The Redskins have to prove they are not a boom-or-bust defense. They tackled poorly in the back end last year, one reason they ranked 32nd in yards per pass attempt at 7.58. They have a new starting inside linebacker, Keenan Robinson; since being drafted in 2012, he has 11 career tackles, two torn pectoral muscles and zero starts. Safety Ryan Clark has been a solid player and is a terrific leader, but he needs to show he can still play at age 34. If a defense needs to be strong up the middle to win, the Redskins have this: a solid nose tackle in Barry Cofield, question marks at inside linebacker, and question marks at safety. While Griffin’s play garners the headlines, the defense holds a major key to success.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

July, 5, 2014
OK, I have to admit that I lied to you: Turns out I could -- and did -- do a second mailbag this week. Saw more questions, got a burst of energy and here it is, with topics ranging from culture shift to Robert Griffin III's study habits, the secondary and the defensive line. Enjoy.

John Keim: Let's not get too carried away with this just yet because the culture was changed dramatically when Mike Shanahan was hired too. A lot of the stories at that time focused on that very topic. He was trying to bring in players with a certain mindset and he had that winning aura. And then they finished last in three of his four seasons. So his changes did not lead to the one change everyone wants. The culture of an organization always starts at the top. But in terms of the coaching hire, that was on Bruce Allen and then the subsequent assistant hires was on both he and Jay Gruden. There is a positive energy right now with the coaching staff and players and a good vibe among the players, but until they win -- and do so consistently -- it will always be about "changing cultures" at Redskins Park. And they'll try to do so every four years. Keim: Griffin receives a lot of credit for how hard he works; part of that includes studying film. I know he watches a lot of film, but the bottom line is right now the area that people want to see him improve involves pre-snap reads, getting off primary reads faster. Once he starts doing that, you'll hear more about the other habits that go into that improvement, like film study. To be honest, not sure I've read a lot or heard a lot about other young quarterbacks and how much film they watch. If you're a starting quarterback in the NFL it's assumed that you watch a lot of film. Griffin is no different. Really, it's not about watching film as much as it is processing what you're seeing. It takes a couple years for any young quarterback (or player for that matter) to reach a comfort level in this area. Many, many times I've talked to players about watching film and they consistently say it took them a while to do it well. Keim: I need to see them in game action. I need to see if the safeties are tackling better, what Ryan Clark has left, if David Amerson has improved and if Brandon Meriweather is more consistent. It is impossible to tell most of that from watching them work in just shorts and a helmet. I do like what I saw from Amerson and in what I heard from him. He had a good grasp on what he needed to be doing to improve. In less than a month we'll get a chance to see how he's really doing. As for the starters, it's easy right now: Amerson and DeAngelo Hall at the corners; Meriweather and Clark at safety. They need Clark's leadership deep, but they also need to make sure he can still play at a certain level. Keim: They'll typically keep five, including one fullback. Gruden kept a fullback in Cincinnati and Darrel Young has improved as a blocker during his time in Washington. He helps the run game and he helps on special teams too. But really this will depend on what they do at other positions. My guess is they'll want to keep nine or 10 offensive linemen. Would they really keep two kickers? How many safeties and corners? Usually 10 are kept, but they were willing to go with 11 two years ago. Would they really want to go with three running backs and a fullback -- or four running backs and no fullback? Last year's fourth running back, Evan Royster, barely played. They could always keep one on the practice squad just in case. Keim: My main issue with their line is not where they rank but their age. They have four potential defensive linemen 30 years or older -- and three of them will be coming off surgeries. So there's concern here. If they're healthy and if Jason Hatcher plays well if Chris Baker comes through to give them a young rusher, then I think this group will be fine. They'd have more depth and versatility than a year ago. The line did a solid job against the run last year; their issue was a lack of pressure. But if Hatcher has durability issues because of his knee and Stephen Bowen does not return to a solid level and Jarvis Jenkins still can't do much in nickel ... then they will have issues. They're a question mark, like many parts of the defense. 

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

June, 27, 2014
In Part 1 of this week's mailbag, the topics addressed: Robert Griffin III's accuracy, the kicker battle, differences between Jay Gruden and other first-year coaches I've covered and more. Enjoy. John Keim: Underrated? Maybe underpublicized is a better word for now. But that's because, in part, it involves kickers and there's not a whole lot to write about until camp begins. You can record their accuracy in practice - and we will, trust me -- but it's the games that matter (unless you're Shayne Graham and look horrible in practice, too). I think that's when it will become a bigger deal. Yes, a rookie kicker is a gamble. But Kai Forbath had never attemped a kick in an NFL game until signing with the Redskins in the 2012 season. Keim: Concerned? Not sure I'd go that far. I don't think he's going to turn into a Peyton Manning pinpoint accuracy guy (have said this before, but one general manager I spoke to before the '12 draft was worried about Griffin's intermediate accuracy). Griffin can succeed without being that sort of quarterback because of his ability to extend plays. He also can be a big-play quarterback with his ability to throw deep (which was not a strength last year, but was in 2012). But I think the concern would be if the Redskins want him to become just a pocket passer. They said that's not the case, and though that's what they did this spring, part of that was done because he needs to develop in this area. He will miss some throws, as he did his rookie year (he left a lot of yards on the table that season, too; some by not throwing the ball). But if he hits the deep ball with regularity and if the offense creates good running lanes after the catch, it will offset any accuracy issues. Keim: I've been around two other first-year coaches in Norv Turner and Jim Zorn (Steve Spurrier at least had been a college head coach). Gruden is a better communicator than both Turner and Zorn. Like those two, he's a nice guy who would make a terrific neighbor. But Gruden might have a better feel for being a head coach, though it's hard to compare considering he hasn't coached a game yet. Zorn was just a bit goofy and always seemed overmatched as a head coach. At 6-2, I remember him talking about getting players back healthy for the playoffs. Whoops. Turner had a terrific offensive mind but he also was insecure and often blamed others for losses or bad plays. I don't see Gruden being an excuse-maker; have not heard the same things about his offensive mind as I did about Turner's. Gruden surrounded himself with solid coaches. He seems to coach with less of an ego and that's to his benefit and I think that separates him. One knock on Gruden was his lack of organization; I think the other two were better in this regard. Still, when coaches think they have it all figured out, it can lead to, oh, three last-place finishes in four years. I don't know that any of the three first-year coaches I've covered are great disciplinarians. Definitely not the first two; we'll find that out about Gruden. Keim: Sure. It's not as if the defense that season was great; what they did was cause turnovers (and they did improve in most areas in the second half). And if the offense is scoring well, then it probably means they've cut down on turnovers, which will greatly help the defense. Also, if the offense isn't always playing from behind, then the defense could have better pass-rush opportunities. They bolstered the rush this offseason (they hope), so that should play into their hands. By the way, they had suspect inside linebackers last season, too. It was not a strength. The big difference has to be the pass rush. Otherwise, they will be in trouble and be forced to rely on an explosive offense and causing turnovers. Keim: He'll have to hope the Redskins keep six corners, because that appears to be his only chance (barring injuries to others). And then it depends on how Richard Crawford looks in his recovery from the knee injury. Crawford's chances would be better if he shows he can still be effective as a punt returner, but the Redskins might just opt for Andre Roberts in that role. That would improve Minnifield's chances. He showed last summer that he could help in press coverage, but struggled in a variety of other looks. He's feisty, and my over/under on camp fights involving him is three. As for practice squad eligibility, yes, he still has some. Keim: Hmmm, tough one for the offensive side and it depends on if they keep nine or 10. If they keep nine, I'd expect the backups to be Mike McGlynn, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus. But if there's 10, or if one of those four win a starting job, I could see Tom Compton making the roster as well. Defensively, if everyone is healthy and assuming the starters are Chris Baker, Barry Cofield and Jason Hatcher (and that's subject to debate), then the backups should be Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston. If Bowen is healthy, the Redskins could opt for him at right end and save Hatcher more for rush situations. I think this group is fluid because of health situations.
The Washington Redskins didn't ditch their defensive boss, even after a rough year and a coaching change. But they did tweak the lineup and it's possible that nearly half of the players who start this season will be new to the lineup, though only two would have been added in the offseason (Jason Hatcher, Ryan Clark). Washington's biggest change is that it plans to alter the pass rush, which is one reason the Redskins hired outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist. The Redskins also added linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, who will also be a big help.

Here's a look at the Redskins' starting defense and special teams at the end of the offseason:


Left end: Chris Baker
Nose tackle: Barry Cofield
Right end: Jason Hatcher
Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan
Inside linebacker: Perry Riley
Inside linebacker: Keenan Robinson
Outside linebacker: Brian Orakpo
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall
Cornerback: David Amerson
Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Safety: Ryan Clark

Change from 2013: Clark, Robinson and Hatcher are newcomers. Amerson was the third corner last year and takes over for Josh Wilson. Baker started three games last year because of injuries to others, but enters with the job now because of his performance.

Note: There is more uncertainty with this group than on offense. Because of Hatcher’s knee, the Redskins could limit his participation early in camp; they used Jarvis Jenkins at this spot during the spring. And what about Stephen Bowen? He, too, has a knee issue and after not taking part in practices during the spring it’s hard to imagine him being ready for a big role early in camp. Also, while Robinson looked good this spring, he’s never started an NFL game and has to show he can handle the run game as well as the responsibilities of the position. He’ll need to hold off veterans Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan for the job. The secondary is pretty well set. They love Clark’s leadership and communication and, yes, he has to show he can still play. He’s firmly ahead entering camp. Meriweather is ahead as well, as backup Phillip Thomas must still show a lot. The coaches liked his progress last summer before he got hurt, but the bottom line is he’s inexperienced and coming off a tough Lisfranc injury.

Spring standout: Probably Robinson. His ability to play on the move was evident, but considering that was his strength before the two torn pectoral muscles, that's not a surprise. Training camp, and preseason games, will reveal a lot more, but he had a good offseason.

Average age at start of camp: 28.18

Combined Pro Bowls: 11 (Orakpo, 3; Hall, 3; Meriweather, 2; Hatcher, Kerrigan and Clark, 1)

Starters 30 or older: 5 (Clark, Meriweather, Hall, Hatcher, Cofield).

Special teams

Kicker: Kai Forbath
Punter: Robert Malone
Long snapper: Nick Sundberg
Returner: Andre Roberts

Change from 2013: Malone and Roberts are new.

Note: Malone had some booming punts during the spring, but he was known for his inconsistency in previous stops. Too many punts with bad hangtime leading to long returns. He must fix that. But his competition, Blake Clingan, has no career punts. Forbath has a slight edge because of experience, but Zach Hocker has a legitimate chance to win the job. You do not base the competition on how they looked in the spring – no coach ever would -- but Hocker is off to a good start. So that battle will be interesting. You don’t draft a kicker unless you like his chances of winning the job. Unless a kicker looks terrible in practice, then the games matter most. The Redskins do have another long snapper on the roster in Kyle Nelson, who took over for an injured Sundberg last year. But the latter has been consistent since joining the Redskins. And Roberts is the best one to handle both return duties. DeSean Jackson should not be used as anything other than a pinch-hitter on punt returns; he’s far more valuable from scrimmage, so don’t wear him down. I’ll be curious to see how Richard Crawford looks returning punts this summer, but he’ll be in a real fight for a roster spot. If they can’t keep six corners then he’ll be in big trouble. The Redskins want Roberts to get as many touches as possible and, with Jackson and Pierre Garcon ahead of him at receiver, having him return punts and kicks is a good way for this to happen.

Something to prove: Jarvis Jenkins

June, 24, 2014
We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.

Why he has something to prove: Because he hasn’t fulfilled expectations and because the Redskins have more depth at his position, putting him in a situation where he must earn playing time. Also, he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Redskins need him to help because they have four potential linemen who will be 30 years or older, three of whom had offseason surgery. Washington signed Jason Hatcher in the offseason and likes how Chris Baker has developed. They also signed Clifton Geathers, but he didn’t show a whole lot this spring. He’s tall, but often plays that way and loses leg strength. Jenkins is a better player against the run. He has improved at taking on double teams, occupying blockers and playing the two-gap style (Washington is not abandoning this, but will also use one-gap at times. The Redskins have done this in the past in nickel situations). Jenkins needs to be strong against the run first and foremost and if he is, then he’ll continue to help. Before hurting his knee as a rookie, Jenkins looked terrific and showed an ability to make plays behind the line. However, he was also raw and too often got himself out of position because he’d get too upright trying to look and find the ball. Eventually, teams would have exploited this tendency in the regular season. But his talent was evident.

What he must do: Again, stop the run. The Redskins’ pass rush will be helped by offenses forced to pass. If the Redskins can’t stop the run, then opposing offenses will dictate everything. Jenkins can still help here. But he must help more in nickel situations. As of now, he’s behind players such as Hatcher, Baker and Barry Cofield in this role (when they use their fast nickel with three outside linebackers, that is). Jenkins worked last offseason on taking a bigger step when rushing; too often in the past he’d take a baby step or still a more lateral step. Stephen Bowen, for example, would take two steps to get to where it Jenkins took three. Jenkins typically does not do much more than try to drive his man back; don't see a lot of rip or swim moves from him.

Projection: Reserve end. Baker has worked as the starting left end in camp, though Jenkins could play either side. Baker also is a bigger threat in the pass game. Baker has improved at recognizing blocks -- a big deal here -- but if he gets too consumed with penetration all the time then Jenkins could be more of an answer against the run. If there’s concern about Hatcher’s durability, then they could use Jenkins in a bigger role on run downs (again: his strength). He’s still one of their top six defensive linemen; he’s younger and healthier. All of that matters.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jason Hatcher should be ready for training camp and the Washington Redskins say there’s no reason to worry. His knee issues will be corrected. But anytime a soon-to-be 32-year-old is coming off any type of surgery, there’s always a level of concern.

And when that player is a pivotal part of the defensive strategy, a finger needs to be crossed that he’ll remain healthy.

One part of the Redskins’ offseason that I didn’t like was the inability to get much younger defensively. You can’t fix everything in one offseason, but my concern for months has been the age of the defense and the changes it might need to undergo. The Washington Post’s Jason Reid wrote about it here.

Washington’s defensive front could have quality depth, giving the Redskins more flexibility than in recent seasons. Or it could have some broken-down parts that struggle to get through the season. The Skins will potentially have five defensive linemen who are at least 30 years old. Stephen Bowen is coming off microfracture knee surgery. Nose tackle Barry Cofield, who had a hernia operation in the offseason, saw his production wane in the second half of last season. Both are in the 30-and-over category.

For the Redskins’ pass rush to improve, they need a healthy Hatcher to provide an inside threat to the outside combination of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. If Hatcher is healthy, teams can’t just focus on the perimeter, as they’ve been able do the past two years. If he’s not ...

The Skins need Cofield to give them consistent quality play (the depth will give him more rest; in the first half of last season, he was good). They need Chris Baker, whom they’re high on, to also help in their nickel packages in his most expansive role. They need Jarvis Jenkins to become a threat in the pass game, something he has not yet been.

The Redskins’ front has potential. It also has concerns. The defense depends on those concerns being alleviated.

Jason Hatcher to have MRI on knee

June, 17, 2014
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins aren’t concerned, but they are also not taking any chances. So defensive lineman Jason Hatcher won’t participate in the rest of this week’s minicamp because of pain in his knee.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Hatcher will have an MRI on his knee to determine why it’s giving him some issues.

“We’ll get him checked out,” Gruden said. “But I feel he’ll be ready for training camp. That’s the big thing. We’re taking the proper precautions.”

Gruden said he wasn’t sure when Hatcher tweaked his knee. But the free agent signee told Gruden that he felt pain and had a little swelling.

The Redskins signed Hatcher away from Dallas to provide an inside pass rush. The Redskins also have depth along the line to limit how much wear and tear players like Hatcher must endure during the season. But he will be a key part of Washington’s nickel pass rush.

Hatcher attended practice, but did not go through individual drill work. Two other defensive linemen, Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, both worked off to the side as they recover from surgery. Cofield had a hernia procedure recently, but has participated in individual drill work. Bowen had microfracture knee surgery and was not expected to return before training camp.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo also missed practice. Gruden said Orakpo has a cold and, perhaps, strep throat. But he is hoping Orakpo returns Wednesday.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Not a lot going on, so it's a good time to catch up on some salary-cap numbers and scenarios. All numbers are from ESPN Stats & Information:

Cap space available: The Redskins have $2,551,306 left against the salary cap. Only three teams have less room against the cap (Detroit, New Orleans and San Diego). The Giants have $6.9 million available, but both Dallas ($10.2 million) and Philadelphia ($20.2 million) are in strong shape. Don’t forget, teams can carry cap space into next season. Also, as of now only the top 51 players count against the cap in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeStephen Bowen
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins would save $5.5 million against the cap if they cut Stephen Bowen after this season.
Cap savings: If the Redskins really wanted to save a few extra dollars, they could always look at right guard Chris Chester. If they cut him, it would save $2.7 million against the cap. But, again, someone has to beat him out. If they felt that confident about someone else they likely would have made a move by now. But they do have some young options here between rookie Spencer Long and third-year players Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. However, while Long obviously has never played, the other two have limited experience. Tyler Polumbus' release would save $1.5 million, but that means that either rookie Morgan Moses or third-year Tom Compton is ready to start. It’s hard to imagine Moses being at that point and Compton was not there at the end of last season.

Another place that will be interesting is the defensive line. The Redskins kept six at this spot each of the past three seasons. If they only keep that many this year, it means a veteran could be in trouble. They clearly aren’t going to cut Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher or Chris Baker. Also, as long as Stephen Bowen is healthy he’ll stick around.

Yes, the Redskins could have re-worked his deal (which counts $7.02 million against the cap) but they have wisely been reluctant to spread money into the future for players who may only be around another year or so. That’s the case with Bowen. He has one year left on his contract and is coming off microfracture surgery. I don’t care how optimistic you are about him, can you trust he’ll be around and playing at a solid level in two years? No. The way they’ve done things in the past they could ask him to take a pay cut, but they typically did that before this point. Just so you know: Bowen would save $5.5 million against the cap if cut after this season.

So if Bowen sticks, that gives the Redskins four. If they keep six again, that means they’d have room for two among Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston and Clifton Geathers. Here’s the savings for each player: Geathers ($600,000), Golston ($1,005,000), Jenkins ($1,027,184). Nose tackle Chris Neild also would be in trouble. His savings would be $645,000.

Highest paid: Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000) followed by Trent Williams ($10,980,393). By the way, both players will count more against the cap than all the players at five other positions: safeties ($5.1 million), tight ends ($4 million), running backs $5.6 million), quarterback ($7.1 million) and cornerback ($8.6 million).

Lowest-paid starters: Running back Alfred Morris will count $600,775 against the salary cap. Next up: safety Ryan Clark ($635,000) and tight end Jordan Reed ($642,778). Clark’s base salary is $955,000, but he counts less because of the veteran minimum cap benefit.

Injury updates: Cofield, Hankerson

June, 13, 2014
An update on two injured Redskins: receiver Leonard Hankerson and nose tackle Barry Cofield:

1. Still no idea when Hankerson will return. And I doubt there will be a better idea next week.
That's why when asked if he has any indication Hankerson will be ready for camp, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “None whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Hankerson said, “I'm feeling pretty good right now, out here moving around a whole lot more. Probably got a couple months to go. Should be good by training camp, but you never know.”

The Redskins don't need Hankerson to rush back after tearing his ACL and LCL last season. It's not just about the starters, but they at least have experienced backups in Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson.

Hankerson looked to be running better than he did two weeks ago. This past week he was able to run some routes off to the side. But he was certainly not running them at 100 percent speed (nor should he be). This is a big year for Hankerson, who will be a free agent next offseason. The first thing he must do to get any sort of deal is prove he's healthy.

2. Meanwhile, Cofield, who underwent hernia surgery, participated more this week than a week ago. He was still held out of full-team drills, but he did work before that point. During the team drills, he performed some agility work off to the side. Cofield won't be a full participant until training camp.
“He's further along than I think he anticipated even, and I think the trainers,” Gruden said. “But we're still going to modify what he's doing. We have to pull him back a little bit and make sure he's 100 percent ready for training camp.”

Cofield shares that thinking.

“I'm just playing it smart,” Cofield said. “It was a wear-and-tear type of injury. It's all connected so you get nagging injuries here and there and it manifests with the surgery. It's an easy recovery. I feel good.”

The good news for Cofield is that he might not be needed on quite as many plays as the past couple of years with the increased depth on the line. Not just the addition of Jason Hatcher, but the continued improvement of Chris Baker.

That depth is important for an aging line, with potentially four players this season being at least 30 years old: Cofield, Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston. Two of them will be coming off surgery, too. (Bowen had microfracture surgery on his knee.) They could use more production from Jarvis Jenkins.

ASHBURN, Va. -- Thoughts and observations after the Washington Redskins organized team activities workout Wednesday:
  1. DeSean Jackson returned to practice and did get open deep on a couple occasions. The first time, on a deep cross, he got behind the secondary and had enough time to haul in an underthrown pass from Robert Griffin III. Brandon Meriweather was about five or seven yards behind him.
  2. Later, Jackson narrowly beat Bashaud Breeland on a deep ball down the left side. But Breeland deserves credit for good coverage. He was a couple inches from making a deflection; Griffin stuck it in a tight window. He and Jackson celebrated with a chest bump.
  3. Receiver Leonard Hankerson again worked off to the side as he recovers from his torn ACL. Coach Jay Gruden still has no idea when he'll be ready. On Wednesday he ran short routes -- hitches, slants -- at around half-speed and looked fine doing it.
  4. During individual drills, the quarterbacks worked on throwing over a defender and at other times they worked on looking off their primary targets and then throwing the other way. Good reinforcement. And during a special teams drill, Griffin worked off to the side with offensive coordinator Sean McVay on sprint rollouts and bootlegs, making sure to get the proper depth after his play fake.
  5. I liked the way Trent Murphy was able to come up under control against the returner in a special teams drill. Not bad for a big guy.
  6. Your punt returners Wednesday: Andre Roberts, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross, Lache Seastrunk, Santana Moss and Chris Thompson. I like Williams as a slot guy, but still think he'll have a tough time making it barring injuries.
  7. Griffin worked on some hard counts Wednesday, drawing the defense offsides on a handful of occasions. He was not always sharp on the intermediate throws, though there were a couple of big connections deep. One of his best throws was to rookie receiver Ryan Grant down the middle; corner Blake Sailors was there, but the pass was perfect. Not exactly the combo that will be on the field this fall, but it was a good throw nonetheless. Griffin did miss an open Jordan Reed on one deep crosser and Roberts on another. But Griffin is still doing a better job keeping the ball high, leading to less wind-ups -- and a quicker release than last season.
  8. Safety Ryan Clark helped force an incompletion to Reed by playing insid, with linebacker Perry Riley playing him man to man. Griffin had to throw it to the outside and Reed didn't have a chance. After the play, Clark yelled to Riley, "Tell them you're a cover linebacker!" Clark is non-stop with his talking (more on that in a future post).
  9. Gruden is confident that he'll find this year's punter out of Robert Malone and Blake Clingan. If Malone shows any consistency, something he has not done in the past, then he'll be interesting. He gets a lot of hang time on his punts in practice (last year with the New York Jets, though, he'd have some excellent hangtime followed by low liners).
  10. Jason Hatcher doesn't play too upright, but he does have a high stance. At 6-foot-6, it's understandable, but he definitely is higher before the snap than the others. But he's able to play with good leverage inside.
  11. Saw Hatcher get a nice spin move inside Shawn Lauvao and, another time, got his hands in the guard's chest and drove him back, forcing Griffin to hop out of the way. Hatcher also got outside Lauvao and would have sacked Griffin if it had been a game. Instead he pulled up and Griffin connected with tight end Jordan Reed downfield. They celebrated a long gain, but Hatcher was right there.
  12. After working at left guard last week, Josh LeRibeus spent Wednesday on the right side. Tough to say how he looks other than he's in much better shape than a year ago. That will help. Entering last offseason there was optimism about his future, until he showed up out of shape.
  13. Another change: Morgan Moses was back at right tackle, after playing on the left side last week. Tom Compton worked on the left side Wednesday. By the way, and I'll have more on this later, but Moses is well aware of his need to stay low. Definitely something he's focused on. Moses' head is still on a swivel and you can tell at times how much learning is still going on; led to a missed block on linebacker Adam Hayward on one run (as one coach was yelling for Moses to ‘Get there! Get there!').
  14. Did see Moses push linebacker Brandon Jenkins to the ground on one rush outside. Jenkins had earlier beaten Maurice Hurt to the inside on another rush. Jenkins is going to have a much tougher time making the team this season.
  15. Corner DeAngelo Hall was not at practice after cutting his chin during Tuesday's workout. He was also headed to Atlanta.
  16. Linebacker Akeem Jordan had good coverage on a pass down the middle that quarterback Colt McCoy underthrew. Jordan's back was to the pass, but he still managed to break it up. He was typically removed in passing situations with Kansas City last season.
  17. Nose tackle Barry Cofield participated in individual drills, something he did not do the first two weeks we saw. With Cofield still sidelined during team drills, Chris Baker worked as the No. 1 nose tackle with Jarvis Jenkins and Hatcher as the ends. Cofield said he will be 100 percent for training camp.
  18. Meanwhile, Adam Gettis also worked at right guard, his more natural spot. But it's important for these backups to be able to show they can play more than one spot.
London Fletcher’s play wasn’t the same a year ago, his run as a Pro Bowl linebacker over. Fletcher, though, remained a presence on the field and in the meeting room for the Redskins’ defense.

So the Redskins can replace the production of a player since retired. Finding someone who led the way he did will be a little tougher.

“Just as far as lining up, getting everyone right and making sure everyone comes to practice in the right attitude,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said.

They can survive without such a strong leader, but it’s nice to have. Fletcher provided a veteran voice the players could trust. Who might take his place? Here are some players who can help:

Safety Ryan Clark: The leader in the clubhouse (there wasn’t a pun intended, but after writing it maybe there was). Clark is the most natural leader on the defense and he plays a position where he must communicate every play. So it enhances that leadership role. He’s someone who can get players lined up right, guide them in the meeting rooms and serve as a strong mentor. He has the reputation for telling players what others might shy away from saying. He has the credentials, playing a key role on two Super Bowl championship teams, and he carved a career, like Fletcher did, as an undrafted free agent. Players like that, who last this long, have a different quality about them and others take notice.

The question is, what does Clark have left on the field? It’s tough to be the same leader if you’re struggling. Pittsburgh felt he was done. Of course, the Steelers didn’t suffer through what the Redskins did with their safeties last year (and the past few). I also wonder if it matters to players that Clark spends a lot of time on TV, his transition to post-NFL life having (smartly) begun. During the season his focus will be on the team so it might not matter at all. Still, Clark is the most natural in this role.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall: He’s matured over the years and has been a captain. The Redskins used him to help recruit potential free agents, DeSean Jackson in particular. Money always wins out, but the fact that the Redskins wanted him as one of the players to help in this area says a lot about Hall. He seems to like this role. While it helps Clark to have played for a top franchise in Pittsburgh, does it hurt that Hall has played two seasons in which his team finished with a winning record? Don't know; Hall has lasted a long time in the NFL and is coming off a Pro Bowl season. But it’s difficult for corners to be the primary leaders on a defense, in part because their jobs require them to have less of a big-picture look than other positions. The best leaders that I’ve seen in Washington have been linebackers, safeties and the occasional defensive lineman (Marco Coleman).

Linebacker Perry Riley: It’s not in his personality to be that sort of guy. Riley is smart, but doesn’t like the spotlight – a leader has to also serve as a mouthpiece for the defense. He’s better as a complementary guy.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson: Tough to be a leader when you’ve played in only 11 games, started none and missed the past year with a second injury. There’s a chance he’ll end up replacing Fletcher in the lineup and this position demands he be a good communicator. But he still has to prove he's better than Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan. Whoever is in this role must call out the defensive signals, get guys lined up, call out changes. A leadership role is a natural outbreak of this, but Robinson is not close to being that sort of guy. He needs to win the job, prove his value in games and then perhaps he’ll grow into a leadership role.

Nose tackle Barry Cofield: He’s comfortable in a leadership role. He’s not the same sort of presence as Fletcher in terms of being a coach on the field, but he was a leader with the Giants and has been one in Washington. He understands what comes with that: always being available, especially during the hard times. Hall typically is, but there have been times in the past when the losses pile up that he stays away from the media for a couple weeks (except for after games). Regardless of who emerges as the defensive voice, Cofield will provide leadership.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo: When Orakpo was injured two years ago, one former Redskins coach felt the team had lost one of its most passionate players. His value comes more in that than in being a guy who will replace Fletcher as The Leader on defense.
They wanted more versatility, giving them the ability to fool the quarterback or at least make him wonder. And that would give the rush an extra second, they hope, to make a difference.

"As you know, great quarterbacks," Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last week, "if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezCan Brian Orakpo & Co. give coordinator Jim Haslett a bevy of options to work with in the coming season?
The latter part has been an issue for a while. The ability to be exotic will help coordinator Jim Haslett, but it won't cure all. Still, is the Redskins' defense more versatile?

Let's take a look:

The Redskins do have some versatility up front. Chris Baker can line up at either end or nose tackle and can play in the nickel. Barry Cofield plays nose, but can rush in nickel. Jason Hatcher can play end and serve as a legitimate interior rusher.

Stephen Bowen's effectiveness as a rusher decreased the past two years and he's now coming off an injury. So it's tough to include him with the others for now. Jarvis Jenkins can play either end, but has yet to prove he's a quality pass-rusher.

Still, they do have more versatility along the front with an improved Baker and the addition of Hatcher. Is it enough?

They also have it at outside linebacker where they now have three players who can line up in a variety of ways to rush the passer with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and now Trent Murphy. All three are fine rushing with their hand down or standing up; from both sides or even through the middle. Now, whether Murphy will be effective in doing so, it's impossible to say without having seen him in a game. But, in theory, it provides options for Haslett and the ability to use different looks and a better variety of blitzes.

But what that group offers is not just the ability to move around, but to provide different looks for a tackle (or even a guard). After blocking Orakpo much of the game, a left tackle might not be prepared for, say, Murphy's spin move. They can throw a curve at a player just by sending someone different at the right time. At least that's what the Redskins hope. Everything always sounds good at this time of the year.

I'm not sold yet that Brandon Jenkins is at this point; need to see more proof of his versatility. Rob Jackson can help, but he's not as versatile as the others.

They do have some versatility at corner with a couple players having the ability to line up at safety. Both DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers have done so in the past, though there's a difference between lining up there and being effective in this role. Neither is really a great option back there to defend the run, but in providing a different look in coverage? Sure. It's also about being able to play different coverages and they'll have to prove they can; too many teams picked them apart last season and it wasn't just because of the rush.

Also, one reason they wanted to draft corner David Amerson was his ability to perhaps do the same thing. He did not do this as a rookie. He has the skills to be more versatile, but I'd worry about the eye discipline among other things needed to handle this role. But it's a next logical step for him. Rookie Bashaud Breeland could develop here, but he needs to learn corner first -- and how to play it without being too grabby.

However, they don't have the versatility at safety. They lack a starting player who can cover man to man (we have no idea yet what Tanard Jackson still has left, let alone if he'll even start or can handle such a role). Brandon Meriweather did enable them to sometimes run different coverages because he had the speed others did not to get to vacated areas -- like when they want to blitz a corner from the outside, not just the slot. But he's far removed from his Pro Bowl days, so mistakes are made and tackles are missed.

Ryan Clark's strength was always in being in the right place at the right time, dissuading the quarterback from challenging his area. He's lasted this long because he's smart. If he does that again, the Redskins would be happy. But occasionally covering man-to-man? That's different. And if the Redskins want to grow the defense the next step is finding someone who can. The more versatile the secondary is, the more you can throw off a quarterback with various looks.

Redskins injury updates

May, 29, 2014
ASHBURN, Va. -- A few injury updates:
  • Receiver DeSean Jackson tweaked his left hamstring, but coach Jay Gruden called it a minor pull. Gruden said Jackson has had a good camp so far and that they just want to make sure he’s “right” when it comes to his health.
  • Nose tackle Barry Cofield had hernia surgery recently and will miss the rest of the OTA sessions. Gruden said they are hoping to have him full-go by the start of training camp and said, “He should be in good shape.”
  • Chris Neild and Kedric Golston worked as the first two nose tackles with Cofield out of the lineup.
  • Receiver Leonard Hankerson also continues to rehab his ACL injury. Both he and cornerback Richard Crawford, who tore multiple ligaments, ran on the side Thursday. Hankerson was not running as fast as he could and still looked affected by his knee. “We don’t want to rush him back,” Gruden said. “Let’s get him back 100 percent, whether the time is the start of training camp, middle of training camp, third game.”
  • Safety Phillip Thomas is practicing after missing last season with a Lisfranc injury. It can be a tricky injury to recover from, especially if the athlete has surgery, as Thomas did. But Thomas said he feels normal when running on the field.
  • Defensive end Stephen Bowen, recovering from microfracture surgery, did a little work off to the side. He did not expect to return by now, so his limited work is not a surprise.
  • Cornerback Tracy Porter, recovering from shoulder surgery, also ran off to the side.

Thoughts and observations from the Redskins OTA session Thursday (taking a look at big picture things here rather than practice plays made in the spring):

  1. Robert Griffin III worked on being more consistent with his mechanics in the offseason and there was a difference. The past two years his base was wider as the Redskins wanted to shorten the stride. He also got into a habit of holding the ball lower, leading to a longer windup when he threw.
  2. But in practice Thursday, Griffin held the ball higher – at the top of the numbers. He also threw with a more narrow base. He likes doing this because he feels more free, giving him the ability to bounce the pocket a little better. Not every quarterback throws with the same base, much like not every hitter uses the same stance at the plate.
  3. [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
    AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III showed off his new throwing mechanics during practice on Thursday.
    Griffin also was throwing more over the top; less windup. So the ball came out a little quicker. He was not always accurate, but he was not off as much as he was, say, last summer when coming back in training camp. And keep in mind that even as a rookie in practice Griffin would have off days throwing the ball.
  4. Regardless, Griffin’s fundamentals were more consistent than they were during the season. The key will be transferring it to the season when it gets chaotic in the pocket.
  5. His weight transfer was different as well; much more quiet but a definite transfer. Saw it on a deep ball to receiver DeSean Jackson.
  6. Griffin escaped the pocket on one play and looked like he was going to tuck and run. But he pulled up before he crossed the line and hit Pierre Garcon along the sidelines.
  7. Keenan Robinson lined up next to Perry Riley with the No. 1 defense. It’s only May, but it’s still telling when considering that he missed all of last season and part of his rookie year. They also signed Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, who worked with the second team. Adam Hayward also worked some with the second team at inside linebacker.
  8. The linebackers’ versatility will be a huge part of the defense this season, as you would expect. The key is that they now have three outside linebackers – Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy -- who are comfortable with their hands in the dirt, rushing from a two-point stance or dropping into coverage.
  9. Murphy beat Tom Compton during 11-on-11 work with a quick spin move to the inside. For a tall guy, Murphy does a nice job staying low on his spin.
  10. Second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins was mostly limited to rushing the passer last season, but saw him in coverage some Thursday.
  11. Here are the players I saw returning kicks Thursday: Lache Seastrunk, Chris Thompson, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts and Rashad Ross.
  12. Chris Baker lined up at left end with the starting defense (keep in mind Stephen Bowen can’t work). Chris Neild was in the middle with Barry Cofield sidelined (hernia surgery) and Jason Hatcher was on the right side.
  13. Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland still needs to be less grabby. Saw him tugging Santana Moss’ jersey downfield before the veteran caught the ball. Saw Breeland tugging other jerseys as they broke on a route (after the allotted five yards of contact). Not sure all the receivers quite appreciated his hands.
  14. Breeland was beaten on a double move by receiver Pierre Garcon. One thing Breeland said he needed to do was to keep his eyes on his man. He lost him this time, peeking too long into the backfield and awaiting a throw that wasn’t coming. Instead, it turned into an easy deep completion.
  15. Maurice Hurt worked at right tackle with the third unit. Josh LeRibeus worked at left guard with the second unit.
  16. Jackson’s speed was evident, especially on an end around. He was in traffic as he ran around the end, on the side opposite the media so it was hard to tell who it was at first. But he was moving at a different speed, which was the first clue as to who it was.
  17. Corner Chase Minnifield will get into a lot of tussles this camp – a safe prediction. He nearly got into one with tight end Niles Paul Thursday. Minnifield is physical and feisty and that will never please those running routes in practice. This time, Minnifield was grabbing Paul on the entire route and at the end Paul shoved him. Minnifield bounced up and shoved him back. It didn’t escalate.
  18. Minnifield did pick off a Kirk Cousins pass in zone coverage. Minnifield sank deep on the route and grabbed a pass that was intended for Williams.
  19. It was tough to see running back Chris Thompson’s speed last season, whether in spring, summer or before he was shut down during the season. He was coming off a knee injury. But he’s a year removed from that injury and the speed was more evident. Still worry about his durability, but he looked fast after running with a pass in the open field (during a spring practice).
  20. Safety Tanard Jackson ran with the third defense.
  21. Corner David Amerson looks more comfortable in press coverage and is using his long arms to his advantage when jamming receivers. Saw him do this a couple times, showing good technique and not getting beat in this look. It’s something he needed to work on as a rookie and I’m sure the learning curve will continue. But with his length and speed it’s a necessary tactic for him to learn.