Washington Redskins: Donte Stallworth

Quick Takes: Kubiak references and more

December, 17, 2013
  • No, I don’t know why Mike Shanahan dropped Gary Kubiak’s name twice in a short span during his news conference Monday. I understood the first reference, because he was talking about no matter who his coordinators have been – current or in the past – he’s the one who makes decisions. That, of course, was in reference to a CBS Sports story saying that Kyle Shanahan gets whatever he wants.
  • When Mike Shanahan referenced Kubiak a second time it was a bit bizarre. It could be as simple as he had just talked to Kubiak during the day and had his name on his mind. But nothing is simple about Redskins Park these days. And when you know that there’s a chance the only way Shanahan stays is by having new coordinators - and Kubiak used to be his offensive coordinator -- then, well, you start to wonder. There’s a lot of wondering about what people say.
  • I agree with Shanahan when, in reference to Kirk Cousins, he says it’s only one game. He faced a bad Atlanta defense with three rookies in the secondary. It’s also true that Robert Griffin III did not carve up some bad pass defenses. Cousins made some excellent throws. He also turned it over three times, including twice off bad throws. Let this one play out and see how he teams adjust to him. He’s a smart, prepared passer, but he must cut down on the turnovers.
  • Are Cousins' interceptions a function of youth and inexperience or simply what he does? I know he had this reputation in college; one scout fretted about that before the 2012 draft. Time should tell. Cousins seems to learn, but not every quarterback grows out of throwing interceptions. He's definitely more aggressive with throws than Griffin, which can be both good and bad.
  • I also think Shanahan wanted to pump the brakes on this game on the chance that he does return for 2014. If Shanahan glows over how the offense moved the ball under Cousins, then what does that do for his relationship with Griffin going forward? There's a lot of work that needs to be done there. It's at the top of the list of some delicate issues that must be balanced at Redskins Park.
  • Linebacker Brian Orakpo continues to play well, but there’s no way I’d write it off as just motivation for a new contract. There are plenty of others on the Redskins who are in a contract drive, too, who aren’t doing anything. He did not play like this earlier in the season; he also was coming off a big injury.
  • If Orakpo’s effort had been questioned in the past, I’d view this solely as a contract drive. It wasn’t questioned in the past. He’s not Albert Haynesworth. A new contract is a great motivator – and pass-rushers know they must put up numbers to get paid. So, sure, he has incentive. But that notion isn’t helping other teammates who are pending free agents.
  • And if you write off what he’s done because it came against a bad team, then you have to dismiss every other performance in that game for the same reason. Orakpo is a good player who is playing well. And he’ll get paid because of it. The question is: by whom?
  • Aldrick Robinson had the sort of game that keeps him intriguing, with four catches for 99 yards. And thus I can quit writing this line: No Redskins wide receiver other than Pierre Garcon has surpassed 80 yards in the past two seasons. Robinson is the first Redskins wideout not named Garcon to crack that mark since Donte Stallworth did it on Dec. 11, 2011. That covered a span of 32 games.
  • Robinson leads the Redskins with five catches of 30 yards or more. No other Redskins wide receiver, aside from Garcon, has any catches for at least 30 yards. Josh Morgan, also in a contract drive, has one catch over 20 yards this season.
  • I’d shut Jordan Reed down for the season. If he’s missed four games with a concussion and is still having headaches, why play him even if they go away for a few days?

Quick Takes: Redskins receivers

October, 29, 2013
• Whether the blame is on the coaches or the players themselves, the Redskins have been hurt by the lack of development from Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Yes, we’re back to that again. Hankerson has improved in some areas, but he’s not a consistent threat, with just four catches in the last three games. The Redskins once thought he could be a solid No. 2 receiver. He’s not. Robinson's hands were better than Hankerson's this summer, but with the latter it's always a focus issue. Robinson remains inconsistent because he often seems to fight the ball and his catches aren't always smooth. Neither makes those tough, in-traffic catches often.

• The Redskins have only drafted four wide receivers since Mike Shanahan took over after the 2009 season. They’re on their third receivers coach. Of the four, one (Terrence Austin) was cut and another (Niles Paul) was moved to tight end. They have failed to develop a quality receiver; Robert Griffin III’s growth as a passer will help, but that will only help so much.

• After Sunday’s game, Pierre Garcon said, “We didn’t have trouble getting separation. We’re just out there doing what they tell us to do.” I’m not sure I always buy that they’re getting separation. I do know that one knock on Griffin is that he does not throw players open against man coverage.

• Sunday, the non-Garcon wideouts were targeted 12 times and caught four passes for a combined 30 yards. Whether you pin the blame on the passes or the target, that’s not getting it done. Meanwhile, Garcon only averaged 6.6 yards per catch. There is very little downfield passing game.

• If Garcon ever has to miss a game this season the Redskins are in trouble. He’s a legitimate threat to a defense.

• A storyline this summer was Josh Morgan regaining some of his explosiveness, after having the screws removed from his surgically-repaired ankle. Perhaps he has, but it hasn’t resulted in him becoming what the Redskins needed from the Z position. Love his toughness and willingness to do whatever they ask, but his longest catch this season is 21 yards and he’s caught three passes for 15 yards in the past four games combined (when his playing time has decreased). His longest catch last season was 32 yards, but he had only three other games in which his longest grab was at least 20 yards.

• In the last four games combined, slot receiver Santana Moss has caught four passes for 62 yards.

• Though, of course, he would have had a long reception had he and Griffin connected on a third-quarter incompletion. The pass was behind him and I’m not sure Morgan even looked in time. Regardless of the fault, it didn’t click. That’s a phrase that could be used a lot when it comes to the Redskins’ passing attack.

• The Redskins are like a pitching staff in baseball that has a solid No. 1 starter, though not a Cy Young contender, and a bunch of No. 4’s, guys you can run out there who are capable of a good game but not a string of them.

• I’ll go back to another stat: The last wide receiver not named Garcon to surpass 85 yards receiving was Donte Stallworth in Week 14 of 2011.

• This season, Garcon has four games of at least 60 yards receiving. Hankerson, Moss, Morgan and Robinson have combined for four such games. Again, some of the blame goes to the Griffin’s inconsistency but certainly not all. It’s not a group that scares defenses. The passing game worked last year when the play-action game forced linebackers into bad drops, leaving gaps in their coverage. Now teams are playing more man coverage.

• I have not talked to anyone about Lance Lewis, who remains on the practice squad. He was rather inconsistent this summer and did not look like a player ready to contribute at the NFL level.

Redskins notebook: Meriweather to play

August, 26, 2013
Washington Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather will play Thursday against Tampa Bay, his first action of the preseason. Meriweather, who had ACL surgery last December, has been in and out of practice this summer because of his knee. He participated in practices the past two weeks, but did felt soreness after working four straight days two weeks ago. They’re counting on him being able to start this season. With a rookie free safety in Bacarri Rambo, the Redskins could use a solid veteran alongside him. If Meriweather can’t start, veteran backup Reed Doughty likely would get the start. Few understand the defense better, but Doughty is not a playmaker like Meriweather potentially could be in this defense.

“We’ve been trying to give him enough time to heal up and give him enough time to show us what he can do,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “He looked good in practice.”

" Corner Josh Wilson, who had offseason shoulder surgery, will also play against Tampa Bay. The Redskins typically rest their starters in the preseason finale, but Wilson did not play in the first two preseason games. They’d like him to play 15 to 20 snaps Thursday. Running back Evan Royster said his sprained left ankle is fine and he expects to play Thursday. Royster did not play versus Buffalo because of his ankle.

" The Redskins placed corner Richard Crawford on waived/injured in part because they can pay him less money if he clears waivers and returns. Crawford’s injury was bad: he tore the ACL, MCL and LCL in his left knee and the recovery period will take nine months.

“He’s a great kid, an unbelievable worker,” Shanahan said. “He’s done everything you ask to give himself the opportunity to be successful. It is a blow not only to him but to us.”

" There’s a simple reason why veteran receiver Donte' Stallworth was released: his hamstring. Stallworth hurt it early in camp and it affected his performance. “You could see he just wasn’t ready,” Shanahan said. They’ll miss his blocking as much as anything he would have contributed in the passing game. Stallworth blocked with an attitude, something the coaches love -- and something that’s necessary in the outside zone game.

" Nose tackle Barry Cofield wore padding over his cast during practice Monday, giving him the same clubbed look that Trent Williams had with his sprained wrist in camp. Shanahan said he doesn’t know how long Cofield will need to wear the cast. The benefit for Cofield is that even with the cast he can use his fingers, giving him the ability to use both hands. He relies on his quickness a great deal and gets free with quick swim moves more than just using his hands to overpower a defender. But every player needs his hands and if Cofield can still use his, there’s little reason to think his play would suffer much of a drop.

Redskins vs. Bills: What to watch

August, 23, 2013
Here's what I'll be watching when the Redskins host the Bills at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the third preseason game for both teams:

  1. The pace of Buffalo’s offense. I wrote about this Friday morning, but Buffalo likes to use a fast-paced attack, something the Redskins’ season-opening opponent, Philadelphia, does as well. How will the Redskins handle this? What will the Redskins do if caught in a personnel grouping that isn’t the best for what Buffalo’s offense has on the field? Because the starters will play only 15-20 snaps, it will provide only a small test -- the pace can take its toll over the course of a game -- but it will be a help nonetheless.
  2. Safety Bacarri Rambo’s progression. I’d play him more than the other starters, or at least in the final preseason game, just to give him more chances to tackle in the open field. He clearly needs the work. He might end up starting, but he still has yet to truly win the position. At this point he’s in there by default. He has a lot of skills to offer, but if this area doesn’t improve it’ll cause big problems.
  3. Corner Josh Wilson. He’ll make his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games while his surgically repaired shoulder continued to heal. Wilson remains the starter, ahead of rookie David Amerson. But Wilson is not coming off his best season and was asked to take a pay cut in the offseason -- so it’s not as if he’s firmly entrenched at this position. He’s much more knowledgeable about the defense than Amerson and, with a rookie safety, that matters. The Redskins can’t afford a lot of defensive backs learning on the go, though Amerson has looked good at times. But Wilson still needs to play well.
  4. [+] EnlargeBacarri Rambo
    AP Photo/Wade PayneRookie safety Bacarri Rambo (29) needs more work on his open-field tackling to avoid headaches later.
    Backup running backs. There’s no doubt who the top two players are at this position (Alfred Morris and Roy Helu -- but you really didn't need me to tell you that, did you?). Is Evan Royster in any danger? The problem is, the rookies have yet to show that they deserve a roster spot. Chris Thompson has flash, but he’s barely done anything in practice, let alone a game, in part because of injuries. Coaches are big on players being available; can they rely on Thompson in this area? His speed is intriguing (and speed is why Mike Shanahan, among others, initially fell in love with Brandon Banks in 2010). So it matters. But based on performance Thompson still needs to prove he belongs. I like Jawan Jamison’s running style, but the same applies to him. Royster is an average runner, so he’s no lock. Keiland Williams is a good special-teams player, but not much help from scrimmage.
  5. Veteran backups. Specifically linebacker Nick Barnett and receiver Donte' Stallworth. Barnett, the ex-Bill, isn’t worried about any sort of revenge; rather, he needs to show that he can still play at a certain level. This will be his first chance to do so. The Redskins have a pressing need for inside linebacker depth, and having a former starter who is familiar with this defense would help. As for Stallworth, he’ll make it only if the Redskins keep six wideouts. He’s played special teams sparingly in his career, but will have to show he can help there to stick around. And stay healthy. Lingering injuries never help aging vets.
  6. Right tackle. If Bills defensive end Mario Williams plays -- he went two series in the opener and did not see time last week -- then Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus will have a good game to measure any progress. Polumbus did not have a strong game last week. Nobody else has taken first-team reps at right tackle. But along with watching Polumbus, I want to keep an eye on veteran Tony Pashos. He’s Washington's most aggressive right tackle when it comes to using his hands, but what does he have left? The Redskins likely would need to keep nine linemen for him to make the roster. And Tom Compton is still working on the left side, but he’s coming off a strong game.
  7. Nose tackle Chris Neild. With Barry Cofield sidelined by a fractured bone in his right hand, Neild will get a chance to work against the Bills’ starting line. He’s not in danger of being cut, but this is a good opportunity to face quality blockers.
  8. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed. He struggled as a blocker last week, mostly, it appeared, because of inconsistent technique. He was not overpowered, which is a good sign for him. But he does need to help in this area. Reed also dropped a ball last week; I’d like to see him get a chance to display his athleticism.

Redskins wake-up call

August, 22, 2013
As the Redskins wrap up practice in a short week, here's what I'll be monitoring:

1. Jim Haslett’s day to talk. Two topics I’m sure that will come up: the pass rush and the secondary. The pass rush has been terrific in the first two preseason games and there’s a lot that the Redskins haven’t shown. It’s coming from all over. Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield made the most noise the other night, but Stephen Bowen is doing his job as well. As for the secondary, Bacarri Rambo’s open-field tackling will be an issue. Yes, he can improve but he has to do so in a hurry. The good news for Rambo is that his coverage has been sound, as it was throughout training camp. But how much are the coaches concerned with Rambo’s tackling at this stage? You’d like to see Rambo win the job by his performance rather than by default. Perhaps suspended safety Tanard Jackson’s name will come up after CSNWashington’s Rob Carlin caught up with him Wednesday. Jackson told Carlin that when Haslett said in the spring that he would welcome back the safety with open arms it “gave me a more positive outlook on wanting to get back and working towards that.” I’m not convinced he would return if reinstated on Aug. 31.

2. Kyle Shanahan’s day to talk. Have a hunch that the quarterbacks will be a primary topic, starting, of course, with Robert Griffin III. We received a decent update Wednesday from Mike Shanahan and Griffin, but Kyle Shanahan is often good at filling in the gaps and expanding on what his father said. For which we say: thank you! He provides a lot of insight at times, making it better for all of us. Other topics? Perhaps the rookie running backs, both of whom finally played.

3. This is also our last chance to talk to Mike Shanahan before Saturday’s preseason game versus Buffalo. So we’ll get a better feel as to who might not play against the Bills. Will strong safety Brandon Meriweather finally play? Donte' Stallworth? The former needs to show he’s healthy enough to start; the latter needs to show he deserves a roster spot. There aren’t too many topics to discuss with Shanahan today, after delving more into the Griffin Plan on Wednesday.