Washington Redskins: Leonard Hankerson

Washington Redskins mailbag: Part 2

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
The second round of the mailbag takes a look at Robert Griffin III's knee and how it impacts his passing; Leonard Hankerson; injured players and the physically unable to perform list and DeSean Jackson's numbers in various months. Enjoy.

John Keim: Don't know how he'll do it, but most coaches do it about the same. I would not expect him to veer off a whole lot in this area. But I don't know how he'll treat the offense, which is learning a new system (mostly when it comes to passing; numerous coaches have said the run game will be the same) compared to the defense, which is not. So maybe the offense gets an extra series or two in the first couple of games. We'll see.

Keim: His knee was healthy last year. Doesn't mean his game had completely recovered -- it hadn't-- but his knee was sound. There's a difference. It's not that his knee will be a lot healthier this year and therefore he's better, it's that he could spend the offseason strengthening it instead of rehabbing and he could work on his game. Those are huge factors. He fell into some bad habits last season that a good offseason might have prevented. He focused hard on his footwork in the pocket, for example. Griffin also did a poor job of transferring his weight, which led to some throws not having the same zip. That, too, should be better -- and it was a point of emphasis when he worked with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea. Also, the mind has to trust the body and at times last season Griffin perhaps was not at this point. But let's say he went from a 4.3 guy in the 40 to a 4.5 last year because of the knee. The latter time would still put him in the top third of quarterbacks.

Keim: Well, need to see if he's healthy first. My guess is he'll open training camp on the physically unable to perform list and then we just have to wait and see when he's healthy. As of last month the Redskins really had no idea when that might be the case. If he's healthy then I see no reason why they'd cut him. They don't have that sort of depth at this position and he's one of the few targets with any size.

Keim: At this point less than eight. There are things I liked coming out of the spring, but it still takes a leap of faith to think that they'll go from three wins to more than eight in the first season with a new coach, a defense that still needs work and a quarterback who still needs to prove himself as a pocket passer. I think Robert Griffin III will improve, but I have no idea what to expect from coach Jay Gruden or the defense. Not everyone was sold on Gruden or his work in Cincinnati, but I've seen first-year coaches who were more widely praised and yet fail terribly (Steve Spagnuolo). The pass rush will be better, but will the defense improve considerably? Lots of question marks in the back. They have not fixed the defense. Anything can happen and many things can break right, but entering camp I'm going with the under. Then it's time for a new evaluation.

Keim: There is no limit, but you can't go onto the PUP list going into the season unless you're on it entering training camp. So it's not like you can place someone on the PUP list instead of injured reserve if they get hurt during training camp. I would assume Leonard Hankerson opens camp on the PUP list. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Bowen does as well and, perhaps, Jason Hatcher. Richard Crawford is a possibility. Hankerson is the one I most wonder about opening the season on the PUP list. I really don't know about Bowen, who said this spring he would be ready for camp.

Keim: There was an article on CSNPhilly.com that sort of addressed this topic, pointing to five stats that could explain why Jackson was cut. There is a drop-off in his yards per game after September (of his 20 career games of at least 100 yards, 10 have come in September). But I don't know that it's a cold weather issue as much, perhaps, as a small receiver getting worn down. (The Redskins always had this concern with Santana Moss.) Here's his production breakdown by month: September (98 catches, 1,783 yards, nine touchdowns); October (80 catches, 1,224 yards, six touchdowns); November (96 catches, 1564 yards, nine touchdowns); December (76 catches, 1,424 yards, seven touchdowns). The article pointed out that in the postseason "he's averaged 3.2 catches and 54 yards. In his last three playoff games, Jackson has eight catches, 114 yards and one TD." Now, in the Saints game last season, he also drew a big-time pass interference penalty that helped. Also, is this a matter of Jackson not helping or defenses focusing on taking away a primary weapon? Then again, that's something every great receiver must overcome. It's why they're considered great. And the bottom line is, in six postseason games he's surpassed 53 yards only twice -- and has yet to post more than 92. 

The Washington Redskins' 12-member draft class in 2011 was supposed to yield a number of key players. With those players entering the final year of their original contracts, it has not lived up to expectations -- or hopes. As of now, only one player will enter the season as a guaranteed starter and by this time next year it could well be that only a couple players remain from this group. Injuries didn't help as five of these players have missed an entire season or a substantial part of a year. Here's a look at how they stand:

LB Ryan Kerrigan (first round): Established as the starting left outside linebacker. He’s become a solid player for Washington and was off to a terrific start last season with 6.5 sacks in the first seven games. Kerrigan injured his knee and, though he said it did not cause any dropoff in his play, he also admitted he lost a little explosiveness because of how it felt (he had just two sacks in the final nine games). Like Brian Orakpo, he should benefit from the arrival of outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, defensive end Jason Hatcher and rookie linebacker Trent Murphy. Kerrigan does well moving around and rushing from the inside. He’ll need to get out of the habit of trying to mostly rush with contain. But if others are being effective, Kerrigan will have a solid year with his relentless style. The Redskins gave him the fifth-year extension, so he will return next season -- as he should.

DE Jarvis Jenkins (second round): Not even guaranteed to start this year, though he’ll definitely be in the rotation. And if he does start, he likely won’t play as much in the nickel until he proves he can help as a pass-rusher -- something he has yet to do. Jenkins can be valuable at helping against the run. He needs a strong year to garner another contract from the Redskins.

WR Leonard Hankerson (third round): There’s no guarantee he’ll even be ready to start the season. He’s been inconsistent and has never become the player Washington’s previous staff hoped he would be. Injuries haven’t helped him at all. But Hankerson lacks any sort of explosiveness after the catch. He’ll have a tough time this season coming off his knee injury. Not the way he’d want to enter a contract year.

RB Roy Helu (fourth round): He can still help, but what he’s proven is that while he can at times look excellent in the open field he’s not a patient runner from scrimmage, leading to too many short runs. The Redskins drafted Lache Seastrunk, but Helu has a big edge over him in the pass game. It’s not just about catching the ball, it’s about knowing how to run routes and pick up blitzes and recognize coverages. Don’t underestimate that aspect of the job because it’s huge. But if Seastrunk improves and shows he can be more than a runner from spread formation, then Helu’s future beyond 2014 is in doubt. For now, he’s insurance if something happens to Alfred Morris.

S DeJon Gomes (fifth round): The Redskins cut him before the 2013 season and he was picked up by Detroit. He’s still with the Lions, but will be a reserve and special teamer. He never developed in Washington.

TE Niles Paul (fifth round): Entered as a receiver with decent speed, but was more known for his blocking on the edge as a rookie and then moved to tight end in his second season (after some discussion of trying safety instead). Paul hasn’t become the sort of tight end the coaches felt he might, but he was better last year than in 2012. Still, he’s a third tight end who can block on the move. The Redskins drafted Ted Bolser, but based on watching his college tape and again this spring, he did not seem like a real threat to unseat Paul. The latter is a key special teams player, too. He’s a tough guy and adds a lot on that unit.

RB Evan Royster (sixth round): Will enter once again as a guy on the bubble. He was insurance last year and carried the ball twice and caught one pass. With Morris, Helu and Seastrunk, it’s hard to imagine Royster being anything other than insurance again. It will depend, too, on how Chris Thompson looks this summer -- and how many backs Jay Gruden wants to keep. Tough to see Royster being around in 2015.

WR Aldrick Robinson (sixth round): He improved down the stretch, but to expect a big leap this season would require much faith. Robinson has had to learn how to run routes at the proper speed and depth, something he did get better at in 2013. But like Hankerson he needs to improve his consistency. At best he’s a fourth receiver this season and if Ryan Grant progresses, he’ll eventually bump him from this role (not a lock for that to be the case this year however; Grant needs to get a lot stronger). Another guy who could be gone after this season.

CB Brandyn Thompson (seventh round): Cut before the 2012 season; now plays for Ottawa in the CFL.

OT Maurice Hurt (seventh round): Has never really looked in great shape. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and will have a tough time making the roster. Worked at right tackle in the spring. He’s not a right tackle.

LB Markus White (seventh round): He looked the part, but never quite grasped the position. Cut during the 2012 season. He spent time with Tampa Bay that season, but was cut last August. He now plays for Saskatchewan in the CFL.

NT Chris Neild (seventh round): Opened with a flash as a rookie with two sacks early in the season. His game, though, is not built on sacks so that was an anomaly. He’s a try-hard guy, but will have a real tough time making the roster.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
DeSean Jackson's impact compared to Santana Moss ... Has the defense really improved? ... Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen ... a comment or a question? It's all here. Enjoy.

John Keim: Great question. Man, it'll be tough to have a greater impact than Moss did in 2005 when he caught 84 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 17.7 yards per catch. I can't see Jackson matching that total simply because he'll have much more receiving talent around him. Moss had tight end Chris Cooley, but those two combined for 155 of the team's 278 receptions. No other player came within 40 of Cooley's total (71). Moss made the offense; Jackson will complete this one. He will have a big impact, but without Moss the Redskins had no passing game. Without Jackson the Redskins could still be fine. They're just better with him and he gives them the same level of playmaker Moss was in '05.

Keim: They hosted Owen Daniels early in free agency, but that was about it (and he eventually signed with Baltimore). But the drop-off from Reed to Paulsen is only when it comes to pass-catching. They like, and need, Paulsen as a blocker as Reed still needs to show he could handle that role consistently. Ted Bolser hasn't impressed me a whole lot this spring, but I always viewed him as a guy to groom for a year or two down the road. Not much of a blocker and his hands were too inconsistent this spring.

Keim: I assume you mean if whichever one doesn't start because there's no way all three will considering each plays on the inside. But the answer is yes ... probably. Hayward is a career backup, with 13 starts in his seven seasons. He's a special-teamer and was not brought in to start. Sharpton and Jordan both can help on special teams as well and have more starting experience. The decision will likely come down to this: Do you keep a fifth outside linebacker (Brandon Jenkins and/or Rob Jackson) or a fifth inside linebacker? The guys inside are stronger on special teams.

Keim: I have my doubts too, especially if you want significant improvement. There is reason to believe they'll be better because of the new pass-rushers, giving them a more diverse attack. With new outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, there is an added emphasis on an aggressive rush. Too often in the past the outside linebackers rushed contain, as they had been taught. Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will have a key role in the game planning (like Bob Slowik did last year; I trust Olivadotti a lot more). Just remember: Everything sounds good in the spring. We have to see it on the field. But the defense is aging and will remain in transition for another year. There's a lot of age up front, too -- and guys coming off injuries. It's a tough mix. They'll be helped, however, by improved special-teams play and fewer turnovers by the offense.

Keim: You are right, he dropped too many passes last season. I don't think he's a lock, but the head coach certainly likes what he adds. Two weeks ago he talked about how Moss was going to help the team. In my experience, coaches don't talk about the season that way for players they don't think will make the roster. Moss also has looked good this spring. But the other reason is this: Who will beat him out? After the three starters, there's not a whole lot of proven talent. Leonard Hankerson might not be ready to open the season; Aldrick Robinson is still Aldrick Robinson and while they like Nick Williams, is he really better than Moss? No. Besides, Williams has practice-squad eligibility. Ryan Grant will be there too but he's only a rookie. Moss provides insurance and proven depth and Jay Gruden likes him around for his leadership.

Keim: This sounds more like a complaint than a question. I guess you missed the thousands of words I wrote about observations and more. The blog is full of the information you say wasn't said.

Keim: He had a good enough rookie minicamp to earn a contract. He's long, which always helps, but he has a ways to go before he can think about making the roster. Bridget has a number of players ahead of him.When training camp starts, and they start doing more one-on-ones with receivers, etc., then I'll get a better feel for him. During the spring I need to focus on the returning players, impact guys and newcomers of note. So... ask again in August.

Keim: Have not heard that, no. It's too expensive to change based on what team you have; could change on a yearly basis. They will be fast offensively on any surface. Keep in mind, too, that the defense is not considered fast. 

An update on two injured Redskins: receiver Leonard Hankerson and nose tackle Barry Cofield:

1. Still no idea when Hankerson will return. And I doubt there will be a better idea next week.
That's why when asked if he has any indication Hankerson will be ready for camp, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “None whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Hankerson said, “I'm feeling pretty good right now, out here moving around a whole lot more. Probably got a couple months to go. Should be good by training camp, but you never know.”

The Redskins don't need Hankerson to rush back after tearing his ACL and LCL last season. It's not just about the starters, but they at least have experienced backups in Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson.

Hankerson looked to be running better than he did two weeks ago. This past week he was able to run some routes off to the side. But he was certainly not running them at 100 percent speed (nor should he be). This is a big year for Hankerson, who will be a free agent next offseason. The first thing he must do to get any sort of deal is prove he's healthy.

2. Meanwhile, Cofield, who underwent hernia surgery, participated more this week than a week ago. He was still held out of full-team drills, but he did work before that point. During the team drills, he performed some agility work off to the side. Cofield won't be a full participant until training camp.
“He's further along than I think he anticipated even, and I think the trainers,” Gruden said. “But we're still going to modify what he's doing. We have to pull him back a little bit and make sure he's 100 percent ready for training camp.”

Cofield shares that thinking.

“I'm just playing it smart,” Cofield said. “It was a wear-and-tear type of injury. It's all connected so you get nagging injuries here and there and it manifests with the surgery. It's an easy recovery. I feel good.”

The good news for Cofield is that he might not be needed on quite as many plays as the past couple of years with the increased depth on the line. Not just the addition of Jason Hatcher, but the continued improvement of Chris Baker.

That depth is important for an aging line, with potentially four players this season being at least 30 years old: Cofield, Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston. Two of them will be coming off surgery, too. (Bowen had microfracture surgery on his knee.) They could use more production from Jarvis Jenkins.

ASHBURN, Va. -- He’s not an old man, unless you count in football years. In that case Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss is approaching a territory that few at his position reach: still playing at age 35.

Last week, Moss said he didn’t worry about where he stood. This week, Redskins coach Jay Gruden gushed about Moss after Wednesday’s OTA workout, saying he’s had an excellent offseason.

[+] EnlargeSantana Moss
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsSantana Moss has 722 receptions for 10,167 yards and 66 TDs in 13 NFL seasons.
“He’s fun to be around, he’s fun to watch, he knows every position,” Gruden said. “He looks like a young kid. He’s got energy, he’s a great leader. If he drops a pass he holds himself accountable. If the quarterback misses him he’s like, ‘Let’s get onto the next one, man.’ He’s a great guy to have for these young guys to learn from. He’s working out hard. He’s the first one out there today again. I like having guys like that, veteran guys who are great examples for rookies and also can help you win in big games.”

Then he dropped a (strong?) hint as to Moss’ future: “He’s another one that’s going to help this team out.”

No reason to say that if you don’t think the guy will make the roster. Still, I would never call Moss a lock at this point; the Redskins would only be on the hook for $65,000 against the salary cap if he’s cut. His age works against him. He did drop too many passes last season (a drop rate of 8.9 percent according to ESPN Stats & Information). But he has looked spry out there (he's at the age where the word spry gets used more); he's a professional route runner and good to have around.

Here is a quick look at the receivers:

Pierre Garcon: A lock. Next.

DeSean Jackson: Ditto. But perhaps you keep a guy like Moss around to serve as a mentor of sorts for Jackson.

Andre Roberts: Lock.

Leonard Hankerson: Health is an issue. The Redskins still don’t know if he will be ready for the season opener. If that’s the case, then it would be good to have veteran insurance with a guy like Moss.

Aldrick Robinson: He can play all three spots, though has primarily focused on the X receiver spot in the past (where Garcon starts). He improved last season, but we’re still talking about a guy who has 29 career receptions in two full seasons. He doesn’t help much on special teams either.

Nick Williams: Unless he’s a returner, you can’t keep him over a veteran such as Moss unless Williams shows a heck of a lot this summer.

Ryan Grant: The rookie fifth-round pick runs good routes and is a likely a slot receiver in the NFL. But he has a lot to learn and must get stronger. It’s tough to see him being much of a help on special teams or from scrimmage as a rookie. But the coaches like him, and you always favor guys you drafted over those from a previous regime (unless there is a dramatic difference). Moss is far better now, of course. But if Hankerson returns and Robinson shows improvement, you are keeping Grant on the roster for what you think he can do beyond this season. Still, the Redskins could go with seven and keep them all, including Moss.

There are also a number of undrafted free agents on the roster, but it’s tougher to analyze them. They are all considered longshots, or more so players to develop on the practice squad, and that won’t change until the games begin.

You can keep a guy like Moss around as valuable insurance; Roberts’ ability to play more than just the slot means if something happens to one of the starters, you can move him around and plug in Moss. He still has value, even if it’s not as high as it used to be.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 31, 2014
May 31
Can't get through a week without some mention of the Washington Redskins' name controversy. So here are some questions and answers on that, plus offensive line talk, Roy Helu and Leonard Hankerson. Enjoy

ASHBURN, Va. -- The lack of another receiving weapon for years left Santana Moss without much help. Or without anyone to deflect attention. That’s changed the past couple years, though, so, too, has Moss’ role.

And there’s even more talent now.

“It’s fun to be around all these guys,” Moss said, “now that I’m much older. But there’s no age. When you’re out there you’re out there so it’s fun to have different targets.”

The question is, however: Will Moss benefit from those targets in games this fall? Or will he struggle to make the roster? Moss turns 35 on Sunday and is coming off a season that featured 42 catches, but he also dropped seven passes. His drop rate of 8.9 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information, was better than only six of 145 players listed.

If he makes the team he’d no longer be the Redskins’ starting slot receiver. Not after they signed Andre Roberts (and then added DeSean Jackson). More likely, Moss is an insurance policy in case Leonard Hankerson isn’t ready to open the season. Or in case rookie Ryan Grant will take a couple of years to develop. Moss signed a one-year contract with a signing bonus of only $65,000, making him easy to cut if necessary.

"I don't have any decision made right now," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, "as far as our starting two, three, four wide receivers or five wide receivers."

Regardless, Moss, who has caught 571 passes in his Redskins’ career, can’t be bothered by any of this.

“I let you guys do all the worrying,” Moss said. “I don’t worry myself. I put stuff on tape and at the end of the day I make it undeniable for a coach to have to question me. That’s all I do, man. I’ve never been a negative guy so therefore I think positive and as long as I think positive and do what I do, what I know how to do …”

He cut off his sentence and pointed out that he looked sharp in practice. Indeed: Moss looked the same, even catching one deep ball down the left seam. What does it mean? It’s only May, after all. To Moss, though, it means something.

“If you’re watching out there,” he said, “you can see ain’t too much changed.”


Redskins injury updates

May, 29, 2014
May 29
ASHBURN, Va. -- A few injury updates:
  • Receiver DeSean Jackson tweaked his left hamstring, but coach Jay Gruden called it a minor pull. Gruden said Jackson has had a good camp so far and that they just want to make sure he’s “right” when it comes to his health.
  • Nose tackle Barry Cofield had hernia surgery recently and will miss the rest of the OTA sessions. Gruden said they are hoping to have him full-go by the start of training camp and said, “He should be in good shape.”
  • Chris Neild and Kedric Golston worked as the first two nose tackles with Cofield out of the lineup.
  • Receiver Leonard Hankerson also continues to rehab his ACL injury. Both he and cornerback Richard Crawford, who tore multiple ligaments, ran on the side Thursday. Hankerson was not running as fast as he could and still looked affected by his knee. “We don’t want to rush him back,” Gruden said. “Let’s get him back 100 percent, whether the time is the start of training camp, middle of training camp, third game.”
  • Safety Phillip Thomas is practicing after missing last season with a Lisfranc injury. It can be a tricky injury to recover from, especially if the athlete has surgery, as Thomas did. But Thomas said he feels normal when running on the field.
  • Defensive end Stephen Bowen, recovering from microfracture surgery, did a little work off to the side. He did not expect to return by now, so his limited work is not a surprise.
  • Cornerback Tracy Porter, recovering from shoulder surgery, also ran off to the side.

Washington Redskins OTA primer

May, 27, 2014
May 27
The lesson was learned long ago: Don't take too much of what you see and hear during the spring as truth. Guys who look great in the spring often wilt in the summer heat. Though the memory of receiver Anthony Armstrong lingers; he was a spring star who parlayed that into a good season.

Still, all this time of the year should do is provide, perhaps, some new faces to watch during training camp when the pads come on.

But until that point, there’s still something to watch – and learn. Here’s some of what I’ll be watching for during OTA sessions (though the players begin today, the media gets their first look Thursday):
  1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III. By all accounts he’s moving well and looks reinvigorated. It could stem from the coaching change, but also because he’s a year further removed from surgery, lost the knee brace and couldn’t work on his game at all last season. Most likely it’s a combination of everything. But this will be the first glimpse for the media to watch him. It’ll be interesting to see how much different he is in terms of planting and throwing – and, yes, his weight transfer. Is he more accurate? Last summer his accuracy, in part because of altered mechanics, was more sporadic and it continued through the season. It won’t matter until the pads come on and the rush is in his face, but this provides one step in the process.
  2. DeSean Jackson. How much can you see the explosion even during a spring workout? Jackson’s full impact might not be seen completely, but we should get a glimpse of his speed and how the Redskins plan to use him.
  3. The injured players. We’ll get updates on where certain players are in their recovery. I’m curious to hear from/see safety Phillip Thomas, who is coming off Lisfranc surgery. I’ve heard that linebacker Keenan Robinson (torn pecs) has looked good this spring. I would not expect defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee) or receiver Leonard Hankerson (knee) to do anything.
  4. The starting competitions. It’ll be interesting to see the rotation at inside linebacker. The Redskins signed Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan to compete for the job (Sharpton received the stronger contract between the two; Jordan is not an every-down linebacker). Robinson will be in the mix, too. At defensive end, the Redskins have Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Baker and Bowen (who will not be participating). How is the rotation at guard? Not just the starter because I assume Chris Chester will still be in that role this week, but among the backups.
  5. Who will line up as the third corner with Tracy Porter still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery?
  6. Is there anyone pulling a Josh LeRibeus this offseason – showing up looking out of shape? The word is that LeRibeus has had a good offseason, but last year’s memory will linger. How do others appear? Or is anyone along the line noticeably bigger – Kory Lichtensteiger or Adam Gettis, for example? Both needed to add weight.
  7. Lichtensteiger at his new position: center.
  8. Jordan Reed. How is he moving around – and is the team focusing more on certain routes with him? Reed was becoming more of a downfield threat when he was injured last season.
  9. Jay Gruden’s style with the vets around. We saw him with the rookies so I don’t imagine it’ll change much. Still, this is the first chance with the entire team. What sort of presence does he have?
  10. How the rookies fare against the veterans. Who knows how much they’ll have certain rookies face starters – if guys aren’t ready for that it makes no sense to put them in that situation. But at some point they’ll face starters or at least veterans. With each rookie there will be questions as to how they’ll handle this scenario.
  11. The offensive sets – how much different will they be? Can’t report a lot of that stuff – it’s off limits – but it’s still worth noting.
  12. I would expect the second-year players to look better, including corner David Amerson. He worked on playing press coverage last year and improved during the season. Has that continued? It’ll be tough to accurately measure other players’ progress, such as safety Bacarri Rambo, until the preseason games begin.
  13. Who is working at returning punts and kickoffs? This was an issue last season and there are still question marks regarding both spots. You can throw in the kicker competition for good measure. It's tough to win a job at that spot in the spring, but you sure can lose it.

Sizing up the rookies: Ryan Grant

May, 26, 2014
May 26
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: WR Ryan Grant

Why they don’t need him as a starter: They have three rather good receivers in DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon. Plus Leonard Hankerson adds more depth -- if healthy. There’s also Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss among the veterans. Washington needs more bodies at this position, but it does not need anyone who must contribute immediately.

Future role: Backup/slot receiver. The Redskins like Grant because he offers some versatility, able to run routes from outside or inside. But his ability to break quickly and catch in traffic will give him a chance inside. He’s not a big-play threat on the outside. But he is a savvy route runner against zone coverages, understanding where to settle. He’s also competitive, which always helps.

When he might need to be ready: 2016-17. The Redskins’ top three receivers all are signed through 2016 so, barring injuries, Grant has time to develop. Injuries always happen at this position, so they could use him to be at least effective before this point. Still, if Hankerson is healthy and Robinson shows any improvement, then Grant can be brought along slowly this season. He has time and will need it.

What he must work on: Strength. Grant is an excellent route runner -- smooth, fluid -- but he’s not a strong player. Being able to defeat press man coverage will be a challenge, though if he’s in the slot he can at least buy himself a little more space to try and win the route. His lack of speed hurts him here, too, as corners won’t be afraid to play him tight. The lack of strength also will hurt his blocking. Despite his route-running ability, he did not always create great separation because of his speed (this was definitely an issue for teams). He dropped too many passes during our one day watching him in the rookie minicamp, but has shown the ability to make excellent catches.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

May, 23, 2014
May 23
With the heavy lifting on the roster completed, the questions in Part 1 of the mailbag now turn to different topics: Mike Shanahan's philosophy regarding the offensive line; Brandon Jenkins' role; what must Brian Orakpo do to stick around? Makes for a nice variety. Enjoy.
Eight players can celebrate their start in the NFL with the Redskins – but their arrival means trouble for other players already on the roster. Here are a number of Redskins who will have tougher competition this summer because of the players Washington just drafted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right tackle

The case for: Tyler Polumbus is not the long-term answer and, in fact, his contract is up after this season. Though he improved last season, it's clear the organization would like an upgrade. They could find a future starter -- whether Day 1 or not remains to be seen -- at 34. Or they could find a guy who might take a year or so after the second round.

The case against: Tough to make a case against drafting a right tackle, especially because there are some good ones available at that spot. That, combined with a need for the position -- even if Polumbus starts they need his eventual replacement.

Names to watch: Cyrus Kouandjio. The main reason he's available is because of questions surrounding his knees. But he was also inconsistent in pass protection (much better against the run), another reason he fell. Some teams have definitely been scared off because of his knees -- he has a degenerative issue with his knees, according to ESPN's Stephanie Bell. But he's also had no problems since his 2011 ACL surgery and, in fact, never missed a practice, had pain or swelling. So there's a risk-reward here and some positive signs mixed with concerns. And the Redskins' relationship with Dr. James Andrews, whose office performed the surgery on Kouandjio, is important and helpful here. If he can't play tackle, Nevada's Joel Bitonio, could move easily to guard. They also showed interest in Jack Mewhort, Morgan Moses and Antonio Richardson. I would not draft Mewhort or Richardson at 34; Moses' ability suggests he should go the highest of these three. We'll see.


The case for: The Redskins need depth with Leonard Hankerson still uncertain following ACL surgery. Aldrick Robinson is entering the last year of his contract, too. Both have shown flashes but for one reason or another (yes, injuries a part) haven't put it together. Also, if the receiver they pick can return punts and kicks, that's even better.

The case against: They have three starting receivers -- and all are under contract for the next three seasons. Whoever they get, barring injuries, would end up being a No. 3 at best.

Names to watch: Marqise Lee is still available. But this is a deep draft at receiver so finding one after the second round is a distinct possibility. They also expressed interest in receiver Cody Latimer before the draft. He's an interesting player, faster than realized given how he was used at Indiana and because of injuries.

Tight end

The case for: Washington can use another pass catcher opposite Jordan Reed. Logan Paulsen is a blocker and an occasional pass threat, but they could use more given Reed's durability issues. Niles Paul remains on the roster, but is a free agent after this season.

The case against: Tough to make a strong case against adding another one at some point. At 34? Seems a big stretch considering Reed would still be the primary target if healthy. But in the third or fourth round? Sure.

Name to watch: Jace Amaro. More of a guy who would line up wide, but has definite receiving skills.

Running back

The case for: They clearly would like another pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Alfred Morris is set as the full-time ballcarrier, but Roy Helu is not set as the third-down back.

The case against: The second round is too high for this position given the needs elsewhere. But if they pick up another third? Then this spot becomes one worth watching (though the fourth round is fine here as well).

Names to watch: De'Anthony Thomas, Dri Archer, Charles Sims, George Atkinson III.


The case for: Though the Redskins signed Shawn Lauvao, they still have questions inside. Chris Chester, who struggled last year, returns. The Redskins could opt to draft another player here and plug them in immediately. Chester would then be in jeopardy of losing his job (releasing him would save the Redskins $2.7 million against the salary cap.

The case against: They did invest inside during free agency and still need a right tackle. For them to take a guard in the second round, it would have to be someone who was head and shoulders above.

Names to watch: Xavier Su'a-Filo. The UCLA guard is No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list at this position. Some tackles, such as Bitonio, might eventually end up at guard. Cyril Richardson has the size to play tackle, but his game might translate more to guard. He's a third-round guy.
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:


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

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

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.


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.


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.


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.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
It'll be fun to watch the Redskins' receivers this season, at least in terms of how they are used. Which, of course, leads us into the first question in the Saturday mailbag. Naturally, more talk about the draft in terms of potential trades and whether or not they should take a tight end. Also, what does Brian Orakpo have to do to earn a new deal? That's here as well. Enjoy.