Washington Redskins: chris thompson

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.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
1:05
PM ET
Taking a look at offensive formations, Tanard Jackson predictions, David Amerson and more in part 1 of the Redskins mailbag. Enjoy. John Keim: I don't know if there's a formation I've been more impressed with, though I think there will be some that are more dangerous -- like the three-receiver set plus tight end Jordan Reed. They can spread the field, create a mismatch or hit the defense with a draw. If Chris Thompson or Lache Seastrunk comes through, they have a back who would fit that part-time role nicely (Roy Helu is the No. 2 back behind Alfred Morris; Seastrunk in particular ran well from this set in college).
Keim: There has been no reason throughout the spring to think that's the case. Not saying he won't end up being in the lineup, but there's no proof yet. I can only go by what I see and know. They really like Ryan Clark and what he adds in terms of leadership, as do I. There is a pronounced difference when Clark is on the field and when Jackson is in terms of communication. Heck of a lot quieter. The question is, can Clark still play? Don't know. But the same must be said about Jackson. To think he would be some standout now, knowing he hasn't played in a game for two years and having watched him only in shorts, requires a massive leap of faith. Before anyone goes making any legitimate predictions about him, sort of need to see him in game action first. The coaches aren't even sure yet. Jackson also admitted when he returned he had not spent a great deal of time working out. I do know Jackson was starting to play well when suspended. Can he get back to that level?
Keim: No. Maybe with the Cleveland Indians a logo change would suffice, but in this case it's more about the nickname. The Indians' Chief Wahoo is more of a caricature (I grew up there by the way and am a fan of the team) whereas the Redskins' logo was designed by a native American and is not a caricature. I don't know what the people protesting think of the logo, though, to be honest. But I do know this fight is about the nickname.
Keim: Well, I guess you missed the few reports I had this week that talked about him. You can read them here and here. I'll have more on him at some point in the next few weeks. Don't want to repeat myself a whole lot, but I like where Amerson is entering his second year. Still need to see stronger run support, especially now that he'll be an every-down corner. Need to see more consistency with his eyes (mostly fine this spring, it seemed). He's added around six or seven pounds of bulk. Teammates prodded him to increase his work. I think having Ryan Clark behind him, in terms of communication, will help. Keep in mind, this only means Amerson has had a good offseason. Now he must show it on the field this season.
Keim: You won't hear much on that front until we start seeing them in games. It's way too hard to say how well a safety is playing in shorts and no pads. Last summer Rambo made few plays in practice, but he didn't give up many. So you thought: Maybe he'll be OK. When games started we saw that he wasn't. The same is true for all of them. Rambo does need to worry about winning a roster spot and becoming much better on special teams. If he doesn't do the latter, he will be in trouble.
Keim: That's hard to say because they're working on different aspects of his game than two years ago -- and probably more advanced. They kept him more in the pocket this spring. But I can't say that he's been throwing with pinpoint accuracy -- nor was he two years ago -- especially on intermediate routes. Even when throwing with no defense on him as a rookie, Griffin sometimes would just be off. He still had a good year. He has other ways to hurt defenses so I don't overreact when he's only showing part of his game. I saw more consistent mechanics compared to last season and they're probably better than two years ago. They should be. I think we'll get a better feel for him in games and how he does with checkdowns, how quickly he goes through his progressions, etc. That will help him improve as a passer.
Keim: I didn't focus that closely on him to say I saw a lot of improvement. Grant had a good day earlier in the week, though mostly on comebacks or hitches where he could drive off a defender. Nothing where he threatened a defense. Grant needs to get stronger to help not only get off press coverage (it would be an issue) but also as a blocker. He's worth developing, but his speed will limit him..
ASHBURN, Va. -- Thoughts and observations after the Washington Redskins organized team activities workout Wednesday:
  1. DeSean Jackson returned to practice and did get open deep on a couple occasions. The first time, on a deep cross, he got behind the secondary and had enough time to haul in an underthrown pass from Robert Griffin III. Brandon Meriweather was about five or seven yards behind him.
  2. Later, Jackson narrowly beat Bashaud Breeland on a deep ball down the left side. But Breeland deserves credit for good coverage. He was a couple inches from making a deflection; Griffin stuck it in a tight window. He and Jackson celebrated with a chest bump.
  3. Receiver Leonard Hankerson again worked off to the side as he recovers from his torn ACL. Coach Jay Gruden still has no idea when he'll be ready. On Wednesday he ran short routes -- hitches, slants -- at around half-speed and looked fine doing it.
  4. During individual drills, the quarterbacks worked on throwing over a defender and at other times they worked on looking off their primary targets and then throwing the other way. Good reinforcement. And during a special teams drill, Griffin worked off to the side with offensive coordinator Sean McVay on sprint rollouts and bootlegs, making sure to get the proper depth after his play fake.
  5. I liked the way Trent Murphy was able to come up under control against the returner in a special teams drill. Not bad for a big guy.
  6. Your punt returners Wednesday: Andre Roberts, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross, Lache Seastrunk, Santana Moss and Chris Thompson. I like Williams as a slot guy, but still think he'll have a tough time making it barring injuries.
  7. Griffin worked on some hard counts Wednesday, drawing the defense offsides on a handful of occasions. He was not always sharp on the intermediate throws, though there were a couple of big connections deep. One of his best throws was to rookie receiver Ryan Grant down the middle; corner Blake Sailors was there, but the pass was perfect. Not exactly the combo that will be on the field this fall, but it was a good throw nonetheless. Griffin did miss an open Jordan Reed on one deep crosser and Roberts on another. But Griffin is still doing a better job keeping the ball high, leading to less wind-ups -- and a quicker release than last season.
  8. Safety Ryan Clark helped force an incompletion to Reed by playing insid, with linebacker Perry Riley playing him man to man. Griffin had to throw it to the outside and Reed didn't have a chance. After the play, Clark yelled to Riley, "Tell them you're a cover linebacker!" Clark is non-stop with his talking (more on that in a future post).
  9. Gruden is confident that he'll find this year's punter out of Robert Malone and Blake Clingan. If Malone shows any consistency, something he has not done in the past, then he'll be interesting. He gets a lot of hang time on his punts in practice (last year with the New York Jets, though, he'd have some excellent hangtime followed by low liners).
  10. Jason Hatcher doesn't play too upright, but he does have a high stance. At 6-foot-6, it's understandable, but he definitely is higher before the snap than the others. But he's able to play with good leverage inside.
  11. Saw Hatcher get a nice spin move inside Shawn Lauvao and, another time, got his hands in the guard's chest and drove him back, forcing Griffin to hop out of the way. Hatcher also got outside Lauvao and would have sacked Griffin if it had been a game. Instead he pulled up and Griffin connected with tight end Jordan Reed downfield. They celebrated a long gain, but Hatcher was right there.
  12. After working at left guard last week, Josh LeRibeus spent Wednesday on the right side. Tough to say how he looks other than he's in much better shape than a year ago. That will help. Entering last offseason there was optimism about his future, until he showed up out of shape.
  13. Another change: Morgan Moses was back at right tackle, after playing on the left side last week. Tom Compton worked on the left side Wednesday. By the way, and I'll have more on this later, but Moses is well aware of his need to stay low. Definitely something he's focused on. Moses' head is still on a swivel and you can tell at times how much learning is still going on; led to a missed block on linebacker Adam Hayward on one run (as one coach was yelling for Moses to ‘Get there! Get there!').
  14. Did see Moses push linebacker Brandon Jenkins to the ground on one rush outside. Jenkins had earlier beaten Maurice Hurt to the inside on another rush. Jenkins is going to have a much tougher time making the team this season.
  15. Corner DeAngelo Hall was not at practice after cutting his chin during Tuesday's workout. He was also headed to Atlanta.
  16. Linebacker Akeem Jordan had good coverage on a pass down the middle that quarterback Colt McCoy underthrew. Jordan's back was to the pass, but he still managed to break it up. He was typically removed in passing situations with Kansas City last season.
  17. Nose tackle Barry Cofield participated in individual drills, something he did not do the first two weeks we saw. With Cofield still sidelined during team drills, Chris Baker worked as the No. 1 nose tackle with Jarvis Jenkins and Hatcher as the ends. Cofield said he will be 100 percent for training camp.
  18. Meanwhile, Adam Gettis also worked at right guard, his more natural spot. But it's important for these backups to be able to show they can play more than one spot.
The Washington Redskins knew they couldn't count on a draft pick starting immediately, not without a first-round pick. If it happened? Great. So they filled their perceived immediate needs in free agency and hoped several in the draft class could fill roles, some more prominent.

Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' free-agency signings should allow the rookies to develop without needing to start immediately. I'll take a look at how the rookies fit in and when they might be needed to play bigger roles.

Player: RB Lache Seastrunk

Why they don’t need him as a starter: Well, they still have Alfred Morris who has rushed for 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. Yes, he needs to improve in the pass game but Morris is adept at constantly getting extra yards – taking what’s available and then some. They also have Roy Helu as a third-down back and backup so Seastrunk, a sixth-round pick, would not be needed for anything other than pinch-hitting duty this year.

Future role: Change-of-pace back/third downs. There was concern among analysts before the draft that Seastrunk would not be durable enough for a full-time role. Seastrunk missed a couple games in two seasons because of groin and hamstring issues. He's only 5-foot-9 and 201 pounds, but Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard is the same height and seven pounds heavier. So he’s probably a good model for Seastrunk in the future. Last season, under then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Bernard ran the ball 170 times and caught 56 passes.

When he might need to be ready: 2015. That is, for a bigger role. Helu is a free agent after next season so if Seastrunk develops then the Redskins can move on from Helu if so desired. Morris remains under contract for two more seasons and, barring injury, he remains a good fit in the run game (considering the Redskins won’t be changing a whole lot in this area). The Redskins also have Evan Royster and second-year back Chris Thompson, though it's hard to imagine a new coach cutting one of his draft picks to keep someone else's. Besides, Seastrunk was effective at making defenders miss in college, especially in a spread situation. It would work well under Gruden.

What he must work on: Everything that pertains to third downs. He will have to show in a game that his hands aren't an issue, either -- in the pass game or when it comes to fumbling. But this is not just about can he catch the ball; with work I’m sure he can improve if it is indeed an issue. But he needs to learn how to run routes out of the backfield, not just going to the flat but learning how to set up a linebacker and break free. Morris is still learning this. Seastrunk also has to improve in protection; in college he would do it but not with the fire of, say, Clinton Portis (who was unusual in this regard). But Seastrunk will have to learn how not only to block, but who is coming and from where. It takes time. Seastrunk also has to learn how to run out of an I-formation, among other things. He's a good one-cut runner especially when he doesn't try to hit a homer each time. He'll need to learn when to bounce against NFL defenders, but he showed in college he could be an exciting runner.
The Washington Redskins wanted to find a back who could become a big-time threat as a pass catcher. It's why they expressed initial interest in Darren Sproles, had he become a free agent.

[+] EnlargeLache Seastrunk
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsLache Seastrunk was an explosive runner -- leading Baylor with 1,177 rushing yards in 2013.
They drafted Lache Seastrunk in the sixth round hoping he could become that guy. He doesn't need to be that player in 2014, not with Roy Helu still on the roster. But Helu is a free agent after this season, so Seastrunk -- if he shows he can handle this role -- could become his eventual replacement.

What I liked: His acceleration and ability to change directions and swerve without losing speed. Made a lot of "wow" runs thanks to this ability -- sometimes only for a few yards. Was at his best when hitting the hole with patience, letting a defender commit to a side and then bursting the other way. Shows excellent balance and body lean. Won't break tackles, but can make defenders miss with his feet. Was good at setting up defenders, getting them to lean one way and cutting back -- but could do it more consistently. When he does, his ability to accelerate is enhanced. On occasion, was able to burrow forward in short-yardage or goal-line situations. While some have questioned his power, there were examples to show good leg strength. Once had a guy try to drag him down by the pads; Seastrunk was almost bent over backwards yet righted himself and gained several more yards. Another time I paused the frame because it looked like he was about to sit down with defenders holding onto him and another about to hit him, yet he still gained three more yards. Capable of being held down for a while and then having an explosive run. Works well when an offense can spread the field. Sometimes in space, defenders look like a batter in baseball trying to hit a knuckleball. Had five touchdown runs of 68 yards or longer.

What I didn't: Seastrunk likes to bounce runs outside quite a bit. At times he was able to cut it up and take what was available. But oftentimes Seastrunk tried to hit a homer and it would occasionally cost him -- though it clearly worked to Baylor's benefit as well. He'll have to learn to run straight ahead better. He has good speed -- a 4.51 in the 40 at the combine -- but he'll be facing faster defenders and bouncing all the time won't be beneficial. Keep in mind, Sproles' 40 time at the combine was a 4.47, so it's not a huge difference. Seastrunk is inexperienced as a pass catcher -- just because he caught the ball at a pro day against no defenders doesn't mean he can do it in games. Seastrunk will have to prove he can. He was OK at best in pass protection, though he didn't do it with a lot of verve -- and certainly without the violence of a Clinton Portis or Tim Hightower. Did not always like his recognition and ability to help others in protection. Did not have the same issues as Chris Thompson in terms of durability in college, but it also was a knock against him.

Summary: Seastrunk, a sixth-round pick, would have gone higher if not for questions/concerns about catching the ball. Or if he had done it more in college (Baylor does not throw to its backs). To be a good third-down back you also need to pass protect and this will take time. Seastrunk will need to adjust to facing consistently fast defenders, knowing when he can bounce and when he can't. What he can't become is a guy who loses a lot of yards while trying to turn every run into a long one. But if he does, then he has a good shot to help and will be fun to watch as a different dimension off the bench.
ASHBURN, Va. -- The easy part is looking at the Washington Redskins' draft and scratching your head. Or at least wondering if they got good value with any of these picks.

It's why I debated giving them a thumbs down and, perhaps, I should have. The problem is, I like that they addressed the pass rush. They took the guy they felt -- not what anyone else felt -- was the best pass rusher left on the board in Trent Murphy.

I like that they drafted Morgan Moses in the third round instead of the second. And I like that they added a third draft choice. The problem is, their last pick of the night, Spencer Long, is coming off torn ligaments and the reports on him were mixed. Some liked him; others did not. Some projected him in Rounds 3 and 4; others thought maybe a little later. Who's right? No idea.

So it depends on who you listen to as to whether he was a bad pick or a reach. But the Redskins needed to address their interior -- as much for the future as for this season. If Long comes through, he could be that guy. If not, he'll be added to the list of young guards who haven't made it in Washington.

ESPN980 reported that the Redskins were hoping running back Tre Mason would have lasted to the 78th pick, especially after running back Charles Sims went earlier. Those would have been interesting picks because they would have provided the backfield a little more pop, something it could use. While Chris Thompson has speed, he's not durable and the Redskins need more than what Roy Helu has provided.

The problem that I have with the Redskins' offseason -- and this is a function of changing regimes -- is that they found it necessary to sign a starting guard in free agency, add a veteran backup (who can also play center) and then draft one. All with three young guards on the roster. Perhaps one of those three eventually bumps Chris Chester from the lineup. If not, that's a lot of time invested on nothing.

But the first two picks are the most intriguing. Murphy's another guy that some will love and others will not, at least at 47. Regardless, the Redskins added a player who should help their pass rush. A year ago they tried to bring extra heat with Darryl Tapp, more of a run-stopper, and Brandon Jenkins, an unrefined rookie. It didn't work. There was no real threat outside of Brian Orakpo or Ryan Kerrigan.

Now the Redskins might -- and I stress might -- have options in the rush. They have Orakpo and Kerrigan. They have Jason Hatcher inside. And they have Murphy's versatility. He doesn't have to be The Guy here; he just has to play off three other solid pass rushers. If he can, then the Redskins will add another dimension to their defense.

Had the Redskins selected Moses high in the second, it would have been a bad pick in my mind -- though not in others. His play was too inconsistent to warrant such a selection, but in the third? Good value. Now he just has to clean up his game and develop.
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen stressed this point a couple times Tuesday: When making decisions in the draft, they're looking as much at the roster in 2015 and '16 as they are this season.

Chances are, that's when most of the players they pick this weekend will be ready for bigger roles. With that in mind, here's how the roster shapes up in '15 and '16:

Quarterbacks

Griffin
2015 roster: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins.

2016 roster: Griffin (if the team picks up his option. Note: Initially said it was for 2017, it's for '16).

Conclusion: They don’t need a starter, but, perhaps next year, they’ll have to start finding another player to groom as a backup assuming Griffin re-emerges.

Running backs

2015 roster: Alfred Morris, Darrel Young and Chris Thompson.

2016 roster: Thompson.

Conclusion: It’s not a pressing need because they could always re-sign Morris or find another back next year in the draft. However, they have checked out some backs such as West Virginia’s Charles Sims and Notre Dame’s George Atkinson III. There is a need to find someone else; Thompson is not a full-time option.

Wide receivers

Garcon
Garcon
2015 roster: Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Nick Williams

2016 roster: Roberts, Garcon, Jackson.

Conclusion: Still a need for depth, but finding another quality starter – right now – is not a must. However, it would be wise to find someone in a receiver-heavy draft who can be developed. They’ll have to make a decision after this year on Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Also, Garcon and Jackson’s contracts are up after the ’16 season.

Offensive line

2015 roster: Trent Williams, Chris Chester, Kory Lichtensteiger, Shawn Lauvao, Mike McGlynn, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Tevita Stevens, Kevin Kowalski.

2016 roster: Lauvao, Lichtensteiger, Stevens.

Conclusion: I think we all know a right tackle is a strong possibility. Polumbus is not under contract after this season and neither is Tom Compton. Do the math; the Redskins have to find someone here at some point. And look at the ’16 roster; you don’t want to be in a position where you have to re-sign or sign that many players in one spot.

Tight ends

Reed
2015 roster: Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed.

2016 roster: Reed.

Conclusion: Paulsen could always be re-signed, but regardless the Redskins could use a little more help here in the future. It’s a definite possibility as the Redskins look to bolster their weapons – and guard against Reed’s durability issues.

Defensive line

2015 roster: Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Clifton Geathers, Jason Hatcher, Kedric Golston, Chris Baker, Gabe Miller.

2016 roster: Hatcher, Cofield, Miller, Baker.

Conclusion: Only Hatcher is signed beyond 2016. There’s depth here for the next two seasons, but in 2016 if Hatcher and Cofield are still viable both will be past their prime.

Linebackers

Hayward
2015 roster: Ryan Kerrigan, Perry Riley, Adam Hayward, Keenan Robinson, Adrian Robinson, Brandon Jenkins, Will Compton, Jeremy Kimbrough.

2016: Riley, Hayward, Jenkins.

Conclusion: This is one reason the Redskins have looked at a number of outside linebackers during the draft process. Also, thinking long-term, they might not want to pay both Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo big money. But there's also a need to find and develop an inside 'backer, unless they're confident Keenan Robinson could be that guy. Too early to say that's the case given his injury history.

Cornerback

2015 roster: DeAngelo Hall, Tracy Porter, David Amerson, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford, Peyton Thompson.

2016 roster: Hall, Amerson, Thompson.

Conclusion: There’s not an immediate need, but there’s little doubt this position could still be fortified. Also, though Hall is under contract through 2016, where will his game be after the ’15 season? Still, if need be, they could get by with adding a late-round corner this year and seeing if he develops.

Safety

2015 roster: Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo.

2016 roster: Thomas, Rambo.

Conclusion: They need more bodies here. This is not a deep draft for safeties but it would be wise to grab one, especially when you see how it breaks down after this season. There’s a strong need – even if Thomas or Rambo develops into a starter.
Taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there's an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com --- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they're projected.

Player: Charles Sims

School: West Virginia

What he plays: Running back

College production: Graduated from Houston and played one year for West Virginia. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA in 2010 for an undisclosed reason. Ranked second in the Big 12 last season with 1,549 all-purpose yards; among them: 1,095 rushing yards and 401 receiving. He caught 203 passes in his career.

How he’d fit: As a pass-catcher out of the backfield for quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Redskins have two players who might be able to fill that role now in Roy Helu and Chris Thompson. The latter could be an interesting player, but major durability concerns lead to him being a big question mark. At 6-foot, 215 pounds, Sims offers better size than Thompson and, perhaps, greater durability. Also, Redskins coach Jay Gruden used Giovani Bernard in a dual role last year so clearly he knows the value of such a back.

What I like: His ability to catch the ball. Very soft hands. Against TCU, saw him catch a ball that was a bit low as he turned upfield from the flat, never breaking stride. Was very smooth. Sims moves well in the open field, able to cut and still go forward with speed and accelerates well. He made a lot more defenders miss after catches than on his carries. Sims makes defenders miss in space with a quick juke or plant-and-cut. Some of his best runs from scrimmage resulted in short gains, but showed him eluding immediate pressure in the backfield (the West Virginia line was not so hot) and still gaining a few yards. So he seems to have good awareness and vision. Sims has experience running out of the pistol formation (it’s what he mostly did) and with inside zones. He was fine on draw plays. Though there were too many short runs, there was the occasional carry in which his quick feet stood out. He didn’t shy away from blocking and, when he got it right, he showed a good base and kept his head up. Sims’ one-cut ability makes him a better fit in a zone running game (which, of course, the Redskins use).

What I didn’t like: He didn’t make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage and, as a runner, typically just gained what was available and didn’t make many yards after contact in the games I watched. In fairness, his line was terrible. He would occasionally lower his shoulder, but still went down easier than you’d like. Sims was inconsistent as a blocker in pass protection. There were times he took on a defender with his head down, leading to a missed block. (Next time: head up, good block. So it’s in him and my guess is with more work he would be a lot more consistent.) As a runner from scrimmage he didn’t always set up his blocks well, though that too was inconsistent because at times I did see him press the hole, draw in a defender and cut back. There’s some of Helu in him in that Sims would lack patience and cut back too fast. Again, the line was so bad at times it might have caused impatience. He was too upright going through the hole, leaving him little power to break free and causing him to be tackled too easily.

Where he’s projected: Middle rounds. Sims visited with Washington, so there’s at least some interest in what he offers. His best role appears to be as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Sims had a strong week at the Senior Bowl; former NFL general manager Phil Savage called him the best back of the week. So he's intriguing. Sims might be able to return kickoffs, but he did it only four times for 53 yards in college (all at West Virginia).

Other players examined:

Morgan Moses

Demarcus Lawrence

Chris Borland
Alfred Morris’ hands haven’t matched his legs when it comes to production. His involvement in the Redskins’ passing game has been minimal. And while Redskins coach Jay Gruden would like to see that change, don’t expect Morris to turn into anything more than an occasional threat.

Morris
But that would be more than what Morris was during his first two seasons when he caught a combined 20 passes. He showed good hands at the Pro Bowl, catching four passes for 69 yards. However, his hands were inconsistent in the regular season.

“It’s something that, obviously, you want to have him be an all-around back. His hands aren’t the most natural but it’s something you can work on,” Gruden said. “You don’t have to run go-[routes]. If you can catch a standard checkdown or screen pass, he could catch 20 to 25 balls a year. It just adds to his resume of being one of the top backs in the league. Yeah, we’ll work on him quite a bit as far as catching the ball.”

But that doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly turn into Giovani Bernard, Gruden’s pass-catching back in Cincinnati. The question then becomes: will any of the Redskins' backs? Gruden mentioned Roy Helu and Chris Thompson as possibilities. Thompson's rookie season ended with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which followed knee and back injuries at Florida State.

“We have some guys in-house we feel like can do it, but obviously you like to have some versatility and the ability to have another guy who could be a specialty-type third-down guy,” Gruden said. “But with Roy and Chris, we have those guys who could possibly take that role. But we’ll keep looking.”

Gruden called Thompson “one of the most exciting backs” while at Florida State. But he also wondered about his durability.

“He’s a guy who has to stay healthy and do his best to get on the field so we can see what he can do,” Gruden said. “Interesting guy. He’s very, very exciting when he gets the ball in his hands, but it’s hard to get the ball in his hands when he’s not out there.”
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some highlights from Jay Gruden’s hour-long press gathering at the owners meetings:

1. He’s OK if linebacker Brian Orakpo plays out the season on the franchise tag. Sounds like he and the organization wants to see if his production increases, thanks to the promise of being turned loose more and also having an outside linebackers coach.

2. They will move Shawn Lauvao to left guard and keep Chris Chester at right guard. Gruden did not address Josh LeRibeus, but it’s clear from this move that there’s not a whole lot of confidence in him.

3. He certainly understands the importance of maximizing Robert Griffin III. He’s glad that Griffin needs to be reined in when it comes to his desire to push himself.

4. Gruden said if Griffin isn’t comfortable with the read option, they won’t run it as much. He also said he won’t try to stop him from running out of the pocket. Clearly, though, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. But Gruden wants Griffin to feel comfortable on the field. That’s a big issue.

5. He loves Jordan Reed.

6. Yes, they looked for some bigger linemen, but they want big guys who can move. As has been stated many times, they plan to use the same run-game schemes.

7. He’d like Alfred Morris to be a guy who could catch 20 to 25 passes a season. But he said Morris isn’t a natural pass-catcher; has work to do.

8. Gruden is a breath of fresh air. Though there are some things he can’t say, he was as honest as possible without crossing a line.

9. He’s not concerned about Griffin’s knee; wasn’t too deep on him playing without the brace and what it might mean. Why? Because he said the braces are so light these days.

10. He liked watching Chris Thompson at Florida State and seems anxious to work with him. But his durability is a major issue.

11. He said no teams have called about quarterback Kirk Cousins, but added that he wants “two great quarterbacks” because of Griffin’s style of play.

12. Gruden acknowledged he likes to have a lot of plays; apparently he was able to streamline that desire better during his time in Cincinnati. Does not want to overload Griffin, but says the third-year QB can handle a lot.

13. He mentioned the young safeties, but, again, I don’t get a sense that either Bacarri Rambo or Phillip Thomas will be the answer this season. Rambo’s play did not suggest he should be; Thomas’ foot and recovery from the Lisfranc injury makes him a question mark for now.

14. Gruden mentioned Andre Roberts’ versatility as a receiver. I don’t get the sense that the return position is solved by his arrival, however.

15. They're anxious to see Kory Lichtensteiger at center. As for Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, Gruden was a bit complimentary but I don't get the sense they're done looking for another possibility. Or, as they say, "more depth."

Five thoughts: Darren Sproles

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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With running back Darren Sproles done in New Orleans (his release has not yet hit the transactions wire), it led to another round of "should the Redskins pursue" questions via Twitter. So, should they go after Sproles? Well, I have a few thoughts. As always.

[+] EnlargeDarren Sproles
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesRunning back Darren Sproles had 71 receptions for 604 yards last season, his eighth in the NFL.
1. Yes, I would be interested in signing Sproles if I were the Washington Redskins. But you need to know exactly what you’re getting. Do not expect the Sproles from 2011, when he set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards for the Saints and was one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. That is not who he was last season. In 2013, Sproles had 1,273 all-purpose yards. He also will not necessarily solve the issues at returner. In five of the past six years he’s averaged 8.0 yards or less on punt returns. Last season he averaged 21.3 yards on 12 kick returns (though he has a 25.3 career average and was at 26.8 in 2012). He’s a limited role guy, so you can’t pay a lot for him. My guess is the Redskins knew he would be getting released just by analyzing other teams' cap numbers; I haven’t heard his name mentioned, so perhaps they made up their minds already. He's 30, and I wouldn't trust a move on anything other than a smaller deal. You just don't give a good chunk to players over 30. Not good business.

2. That said, it doesn't take long to figure out he can still play. Just for kicks (well, for research, too), I watched some of his games last season. Sproles remains an effective back, able to make defenders miss in the open field with a hard juke or quick shake. He sets up blockers well in the open field because he can show inside, then quickly cut outside.

3. Also, and this is big: In two of the three games I watched, I saw the opposing defense (Miami, Philadephia) send two defenders his way on a route several times. And that left gaps in the defense that benefited, for example, tight end Jimmy Graham. It gave quarterback Drew Brees enough of a window to exploit, and it occurred simply because Sproles was sent to the flat. Also, Brees scrambled up the middle on occasion because linebackers vacated areas to double Sproles. They couldn't do that with a quarterback such as Robert Griffin III, who obviously looks to run more. Again, I'm not saying Sproles is the best and they must sign him. But am I interested because he could help them? Absolutely -- and for the right price, he's a good weapon. Sproles is a matchup headache capable of running good routes from multiple spots.

4. Yes, Jay Gruden had Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati as a big weapon. Sproles could fill that role here. But keep in mind that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's lack of arm strength -- especially compared to Griffin's -- almost required that the Bengals have a guy like Bernard, someone Dalton could easily dump the ball to. Sproles would be a good check-down guy for Griffin, but if they sign another receiver, the plan is to get the ball downfield more. That is likely the plan, anyway; I know the coaches think Jordan Reed will be an excellent target on deeper throws. That would lessen the desire for a guy like Sproles, though Sproles would still be a weapon. It’s not as if Brees was just a check-down guy.

5. If the Redskins somehow pursued Sproles -- and I don’t know that they will -- it should not mean the end of Roy Helu. As a running back, Sproles works best in a spread formation when he can hit gaps up the middle against, say, a five-man box. If something happened to starting running back Alfred Morris, I would not want Sproles as the full-time guy. Nor would the Redskins. The Saints were able to incorporate three backs into their offense, and I think the Redskins could as well. Sproles would replace a guy like Chris Thompson.

Expert's take: The leftovers (Part 1)

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Former NFL scout and current ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson provided insight on a variety of Redskins-related topics last week (along with former player, scout and NFL executive Louis Riddick). But the questions didn’t end with those five topics and, yes, there were leftovers. Later Monday we’ll publish Riddick’s leftover thoughts. First, though, we’ll go with Williamson’s. So here he is on:

The Redskins’ offense: “I think they’ll keep the West Coast principles and that’s good because they’ll keep the same terminology and lingo, but if you look at what Jay Gruden had in Cincinnati, it was not like a Shanahan offense from a personnel standpoint. Cincinnati had one of the biggest, most-physical lines in the league as opposed to a movement zone scheme. But that defense needs everything and if they come in and say we’re changing everything we do [offensively] and you need four new offensive linemen. ... They’re not in a position to create more needs for themselves.”

“I like [Chris] Thompson from a year ago, but you can’t count on him to be [Giovani] Bernard. Alfred Morris does not resemble that at all. Roy Helu is that more than Alf, but he’s not a Brian Westbrook.”


The Redskins’ defensive needs: “There’s not a strength on that defense outside of [Brian] Orakpo. Who’s the next best defensive player on that team? I’m not positive. [Ryan] Kerrigan is probably next. Maybe [Jarvis] Jenkins becomes something. I would say the back six needs more work than the front five. Maybe David Amerson is a better player than we know. I liked him coming out of school; a lot of people thought he might be a rangy free safety because he’s stiff in the hips. He doesn’t flip real well, but he’s what they’re looking for in terms of height, weight, speed and he made a lot of plays in college. For where they got him, he was a fine pick.”

“They have a ton of needs and won’t be able to fill them all this year. Some players they have, Jim [Haslett] will really earn his money as far as putting players in a position to succeed. It’s an overused term, but applicable. You can’t just get the best player at each position. They need guys like Amerson to pick it up. He needs to play the game more cerebrally at a more consistent level. They need a safety. They need to replace London [Fletcher]. They have a lot on their plate, man. They have to really develop guys that aren’t ready made right now and turn them into the Byron Maxwells or Richard Shermans.”

Trying to copy Seattle: “They’re using fifth-, sixth-round picks on big corners and it’s working. But it works because the pass rush is so good. Big corners are stiff if they have to cover a long time. There aren’t many 6-2, 6-3 guys who can clip their hips to cover a Santana Moss in his prime. I don’t know if you can put a 6-3 guy out there and say we’ll be fine. Seattle didn’t make them cover long and Earl Thomas makes a lot of problems go away over the top. That’s huge. That defense can take any style of defensive player. They’ll take a nose tackle or a 3-4 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker or a pure 4-3 end. They never look at a guy and say boy he’s a really good player, but we don’t have a spot for them. A lot of teams pass on players because they’re not good for them.”

Positional outlook: Special teams

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
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The Redskins' special teams need massive improvements, of which anyone who watched them in 2013 would agree. Their return game stank; their punt coverage horrendous. But on the good side: There was no failed swinging gate fake. Oh wait, there was a botched fake attempt in Minnesota. One hope among players is that new special-teams coach Ben Kotwica's military background will instill a discipline they felt was lacking a year ago. While Keith Burns took the blame as the coach last season, the organization did a poor job of supplying him with players. Too many were either young and felt perhaps too entitled to be part of this unit or aging and had no passion for it. Whatever it was, it added up to a disaster and that must change in 2014. With so many close games, you can't be awful in one area.

Long-snapper Nick Sundberg
He missed most of last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, but when healthy he’s an excellent snapper (which means a consistent one). He gets the ball back quickly and on target and has done a nice job since entering the NFL.
2014: Long-snapper
Contract status: Signed through 2015

Long-snapper Kyle Nelson
Filled in just fine for Sundberg. With a new special-teams coach, and head coach, nothing is guaranteed for Sundberg. Nelson made one big mistake with a botched snap to punter Sav Rocca that led to a deflected punt in a loss to the New York Giants.
2014: Elsewhere
Contract status: Signed through 2014

Punter Sav Rocca
The knock on Rocca throughout his career is that he’s too inconsistent and that was as true in 2013 as ever. Rocca had some games where he’d have four good punts followed by an untimely shank late in the game -- too often from his own territory. He averaged 41.8 yards per kick on punts from inside his own 20-yard line. He also averaged 40.1 yards per punt in the fourth quarter, his worst mark for any quarter. And his 42.0 yards per punt average was tied for the worst mark of his career while his 33.8 yard net average was his worst. (Obviously the coverage has a lot to do with that as well.) Rocca turns 41 in November; it’s time for a more consistent and younger leg. (Should mention that they signed another punter, Robert Malone, to a future's contract after the season).
2014: Elsewhere
Contract status: Signed through 2014

Kicker Kai Forbath
He’s made 35 of 40 field goals in his two seasons with Washington and therefore warrants holding onto the job entering next season. Forbath made his last 14 kicks of 2013, which I did not realize until checking the stats because, well, they didn’t make a difference as the Redskins were 3-13 and only one of those kicks helped win a game (against San Diego). He needs to improve his kickoffs; Forbath had 14 touchbacks while the league average per team was 41. But the Redskins were 10th at defending kickoffs so his inability to consistently get touchbacks didn’t hurt that much.
2014: Kicker
Contract status: Signed through 2014

KR Niles Paul
He was better than Josh Morgan, but Paul is not an explosive returner. Paul runs straight ahead, but in 34 career returns he’s averaging just 20.9 yards per return. Paul is fine as an upback/blocker and does well in coverage. He’s not a budding Pro Bowler -- not yet. But he does care about playing special teams and realizes this is where he makes his money.
2014: Gunner/blocker
Contract status: Signed through 2014

PR Richard Crawford
Never played after tearing multiple ligaments in the preseason. Crawford did an excellent job in 2012 returning punts (I liked him that preseason as well) and typically made the first defender miss. He’s patient and has quick feet. But after his injury, who knows where he’ll be. It’s hard to say and if I’m the Redskins I’d want to know I’m protected at this spot.
2014: Bubble (depends on knee)
Contract status: Signed through 2015

KR Chris Thompson
He didn’t show anything as a kick returner during the regular season and had to get used to defenders who he couldn’t dust with his speed. Thompson learned how to field punts last summer and perhaps after an offseason devoted to this he could improve. But he has a lot to prove.
2014: Bubble
Contract status: Signed through 2016

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
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Still a lot of questions surrounding the Redskins. So in Part 1 of the Redskins mailbag, the focus is on expectations for 2014, potential targets, defensive end play, and Aldrick Robinson's role.
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Redskins positional outlook: RB

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
4:00
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The Washington Redskins receive good production from their running backs, especially considering none of them are expensive. Look for more of the same, though the Redskins will need to add a couple pieces here; they need to find more help for special teams from this position. Our positional outlook continues with a look at running backs.

Morris
Alfred Morris: His status won’t change with Jay Gruden in charge as offensive coordinator Sean McVay said the running game will remain similar to what it has been. That’s good news considering it’s worked well the past two years, with or without the zone read option. Morris is an excellent one-cut back, but he has to eliminate the fumbles (most of which have not been the result of hard hits either). Morris would help the offense if he became more of an all-around back, though he showed in the Pro Bowl that perhaps he’s better than we thought in this area. Then again, he did not show good hands this season in limited opportunities.
2014: Starter; Contract status: Signed through 2015

Darrel Young: He was, when healthy, an effective blocker. He has improved each season in that role, but never touches the ball as much as he would like. He catches the ball well, but most teams want to limit passes to their fullback -- if you want an explosive offense. It’s very hard to see that changing in 2014 under coach Jay Gruden. But Young will continue to help on special teams. It helps him that offensive coordinator Sean McVay knows what Young can do.
2014: Contributor; Contract status: Signed through 2015

Helu
Roy Helu:Though he had moments, Helu did not have the impact I thought he would this past season. He had moments -- the Oakland game, for example -- when he showed what he could do. I’m not sure why he wasn’t more involved at times, but it’s not as if he was constantly making big plays, either. As a runner, Helu is fast -- and at times remains too fast to the hole. That led to a lot of 2-yard runs. When he was patient, Helu did a nice job.
2014: Third down back; Contract status: Signed through 2014

Evan Royster: He was an insurance policy for a second consecutive season. Here is the problem with Washington’s special teams: Guys at the end of the roster, like Royster, did not help much in that area. There were too many cases like this. If you’re the No. 3 running back and you’re active, you’d better help on special teams. Royster played special teams, but it’s far from a strength. Royster is a capable runner and a fine backup, but if the Redskins want to upgrade special teams, they will find guys who can be a quality special teamer and a backup runner.
2014: Bubble; Contract status: Signed through 2014

Chris Thompson: He never played from scrimmage, after showing a little flash in the preseason (but only a little). Thompson also showed that he needed to improve his ball security. In the preseason, he did a nice job with his cuts at times. But if he is ever going to help from scrimmage, it will be as a pass-catcher in space. He is not much of a blocker, so he would only be used sparingly. Durability is an issue. His speed warrants another look, but if he gets hurt again, you can’t waste more time on him.
2014: Bubble/returner; Contract status: Signed through 2017

Jawan Jamison: He didn’t do anything as a rookie and spent most of the season on the practice squad. Jamison was a project anyway, so it’s not as if the Redskins expected a lot from him. However, he did not report to camp in good shape, which is inexcusable for a rookie -- especially one who left college early. It will be tough for him to make the roster next season. He showed in college that he could pass protect. He needs to show something next summer.
2014: Practice squader; Contract status: Signed through 2017

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