Washington Redskins: Bashaud Breeland

When you're coming off a 3-13 season, any stretch on the schedule is pivotal. The Redskins do have a chance for a 2-0 start with games against Houston and Jacksonville to open the season. And then it gets interesting with four tough games: at Philadelphia, New York Giants, Seattle, at Arizona. That's two divisional games followed by two tough defenses, which makes the three games after that as pivotal a stretch as any. After that four-game stretch, the Washington Redskins host Tennessee before road games at Dallas and Minnesota. But those are three winnable games. If the Redskins struggle before this point, it's a chance for them to reach the bye with momentum for a second-half push.

Complete Redskins season preview.
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.

What to expect: Redskins' rookies

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
Taking a look at various aspects concerning the Redskins heading into training camp. Today, I take a look at their rookie class:

LB Trent Murphy: He entered as the No. 3 linebacker and was used in multiple ways throughout the spring. That will obviously continue. Murphy is not an explosive player so you won’t be wowed by speed off the edge. But he knows how to use his hands on the rush and he’s adept at the details of the position. He’ll be the third linebacker in their nickel package. In the spring, they rushed him from over the guards, through the middle and on both edges.

OT Morgan Moses: Just don’t see any way he unseats Tyler Polumbus based off college tape and his performance in the spring. He’s still inconsistent and bends at the waist too often. He cut down on this in the spring – he knows it’s an issue – but it’s still a problem. It forces him to rely on his long arms; that’s OK in college but in the NFL it’s about the arms and the feet.

G Spencer Long: They loved him coming in and nothing has changed. That does not mean they think he’ll beat out Chris Chester, certainly not right away. But they like what they have in Long. Unlike the past couple years, the Redskins have worked their rookie linemen on both sides. Typically they stuck them on one side and let them get comfortable. But there’s too much competition to bring them along slowly.

CB Bashaud Breeland: He’ll help on special teams and if the others stay healthy, he’ll be a No. 4 corner at best. Breeland looked good for the most part in the spring, though I’ll be curious to see in training camp how much he still grabs and holds. But he’s a physical player and has a good mindset.

WR Ryan Grant: Another guy the coaches really like, but I have a hard time seeing him do a whole lot given his size and lack of strength. It’ll be tough for him to get off jams or to even block. But it’s not like he must contribute immediately. My guess is he’d be a fifth or sixth receiver right now – it’ll depend on Leonard Hankerson’s availability and Aldrick Robinson’s improvement. Grant is a good route runner and worth developing.

RB Lache Seastrunk: He’s a good fit for Jay Gruden’s offense, especially when they want to run the ball out of a shotgun spread formation. It’s what he did at Baylor. Seastrunk will be a spot player on offense. It’s hard to see him emerging as a third-down back, at least early in the season. It’s not just about catching the ball, it’s about recognizing blitzes and running routes. It’s not easy. The Redskins also have Chris Thompson in this role and, while Gruden likes him, his durability is an issue. Plus, Thompson has practice-squad eligibility.

TE Ted Bolser: Didn’t see anything this spring that suggested he warranted a roster spot. He dropped too many passes – and he’s supposed to be a pass-catching tight end. Bolser blocked better in space than he did on the line in college – much better – but that won’t be enough. Entering camp he looks like a practice-squad player unless the Redskins keep four tight ends.

K Zach Hocker: Looked good during practices with his field goals. Will be curious to see his leg strength on kickoffs and his accuracy during games. Practices matter, but the games count. Consider that practices are like quizzes and the games are tests. Kai Forbath has been an accurate kicker so Hocker is no gimme. But they drafted him for a reason (leg strength/kickoffs). It’ll be an interesting competition.
The first installment of this week's Washington Redskins mailbag features questions on, yes, Robert Griffin III (a reason for hope), Kirk Cousins and, completing the quarterback trifecta, Colt McCoy. Oh, and a little on Chris Neild. Enjoy.
John Keim: No. The reasons are many, but suffice to say neither one (Richard Crawford or Chase Minnifield) has a safety's build -- both are smaller players -- nor have they ever played the position. So it would take a while for them to get used to the position. It's not a simple transition. Bashaud Breeland is one who could eventually play here; he's a little bigger and more physical. But corner is more valuable and if he shows he can play that position then that's where he must stay. But you're right, they do need much better depth at safety. They do like the versatility of their top corners when it comes to playing safety in certain coverages. But that's different than being able to do it full-time. They need to find and develop some young safeties. Corner is considered the more premium position, so you absolutely need solid depth at that spot.

John Keim: He's looked fine. Can't say he stood out or anything, but he also wasn't the focal point that he was a year ago at this time when he was working with the starters. But nothing has changed regarding him since the end of the season. His value remains the same -- Cleveland offered Washington a fourth-round pick for him during the draft. I don't see that position improving unless some team gets really desperate because of a training camp injury. But I don't think Cousins is at a point where you make some panic move to bring him in right before the season, expecting him to go in and light it up. He's still a young guy with a lot to prove. He's not instant success in that sort of scenario. Besides, there's no way I'd trade him at this point. Why? I want good insurance behind Griffin because of the durability concerns.

John Keim: Mike Barwis, the trainer on this show, certainly agrees with you. I know the coaches here like him a lot, too. Sometimes you find a way to keep guys like him just because of what he adds in the locker room, how he works, etc. The problem is Neild is a backup nose tackle who provides no help in the nickel package. If the Redskins only keep six defensive linemen, then it'll be tough for Neild to make it (though injuries to others would change things). He would not be the first character guy to have been cut because, in the end, it's always a numbers game. But my guess is if they can find a way to keep him, they will. When you have bust-your-butt guys at the end of the roster, then it always helps. But it will depend on what happens at other positions.

John Keim: The unknown surrounding RG III. I say unknown because we've never seen him after a full, productive offseason -- and that's what he's had this year. Every coach I've ever covered has talked about how much improvement quarterbacks make from Year 1 to Year 2 because of the offseason. We don't know how he'll fare now that he finally has had one healthy offseason. It has to have helped, as might the improved relations with his coaches and the fact his knee is one year further from surgery. Also, in the NFL, there are always teams that finished with horrible records who make the postseason. The Redskins have a ways to go to reach that point, but some team will go from few wins to the playoffs this year.

John Keim: It's a done deal. The NFL does not announce these suspensions until the appeals process is over. Anytime you hear about a possible suspension, like Cleveland's Josh Gordon, it's because it was somehow leaked. But once it's announced? It's over. Now we can finally move on from this chapter about a guy who was discussed for two years -- yet never played a game.

John Keim: They only have three quarterbacks on the roster so if they keep all three then, yes, he'll make it. With Griffin's durability always an issue it's probably wise to have three quarterbacks just in case. McCoy is not a practice squad candidate.

John Keim: Actually, the NFC East does not have a tough schedule. Nobody in the division has a schedule rated in the top 16 (based on opponents' 2013 winning percentage). It's tough to gauge a schedule's strength based on what a team did a year ago, but it's the way it's done. And it's very hard to go through and guess how a team will do based on offseason pickups -- some will improve, others will not. So I'll just go based off winning percentage for now. According to this metric, the Redskins have the NFL's 17th hardest schedule as their opponents had a .490 winning percentage in 2013. That's also the hardest one in the NFC East. The others: No. 18 Dallas (.488), No. 20 Philadelphia (.479) and No. 26 New York (.465). Remember, those teams' schedules look easier because of Washington's 3-13 mark.  

  1. Ryan Kerrigan did not practice Wednesday because he was a “little sore” according to coach Jay Gruden. He said they’ve liked what Kerrigan has done in the weight room and on the field and just wanted to give him a day off. Meanwhile, Brian Orakpo returned to practice after missing Tuesday because of an illness.
  2. OK, Brian Baker is not only good to watch and effective with his players, but he also provides terrific insight into what he’s doing. It’s the same reason I liked Kirk Olivadotti when he was here the first time. If they’re able to communicate this well with the media, then chances are they do so with their players -- and it enables them to learn. I’ll have more from Baker over the next few weeks.
  3. One little nugget from Baker: He called second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins one of the more improved players this spring. Baker has gotten on Jenkins quite a bit and there’s little doubt that he needed to improve in a few ways. He’s still not a lock to be on the roster, but if he continues to improve then he’s in a good spot.
  4. Jenkins beat rookie Morgan Moses to the inside on one rush. Moses could not recover to stop Jenkins’ counter. It is an issue right now for Moses and something he’ll have to work on in order to become a starter. Also saw Jenkins get around right tackle Maurice Hurt later in the practice during a hurry-up drill.
  5. Play of the day: Corner DeAngelo Hall made a terrific diving interception on a Robert Griffin III pass intended for receiver DeSean Jackson, cutting to the outside. Hall read it perfectly and made the diving pick as he headed out of bounds. He bounced up, his helmet popped off and he threw the ball in the air as linebacker Adam Hayward led the charge over to him. Yes, it was just a play in a spring practice but certain plays get them fired up no matter when they occur.
  6. At 6-foot-5, Trent Murphy is tall for a pass rusher, but he does a good job of staying low -- and trying to get lower. It hasn’t always resulted in pressure, like Wednesday when he went against Trent Williams. The left tackle stopped him initially, but Murphy tried to get lower and did so. Williams still won, but Murphy seems comfortable staying low. It’s one reason he can use the spin move.
  7. Phillip Thomas picked off a Kirk Cousins’ pass that skipped off Andre Roberts’ hands.
  8. This is when you know it’s time to get to training camp, when you write this line: Quarterback Colt McCoy hit receiver Cody Hoffman on a deep ball down the right side. Hoffman beat corner Blake Sailors on the play.
  9. Saw safety Ryan Clark up at the line of scrimmage in coverage; did a nice job staying with Roberts on a short out route.
  10. Receiver Pierre Garcon beat corner David Amerson to the inside; Amerson was on his hip, but did not react quick enough and the pass was completed, prompting secondary coach Raheem Morris to yell to him, “Come on! That’s a dream throw!” Amerson did a nice job later in the practice covering a double move by DeSean Jackson. Griffin looked their way, but because Amerson played it properly he had to eat the ball and would have been sacked by linebacker Brian Orakpo. Too much pressure allowed Wednesday.
  11. Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland showed good patience on a couple routes. First, in off coverage against Aldrick Robinson he did not fall for a fake and was in good position (Robinson then fell as he cut inside). Later, rookie receiver Ryan Grant stepped back at the line as if he were about to get a screen pass. Breeland did not bite. Grant then took off downfield, but Breeland’s patience meant he had him covered and the ball was thrown away.
  12. I’m setting the over-under on number of scuffles involving Chase Minnifield this summer at three. He did not get in one Wednesday, but the way he plays aggravates the offense. He’s feisty and aggressive with his hands. Wednesday, tight end Logan Paulsen blocked him on a run to the other side and Minnifield was trying to somehow shed a man who outweighs him by about 75 pounds. At one point Minnifield grabbed Paulsen’s facemask.
  13. More on Clark’s value: He quickly recognized a zone read look and called it out before the play happened. The defense stopped the play. As I’ve said before, there’s just a big difference with him back deep and anyone else when it comes to communicating. Thomas was praised after one play for his pre-snap communication.
  14. The defense was just stronger overall against the offense Wednesday. Several tipped passes resulted in a couple interceptions. Also, linebacker Perry Riley made a nice tip on a Griffin pass in zone coverage. Griffin was trying to hit Paulsen and Riley barely got a piece of it, but it was enough. Sometimes the difference between a tipped pass and a perfect one is just a few inches -- and this was an example.
  15. Spencer Long worked at right guard, it’s where he’s most comfortable. In the past, the offensive linemen were worked at one spot only, allowing them to get comfortable before expanding their roles. But that will change a bit this season. The Redskins have enough competition among the young linemen that they all have to show they can help at multiple spots.
  16. Rookie tight end Ted Bolser struggled to block outside linebacker Gabe Miller on a couple plays, allowing him to shoot inside on one play and then pinch the running back inside on another. Miller had a good day, but obviously is a longshot to make the roster. Bolser will need to block better.
  17. Don’t always see strong leg drive from Clifton Geathers; he gets upright and loses his strength. But he did drive guard Adam Gettis back on one rush.
The Washington Redskins enter their final week of offseason work with a three-day minicamp. It'll look a lot like their OTA practices, but the difference is that this week is mandatory. With temperatures expected in the 90s, or near them, over the next three days, it'll be good preparation for Richmond later this summer.

Here are some things -- but certainly not all -- that I'll be looking for over the next three days:

Robert Griffin III's finish: It’s tough when you watch someone just once a week to accurately gauge their progress. Griffin has had some good moments and not-so-good ones, but watching over three days will reveal more about where he’s at in terms of his passing. Has he remained consistent with his fundamentals? Is the accuracy more consistent? What we still won’t see until games begin is the ability to extend plays, which is a huge part of his game. But a good week for Griffin would propel him into the final month before camp with a lot of momentum, capping what has been a productive offseason for him. Don't know what that will mean for the season, but he'll exit this offseason feeling much, much different than he did a year ago at this time for a variety of reasons.

Offensive design: During the OTAs, we saw a lot of situational football – red zone, third downs, two minutes, etc. Hoping we get to see even more, to get a better sense of who the Redskins might be this season. Thus far, Griffin has operated a lot under center and in shotgun during certain situations. Coach Jay Gruden sounds intent on developing him, so this helps. (Not that the other staff didn’t want to develop him; it had Griffin as a rookie and then with no offseason. Tough to develop a player who can’t practice. How it would have handled it I don’t know.)

Rookie improvement: Rookie tackle Morgan Moses knows the issue he has with staying low and has worked on it since the OTAs started. Over three days, how much improvement will he show? How about Trent Murphy? His spin move has been terrific (mostly against young players); how much else will he show? Bashaud Breeland seems to have improved and, with Tracy Porter’s durability an issue, he could be a plus for the Redskins. But is he still grabbing too much? It’s hard with the running backs to tell a whole lot, so Lache Seastrunk’s true impact won’t be known until the games start. Thus far he hasn’t stood out. Is guard Spencer Long looking more comfortable?

Defensive looks: How are they using their personnel? Will they really be doing a lot of different things this season? Or is it just offseason chatter? Won’t know for a while on that, but we’ll get to see more of what they plan to do. In some cases it’s not about having different looks, it’s about – they hope – having better rushers with the addition of Murphy and Jason Hatcher.

Offensive line: There will be an interesting battle along the line this summer, even if it’s just for one of the backup positions (especially at guard). If the Redskins keep nine offensive linemen, that means two players from this group might not make it: Mike McGlynn, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton. This assumes Chris Chester keeps his job (not a lock). And they’re not going to cut Long or Moses. Remember, they signed McGlynn in free agency and his ability to play center helps. The others have some work to do.

David Amerson’s progression: He’s had a quiet camp and I mean that in a good way. It’s not like he’s messing up or getting beat and looks lost. Does that continue this week? Amerson’s continued improvement (plus a lack of cap room) is among the reasons the Redskins are not one of the teams who have inquired about recently released corner Brandon Flowers, according to a source.

DeSean Jackson: Needs to make sure he exits these three days with a good hamstring. If he’s fully recovered, it’s always impressive to watch his speed. He’s not the fastest player I’ve ever covered (Darrell Green), but he is explosive.

Coordinator chatter: We should get our first chance to interview special teams coach Ben Kotwica this week, as well as defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Will be nice to finally hear more of what they think about their groups after the spring workouts end.
  1. Safety Ryan Clark never stops talking on the field -- and I mean that as a compliment. With Clark and Brandon Meriweather on the field at the same time, there's an awful lot of chatter, drawing heavy praise at one point from secondary coach Raheem Morris this past week. It's important and the more teams communicate, the better they play.
  2. Clark shouts to players pre-snap, telling the young corners (David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland) what to watch for and if he thought a play was coming their way. Whether it did or not doesn't matter as much; it forced the young players to react as if it was coming to their side. Clark shouted out adjustment; he'd loudly praise teammates after a play. Nobody else on defense gives the Redskins what Clark can in this area. He has to prove he can still play, but the leadership and knowledge he brings will be vital. I'll also say this: the other safeties were not as vocal as Clark.
  3. There's more energy with this coaching staff than the previous one -- whether that results in more wins, I don't know. But Jay Gruden will occasionally give the receivers and quarterbacks a look by playing corner or safety. He tried to run with Jackson one fade route. He failed. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay does this every so often as well. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica has a commanding presence; outside linebackers coach Brian Baker seems to be a passionate guy. Just a different energy.
  4. With Gruden, the added energy comes from his style, but also the fact players feel they have more ownership and with coaches feeling they have more say. Again, wins and losses ultimately prove whether this style works or not. Being considered a players' coach isn't always great, so Gruden has to make sure everyone knows he's in charge. But he does have a comfortable, confident air about him.
  5. I've covered two first-time head coaches in my tenure: Norv Turner and Jim Zorn. Gruden isn't an offensive mastermind like Turner, but he's also a better communicator and less insecure. Zorn was a terrific guy, but just corny from the start and it was more shocking that they went 6-2 in his first eight games than that they ultimately collapsed. Gruden is not Zorn. But I'm going to hold off on making some bold predictions about him; need to see how he handles various situations first. This job is so much more than X's and O's. Joe Gibbs won because he understood how to manage a team, not because he called great plays.
  6. Because it's Father's Day weekend, might as well talk a little dads. Mine died a few months ago, right around the time DeSean Jackson was signed. Loved going to games as a kid, with my dad and my brothers. But one memory that sticks out from when I was around 10 was playing pretend football games in the backyard, then going to my locker room (aka: my basement) and having my dad interview me (because, well, I was the star). I wanted it to be like the scenes I saw on TV after games. Then I'd draw up a photo of a play on a blue sheet of paper. Enjoy your kids; enjoy your dad.
  7. I thought about that anecdote again after NBC reporter Dianna Russini asked Jason Hatcher about how it was with his dad. Hatcher said, "He wasn't in my life. I had great guys around me who mentored me and showed me how to be a father." But Hatcher took pride in talking about how his kids make him breakfast (he uses a token that has a chore written on it; their gift to him). Has to be a nice feeling for him knowing that he can be the dad he never had.
  8. Point is, for me, football has always been a key part of my life and extends from one generation to the next. With my kids, watching them play has been fun. But the memories extend to texting with my oldest, who is in college, during fall Saturdays about various games; or watching with all of my boys or playing knee football with my middle son or just playing catch with my youngest.
  9. Back to on-the-field stuff. Guard Josh LeRibeus had a terrible offseason a year ago, but he looks in good shape and is working at both guard spots. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has noticed (knowing he has to prove himself in August). "His weight was down. He's in good shape and he's made some improvements from what I saw last year. I don't have a lot of history with him obviously, just what I've seen this year. But he does look a lot better this time of year than he did last year from what I hear. He's doing well."
  10. One thing I forgot to mention in this article, taking a look at what Gruden said the other day to Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, is how one thing I haven't seen this spring is any zone read option work. Doesn't mean they won't run it; they already know how. And Gruden has said many times they will use it on occasion. But the emphasis has been on a more diverse attack. Robert Griffin III has spent a lot of time under center and in shotgun. If this offense grows, it has to come from Griffin's improvement as a passer. Gruden knows this (but so, too, did the previous staff).
While counting down the days until they're in pads when we can really learn something, these are the things I’ll try to watch for during Wednesday’s OTA session open to the media:
  • Receiver DeSean Jackson. Is he practicing? You need to be cautious with players this time of year, but this is also valuable time.
  • The different ways players are being used. The Redskins worked their outside linebackers at different spots last week. They clearly plan to tap into the versatility of their top three outside linebackers. Sometimes things that are planned in May and June fall apart during the season. This one, I think, will stick.
  • Guard Shawn Lauvao. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time watching the free-agent pickup. Just want to see how he moves around, how he uses his hands. And then we’ll wait until the pads come on in August to learn a lot more.
  • Robert Griffin III’s passing. It was fine a couple weeks ago, but sporadic when we could watch last week. I’ve seen changes to his mechanics, how he’s consistently holding the ball higher to cut down the length of his delivery for example. Now we need to see some consistency in his accuracy. (Again, he was inconsistent in practices as a rookie, too. Just for point of reference. Last summer when we saw him he looked more off than on.) Griffin’s had a good offseason in terms of getting work done and tweaking his game. I do expect a bounce-back season, but to what extent?
  • David Amerson. Haven’t spent enough time watching him, just to see what sort of progression there is in his game. I do know he’s working a lot on press coverage, something he did not do in college and improved at throughout his rookie season.
  • The emphasis during practice. When we watched last week, they worked a lot on red zone situations from various spots. Griffin also dumped a lot of passes off to running back Roy Helu last week. Sometimes those are by design. In watching his games again from last season, Griffin needs to get to those checkdowns sooner; would have avoided more sacks. So if it’s a point of emphasis now, that’s a good thing, just to get in the mindset. I wouldn’t worry about him doing a reincarnation of John Beck versus San Francisco.
  • Rookie progression. Have to give them time, but what sort of steps have they taken? It’s tough to focus on everything, but is Morgan Moses doing a better job at all of staying lower and not bending at his waist? Is Bashaud Breeland cutting down on the holding/pass interference plays? That sort of stuff. Again, this will be a long process for all of them.
  • Haven’t seen a whole lot of Jason Hatcher this spring. He missed the session we watched last week for personal reasons. So I’m curious to see how he moves off the line, etc.
  • If any focus groups show up. OK, I doubt that will be the case. But apparently they used another focus group to gauge the feelings of various aspects of the organization – how fans think about owner Dan Snyder or president Bruce Allen, for example. I know this: They’ll like them a lot more if they win. No focus group needs to be used to determine that logic.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
The Washington Redskins' special teams were a disaster (in case you had forgotten) last season. What is different? That is one question I answer in the Friday mailbag, along with ones about coaching linebackers, Trent Murphy, and who I would rather hang out with and talk football: Johnn Manziel or Matthew McConaughey? Yes, that was a question. Enjoy
Some leftover thoughts and observations from Washington Redskins OTAs and this week:
  1. There's little doubt that Robert Griffin III likes receiving attention. But he wants it to be for his performance and not for his knee, his relationship with the coach or bad play. So it's no surprise that he likes the fact that he's just one of the storylines this offseason and not the only one. That was the case last season, not to mention two years ago as well (in a much more positive way).
  2. But, while he no doubt likes this, his teammates have to be thrilled. They clearly were tired of the questions surrounding his knee and whether he'd be ready and then whether he was himself. It lasted a loooong time and a number of players were worn down by all the questions. It's a little thing, but having Griffin out of the constant spotlight allows him to be more of a normal teammate. He will always command a certain level of attention because of the position he plays (and for who he is).
  3. It'll also be different this year because Griffin will be more available than in the past. The Redskins protected him quite heavily the first two years, wanting to limit how long he spoke and preventing 1-on-1 interviews -- except for perhaps during the bye week. He spoke after games and on Wednesdays only. It led to a feeling of him being off-limits; it was different than for any player I'd ever covered. Now? It's normal. He'll be available throughout the week. I don't think it will necessarily lead to more stories on him, either.
  4. There just aren't the storylines surrounding him to be that way. But it makes him like any other player. In fairness, the first two years there were many requests for his time. But some in the organization, who are no longer here, went overboard.
  5. I forgot to include this yesterday, but tight end Niles Paul has now gotten into two near scrapes in the OTAs open to the media. Last week you could blame Chase Minnifield's feistiness for Paul being upset. Wednesday, Paul was upset with linebacker Adam Hayward (a fellow special teamer) after a play. I didn't see what happened, but heard a lot of players yelling to, 'Stay up! Stay on your feet!' I think Paul tripped over Hayward. The two jawed at one another for a second or so before fullback Darrel Young pulled Paul away. Paul broke free from him. Nothing more happened (but when Hayward joined other linebackers on the sidelines, they slapped hands with him).
  6. I don't know what the Redskins will look like on Sundays under Jay Gruden. At this point they're still just installing plays; have no idea which ones they like or ultimately will use. But safe to say they have the talent to spread teams out and then hit them with draws. It's what rookie running back Lache Seastrunk was used to doing at Baylor. No idea yet if he can play in the NFL, but it makes sense why they drafted him.
  7. Defensive end Clifton Geathers is a tall man. At 6-foot-8, safe to say he's taller than the average end. In fact, there are only two players currently on an NFL roster taller than Geathers (there are three others who are 6-foot-8). It's difficult to play with leverage at such a height and Geathers has to work hard to stay low (tough to do). The same is true of 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus.
  8. I did not put this in Wednesday's notes, either, but just for clarification's sake: Last week it appeared Bashaud Breeland was beaten by Pierre Garcon on a double move. Turns out he was supposed to have safety help, so it wasn't his fault. Looked like Breeland did a nice job in the session we could watch this week (they did not do 1-on-1 drills with the receivers, but in fairness those are designed for the offense to have more success).
Some thoughts after watching the Redskins OTA practice Wednesday:
  1. Robert Griffin III did not have his best day throwing the ball and was high on some throws, including one to Andre Roberts in the corner of the end zone. His fundamentals were relatively consistent and on shorter routes he was fine, but his throws downfield were not always on target.
  2. I’ve said this before: Griffin was not always sharp in practice as a rookie, yet threw rather well in games. So take these showings for what they’re worth (the ability to extend plays obviously is huge).
  3. Griffin did work a lot on dumping the ball to tight ends and backs, Roy Helu in particular. Griffin had a nice throw to Santana Moss in the front corner of the end zone, throwing a bullet on the move to his right. Another time, Griffin kept the play alive to his left with linebacker Keenan Robinson in pursuit. Safety Ryan Clark was laying back, then stormed up. As soon as he did, Griffin dumped it over his head to tight end Jordan Reed.
  4. It was celebrity day on the sidelines as actor Matthew McConaughey stood with owner Daniel Snyder. I’ll have some reaction from players later. We did not get a chance to talk to him; McConaughey is in town to attend the movies with Alfred Morris Wednesday night. As I’m sure you’re aware, he’s a Redskins fan.
  5. Did not see Bashaud Breeland grab as much as he had the first couple times I watched him. Breeland made an excellent play downfield against receiver Aldrick Robinson. My attention was focused elsewhere at the start of the play, but Breeland was right on Robinson’s hip down the middle and knocked away a deep ball from Kirk Cousins. A well-played ball that earned plenty of slaps on the back from teammates and praise from coaches.
  6. Best moment of Jay Gruden's news conference: When he said of the press room (housed in a garage-like setting): "It's hot in here. You guys can't afford air conditioning?" It was met with laughter and applause from the, uh, sweaty media.
  7. Earlier, Robinson caught a ball over Breeland. However, secondary coach Raheem Morris was thrilled with Breeland’s coverage. His point: With a rush, the quarterback might not have had the time to make that throw. Morris loved how Breeland reacted to Robinson’s double move (kept his eyes on his work, as they like to say) in a cover zero call.
  8. That also led to a funny exchange. While Morris shouted, “Hell of a job!” Robinson yelled back, “Don’t tell him that!”
  9. Another time, a ball skidded off Robinson’s hands, leading Morris to yell, “That’s the Al we know!” Yes, Morris was kidding. Though they’re not goofing around, players and coaches are more relaxed.
  10. Griffin also made a nice throw to tight end Jordan Reed from the 5-yard line. Griffin had to slightly alter his release, but did what he did two years ago: avoided trouble and completed the pass. Reed was on his knees in the end zone and the throw hit him right in the numbers, away from danger.
  11. The Redskins worked a lot in the red zone, with quarterbacks throwing fades and back-shoulder passes during individual work. Washington did not run a lot of fades in the red zone under coach Mike Shanahan.
  12. Morgan Moses worked at left tackle, the position he played last season at Virginia. Moses eventually will contend for the starting job at right tackle. It's unclear if it will be this year, but that’s why they drafted him in the third round. The Redskins want him to learn both tackle spots, otherwise, they’d have no backup for Trent Williams (unless they keep both Moses and Tom Compton).
  13. Anyway, Moses was OK here. But I did see rookie Trent Murphy beat him inside with a quick spin move (it’s a good one; curious to see how Murphy fares with this against veterans). The Redskins completed a screen pass on the play, but if there had been referees it would have come back. Moses grabbed a whole lot of Murphy’s jersey trying to stop him. Murphy got his hands right into Moses’ chest on another rush, but didn’t have an impact on the play.
  14. The last player working on the field? Tight end Jordan Reed. As teammates exited, getting stopped for interviews, Reed ran routes against an imaginary defender.
  15. Receiver Pierre Garcon spent every available minute during training camp last season catching passes on the side. So if there was a special teams drill going on, he’d be catching passes. Or if it wasn’t his turn in a drill, he’d be catching passes. Naturally, during a special teams drill, Garcon spent it catching more passes.
  16. Your punt returners Wednesday: Andre Roberts, Nick Willliams, Rashad Ross, Lache Seastrunk and Santana Moss. The kickoff returners: Ross, Seastrunk, Williams and Roberts. Chris Thompson did not practice, but was on the side doing agility work with end Stephen Bowen. End Jason Hatcher also wasn’t at practice for personal reasons.
  17. Linebacker Keenan Robinson showed, once more, the ability to run by staying with Reed on a downfield pass. That should not be a surprise; Robinson’s strength is his ability to run. What the Redskins will need to see is how he fits against the run when the games begin.
  18. I will have more on this at a later date, but linebacker Brian Orakpo said he’s worked a lot on using his hands better as a pass-rusher, thanks to outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. He’s having Orakpo do drills to emphasize this, something that has not been done in the past.
  19. With Hatcher out, Jarvis Jenkins worked at right end (Chris Baker stayed on the left side).
  20. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy had a nice toss to rookie tight end Ted Bolser in the end zone and also threw a perfect fade to Aldrick Robinson.
His hands help him at the beginning of the route. It's what Bashaud Breeland likes to do: jam receivers at the line. They get him in trouble at the end of routes. It's what coaches have already told him not to do: grab receivers down the field.

As the Washington Redskins' fourth-round pick continues through the spring, the latter will be a focus.

“I get caught with my hands down the field sometimes,” he said. “In this league you can't do that so I have to work on that. I'll learn. The first day of one-on-ones [during rookie minicamp], I tugged a little bit and they were like, ‘You can't do that. That's pass interference in this league. You've got to get out of Clemson.' I have to work on it now.”

[+] EnlargeBashaud Breeland
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsBashaud Breeland's aggressive mindset and style have advantages and drawbacks.
Breeland had issues with this during the rookie minicamp as well as the OTA practice open to the media last week. He certainly wouldn't be the first physical corner to have issues with this, nor would it always be called. But he has to do it less, without a doubt.

But the issue stems, in part, from his mindset. He's more aggressive not just in how he plays, but in where he aligns himself. In college he liked to play off-man sometimes 6 yards from the line, about a yard closer than average. (David Amerson often played 9 yards off in college, giving him extra time to see the quarterbacks.)

“I like to be close so I can control them more,” Breeland said. “I can make them get into their route. They have to dictate their route earlier than later.”

But that mindset also lets receivers beat the former Clemson corner on double moves. He'll have to use his eyes better and, after the receiver makes his first cut, not turn his attention to the backfield. He admitted that was a weakness in college.

However, Breeland does a good job jamming receivers, showing good patience and technique.

“That's one of my best assets, being physical at the line,” he said. “If they don't' get off the line, the quarterback can't throw the ball and that gives my D-line a chance to get the sack. I put a bunch of emphasis on pressing at the line.”

He's patient while pressing, with the ability to mirror receivers. It's a skill that has to be mastered.

“It was something I had to work on through my career in college,” he said. “It wasn't always that good. My position coach in college [Mike Reed] taught me how to be patient and taught me to watch the waist instead of the knees or the face. He really helped me out.”

The Redskins don't need Breeland to be anything other than a fourth corner at most this season, giving him a chance to learn. But they do expect him to help on special teams. He did that in college as well.

“I'm just a guy that loves to be on the field,” he said. “Any way to help the team, that's what I'll do.”

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.

A little this and that for a Thursday morning:
  • In case you missed it, here are the rookies I took a look at in terms of how they fit with Washington now and in the future: Trent Murphy, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Bashaud Breeland, Ryan Grant, Lache Seastrunk and Ted Bolser.
  • The one rookie I did not go over in-depth is kicker Zach Hocker. It’s simple: He might not be needed now because they already have a place-kicker in Kai Forbath. It’s not like you typically groom kickers to replace a guy when he becomes a free agent. Yes, coach Jay Gruden said he’d consider keeping two kickers, but that means cutting from another position. So it’s usually simple in these situations: If Hocker outperforms Forbath, he’ll win the job. Practice will matter -- if a guy looks as bad as Shayne Graham did in practice a few years ago, they'll matter quite a bit -- but the games count more. Every single coach I've covered has looked at it that way.
  • I’d be more concerned about the punting situation considering the Redskins lack a proven punter. It’s an issue. Robert Malone has experience (157 punts), but was sporadic; too many line drive returnable punts that offset booming ones. For a team desperate to fix special teams, the lack of action here has been curious.
  • With the media allowed to watch our first OTA session today, here’s a primer I wrote on what I’ll be looking for. It’s a long list, so it’s really something to watch over the course of the next few weeks and in minicamp. My main focus Thursday: Robert Griffin III. His progress is sort of important to the season, don’t you think?
  • Another area to watch: inside linebacker. If Keenan Robinson is healthy and knows the defense, he’s definitely a strong candidate to start. Teammates and coaches have always praised his talent, but those torn pecs keep sidelining him. However, he can move and if he proves he can play the run well, then they have an every-down linebacker.
  • If Perry Riley doesn’t rebound with a better season, the Redskins do have more options between Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan. But if the Redskins didn’t value Riley, they wouldn’t have signed him to a decent contract. (He’ll count $3 million against the cap this season; not prohibitive, but the most expensive inside linebacker they have.) They should not make decisions on starters based on contracts, but it is an indication of their thoughts on a player (not to mention the market). But there’s no doubt they want more from him than he delivered last season.
  • One name I left off the list the other day: safety Tanard Jackson. It’s really hard to measure a safety until the games begin, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’s moving around after two seasons away from the game. ESPN980’s Chris Russell tweeted last night that a source told him that Jackson has been “awesome.”
  • Veterans, if they’re trying hard, should stand out at this time of the year. (I always go back to receiver James Thrash; used to look great in the spring and then in training camp and we’d hear about a possible big role. Then he’d go back to his usual role.)
  • The point is, we need to see the safeties come up against the run and tackle; see their recognition at game speed. But if Jackson moves around well, that’s a good start. Jackson was starting to play well when suspended in 2012. It would still be hard to rely on him, but if he gets close to what he was then if nothing else he’s a better backup than what they currently have.
  • Another point to make: For all that will be written and said during the spring, nothing really matters until August and they’re in full pads. But this is also the time of year when players are optimistic, having worked on some aspect of their game in the offseason that provides them – and the team – some level of hope.
  • Off topic, but it’s noteworthy because it involves an NFC East rival. Sean Lee has missed a lot of time for the Cowboys – a combined 15 games the past two seasons. So they’re used to playing without him. However, I wonder if they needed to rely on him more this season because of what else they lost. Here’s a look at their situation.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 24, 2014
May 24
For the second round of the mailbag, there is a little on Bashaud Breeland, more on Trent Murphy, Jay Gruden's style compared to Mike Shanahan and more. Enjoy.