Washington Redskins: John Clayton

A few leftover notes for a Monday:

Clayton’s a believer? It’s funny how wide-ranging the expectations are for the Redskins this season. Considering they only won three games, they should be improved. It’s easy to write a script that sees them contending for a playoff spot: Robert Griffin III rebounds; the offense cuts down on turnovers; the pass rush helps enough to improve the defense; the special teams is much better. But it’s also easy to temper those expectations: The defense didn’t do enough to get better and is aging; first-year head coach; Griffin does not progress enough as a passer. I do think Griffin will improve just based on having a full NFL offseason for the first time. They also play in a division that is not strong. But there are still a lot of unknowns about this team (it is only June after all). Anyway, ESPN’s John Clayton likes them as well. Check out his answer (or he's just not high on the Giants or Cowboys. Regardless, it's in his reply to a question on the Eagles) in this week's mailbag.

Comeback player of the year? Griffin received an award no player really wants this past offseason: The Ed Block Courage Award. It means they had some sort of injury to overcome. But that now gives him a chance to earn another one – the Comeback Player of the Year -- and NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling puts him at the top of the list of those who may win. As stated above, Griffin has had a good offseason and that should help his play on the field. I’d be surprised if he stays the same after spending more time on his fundamentals. The tough part is learning a new passing offense and that will require an adjustment. But it also will help having the talent he does around him in the passing game.

Sean Lee impact: Though he plays for a rival, Dallas linebacker Sean Lee will continue to be on the Redskins’ minds throughout spring workouts. Nobody wants to suffer the fate of Lee, who tore his ACL in an OTA workout last week. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said they discussed this with the players last week. The CBA is clear on contact during the spring (none is allowed). But it’s tough to have 11-on-11 workouts without some banging, bumping and tumbling bodies. Gruden said they talked about staying on their feet, “doing the best you can to avoid any kind of drag downs, pull downs, contact. But every now and then you’re going to have a collision, unfortunately, because it is football and guys are trying to show that they are doing right. We’re trying our best to police that and keep people up. It’s something we are definitely keeping an eye on.”

Rookie learning: At this time of year the coaches aren’t just focused on whether one of the rookies does well on a play or not. They’re having to learn so much that their heads are swimming with information. It can lead to slower play at times. Gruden said they’re looking at other aspects perhaps more. “You look for mental toughness in rookies,” he said. “You look for how they can handle some kind of adversity, some kind of failure and how they rebound from a poor play to the next play.”

New way: The Redskins’ training camp will be different just based on the schedule. The last two summers, under Mike Shanahan, the Redskins would conduct a walk-through in the morning (at 10 a.m.) and practice at 3:20 p.m. Shanahan switched to a walk-through first in 2012 under the belief that they could have a meeting, go over it slowly on the field, meet some more and then practice what they learned at full speed. This summer, they’ll go back to a more traditional way with an 8:35 a.m. practice and a 4:15 p.m. walk-through. Is one way better? Well, they tried both ways under Shanahan and won a division the first time and went 3-13 the next year. (Players typically felt Shanahan took care of them, too). The new way allows the players to work in less intense summer heat. Both coaches scheduled two days off before the first preseason game.

Combine leftovers from Polian, Clayton

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
A few combine leftovers of note that could be applicable to the Washington Redskins:

Former general manager and current ESPN NFL Insider Bill Polian listed 14 players Insider among those he considered the most impressive. A handful of them might be available when the Redskins make their first choice with the 34th overall selection.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: This is a very explosive player. He ran a good 40-yard dash time (4.43 seconds, tied for seventh among receivers) and a really great triangle drill (6.69 seconds, tied for sixth among WRs). He has good hands and runs explosive routes.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: He has great speed (his 40 time of 4.33 was the best among receivers at the combine), great skills and great separation quickness, which will likely be enough to overcome his size (5-foot-10, 189 pounds).

Beckham probably solidified a first round selection with his speed at the combine, which confirmed what scouts had anticipated. He's fast. Cooks, too, could be a late first-round pick; entering the combine he was pegged as someone who could go there or early in the second. ESPN's Mel Kiper listed Cooks among his risers Insider after the combine. Among Kiper's fallers? LSU receiver Jarvis Landry, thanks to his 4.77 in the 40.

Polian then listed two defensive backs that should be intriguing, even if the Redskins should have its starting corners in DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. However, consider this: Amerson played 684 snaps last season as the No. 3 corner; that's 67 percent of the snaps. If you don't have three solid corners, you're in trouble.

So here are two guys, Jason Verrett and Lamarcus Joyner, who should be around after the first round. The only problem is that Verrett is 5-foot-9, though he moves so well, and Joyner is only 5-foot-8 and might be limited to playing a slot corner and returner (or perhaps safety). But, still, Polian liked them and had this to say:
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: A very good college player with really good instincts, Joyner confirmed Tuesday in Indianapolis that he can run well.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: He is a really good cover cornerback with outstanding speed (he ran a 4.38 40, tied for second-best among corners) and the ability to stick to receivers in man-to-man coverage.

Finally, here's a tidbit from John Clayton's final observations from the combine that makes a lot of sense to me.

Again, the Redskins want and need more receiver help. Doesn't mean they'll spend big, but with Josh Morgan and Santana Moss both free agents they definitely have spots to fill.

Clayton makes the case, as I would as well, that the draft provides a terrific option:
This receiver class will hurt free agents at the position: With Hakeem Nicks being a slight question mark coming off two years in which he struggled with injuries, there are no great receivers in free agency. Last year it was easy to see Mike Wallace was going to get the most money. He was a No. 1 receiver with speed. Most of the free-agent receivers this year fit more into the slot.

Many of the top receivers in this year's draft project to be No. 1 receivers in the future. [Sammy] Watkins is clearly the best receiver to hit this league since A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals and Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. The draft is loaded with great receiving prospects -- Watkins, Mike Evans of Texas A&M, Odell Beckham of LSU, Marqise Lee of USC, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State and Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. Teams may prefer the potential of drafted receivers over the track records of the receivers available in free agency.