Washington Redskins: Chris Chester

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: guard Chris Chester.

Chester
Why he has something to prove: He is coming off a tough season, he would save the Redskins $2.7 million in cap space and the team has two young alternatives behind him. Chester has never been a great player, but two years ago he was mostly solid. Then, the line benefited from multiple factors that helped their play: the scheme, a quarterback who could fool defenses with his play fakes and a strong running game that capitalized on the line’s ability to move. But like the others last season, Chester struggled when it became a one-on-one game with a lot of dropbacks -- and few targets capable of winning quickly. Chester is adept at moving laterally, but got himself in trouble against stronger players. Despite his play, the Redskins did not take him out of the lineup (he wasn’t the only one on offense having issues). But they drafted Spencer Long in the third round and have praised Josh LeRibeus for his offseason. It’s a lot to ask a rookie to start immediately, let alone one who missed most of his senior season. But they do like Long. If LeRibeus ever wants to be good, this is the year he asserts himself. But this means Chester must prove he’s not only better, but that he will still be that way throughout the season. Again, they could save money by cutting him.

What he must do: He’s not going to get much stronger or quicker. So he has to play the savvy vet role and hope the offense doesn’t require a lot of deep drops that take 3.0 seconds to pass. That was part of the problem a year ago, compounded by a quarterback in Robert Griffin III who was unable to develop in the offseason. Chester typically plays with a good base and consistent fundamentals. He also shows good awareness in protection. Occasionally he would try to help right tackle Tyler Polumbus, but by doing so would knock the rusher into a better position -- leading to a sack. Chester has to return to the level of consistency he showed in 2012, especially in the second half of that season. Again, the style of offense will help. Offensive lines are aided greatly by: receivers who win quickly; quarterbacks who make good, quick decisions and a scheme that doesn’t put them in bad spots. They have the receivers to win that way. Griffin can help with his reads, though that will be aided by the receivers winning sooner as well. It all works together. But Griffin will always extend plays when possible, so not every pass will be thrown in a hurry.

Projection: For now, Chester is the starter. And there could be a distinct difference between he and the two likely challengers for his job. It’s hard to know that not having seen LeRibeus play since last August and knowing that Long is a rookie and has a lot to learn. Both have to prove that Chester doesn’t warrant a spot. But Chester has to prove that he’s worth keeping around after a tough season.
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: guard Josh LeRibeus.

LeRibeus
Why he has something to prove: Because, well, he hasn’t done anything yet. And he’s now entering his third year. I did not want to focus on a player in his first or second year because they’re still finding their way and, of course, still have something to prove. But LeRibeus is entering his third and was inactive for every game last season. That’s a horrendous fact for a player who was once a third-round pick. When the Redskins made that selection it led some (perhaps many) to say they reached. The Redskins, naturally, insisted that wasn’t the case and that his weight issues from college had been solved. By the end of his rookie year he looked like a player who could challenge for more playing time, or even a starting job, in his second season. The coaches were pleased with his showing as a reserve in the playoff loss to Seattle (and they should have been; he played well for injured Kory Lichtensteiger). Then came the 2013 offseason. The worst part now for LeRibeus is that he not only has to prove he can play, but that he can be a professional. He showed up out of shape last offseason and it set him back an entire season. That was far different from this offseason when the coaches were pleased with his performance. Now that he has acted like a pro, the next step has to be challenging for a starting job. But they also drafted Spencer Long for a reason (and signed Shawn Lauvao); they don’t completely trust LeRibeus. Remember, the new head coach not only didn’t draft him, but he checked him out while in Cincinnati. I don’t think he would have drafted him. So LeRibeus has to prove something to him as much as anyone.

What he must do: Build on a good offseason. LeRibeus worked his way back into the coach’s good graces last season and, by the end, they felt he had returned to the same spot he was a year ago: a young guy improving. LeRibeus has to convince the coaches that this past offseason will become the rule and not the exception, though that’s impossible to do in just one year. But he’s a bigger body who moves pretty well, something the Redskins were looking to add -- not to become a straight-ahead smashmouth team but to run the outside zones even better. We haven’t seen LeRibeus play since last preseason when he did not look good at all, and, based on his offseason, if he’d been anything other than a higher pick he would have deserved to be released. But the coaches always go back to that Seattle game when he blocked well on the move as to his ability. If that’s the case then LeRibeus should be in the starting competition this summer.

Projection: He’ll challenge for the starting job held by Chris Chester. It’s hard to know where Long will be in this competition without ever having seen him block in an NFL game. But, by his third year, LeRibeus should be a strong, strong contender for the job. That is, if he was really a worthwhile selection and not just a reach. I just don’t trust him enough yet to say he’ll oust Chester, and I’m not sure the coaches do either. But it’ll be a good storyline to follow.

Redskins starting lineup: Offense

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
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The Washington Redskins changed head coaches and, at least in the passing game, philosophies. But they didn't do a whole lot to the lineup with only two new starters (and one changed starter). But new coach Jay Gruden inherited an offensive lineup that already had key parts in place, almost all of whom were young. However, if the offense doesn't do better than the 20.9 points per game it averaged in 2013 (ranked 23rd; they were ninth in yards per game; points matter a lot more) there will be more changes.

Here is a look at their starting offensive unit after the offseason workouts (I'll look at the starting defense Thursday):

Offense

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
Running back: Alfred Morris
Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson
Wide receiver: Pierre Garcon
Tight end: Jordan Reed
Tight end: Logan Paulsen
Left tackle: Trent Williams
Left guard: Shawn Lauvao
Center: Kory Lichtensteiger
Right guard: Chris Chester
Right tackle: Tyler Polumbus
Change from 2013: Lauvao and Jackson are the only new starters. Lichtensteiger shifted from left guard to center.

Note: I did not include a starting fullback because they will likely use two-tight-end sets more often, but obviously Darrel Young is their fullback. Last season in Cincinnati, then-offensive coordinator Gruden used two tight ends more than any other formation on first down (229 times; next highest was three receivers and one tight end at 112 times). Also last season, Cincinnati’s fullback played 63 snaps -- but received 206 snaps in 2012. Young is better than what the Bengals had, and his blocking was a key element in the Redskins’ run game, which will stay about the same. Still, I would not put him as a heavy participant and, therefore, not a starter. As for position battles, the one to watch for me is right guard. Also, I think Lichtensteiger is well suited for center, but if he struggles then Mike McGlynn has experience there as well -- and by all accounts performed much better at this position than at guard.

Spring standout: Jackson. When healthy, that is. But it was clear the sort of difference he could make because of his speed. The coaches definitely came away thinking he is for real, not that they were surprised considering his past.

Average age at start of camp: 27.09

Combined Pro Bowls: 7. Jackson (three), Williams (two), Morris (one), Griffin (one).

Starters 30 or older: 1 (Chester).
The Redskins could end up with at least three starters and perhaps four from the 2012 class. That would be considered a good haul by any measure (if they play well especially). Of course, this draft always will be measured by Robert Griffin III’s performance because of what they surrendered and the position he plays. Still, there’s a chance for the overall group to be productive.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III, the cornerstone of the 2012 draft class, is looking to bounce back after a rough second season.
QB Robert Griffin III (first round): He’ll enter his third season as the Redskins’ starter, coming off a tough season for a variety of reasons. He has had a productive offseason, and though he had some tough days throwing the ball in practice, he’s in a better place than he was a year ago -- mentally and physically. It’s hard to imagine him repeating his 2013 season -- no knee issues; more weapons will help. Griffin wants to re-establish the career path he was on pre-knee injury. He needs to improve as a pocket passer -- not just in terms of throwing from there but in knowing when to flee, etc. -- but he also needs more help from his protection and receivers.

OL Josh LeRibeus (third round): He’s been one of the most disappointing picks in recent years because of how he handled last offseason, which led to him being inactive every game last season. But LeRibeus has had a strong offseason. This is most definitely when he should be ready to challenge for a starting job. The coaches have been pleased with him, but is he ready to unseat Chris Chester at right guard? If he’s not, then LeRibeus was way overdrafted (as some contended at the time). If you can’t unseat a struggling veteran who would save a team $2.7 million in cap space by your third year then what are you doing? Also, they drafted guard Spencer Long and signed free-agent guard Shawn Lauvao so they're clearly not sold on LeRibeus long term.

QB Kirk Cousins (fourth round): Trading him was never a legitimate option because the Redskins never received a tempting offer. Even the Browns, who had multiple people there who liked him, offered only a fourth-round pick (Kyle Shanahan can fight for him; he had zero authority over what the Browns could offer). Cousins still offers the Redskins good insurance if Griffin doesn’t hold up or if he struggles. Cousins still has to cut down on his turnovers, but there is confidence in what he can do. I do not expect him to pout about his situation. It’s not what Cousins is about. His only point all along is that he knows Griffin is the guy in Washington, and he wants a chance at some point to be that guy somewhere else.

LB Keenan Robinson (fourth round): Has a chance to start next to Perry Riley on the inside. Robinson looked good this spring, but these sort of workouts were made for him: He could showcase his ability to run and cover sideline to sideline and down the middle. But the key here always will be his ability to play the run. Still no idea how he’ll do in that role after two straight seasons that ended with torn pectoral muscles. Washington envisioned him one day taking over for London Fletcher, but the coaches figured he’d have a lot more experience behind him when doing so. Robinson has 11 career tackles. It’s fine to be excited about his potential, but no one really knows yet how he’ll handle this job. Washington has veteran depth with Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan.

OG Adam Gettis (fifth round): Has a fight on his hands. LeRibeus’ strong spring plus the drafting of Long means the Redskins might not have a spot for Gettis. Remember, too, that veteran Mike McGlynn can play guard and center. Gettis improved as a run blocker in space last summer and must continue to do so. He still has a tendency to get driven back, though still anchoring, in pass protection. The numbers might not add up for him.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsAlfred Morris has rushed for 2,888 yards and 20 touchdowns in his two seasons.
RB Alfred Morris (sixth round): He’s their guy and a terrific fit in this run game. Jay Gruden was smart not to change much from a ground game that works, especially with Morris in the game. He can improve as a pass-catcher (both with his hands and his routes) and he can get extra yards downfield. But he has rushed for 2,888 yards combined in his first two seasons, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be anything but productive again. I do wonder how many carries he’ll get; the knock on Gruden in Cincinnati was that he’d consistently get away from the run. With the weapons Washington has in the pass game, will that happen here?

OT Tom Compton (sixth round): Another young player in a tough spot. The Redskins drafted Morgan Moses for a reason, to ultimately start at right tackle. I’m really curious to see what happens with Compton because they do like him -- Gruden praised him without prompting at the end of minicamp. Also, if he shows improvement this summer -- he had a good camp in 2013 because he added strength, allowing him to handle counter moves better. As a rookie he struggled there because when he’d jab a defender it wouldn’t budge him. So when they’d counter or duck inside, Compton would get beat. He improved there last summer and needs to keep doing so. But, again, the numbers. Would they really keep four tackles?

CB Richard Crawford (seventh round): Still not fully recovered from his torn ACL suffered last summer. Crawford worked off to the side throughout spring workouts and feels good about his progress. He improved in the slot last summer and would have been the starting punt returner. But Washington has Andre Roberts to handle the return duties if necessary. If the Redskins keep five corners Crawford would need a lot of help to make the roster. If they keep six then he’ll have to fight Chase Minnifield. Crawford is a smart player and would make a good coach someday. But he’ll have to show a lot this summer.

S Jordan Bernstine (seventh round): He suffered a brutal knee injury in his rookie year and was only recently cleared, at least according to what he said on Twitter. He remains unsigned.
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:

Griffin
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?

Hatcher
Hatcher
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.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
12:30
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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.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
May 17
10:00
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For Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, we're talking Robert Griffin III and the Hall of Fame (what!?), which offensive alignments the Redskins might favor, defensive sets against Philadelphia, the offensive line and more. Enjoy.
Eight players can celebrate their start in the NFL with the Redskins – but their arrival means trouble for other players already on the roster. Here are a number of Redskins who will have tougher competition this summer because of the players Washington just drafted:

RB Chris Thompson: A year ago he was the flashy new running back who could provide a different dynamic for the offense. Now it’s sixth-round pick Lache Seastrunk. Though Thompson’s college film also was electric, he’s smaller than Seastrunk and more fragile. Thompson will have to show improvement as a returner and that he can stay healthy if he wants to stick around.

RB Evan Royster: He was veteran insurance last season, but it’s hard to imagine him sticking around. Roy Helu is a more dynamic player than Royster and now they added Seastrunk. Of course, it could end up that Royster is, once again, in the same role if they want to keep four running backs (plus fullback Darrel Young).

[+] EnlargeSantana Moss
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsCould Santana Moss' roster spot be in jeopardy?
G Josh LeRibeus: The fact that he’s a third-round pick won’t buy him any more time. Since the offseason ended, the Redskins have signed a starting guard (Shawn Lauvao), added a veteran guard/center (Mike McGlynn) and drafted another guard (Spencer Long). McGlynn struggled at guard as part of a terrible line in Indianapolis last season, but he can play two spots. LeRibeus is strictly a guard. They’re not going to cut Long, a third-round choice. And they still like Adam Gettis, who has shown steady improvement and hasn’t had his work ethic questioned. LeRibeus’ 2013 offseason confirmed the fears some had about him before the 2012 draft. He has a lot to prove. You can throw Maurice Hurt on this list, too. But he's not a former third-round pick.

OG Chris Chester: He did not play as well last year and the Redskins could save $2.7 million in cap space by releasing him. The problem is, his replacement is not clear. McGlynn is probably best suited for center while everyone else remains unproven. Chester will have to be beaten out.

PK Kai Forbath: Anytime a team drafts a kicker (Zach Hocker), that’s never a good sign for the incumbent. Sure, Jay Gruden said he could see the team keeping a kickoff specialist. But teams are always reluctant to give two spots when one almost always should suffice. Hocker must prove he not only has a strong leg, but an accurate one. After all, Forbath has made 35 of 40 field goals the past two seasons, but he doesn’t have a big leg on kickoffs (32nd in the NFL last season with 14 touchbacks). And: They drafted a kicker.

OLBs Rob Jackson and Brandon Jenkins: There’s a chance both can make the roster – it’s not far-fetched to see them keeping five at this position, especially if they want a proven veteran backup and if Jenkins shows improvement. They won’t just toss them aside. But there’s no way they’ll keep five inside linebackers and five outside linebackers. And, inside, they have Perry Riley, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, Keenan Robinson and Adam Hayward among others. So the linebacker position in general will be interesting to watch. Someone who can help a team will be released.

OT Tom Compton: He’s made steady progress, but will it be enough. The Redskins drafted Morgan Moses and if he doesn’t supplant Tyler Polumbus, he will definitely be on the roster. They won’t keep three players who only play tackle, so Compton has a lot to prove. Offensive line in general will be a crowded competition.

CBs Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford: The Redskins can keep six corners so even though they’ve added Bashaud Breeland, it’s not a death sentence for both of these players. But the Redskins now have five corners probably ahead of them: DeAngelo Hall, Tracy Porter, David Amerson, E.J. Biggers and now Breeland. But to keep six corners means one fewer safety. So both Minnifield and Crawford could be in more direct competition with one of the backup safeties. Special-teams play will dictate this spot – and Crawford must show his knee isn’t an issue.

TE Niles Paul: He’ll have to be beaten out by seventh-round pick Ted Bolser. But the latter was drafted by the new coach and Paul was drafted by the previous one. Advantage: Bolser. But Paul’s special-teams play has been stellar. But a late-round selection always has to show a lot, otherwise it’s easy to stash them on the practice squad. Had they drafted a tight end in the middle rounds, then Paul’s job would be more in jeopardy.

WR Santana Moss: He was going to have a tough time making the roster anyway, considering they have a slot receiver ahead of him already in Andre Roberts. Now the Redskins added another potential slot receiver in fifth-round pick Ryan Grant. He has experience all over, but his quickness makes him a good fit inside. If he shows he can help, there’s no room for Moss. The Redskins also have Leonard Hankerson, who can play inside (but health will be an issue) and Aldrick Robinson. Nick Williams plays inside, but it’ll be tough for him to win a job. As for Moss, he received only a $65,000 bonus to re-sign, so if he ends up being cut it wouldn’t be a surprise. But it would be a tough ending for a player who did an excellent job for a long time in Washington.
video The pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

My take: Had the Washington Redskins selected Moses at No. 34, or maybe even 47, I don't think I would have liked the move. At 34, you need to get a player close to being a starter, whether from Day 1 or not. But, certainly, at some point in their rookie year they need to be a key contributor, especially as a right tackle.

After watching Moses' games, however, he did not seem like a player close to being ready to start. There was too much inconsistency. He did fare well against some good pass-rushers, but he also struggled to play with his knees bent and that led to problems.

In the third round, he's excellent value. If Moses takes to NFL coaching, then the Redskins possibly have talented bookends at tackle.

But if not? They'll be back in this spot again in a couple of years.

New line: The Redskins did not view their line as the problem everyone else did after last season. Or so some in the organization said. However, they clearly weren't content, either. In reality, it was as bad as they thought considering 60 percent of their starting five might change from last season.

Drafting Moses serves as more evidence that they wanted a lot more from their front five.

If Moses develops and ends up starting this season, then there would be new players at two positions with a third playing a new spot. The only players in their same spot from last year are left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester.

For now, Tyler Polumbus will remain the starting right tackle, as he probably should. It's hard to imagine Moses progressing fast enough to bump him right away. But Polumbus is unsigned after this season. The Redskins perhaps didn't see the line as a huge issue, but it's clear something had to change.

What's next: The Redskins own another pick in the third round, the 78th overall. They had been actively trying to trade, perhaps to add more picks. They still need to add depth at corner, safety, tight end and running back (a pass catcher).
They’re hardly a new Over the Hill Gang, but they do have a lot of thirtysomethings on their roster. Which can be viewed in multiple ways: A) They didn’t get younger after a season in which they went 3-13 and needed to rebuild, at least defensively; B) A lot of teams ahead of them in this ranking are quite successful; with age comes experience and savvy.

September will be when we’ll start to see which way the Redskins go. But, for now, we’ll just take a look at their players who are at least 30 years old. Washington is tied for eighth in the NFL with nine such players, according to ESPN's Field Yates. Oakland leads the way with 13, and you never want to be in Oakland’s company, but among the other teams ahead of Washington: San Francisco (12), New Orleans (11) and San Diego (10). All made the postseason. Arizona (10) went 10-6; Chicago (12) and Pittsburgh (10) both went 8-8.

But at the other end: Super Bowl champion Seattle has three such players while AFC champion Denver has six.

So what does it mean? Your players over 30 had better produce. Seven of their nine thirtysomethings play defense; four play along the line. Is it good that a defense coming off a tough season has that many older players? The Redskins appear to have taken a win-now approach with the hope of finding young guys in the draft to groom. That’s fine, but it had better work, otherwise they’ll just be old and slow.

Another note: The Redskins have four players who are 29 (three on offense, all linemen). Their offensive nucleus is young and can help now and in the future. But elsewhere the roster will be in transition for a couple years.

Anyway, here’s the Redskins' thirtysomethings:

Moss
WR Santana Moss (34): He’s not a lock to make the roster and if he does it’ll be as a backup, barring injuries. If Leonard Hankerson is healthy Moss would have to be sixth on the list at receiver (also behind Aldrick Robinson). At this point Moss is insurance.

S Ryan Clark (34): Pittsburgh felt he had lost a step and opted for a younger player in Mike Mitchell. The Redskins did not want to overpay at this position and valued Clark's experience. He’ll be the defensive leader, or should be. And if the younger players pay attention, they’ll improve.

DL Jason Hatcher (31): Coming off his best season and expected to help the pass rush. He did not look like a player slowing down last season. The Redskins worked his contract so that he could be cut after two years and they’d gain cap relief. A wise move. But he should help.

G Chris Chester (31): Not coming off his best season, but in 2012 he was steady and viewed as a smart player. The Redskins wanted to upgrade their interior and he’s still around, at a higher cap figure, too, so they still value him. But he must play better this season. They have young backup guards; are any ready to challenge him? After three years, one of them should be ready. If not ...

Meriweather
S Brandon Meriweather (30): Signed back on a one-year deal. With Clark here, he’ll be able to play more in the box, where he’s best suited. But he needs to improve his consistency with tackling and positioning. Maybe a year further removed from knee surgery will help, too. But his troubles didn't all stem from being slow or late. Had Phillip Thomas not been hurt last summer, Meriweather might not have returned. But he was hurt, so the alternative was to re-sign Meriweather or find another player in free agency. They did not view the non-expensive options as better. As for Thomas, Lisfranc injuries can be tricky, so it’s tough to know how he'll look this summer.

CB DeAngelo Hall (30): Did play well last season, earning a new contract, and has matured. Played better in press coverage. When corners start to go downhill, it can happen fast. It’s hard to see that happening this year.

DL Kedric Golston (30): Valuable and inexpensive backup; prepares and works hard. Good special-teamer, too. Tough to let guys like that go. At some point you need young legs coming off the bench, especially with an experienced (aging) group of starters. But Golston can still help.

Cofield
DL Barry Cofield (30): Still agile, quick and capable of being a quality starter. Hatcher’s presence in nickel situations should result in more one-on-one matchups. He’s taken a pounding the last couple years, but it’s reasonable to expect him to play at a solid level this season and even next.

DL Stephen Bowen (30): It’s tough for players when they hit this age and are coming off microfracture surgery. Heck, it’s tough for any player coming off that surgery. He’s still in their plans, but his cap number ($7.02 million) makes him a candidate for some sort of restructuring – or a release and re-sign. I have not heard they’re going to do so, but it’s logical to wonder. Just like it’s logical to wonder what he’ll be able to do. When healthy he can still help against the run, but he has not provided the needed pass rush since 2011.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
1:45
PM ET
Yes, the draft is (finally) drawing close. And I can tell that by the mailbag questions as most of the queries involve some form of what the Redskins would do in the draft -- or about the pre-draft visits. We'll get three more weeks of draft questions. Can you handle that? Regardless, enjoy.
On the fourth day, it's time to take a look at the Redskins' offensive line and whether it's a spot that's been fixed. I took a look at safety, the pass rush and receiver earlier this week.

What they’ve done: Signed G Shawn Lauvao, G/C Mike McGlynn, released C Will Montgomery, moved Kory Lichtensteiger from LG to C.

Lauvao
McGlynn
Projected starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Lauvao, C Lichtensteiger, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus.

Problem solved: Can’t say that yet. The potential is there, but so are the questions. While there are things to like about Lauvao, he was inconsistent in Cleveland. And, while I’ve long thought Lichtensteiger was best suited for center, we still don’t know how he’ll fare. Keep in mind, too, that it could take time for them to mesh. McGlynn was part of a bad line in Indianapolis; he was better at center than guard. Washington looked at a potential new right tackle in Donald Penn, but did not sign him. The interior struggled more than anywhere last season and that, at least, was addressed. But Chester did not have a good season and, as of now, will return.

What needs to happen: Lauvao needs to become a consistent starter. In watching his games at Cleveland, a couple things jump out. One, he does play with some attitude. Lauvao stuck with pass plays longer than most, so when the quarterback extended a play he stayed with his man. Too often that wasn’t always the case here last season. Lauvao liked the hard shove at the end of a block, almost a punctuation point, and always looked for someone to hit. He also probably led the Browns in helping ball carriers off the ground. Lauvao has longer arms, which always helps. But he sometimes would get too upright and defenders would get into his chest too fast. Lauvao seemed to move well, which should make him a good fit in the outside zone game (as Cleveland coaches felt he would be). He will provide more power at left guard than Lichtensteiger could at 280-285 pounds.

Work also needs to be done at center and right guard. Lichtensteiger’s quickness and smarts should help at center, but he still needs to add 10-15 pounds and show that he can handle snapping and blocking in the pistol. It’s a tough transition for some. And it’s not like blocking out of regular shotgun formation because that’s usually a pass set or draw. You’re not firing off the ball as you need to in pistol. Finally, the right guard spot needs more consistency. If it’s not Chester, then one of the young guards needs to finally show they’re worthy. That means Josh LeRibeus needs a strong offseason; he’s off to a good start by weighing only 317 pounds but now he must sustain and improve his play. Can you trust he’ll be that disciplined each offseason? No, there’s proof to the contrary (college, 2013). Adam Gettis continues to get stronger and that will help. He improved as a run-blocker. Maurice Hurt? I like the other two better, but we’ll see where Hurt is at after losing 2013 to a knee injury. It’s not as if they’re playing behind Pro Bowlers so it will speak volumes if all are backups again. Here’s how it should work: A team drafts players, develops them and when there’s a need one becomes a starter, saving the team from either having to spend for a free agent or to keep a player around at a higher cap figure. That’s not how it’s worked here – yet. Still time. But it's tough to know where these players are at (except for the coaches) because they haven't played substantially since last preseason.

Address in the draft: Yes. The Redskins clearly are not satisfied with Polumbus at right tackle. It’s why they courted Penn and it’s why they’ve held some private pre-draft workouts with, among others, Morgan Moses. That’s smart; the Redskins absolutely need to see if they can upgrade here. Polumbus’ play definitely improved in 2013 and he was clearly not the cause of the offensive issues. Could he have played better? Of course. But to think they’ll suddenly take off as an offense with a new right tackle is silly. If they can’t succeed with the weapons they have added offensively – and with a quarterback once selected No. 2 overall -- then they have far bigger issues than right tackle. Having said all that, if there’s a right tackle they like at No. 34, they should take him. If they added a young athletic talent it would give them quite the bookends. But just remember it will take time for that player to learn. Is Tom Compton in the mix? I think we’ll find out more after the draft, based on what the Redskins do – or don’t do.

The last word: As was evident in 2013, the line struggled in one-on-one pass-rush matchups. It was not a strength. And too often quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn't step into throws because of a tight pocket. But, while giving the quarterback time is a key, no quarterback will ever have all the time he wants. You still have to make plays. The Colts had a horrible line last season, yet still made the playoffs and Andrew Luck still threw 23 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times; he had an excellent season. Heck, two years ago Griffin played behind the same line he did in 2013 and the offense flourished – his impact had a tremendous trickle-down effect. But the reality is, last year he needed more help – both because of physical limitations and where he was at as a pocket passer, facing different coverages and looks and having no offseason to improve -- and certain areas of the line were exposed. He will always need more time than some quarterbacks just because of his ability to extend plays, which is a great asset. (Wilson uses this as well.) It also needs to be pointed out that the run game was productive with this group the past two years; there are other factors involved in that success, just as pass-protection issues are not just the fault of the front five. The line needs to improve, but it'll need help, too, whether from the scheme, game situations or Griffin's growth as a quarterback.
The flurry of signings has slowed to a crawl. So that provides us a chance to take another look at the Redskins’ salary-cap breakdown by position. For the record, Washington has approximately $2.8 million of salary-cap space remaining.

We’re also still in the period of the Rule of 51, where only the top 51 players on a roster count toward the salary cap.

Anyway, here’s an offensive positional rundown on the Redskins’ salary cap. It provides a look at how the Redskins are spending compared to the NFL average -- yes, more than most at receiver, but not at every position. I’ll take a look at the defensive breakdown on Thursday:

Quarterbacks

Number on roster: 3
Total percentage of cap space: 5.49
Total cap value: $7,082,926
NFL average: $11,815,172
Biggest cap hit: Robert Griffin III ($5,759,754)
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone is at this point, but if Griffin plays at a high level this season then it will be him. Eighteen quarterbacks have a higher cap figure than Griffin (No. 1 on the list: Eli Manning at $20.4 million). But that will be a short-term issue.
Looking to the future: The Redskins will have to decide next spring whether to extend Griffin’s contract by one more year. Cousins has two more years left on his rookie deal. McCoy signed a one-year contract.

Running backs

Number on roster: 5
Total percentage of cap space: 3.64
Total cap value: $4,695,484
NFL average: $7,828,161
Biggest cap hit: Roy Helu ($1,548,563)
Underpaid: Obviously Alfred Morris, who will count only $600,775 against the cap this season. He's a bargain: 92 running backs have higher cap numbers than Morris in 2014.
Looking to the future: Morris has two more years on his rookie contract and would require a solid raise. Nobody else really presents an issue, though Helu and Evan Royster both are in the final year of their contracts.

Receivers

Number on roster: 8
Total percentage of cap space: 14.96
Total cap value: $19,282,219
NFL average: $13,283,803
Biggest cap hit: Pierre Garcon ($9.7 million)
Underpaid: Believe it or not, DeSean Jackson. He only counts $4.25 million against the cap this year. There are 30 receivers who have a higher cap figure this season. This is the result of concerns over his work ethic, etc. But as far as on the field, Jackson represents value.
Looking to the future: Garcon has three years left on his contract, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him want an extension before it’s over. Both Garcon and Jackson’s contracts end in 2016. Leonard Hankerson’s rookie deal ends after this season. He has a lot to prove.

Tight ends

Number on roster: 3
Total percentage of cap space: 2.77
Total cap value: $3,569,357
NFL average: $6,254,518
Biggest cap hit: Logan Paulsen ($2,236,666)
Underpaid: Jordan Reed. But the second-year pro has to prove he’s durable. But he’ll count only $642,278 against the cap, a low sum for a guy who should catch 60 passes – even with the addition of receiver Jackson. That is, if Reed stays healthy.
Looking to the future: Niles Paul’s contract is up after this season. We know he’s a quality special- teams player, but he needs to produce more at tight end. Paulsen’s contract is up after next season.

Offensive line

Number on roster: 12
Total percentage of cap space: 22.98
Total cap value: $29,629,967
NFL average: $21,145,119
Biggest cap hit: Left tackle Trent Williams ($10,980,393)
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone in this group is. But if one of the young linemen ascend to the starting lineup, be it Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus or Tom Compton, then they would qualify. That is, if they play well. None of them count more than $765,000 against the cap.
Looking to the future: Williams’ contract is up in two years, though his cap hit in 2015 is $13.73 million. That’s a hefty sum and, for all the bellyaching about Brian Orakpo, it’s quite a bit to pay him. Williams already counts as one of the five highest paid linemen in the game, based on his cap figure. He’s a terrific lineman and can do things others can’t, but he’s capable of bad games. I’d like to see more consistency at that sum. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus and guard Maurice Hurt both are in the last year of their contracts. Chris Chester has two years left on his deal. If they cut him this year, it would save $2.7 million against the salary cap. In 2015, it would save them $3.95 million.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
10:00
AM ET
In Part 2 of the Washington Redskins mailbag, we have more questions about the offensive line, developing players and a little bit about the defensive backs. All will remain topics until, oh, the season begins.

 
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The problems didn’t always stem from their play. They had their issues, but not all of the protection breakdowns resulted from their protection. That didn’t mean the Washington Redskins were satisfied with their offensive line. At the scouting combine, Redskins coach Jay Gruden mentioned the linemen getting pushed back on occasion. And in free agency two of the team's bigger moves involved the line: The signing of Shawn Lauvao and the release of center Will Montgomery.

The Redskins have also brought in several offensive linemen for visits (tackle Bruce Campbell, who agreed to a deal but never signed, remains a possibility, but would be a depth guy not a potential starter). There is still a good chance they will draft a right tackle as well.

Here are some things we picked up from Gruden during his hour-long breakfast at the owners’ meetings:
  1. Lauvao
    Lauvao will first get a shot at left guard, with Chris Chester staying at right guard and Kory Lichtensteiger sliding to center. Of course, perhaps one of the young guards could beat out a veteran, but you don’t sign Lauvao and expect him to do anything but start. Gruden never mentioned Josh LeRibeus, but it’s a bad sign for him that they signed Lauvao. A former third-round pick entering his third year should be ready to start. Safe to say Gruden isn’t impressed or else there would be no need to bring in someone else.
  2. Gruden said he likes Lauvao’s attitude: “He’s a very tough player. He can get to the second level like you’d like, but he’s a stronger type lineman. ... He played next to a great center [in Cleveland] and they did some great things. But Shawn brings an attitude. He likes to get down and dirty, and that’s what you’d like your offensive linemen to be like.”
  3. Gruden said he’s relying on line coach Chris Foerster’s recommendation that Lichtensteiger can be a good center. “I have faith in his assessment,” Gruden said. “We’re hoping he can make that transition. He’s a great athlete. We think he can be a natural center, with the types of moves he has. It’s a matter of seeing him and make sure those shotgun snaps are consistent any time. A lot of guys project to center because they have great movement, but if you can’t shotgun snap, it’s hard to play center. But hopefully, [at] training camp and OTAs we’ll get a great look and he’ll be able to do that. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”
  4. One reason the Redskins abandoned LeRibeus at center? Inability to shotgun snap. And if the Redskins use a lot of pistol, the center has to not only shotgun snap, but instantly come off the ball. Usually a shotgun snap with no pistol has the linemen in pass protection. There is an adjustment.
  5. Britt
    Williams
    Gruden had this to say about the line getting pushed back (which he mentioned at the combine): “Everybody talks about our line getting pushed back a little bit, and it could be true. Most of them do get pushed back on third-and-12. We’ve got to do a better job on first-and-10, second-and-8, or second-and-7. I think the style of running attack that Chris Foerster has incorporated here is a solid, sound attack. It’s something we want to continue doing.”
  6. Gruden talked about this when asked about wanting to get bigger up front: “I don’t think there’s a reason why you can’t get a little bit bigger and still do the same thing. I think that’s more of our thing: try to get a little bit bigger. Some of these big guys are athletic. Trent Williams is the most athletic guy on our team, probably. But those big, huge, athletic guys are hard to find. But we’re going to keep trying."
  7. Finally, right tackle. Tyler Polumbus has the job for now, but it did not seem like the Redskins had abandoned any desire to find more competition. But Gruden didn’t have a sense of urgency here, either: “When you’re 3-13, you’re really not happy at any position. Right tackle is one that lot of people point at that needs improvement. But when I watch him play, I thought he did a pretty good job. We have some depth there also, and some guys that can come in and compete that are on our roster. Obviously, you’d like to have Pro Bowlers across the land, but I think for how we play, he’s pretty solid.”

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