Washington Redskins: E.J. Biggers

When you take a look at the Redskins’ salary-cap breakdown defensively, it becomes clear – if it wasn’t already. They’re spending a lot more on their front seven, compared to the NFL average, than the back four. That means they’d best hope that an improved pass rush compensates for what they couldn’t add in the secondary.

For the record, Washington has approximately $2.8 million of salary-cap space remaining, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Anyway, here’s a defensive breakdown by position (and click here for the offensive breakdown) with numbers courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information gang:

Defensive line

Number on roster: 11
Total percentage of cap space: 20.57
Total cap value: $26,516,642
NFL average: $21,632,204
Biggest cap hit: Barry Cofield ($7,667,500).
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone is here, though if Jason Hatcher produces, then his $3.75 million cap hit will be a huge bargain. Jarvis Jenkins has a $1.5 million cap hit, which is below average for an NFL defensive lineman. Chris Baker will have a higher cap figure this season ($2 million). But I wrestle with calling Jenkins underpaid; I’d like to see more plays.
Looking to the future: Jenkins and Chris Neild are free agents after this season. But if Baker and/or Clifton Geathers show they can be more than part-time players then it gives the Redskins option should they let Jenkins walk. Stephen Bowen has a $7.02 million cap hit this season and it jumps by another million in 2015. I can’t imagine he plays at those numbers, not coming off microfracture surgery. But if he does play at that figure this season, the Redskins – if they want – could release him next offseason and get a $5.5 million cap savings. Multiple people in the organization have said Bowen remains in the plans for 2014.

Linebacker

Number on roster: 12
Total percentage of cap space: 18.5
Total cap value: $23,901,881
NFL average: $15,201,455
Biggest cap hit: Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000)
Underpaid: Ryan Kerrigan will count $2.8 million against the cap, a much lower sum than he’ll soon receive. If Akeem Jordan wins the starting inside linebacker job next to Perry Riley, then you could consider him underpaid as he’ll only count $635,000 against the cap and also would be a big help on special teams.
Looking to the future: Kerrigan is in the last year of his rookie contract, but the Redskins have until May 3 to decide whether to extend it by one year (at an average fourth through 25th highest-paid players at his position). Jordan, Rob Jackson and Darryl Sharpton all signed one-year deals this offseason. If the Redskins don't draft an inside linebacker, they have to hope Keenan Robinson stays healthy and shows why teammates have praised his talent since his arrival.

Cornerback

Number on roster: 7
Total percentage of cap space: 6.1
Total cap value: $7,873,638
NFL average: $12,316,626
Biggest cap hit: Tracy Porter ($2,800,000)
Underpaid: DeAngelo Hall is coming off his best season in Washington and will count only $2.1 million against the cap – 55 corners will occupy more cap space.
Looking to the future: E.J. Biggers is the only corner who will be a free agent after this season. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft someone else, in case Hall’s play slips that much or Porter doesn’t help or just to add depth. Richard Crawford still has to prove his knee is sound and that he’ll continue improving. Same with Chase Minnifield.


Safety

Number on roster: 7
Total percentage of cap space: 2.91
Total cap value: $3,746,719
NFL average: $8,237,006
Biggest cap hit: Brandon Meriweather ($1 million)
Underpaid: No one here is underpaid, though if Ryan Clark can coax out another good year and help groom some young safeties, then his $635,000 cap hit will qualify. But they also have to have young safeties worth grooming.
Looking to the future: Meriweather and Clark have one-year deals, which means the Redskins could well be in the same position next offseason in looking for starting safeties. Of course, they could still draft one (I would) and hope that between the rookie and the two young holdovers from last year, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas, that they’ll find one starter and then only need to find one more. Thomas must prove that he’s not only healthy but can move as he did before the Lisfranc injury. Rambo has to earn a job this year. Neither holdover is a given to be a starter – in 2014 or beyond.

Redskins re-sign E.J. Biggers

March, 27, 2014
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The Redskins restored some depth at cornerback, re-signing E.J. Biggers Thursday. Biggers confirmed the news via text message.

He signed a one-year deal. Last offseason he received a $350,000 signing bonus and a base salary of $650,000.

Biggers played a variety of roles for Washington last season, serving as their fourth cornerback. That’s the role he’ll likely fill in 2014 as well with DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson as the starters and Tracy Porter as the slot corner. Biggers also filled in some at safety in certain packages as the Redskins hoped to get more speed on the field.

Biggers has started 29 games in his career, including five last season with Washington. He has four interceptions in his career, one coming last season.

Washington also has Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford at corner, though the latter must prove that he's healthy coming off torn ligaments. So the only real change thus far at corner has been swapping out Josh Wilson for Porter. Wilson remains unsigned and will not return. Porter has the reputation of being a better cover corner than Wilson, though Wilson is probably more physical.

Resetting the roster: Cornerback

March, 21, 2014
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Taking a look at the Washington Redskins' cornerbacks 10 days into free agency:

On the roster: DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford, Peyton Thompson, Ryan Mouton.

Added in free agency: Tracy Porter.

Still unsigned: E.J. Biggers, Josh Wilson. Biggers seems to still be in their plans, though I have not heard much in the last several days on this front. My guess is he will be re-signed, likely on another one-year contract. Wilson was replaced as the slot corner by Porter.

On the market: Dimitri Patterson, Carlos Rogers, Phillip Adams, Terrell Thomas, Jabari Greer. This group is more about adding depth than finding starters, but the Redskins do need depth. Patterson started out with Washington as an undrafted free agent, appearing in one game. Rogers is another ex-Redskin, of course, and is probably limited to slot duty at this stage. Thomas has drawn interest from Carolina and Oakland. I don’t think he would add a whole lot. I have not heard of them being in on any other corners since signing Porter. Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner never visited.

What it means thus far: The Redskins still need to add players here even if Biggers returns. He was OK for them last season, showing enough versatility to line up at safety. However, as other coaches have said, there is a difference between lining up there and actually being a threat, say, in the box. That’s not a knock on Biggers, who was put into a role he had never played or should be playing. Biggers at least has length and, if he’s your fourth corner you’re in OK shape. I would not say the Redskins are in great shape here, however. Hall is coming off a solid year, but can he maintain that level? Amerson definitely improved and should be ready for the starting job.

I wonder about Minnifield and what sort of improvement he’ll show this spring and summer. He was feisty in press-man coverage last summer, but needed work on other coverages. That’s common for new players, let alone one coming off two knee surgeries in six months. There’s also Crawford, who showed improvement in the slot before tearing ligaments in his knee. But he needs to prove he can get back to that level. But I’d draft one in the first four rounds, a bigger one at that; doesn't have to be 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, but a legitimate 6-footer would be helpful. Porter could be a one-year guy and even though he’s coming off what Raiders observers termed a good season, this will be his third new team in three years. Good players don’t bounce around that much. Hall is not a long-term answer. This is an excellent draft for corners, so that should help them.

Offseason needs: cornerback

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The Redskins already re-signed corner DeAngelo Hall last month, but the work here isn't over. Far from it.

Why it’s a need: The Redskins have only two corners under contract capable of playing a lot in an NFL game in Hall and David Amerson. The Redskins need to find someone who can play in the slot as neither Hall nor Amerson is best suited for that job. Hall played there two years ago, but it was a struggle. I used this stat a couple weeks ago, but it’s indicative of what a team needs: Amerson, as the No. 3 corner, played 67 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers are free agents. I can see Biggers returning, but not Wilson.

In-house options: Maybe Chase Minnifield improves and can help and maybe Richard Crawford shows that he’s healthy after his knee injury and will contribute again. But, for now, both are question marks. Crawford showed good improvement last summer, particularly in the slot where his patience enabled him to mirror the receiver well. Minnifield showed tenacity in press coverage during the summer, but struggled when in zone or off-man coverage. It takes time to learn for some players. I have a feeling one of them will be able to be a solid fourth or fifth corner.

Free-agent options: The one player who could be intriguing is New England’s Aqib Talib, if the Patriots somehow let him get away. Talib has remained close with Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris, so if he decides to leave, and the money is right, then perhaps he’d come to Washington. Talib would give the Redskins versatility, with an ability to play inside or out. The Redskins could use another quality corner in a league where three is a must. Biggers is an option, but he’s best as a fourth corner, but would provide good depth. I also like Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn to a degree, but only if he’s asked to play inside (he did both in Carolina but worked a lot in the slot. At times he’d get off-balance, but was overall solid inside). He’s small and at some point the Redskins need to find a bigger corner.

Draft options: It’s a good draft for corners, so even if the Redskins sign one in free agency, they could be tempted to select another one in Rounds 2-4. Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner and TCU’s Jason Verrett are two possibilities, though both are small. It’s OK to draft a smaller player if he’s that good. But the ideal would be around 6-foot and both of these players are around 5-foot-9. Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a bigger corner, but he’ll have to learn to play off, too. It’s not as if the Redskins will only use press man. Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is likely a first-round pick, though he could sneak into the second. Overall, there are probably 15-20 corners who could go in the first four rounds.

In case you missed it

Monday: Receivers

Tuesday: Linebackers

Wednesday: Safety

Thursday: Defensive line
Whether or not the Washington Redskins need to add a starting cornerback doesn't matter. They will need to add some. And if they can't find them all in free agency, then the draft will provide strong alternatives. So says ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.

The Redskins might not need another starting corner, not if they re-sign DeAngelo Hall and bump David Amerson to the No. 2 spot. But they have multiple free agents at this position, including Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers, so there is a need to fill more spots.

"There are lots of second- and third-round corners," Kiper said in a an hour-long conference call after the release of his second mock draft. Insider

He was not asked a question about the Redskins on the call, but among the corners he pegged as a second-rounder is Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Seattle's use of its corners could fuel Baptiste's rise (Kiper had him as perhaps a mid-second-rounder).

"A press corner all the way," Kiper said. "He's going to benefit because of what happened with the Seahawks when they did so well with these big corners. Those guys weren't early picks. That's why everyone is looking at big corners now."

But, he warned, just because Seattle did it doesn't mean other teams can – or will do as well trying that formula. Takes more than selecting a player to make it work.

"A lot of that was coaching," Kiper said, crediting not only head coach Pete Carroll but former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and current one Dan Quinn. "Think about the defensive minds they have and the coaching they're receiving and a great pass rush can make it easier for the secondary. They get after you. When you have big corners and can protect them with the pass rush … Everyone can't do that. Everybody doesn't have that array of talent on defense that the Seahawks have that makes everyone look better. One group makes the other look better. Everyone's going to try and copy that and I say good luck trying to do that."
Our positional look continues, this time with the Redskins cornerbacks. As a group, the Redskins had small corners; E.J. Biggers and David Amerson were the only ones 6-foot or taller. They need to get bigger and that likely will be a focus of the offseason.

DeAngelo Hall

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett listed Hall among the team's priorities. So it's no surprise that they've already started talking to him about a deal. Hall will turn 31 in November, but is coming off perhaps his best season in Washington. He competes and played his best against the better receivers he faced. When he plays off-man coverage or even zone, Hall is not as effective as when he's in press coverage. He offers some versatility, though his strength is playing outside. Perhaps a move to safety is in the future, but he still has a couple years left at corner. Why move a corner who is still playing well?

2014: Likely back as a starter.

Contract status: Free agent as of March 11.

Josh Wilson

There was no declaration from Haslett about Wilson being a priority to re-sign. Wilson did a good job in the slot against the run, but his coverage skills were just OK. Wilson started ahead of David Amerson, though it's hard to see that continuing in 2014 if he somehow returns. The Redskins need to get bigger at corner – that's been true for a couple years and not just because of Seattle's Super Bowl success -- though if Wilson leaves they also have to find someone who can play in the slot.

2014: Tough to see him returning.

Contract status: Free agent as of March 11.

David Amerson

He played in every game as a rookie as the No. 3 corner and showed growth over the course of a season. If he becomes a starter, will he play the run as physical as Hall and/or Wilson? That will need to happen. Amerson improved in this area during 2013. He showed that he could make plays and got better in press coverage, something his long arms make him well-equipped to do. Amerson needs to ascend to a starter's role.

2014: Starter

Contract status: Signed through 2016.

E.J. Biggers

He was able to help the Redskins in a few spots, playing corner and safety. But Biggers is better suited just being a corner. There's a difference between lining up at safety and playing the position. Biggers' effort was good, but that's not where he needs to be. He is best used as a fourth corner, providing good depth. He only cost $1 million against the cap in 2013 and it's hard to imagine him being in great demand on the open market.

2014: Backup

Contract status: Free agent as of March 11.

Chase Minnifield

He was the darling of training camp, in part because he didn't get hurt (after two knee surgeries in six months) and showed feistiness at corner. He loves playing press coverage, but even in camp he struggled in any other coverage. That has to change this summer. He's listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, but he was measured at the combine at 5-foot-10. In other words: he's not a big corner.

2014: Back on the bubble.

Contract status: Signed through 2015.

Richard Crawford

Before getting hurt last summer, Crawford had showed improvement as a slot cover corner. He was ahead of Chase Minnifield. Plus his ability to return punts made him a roster lock. It's tough to know where he stands for next season until we see how he's moving in the spring -- or when he's able to be full-go. Considering the multiple ligament tears in his knee, it could be a tough go for Crawford.

2014: Bubble

Contract status: Signed through 2015.

Addressing the Redskins' draft needs

January, 15, 2014
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With no first-round pick (again) the Redskins won't be big players in the draft. But they do need a lot of help, as anyone who watched them this season can attest. Now that they've hired a coach, the attention will be turned toward procuring players in the offseason, whether through free agency or the draft.

And with the start of the all-star game season, the draft already warrants attention. One note: With coach Jay Gruden focused on putting together his staff, the Redskins coaches are not expected to attend next week's Senior Bowl.

Steve Muench, who has been scouting college players for Scouts Inc. since 2002, listed the Redskins top three needs as defensive back, linebacker and defensive line. Tough to argue with those, though the offensive line also will demand attention as they look for a different type of lineman than Mike Shanahan wanted. Receiver could be a priority, though it can take rookie receivers a while to get adjusted so free agency might be the better route.

Still, they need more talent on defense, especially young talent. Three of their top five defensive linemen from last season all will turn at least 30 before training camp. They're still young at linebacker, assuming Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley return. But the only two key players under contract in the secondary are Brandon Meriweather and David Amerson. Meriweather will be 30 in 2014 while Amerson hasn't proven he could be a No. 1 corner.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, here is Muench's; to read more of this Insider article, click here.

"Washington has needs at receiver and along the offensive line, but strengthening the defense should be the priority. It needs to address all three levels, starting with the secondary.

"At safety, Brandon Meriweather turns 30 this year, has had problems staying healthy and has a reputation for getting flagged for personal fouls. Reed Doughty is 31 years old and is not under contract for next year. Corners DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers aren't under contract either.

"The way the Redskins address the front seven depends on whom they hire to run the defense and whether they stay with a base 3-4 or transition to a base 4-3. Regardless of the front, there should be plenty of change at linebacker, as no fewer than seven players are scheduled to hit the free-agent market, including inside linebacker London Fletcher, who is expected to retire and whose experience and leadership will be tough to replace.

"The other notable free-agent linebacker is Brian Orakpo, who will get plenty of interest on the market. Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are capable of lining up at defensive end in a four-man front, so he could stay even if Washington transitions to a new scheme. The team also needs to strengthen the run defense and get stronger up front."

Here are some players Muench says could fit what Washington needs:

DBs: Baylor's Ahmad Dixon (DS), Ohio State's Bradley Roby* (DC), Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller
LBs: Michigan State's Max Bullough (ILB), Wisconsin's Chris Borland (ILB), Arizona State's Chris Young (OLB)
DL: Penn State's Daquan Jones (DT), Connecticut's Shamar Stephen (DT), Virginia's Brent Urban (DT/DE)

Four miss practice; Carriker a long shot

November, 20, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have encountered many issues this season. Health has not been one of them. But, Wednesday, four players did not practice because of injuries. Keep in mind, though, that they have an extra day of preparation because they don’t play again until Monday night.

The Redskins also suffered their first loss of a starting player as receiver Leonard Hankerson will miss the rest of the season after tearing his lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.

The four players who did not practice: tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee), corner Josh Wilson (toe) and safety Jose Gumbs (ankle). Corner E.J. Biggers (knee) was a full participant.

Also, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said defensive end Adam Carriker is a long shot to return this season, something they’ve felt all along. Carriker was left on the physically unable to perform list and designated as “returned to practice.” The Redskins have 21 days to either put him on injured reserve or activate him.

Carriker has had three surgeries on his quad/tendon, a situation that likely would have ended the career of other players. The Redskins have stuck with Carriker because of how hard he works.

“I do believe in miracles,” Shanahan said of Carriker.

Hankerson might need surgery

November, 18, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson suffered damage to the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, an MRI confirmed Monday, and now doctors are deciding the next course of action. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said they'll know in the next couple of days if surgery is needed.

Regardless, Shanahan said Hankerson, who was hurt in the second quarter of Sunday's 24-16 loss to Philadelphia Sunday, is "quite sore." And Shanahan sounded as if he's already planning for Josh Morgan to replace Hankerson in Monday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Morgan was inactive Sunday, having been replaced by Hankerson as the starting Z receiver and by Nick Williams at punt returner.

"I have a lot of confidence in Josh that he'll come back strong and help us this week as a wide receiver," Shanahan said.

Meanwhile, defensive end Stephen Bowen and safety/corner E.J. Biggers both received good news from MRI's on their respective knee injuries. Both have sore knees. Tight end Jordan Reed will undergo the standard protocol after getting a concussion Sunday.

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

November, 17, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

Britt
Williams
Simmer down: When left tackle Trent Williams was relaying what an official had said to him, several teammates tried to get him to stop. Initially no one was loud, but then receiver Pierre Garcon from across the room started in, trying to prevent Williams from eventually earning a fine. “I hear ya,” he said when Williams said why he was saying something, “but they're going to fine you.” That clearly didn't matter to Williams. And if he's right, there's no need for him to be the one worried about a fine. A loud discussion continued as the players showered.

Injury update: The Redskins have several players who will need MRIs on Monday, with receiver Leonard Hankerson possibly tearing his lateral collateral ligament -- the same ligament Robert Griffin III first hurt last December. Defensive end Stephen Bowen said he suffered no ligament damage, but will have an MRI. He's been playing with a meniscus tear. Corner/safety E.J. Biggers will get an MRI to see if he tore cartilage. Garcon said his ankle was hurting him badly after the game. Tight end Jordan Reed suffered a concussion and will follow the league's mandated medical protocol throughout the week. Safety Brandon Meriweather injured his arm, though coach Mike Shanahan did not include him on his postgame injury report.

Wash, rinse, repeat: The Redskins' locker room feels the same after games these days. Players talking about how they're better than this, and how they can't explain the constant losing. They still seem to take losses hard; it would be wrong to think they're immune from it. But numb? Yeah, probably. “Week to week it's a struggle,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said.

Redskins Gameday: Ten thoughts

November, 17, 2013
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1. There are a lot of good running backs in the NFL. Not sure many are held in higher esteem by the Redskins’ defenders than Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy. One Redskin compared him to Barry Sanders in terms of his footwork. If you asked the Redskins who the most underrated player in the league is, many would say McCoy.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesThe linebackers have to get off the blocks better to stop LeSean McCoy.
2. One key to stopping him: Getting off blocks better. The linebackers, London Fletcher, did not do such a good job of this in the opener. In the second half they were more aggressive, sometimes lining up a little closer as well, and it made a difference. It should also make a difference that nose tackle Barry Cofield can play with two hands in this game and not a big club. As he said, it wasn’t the difference in winning or losing but “two hands are better than one.”

3. Robert Griffin III took a step up last week in terms of throwing receivers open and showing more anticipation. That’s a byproduct of his having more trust in certain targets and getting on that so-called same page with his wideouts. There were three throws against Minnesota in which he threw with trust and anticipation that I had not seen in other games. At times the receivers will have to run their routes faster because with quick interior pressure, Griffin does not always have time to let things develop. Was this a one-game aberration or the start of something? We’ll find out Sunday.

4. The Redskins say their safeties weren’t the big problem in the first game, but the fact was this: They opened the season with a rookie at free safety and a converted corner at strong safety. That’s tough. Brandon Meriweather will start in this game. They used E.J. Biggers as a seventh defender in the box in the first game in their nickel defense; just lining up an extra defender in the box won’t always get it done. That player has to be able to make plays in the box, too. Anyway, having Meriweather should help at least a little bit in this game. “You can see Brandon is getting his legs under him,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “He’s starting to feel good. He’s starting to move well. Coming back from the injury a year ago you can see he’s starting to get better and better every day when he’s out on the practice field, so I think it will help immensely.”

5. One thing you don’t sense being around the Redskins is that they’re an uptight team and coming apart inside. There is still dissatisfaction with special teams and how things are done -- I don’t expect that to change, either -- but the grumbling or finger-pointing often associated with losing has been kept to a minimum so far. Part of that can be attributed to how they finished last season. But one reason they finished strong in 2012 is that they kept the same attitude. Before you start thinking it’s a sign of a repeat, the Redskins need to play a complete game -- and then do it the following week. They haven’t done that in 2013.

6. Nick Foles will run the read option and throw off it, and a defense should be able to tell when it’s a handoff or not: When he’s going to throw, Foles’ eyes are on his target as he fakes the handoff. Saw that a few times in the Green Bay game. And he will keep it on occasion as well; he did it on a short-yardage run versus the Packers, completely fooling the defense. It wasn’t a long run, but it got the first down and he quickly slid for a four-yard gain.

7. The Eagles love testing the eyes of a defense, with play-action and their package plays. So discipline and reading keys is a must. They ran, at times, a play in which the back would sprint in motion to the right where two receivers were in a stacked formation. A linebacker would race over with him as the defense focuses to that side -- it looks like some sort of screen. Foles would pump that way and then throw a screen back to the left. Green Bay stopped this play because the backside contain read their keys (linemen leaving early to the left). File it away.

8. Foles will throw long so the Redskins, who feel victimized by quick passes, will have at times more of a chance to rush the passer. Some of those deep throws come off play-action, but they can take time to develop. The Eagles will run a post-corner and a post to the same side, stressing the safety. They’ve scored on that play each of the past two weeks. But the point: It gives the Redskins’ rush an extra half-second to get home. However, the Eagles’ line is excellent and holds up well.

9. Curious to see what sort of coverage Washington uses in this game. The Redskins played zone and used a number of six-man boxes in the first half of the season opener. As you saw, that didn’t go so well. There were too many gaps against soft coverage and when, say, DeSean Jackson, would catch the ball there were too many chances to run. Philadelphia averaged 8.0 yards after each reception. In the second half the Redskins mixed up their coverages a little more, used a few more seven-man boxes, and did a better job. Their man coverage took away the Eagles’ bubble screen option.

10. Know what else helped the Redskins’ defense in the second half? Their offense. In that first game Washington’s offense ran 21 plays in the first half. A fumble ended one drive, an interception ruined the next and a safety followed on the ensuing drive. Voila: 26-7 at halftime. In the second half Washington ran 49 plays to Philadelphia’s 24. They’ll need similar help Sunday.

Five questions facing the Redskins

October, 30, 2013
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  1. Is this a must-win game? They all are, of course, but if the Redskins really want to turn their season around -- a phrase that’s getting old considering how it’s used every week and still hasn’t happened -- then they can’t afford a loss. At 2-6, their season would be shot even in a bad division. Mathematically they’d still be alive, but they have provided zero proof that they are capable of playing well for even two weeks in a row let alone eight. But if they beat San Diego, with a game at struggling Minnesota ... then the season could take a turn.
  2. Can Robert Griffin III develop into a quality passer? Yes. He has a good arm and is a smart kid and works hard. But missing the offseason work hurt him even more than anticipated. He’s still taking too long at times to read the coverage or to anticipate what will be open, and what won’t be, based on pre-snap looks. These issues existed last year, too, but were covered up because his legs served as a weapon and changed the way defenses played the Redskins. So Griffin is still enduring growing pains. If he had played like this last season, no one would have been surprised. In fact, it would have been normal. In some ways he’s learning lessons he probably didn’t have to as a rookie and is making comparable mistakes. Griffin is not a finished product; he just raised the level of expectations rather high. Yes, the talent level around him could be raised but he rarely had a healthy Pierre Garcon last season; Alfred Morris is better and Jordan Reed is a legitimate threat. This is about a quarterback who is still developing.
  3. How good is San Diego? Good enough that it beat Indianapolis 19-9 two games ago and good enough that it could withstand season-ending injuries to two of its receivers, have just one offensive lineman start every game and still have one of the best passing attacks. Most of that is thanks to quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.9) and is second in passing yards (2,132) and passer rating (111.1). He and tight end Antonio Gates are a lethal combination. And running back Ryan Mathews has posted consecutive 100-yard games. The Chargers are 4-3 and playing well. Beatable? Yes; they’re 2-2 in road games, but that includes a win at Jacksonville. They lost at Tennessee and Oakland and won at Houston. The Chargers’ back seven is vulnerable.
  4. Was there anything to build on from Denver? Bad teams find a way to blow games when they’ve been playing well. That’s what Washington did against Denver. Jacksonville played the Broncos well, too, don’t forget. But for Washington, the run game worked and the defense did its job, though Peyton Manning methodically moved the Broncos down the field after it was 21-7. Washington needed a stop and couldn’t provide it (but the Redskins did provide four turnovers; that’s plenty). Still, if the Redskins run the ball like that and create turnovers? That’s how they climb back into contention. Turnovers have killed them all season, much like they helped them a year ago. So, yeah, there were positives from that game but at this point it’s about wins or playing well for 60 minutes, not 45. A lot of teams can do that.
  5. Will Brandon Meriweather's return help? Sure, as long as he doesn’t start getting too worried about how he’s hitting guys. He must change how he tackles; he can’t play with indecision. But the Redskins missed him on Sunday; E.J. Biggers is a corner who can play safety in spots. At least rookie Bacarri Rambo played a strong game at Denver. That’s the best he’s looked since camp opened. Against another pass-happy team, the Redskins absolutely need what Meriweather brings. If Reed Doughty can play that would help, too. But if Rambo had played all year like he played Sunday, then he would never have lost his job and Meriweather would have stayed at strong safety.

Reed Doughty won't play Sunday

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
7:50
PM ET
DENVER -- The Washington Redskins, already thin in the secondary, got a little bit thinner.

Starting strong safety Reed Doughty will miss Sunday's game after suffering a concussion against the Chicago Bears last week while trying to recover an onside kick. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan called the hit on Doughty one of the "most vicious" he'd ever seen. After seeing Doughty this week, it's not a surprise that he won't play. On Wednesday, though he talked to the media, he was not quite himself and could not say that the symptoms had disappeared.

But he was limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, however, he did not practice and Saturday he did not accompany the team to Colorado, spoiling a homecoming game for the former Northern Colorado standout.

The question now becomes: What will the Redskins do at safety? The Broncos force teams into a lot of nickel coverages and the Redskins have gone a number of times with three corners and a safety. They could still do that, though the safety would be converted corner E.J. Biggers. If they need a fifth defensive back the Redskins could opt for rookie Bacarri Rambo, who was benched after two starts, or Jose Gumbs, who has played nine career snaps.

The problem is, Washington needs a strong showing in coverage -- and a disciplined one at that -- against Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. The key to the game will be pressure, regardless of who's in the secondary. But the Redskins will try to disguise coverages, which will be harder to do given the inexperience they'll now have. The corners also have to be able to trust the safeties when trying to play certain coverages. That could be another issue.

Doughty questionable, doesn't practice

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
2:55
PM ET
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Reed Doughty did not practice Friday, after being limited the previous two days, and is questionable for Sunday’s game at the Denver Broncos.

Doughty was not in the locker room and therefore did not talk to the media. He has said that he’ll wait to see how he feels Sunday. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Doughty will be tested again Saturday and if he passes, he will play.

It’s not a good sign that Doughty couldn’t practice after working on a limited basis.

“The whole week he hasn’t been perfect,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we gave him some time off.”

If Doughty can’t play, the Redskins have a real hole at safety with Brandon Meriweather already suspended for one game. They could opt for corner E.J. Biggers at safety, a role he has played this season -- and started there in the season opener versus Philadelphia. Because Denver is a pass-happy team, Biggers’ speed deep is a help. He’s also a more experienced player than some of their other options. Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson, for example, have combined for nine NFL snaps -- all by Gumbs.

Meanwhile, defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee) also is questionable, but is expected to play. Receiver Leonard Hankerson (foot) and nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) are questionable. But Hankerson said Thursday there’s no doubt he’ll play.

Rambo has 'no idea' why he's not playing

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
10:20
AM ET
ASHBURN, Va. -- He opened training camp as the starter and held that spot for the first two games of the regular season. That’s when the Washington Redskins coaches decided they needed more from the position. And that meant rookie safety Bacarri Rambo went from full-time player to inactive for the past three games.

Rambo said he doesn’t understand why he’s not playing.

“No I don’t,” Rambo said. “I have no idea.”

It’s actually not that difficult: Rambo missed open-field tackles and the Redskins also wanted to go to another strategy, using veteran Reed Doughty as the strong safety and Brandon Meriweather as the free safety. Or they’d use Meriweather and three corners (sometimes with a fourth as the second safety). And because Rambo did not perform to expectations on special teams, the Redskins looked elsewhere there, too. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made it clear at the time that he wanted to see how Rambo fared on special teams; coaches love when young players perform well on these units, giving them a sense that perhaps they’re ready for more.

This week, Rambo might get more but that’s still debatable. With Meriweather out and Doughty likely questionable with his concussion, the Redskins need help at safety. There’s a good chance that E.J. Biggers will play a big role here, especially against a pass-happy team such as Denver. It’s hard to imagine the Redskins would want Rambo in a single-high safety look against a veteran quarterback such as Peyton Manning.

“I’m just trying to get on special teams now,” Rambo said. “That’s the way I feel I can help the team. I’m just trying to do what it takes to get on special teams and the defense will come along.”

He said, despite not playing, he’s made strides.

“I’m learning the defensive scheme a lot better so making things a lot slower, learning how to fill in run gaps and just play coverages to defend certain routes,” he said.

The Redskins selected Rambo in the sixth round out of Georgia, where he started in the last 36 games in which he played. He also appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman. He had issues with marijuana in college, but he did not fall this far because of that: plenty of players get picked in the early rounds with the same problems. So it was going to be a difficult adjustment -- Rambo opened as a starter as much for what the Redskins lacked than for what he showed.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy not playing.

“It’s been very difficult, just adversity,” Rambo said. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity like Meriweather told me, ‘Just be patient and be humble.’ It’s been very disappointing, mostly disappointed in myself most of all because I didn’t perform well enough to keep my starting position so I’m just working hard and doing whatever it takes to get back on the field.

“I’ve never been that guy to … lose my position. It’s something new I have to adjust to.”

When asked if he knew what he had to work on to get back on the field, Rambo said, “I haven’t really spoke about it.” But he also said, when asked if it was tough that he didn’t know exactly what was up, “I just go talk to the coaches and find out and I just try to get better during practice.”

There is no guarantee he’ll play Sunday, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he’s seen improvements.

“He’s done a lot better, he understands it a little bit more,” Haslett said. “We’ll play it out this week and go with our gut feeling with who gives us the best chance.”

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