Washington Redskins: Nick Sundberg

Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester (which I don't think will happen; I think he'll start). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.

Defensive line (6)

This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways.

Linebackers (9)

As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.

Safeties (4)

I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.

Positional outlook: Special teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KR Chris Thompson
He didn’t show anything as a kick returner during the regular season and had to get used to defenders who he couldn’t dust with his speed. Thompson learned how to field punts last summer and perhaps after an offseason devoted to this he could improve. But he has a lot to prove.
2014: Bubble
Contract status: Signed through 2016
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins cornerback David Amerson was limited in practice, three days after suffering a concussion in the 31-16 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. But Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he's hopeful that Amerson will be fine Thursday.

Amerson said earlier on Wednesday that he has not felt any lingering affects from the concussion, which occurred thanks to a blindside hit on a second-half kick return. The Redskins can't afford to lose Amerson in a week where they're facing two big receivers in 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffery. At 6-foot-1, Amerson is the Redskins' tallest corner.

Meanwhile, backup nose tackle Chris Neild was limited with a calf injury. Linebacker Brandon Jenkins (ankle), center Will Montgomery (knee), corner Jerome Murphy (ankle) and tight end Logan Paulsen (knee) all practiced in full. Long snapper Nick Sundberg underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee and now faces a five-month recovery.

For Chicago, tight end Martellus Bennett (knee), defensive end Julius Peppers (not injury related) and corner Charles Tillman (knee) did not practice. Linebacker James Anderson (back), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe), safety Anthony Walters (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (knee) were limited.

Redskins add three players, cut one

October, 15, 2013
The Washington Redskins had a busy Tuesday, signing three players, cutting one and placing two more on injured reserve. It’ll be tough for the new players to provide the sort of help the Redskins need.

Here’s a recap of the Redskins’ moves:


*Linebacker Josh Hull, long-snapper Kyle Nelson and safety Trenton Robinson. Hull has played in 28 career games with one start after being drafted by St. Louis in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. But he was cut at the end of August. Washington needs him to help on special teams, replacing the injured Bryan Kehl.

Nelson, who went undrafted in 2011, snapped for San Diego in the final six games of the 2012 season. He was cut by Seattle this past summer. His grandfather, Roger Nelson, was a 13th-round pick by Washington in 1954 but ended up playing in the Canadian Football League instead. Kyle Nelson replaces injured Nick Sundberg.

Robinson was a sixth-round pick by San Francisco in 2012 and appeared in the first three games of last season for the 49ers. He was on Philadelphia’s practice squad this season until being released a week ago. Robinson was a captain at Michigan State along with current Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Redskins clearly need help at safety, though it's hard to find such help during the season. If he can help on special teams, that would be a boost. He's listed at 5-foot-9, 193 pounds and won a roster spot in 2012 because of his aggressive style. Robinson was timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the 2012 combine.


*The Redskins released safety Jordan Pugh, who made the roster coming out of training camp but didn’t add a whole lot. The Redskins activated safety Jose Gumbs against Dallas, and when they needed an extra safety, they often used a corner in that role. That’s not what you’d call a good sign.

Gone for now:

*Kehl and Sundberg, both of whom suffered season-ending knee injuries against Dallas on Sunday night, were placed on injured reserve. Kehl tore his left ACL; Sundberg tore his right meniscus. Kehl was their leading tackler on special teams while Sundberg was a consistent long-snapper.

Bryan Kehl, Nick Sundberg done for 2013

October, 14, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins’ special teams has enough problems. Two more can be added to the list. They lost their top tackler, Bryan Kehl, and long snapper, Nick Sundberg, to season-ending knee injuries.

Both Kehl and Sundberg were hurt in Washington’s 31-16 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Kehl tore his left ACL while Sundberg tore the meniscus in his right knee. They’ll weaken an already weak crew under first-year coach Keith Burns. Sundberg is an excellent long snapper and gets the ball back quick. Kehl was one of the leaders on special teams, an area that has kept him in the NFL. The Redskins lack impact players on these units and therefore can’t afford any loss of a good player. The Redskins have not yet signed anyone to take the place of either player.

Corner David Amerson suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss and will be monitored throughout the week.

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

October, 14, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Reality check: For the fourth time this season the Redskins had a quiet locker room. But there was more of a shell-shocked look on the faces of the players. Nobody is more surprised by the 1-4 start than the Redskins’ players and coaches. “Lack of execution is costing us games,” running back Alfred Morris said. There’s still a long ways to go, and perhaps that’s why Reed Doughty spent several minutes "coaching" up Jerome Murphy in the locker room, going over scenarios and different plays. But they all know time is getting short.

Ouch: Cornerback David Amerson left the game in the second half with a concussion. Coach Mike Shanahan did not have an update after the game, but Amerson will be evaluated throughout the week. Special-teamer Bryan Kehl said he felt something pop in his knee on the Cowboys' second-quarter punt return for a touchdown. The killer on that play: Kehl had the angle on returner Dwayne Harris. "I would have made the tackle," Kehl said. He'll undergo an MRI. Long-snapper Nick Sundberg suffered a knee injury as well. Shanahan was not sure how serious it was, but Sundberg could not finish the game.

Dead zone: The Redskins had three trips inside the red zone, but settled for field goals of 20, 32 and 33 yards. Meanwhile, the Cowboys had four trips in the red zone and came away with three touchdowns. That’s a 12-point difference. “I think we had a solid game, but we need touchdowns instead of field goals,” Redskins center Will Montgomery said.

Penalties hurting Washington

September, 17, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The problem isn’t that the Washington Redskins have been issued 17 penalties. It’s that when they’re not doing anything else right, those penalties become magnified.

Washington committed seven penalties for 78 yards in Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the Packers. The Redskins do not lead the NFL in penalties, though only four teams have been issued more. And it’s not as if penalties equal bad teams, especially when you consider those ahead of Washington are Detroit (19), Denver (21), Seattle (19) and San Francisco (23). The last three teams are considered Super Bowl contenders.

“You always want to be disciplined,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “A lot of times a team plays extremely hard and you have unnecessary penalties because of aggression. You want to keep your poise. Baltimore had a lot of penalties and they won the Super Bowl.”

Baltimore ranked 31st in penalties last season, averaging 7.5 per game. Washington was 28th at 7.0 per game. And four of the bottom eight teams in 2012, in terms of penalties, reached the postseason (with Seattle and San Francisco being the other two).

However, the Redskins had an opportunistic defense and an explosive offense in 2012. Right now, both units are struggling. So the penalties stand out more, especially when four of them occur on special teams -- and two are for 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct calls against long snapper Nick Sundberg and gunner Niles Paul.

“We’re going to work on that to eliminate those silly mistakes,” Shanahan said. “You don’t want to beat yourself.”

Upon further review: Redskins Week 2

September, 16, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday:

[+] EnlargeWashington Redskins
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPoor tackling plagued the Redskins in their loss to the Packers on Sunday.
Tackling woes: The Redskins' defense already had flaws; it added another one with its tackling. The Redskins consistently give high-powered offenses extra yards because they fail to tackle; they have allowed the most yards after contact this season (208) after ranking sixth in this area last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The problem is that teams are able to spread them out, preventing gang tackling at times. They’re not good enough, and not making enough plays, to overcome this issue. Teams will continue to get them in space, and Washington needs to prove it can tackle. Or else.

Quarterback runs: Is Robert Griffin III not running on zone-read options because of his knee? Because of how defenses are playing them? Because deficits forced the Redskins to abandon it? It’s a good question (why, thank you), and one we’ll try to answer throughout the week. Griffin’s timing in the pocket is off -- yes, a byproduct of missing so much offseason work from the knee injury. It can be subtle sometimes, but the difference in hitting a receiver on the correct shoulder can mean the difference between a 10-yard gain or 20. It adds up. One reason the Redskins gained so many yards after the catch last season was because of the chaos in the back end of defenses, fueled by late linebacker drops as they were worried about defending a multi-option run game.

Brandon Meriweather: There’s a dual issue here with Meriweather, starting with his health after leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion. He’ll now be monitored all week. So the Redskins will spend another week waiting to see whether Meriweather is able to play. Then you have to wonder what sort of punishment, if any, he’ll receive from the NFL. He was not flagged for either of his big hits, but replays showed him leading with his helmet on the first one against Eddie Lacy. Regardless, when he returns they need him more under control with his tackling -- and he needs to prove he can play for longer than a half without getting hurt. His continual health issues make the loss of Phillip Thomas even worse. But just think of the learning curve for a secondary with three rookies in prominent roles. UPDATE: Meriweather will be fined, but not suspended according to Adam Shefter.

Special teams: They’ve flown under the radar a little bit because of the problems elsewhere. But they shouldn’t. The special teams have not done anything to help. That goes for the returns, where rookie Chris Thompson is averaging 19.7 yards on six kick returns and 4.7 yards on three punt returns; one good runback would boost either number. Gunner Niles Paul and long-snapper Nick Sundberg both received 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties Sunday. In Sundberg’s case, the Redskins had pinned Green Bay at its own 10-yard line. It wasn’t a death sentence for the defense that the Packers then started at the 25-yard line. But right now every yard is huge for this defense. And Sav Rocca shanked a 25-yard punt that gave Green Bay the ball at its own 35 in the first quarter.

Rapid Reaction: Packers 38, Redskins 20

September, 15, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Some thoughts on the Washington Redskins38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

What it means for Washington: It’s not just an 0-2 record, it’s the way Washington has looked for most of the two games. The Redskins miss too many tackles and allow too many big plays on defense. The offense hasn’t displayed any rhythm early in games, leading to big disadvantages at halftime. The Redskins dug out of a 3-6 hole last season, but they looked far better at that point than they have this season. The offense, at that point, was dangerous. The offense is only hurting the team now, giving no shelter for a struggling defense. And the special teams haven’t helped one bit. Add it up and the Redskins' 0-2 hole feels much deeper.

Stock report falling: The defense hasn’t been helped by an offense that produces little to nothing in the first half of games. But a year ago the offense propped up the defense by producing with big games. This year the defense needs to help out an offense that takes way too long to get into a rhythm. They haven’t been helped facing explosive offenses in the first two weeks, but the secondary continues to have problems, sometimes with communication and other times with missed tackles.

Piling up numbers: In the first two quarters, quarterback Robert Griffin III completed 6 of 13 passes for 107 yards and no touchdowns. He threw for 31 yards on the first two series of the third quarter. After that point, with the Redskins trailing 31-0, Griffin threw for 182 of his 320 yards and three touchdowns.

Undisciplined play: The Redskins had four penalties of at least 14 yards (one was half the distance) and it could have been more had the officials called a helmet-to-helmet hit on safety Brandon Meriweather. But they also had unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on long-snapper Nick Sundberg and gunner Niles Paul on special teams. And center Will Montgomery had a facemask penalty as well as one for a peel-back block. Coach Mike Shanahan once took pride in his team’s disciplined play, but the Redskins have not played that way the first two games when it comes to penalties.

What’s next: The Redskins host Detroit on Sunday in a game that could be as important as any left on their schedule. Another loss and the Redskins could have major issues going forward. They need a win. Desperately.