Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III
It was the slogan. It was the documentary. It was a coach who figured they could ease him back in. It was a doctor calling him superhuman. It also was a group that overlooked the obvious: When it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, especially for a young guy, there’s no substitute for repetitions. That’s where Bruce Allen, in essence, said the Washington Redskins organization erred last summer when it came to Robert Griffin III.
That's easy to say now. Although his return was heavily debated, it wasn’t as if many in the organization were saying behind the scenes that Griffin should wait a few more weeks.
His knee was ready and cleared by Dr. James Andrews. His game? Another matter. Griffin did not look sharp in the throwing sessions the media could watch. But at the time, you figured it was natural rust and would be shed soon. Griffin, after all, was an athlete on a different level.
Ah, but playing quarterback is about more. It’s safe to say Griffin could have used a few more weeks of nurturing his game before returning. The problem at the time was this: The Redskins were entering the regular season, and he didn’t have time to continue rebuilding his game. Coaches often say young quarterbacks grow more in the offseason between their first and second seasons. Griffin didn’t have that. It took him a while to gain any sort of consistency and rhythm. A big play or game would be followed by erratic play; it never really changed.
There’s no doubt coach Mike Shanahan felt as if he had no choice but to insert Griffin. Allen never mentioned him, but Shanahan had the ultimate authority. There was so much hype surrounding Griffin's desire to return, which left the coach wondering how it would be perceived if he didn’t start him. Shanahan had the utmost confidence in Kirk Cousins -- but Cousins sprained his foot and missed two weeks, not returning until right before the opener.
Shanahan could have made a decision, just as he could have made one in the 2012 playoff loss and not used Griffin. A coach with two Super Bowl rings has that authority. Shanahan failed to make the decision; no one from the organization publicly disagreed with the move, either.
It’s funny, though, because life is different for Griffin with Jay Gruden. It’s almost as if the Redskins are trying the George Costanza approach: Whatever was done in the past, do the opposite. Gruden is more player-friendly and certainly more compatible with Griffin. They are trying to decrease the importance of his legs (the Shanahans incorporated them in part to ease the transition to the NFL), at least on designed runs; when he has run in camp, it’s been off scrambles. If any situations arise with Griffin when it comes to injuries, my guess is they will take a different approach there, too.
Gruden knows what went wrong here in the past. But it wasn’t just one or two people who learned a lesson when it came to handling Griffin’s injury. It was an organization. More than one person shared in this responsibility. If they learned from it, Griffin and the team can move forward with confidence.
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.
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)
- Trent Williams
- Shawn Lauvao
- Kory Lichtensteiger
- Chris Chester
- Tyler Polumbus
- Morgan Moses
- Spencer Long
- Josh LeRibeus
- Tom Compton
- Mike McGlynn
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.
- Ryan Kerrigan
- Brian Orakpo
- Perry Riley
- Keenan Robinson
- Trent Murphy
- Darryl Sharpton
- Adam Hayward
- Brandon Jenkins
- Akeem Jordan
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.
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.
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.
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.
NFL Nation's John Keim examines the three biggest issues facing the Washington Redskins heading into training camp.
A rookie coach: Jay Gruden showed during the spring that he’ll coach with energy, creating a different vibe at Redskins Park. He’ll catch passes, defend receivers, throw a pass or two. And he looked for coaches who bring a similar energy. The difference was noticeable throughout the spring workouts open to the media.
Gruden, too, is a players’ coach, which can be viewed as positive or negative (all related to wins and losses).
Thus far, his relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III has been all positive. If that continues, it’s a major boost to the organization after the toxicity of last season, regardless of who was at fault. It helps that Gruden is able to keep his ego in check; you don’t get the sense that there are any ulterior motives with him.
Having said all that, we have no idea how Gruden will handle a season in charge. What if there’s an issue with Griffin? What if the defense doesn’t produce and he thinks the Skins need to tweak their scheme? Will Gruden be able to make those hard decisions when necessary? In-game and in-season adjustments matter greatly, and Gruden has to prove himself in this area. He was not a unanimous hotshot choice to be a head coach, but the Redskins believed in him and thought he could handle the job. But now a first-time head coach has to do what established coaches such as Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan failed to do: lead a consistent winner. And he has to do that with general manager Bruce Allen, who has all the football power for the first time in his career.
Robert Griffin III’s rise: Griffin was viewed as a savior in 2012, setting records as a rookie and helping the Redskins win the NFC East title for the first time since 1999. His future, and that of the organization, looked tremendous -- even though when they were 3-6 it appeared they had the right quarterback, but not the right team.
Then came last season. And harsh judgment on Griffin and his future. Even as a rookie there was skepticism about whether Griffin’s career could last given all the running he did (sometimes by design, other times by necessity and other times because of poor decision-making). But last season, his mechanical flaws were critiqued more harshly, and his ability to develop as a pocket passer was questioned. Meanwhile, anonymous-sourced stories abounded about his ability to lead the right way and develop as a passer.
Griffin went from a beloved figure two years ago to one who now engenders sharp opinions one way or another. Now his personality is even questioned. Griffin can regain the love, but he’ll have to turn a strong offseason into an even better regular season. His road to redemption is not a long one, but he just has to get it done. Considering this is the first real NFL offseason he’s had, it’s not a big leap to think he’ll play better than in ’13 – even in a new offense. The Redskins’ ability to give him quicker reads with receivers more capable of winning at the line will help.
Where's the D? Washington improved its pass rush by adding a coach devoted to it (Brian Baker), signing a free agent (Jason Hatcher) and drafting another outside linebacker (Trent Murphy). That, combined with holdovers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, should give the rush a boost. Corner David Amerson gives the Redskins a young player, whom they love, to build around in the secondary.
But will that be enough to improve the defense? There are plenty of other question marks on a defense that remains in transition. Washington might have as many as five starters age 30 or older; this is not a once-great defense hanging on, it’s a once-struggling defense trying to get better. The D will receive a boost from the above additions, but still needs more.
The Redskins have to prove they are not a boom-or-bust defense. They tackled poorly in the back end last year, one reason they ranked 32nd in yards per pass attempt at 7.58. They have a new starting inside linebacker, Keenan Robinson; since being drafted in 2012, he has 11 career tackles, two torn pectoral muscles and zero starts. Safety Ryan Clark has been a solid player and is a terrific leader, but he needs to show he can still play at age 34. If a defense needs to be strong up the middle to win, the Redskins have this: a solid nose tackle in Barry Cofield, question marks at inside linebacker, and question marks at safety. While Griffin’s play garners the headlines, the defense holds a major key to success.
But with a new staff, a quarterback more like himself and with a full offseason and better receivers, the Redskins’ passing attack should improve. Of course, there have been many times in the past that an aspect of the Redskins should have improved and did not. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has maintained all along that nothing has yet been accomplished. He is absolutely right.
One veteran offensive player said what helps is that Jay Gruden’s passing game is similar to what Washington ran under Kyle Shanahan. It also helps that the coaches say the run game will be the same. Still, it’s a new offense that Griffin and the others must learn.
The Redskins have devoted 15.57 percent of their cap space to receiver -- that’s 36.05 percent more than the average NFL team.
Also, the feeling, for now at least, is that the Redskins will rely less on play-action passes than they did in the past. The Redskins averaged an NFL-best 11.85 yards per pass attempt from play-action in 2012; they averaged 6.97 yards per attempt last season, 26th in the NFL. By comparison, Cincinnati ranked 12th last season at 8.22 yards per pass attempt from play-action (all statistics courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information).
However, the Bengals definitely ran it less: they ranked 19th in the NFL with only 47.6 yards per game out of play-action looks. The Redskins, meanwhile, were ninth at 70.3 yards per game.
The sense is that the Redskins won’t need to use it as much because of an improved receiving corps, one that is much more capable of winning one-on-one battles at the line (unlike last season). Therefore, in theory, it should result in quicker opportunities for Griffin. That will allow the Redskins to use less complicated reads until Griffin and the receivers grow in the offense. Without the benefit of a regular offseason a year ago, the Redskins could not expand the offense under Griffin the way they would have liked. When they tried to, it did not work for a variety of reasons.
Griffin has had a good offseason and, the veteran said, has done a good job of picking up the offense. But the fact remains that this is his first legitimate NFL offseason and he’s learning a second offense. Don’t complicate matters (even if every NFL offense is complex). This should allow him to be more decisive and play to his strengths, which should include throwing the deep ball.
A lot of this depends on how well the protection holds up. If it doesn't, then play-action can be used more often.
Gruden inherited different talent offensively than he had in Cincinnati. The Bengals did not have a workhorse runner as good as Alfred Morris. They did not have the depth among the receiving talent Washington now appears to have (including tight end Jordan Reed). Of course, the Bengals did have other weapons: receiver A.J. Green, one of the game’s best; running back Giovani Bernard, good at running from the spread and catching passes out of the backfield.
Griffin is a different threat than Andy Dalton. Griffin, obviously, is more mobile but he also has a stronger arm and should be more dangerous throwing downfield. But keep in mind that Cincinnati led the NFL with 83 pass attempts on passes that traveled at least 20 yards or more (the Redskins had 60 such attempts) but were 16th in completion percentage (37.3 percent) and 13th in yards per attempt (12.83). Again, if Griffin is sharper, then it would help here: The Redskins ranked second in the NFL in yards per pass attempt on these plays in 2012 (though they were 31st in number of passes attempted). Last season, the Redskins ranked 26th in completion percentage (28.3) and 25th in yards per attempt (9.92). With Jackson, a healthy Reed and an improved Griffin, I would expect both numbers to improve by a decent amount.
Also, what we have learned thus far about Gruden is that he will adjust. Well, actually, all we know is that he says he will adapt. That is why he is leaving the same run game in place, knowing it has been effective. Though some aspects of his offense have to remain the same -- you need core beliefs -- he can’t, and shouldn’t, ask Griffin to be Dalton.
The Redskins need Griffin to be Griffin again. They have the receivers to help him get there; they definitely need the line to help as well. Otherwise, a lot of what the Redskins hope to do -- and want to do -- will have to change.
Will Gruden change up the preseason playing time for starters due to it being his first yr as a HC compared to the norm? #Redskinsmailbag— Boone Hosey (@MrBoonsta) July 10, 2014
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.
John Keim: No. The reasons are many, but suffice to say neither one (Richard Crawford or Chase Minnifield) has a safety's build -- both are smaller players -- nor have they ever played the position. So it would take a while for them to get used to the position. It's not a simple transition. Bashaud Breeland is one who could eventually play here; he's a little bigger and more physical. But corner is more valuable and if he shows he can play that position then that's where he must stay. But you're right, they do need much better depth at safety. They do like the versatility of their top corners when it comes to playing safety in certain coverages. But that's different than being able to do it full-time. They need to find and develop some young safeties. Corner is considered the more premium position, so you absolutely need solid depth at that spot.
John Keim: He's looked fine. Can't say he stood out or anything, but he also wasn't the focal point that he was a year ago at this time when he was working with the starters. But nothing has changed regarding him since the end of the season. His value remains the same -- Cleveland offered Washington a fourth-round pick for him during the draft. I don't see that position improving unless some team gets really desperate because of a training camp injury. But I don't think Cousins is at a point where you make some panic move to bring him in right before the season, expecting him to go in and light it up. He's still a young guy with a lot to prove. He's not instant success in that sort of scenario. Besides, there's no way I'd trade him at this point. Why? I want good insurance behind Griffin because of the durability concerns.
John Keim: Mike Barwis, the trainer on this show, certainly agrees with you. I know the coaches here like him a lot, too. Sometimes you find a way to keep guys like him just because of what he adds in the locker room, how he works, etc. The problem is Neild is a backup nose tackle who provides no help in the nickel package. If the Redskins only keep six defensive linemen, then it'll be tough for Neild to make it (though injuries to others would change things). He would not be the first character guy to have been cut because, in the end, it's always a numbers game. But my guess is if they can find a way to keep him, they will. When you have bust-your-butt guys at the end of the roster, then it always helps. But it will depend on what happens at other positions.
John Keim: The unknown surrounding RG III. I say unknown because we've never seen him after a full, productive offseason -- and that's what he's had this year. Every coach I've ever covered has talked about how much improvement quarterbacks make from Year 1 to Year 2 because of the offseason. We don't know how he'll fare now that he finally has had one healthy offseason. It has to have helped, as might the improved relations with his coaches and the fact his knee is one year further from surgery. Also, in the NFL, there are always teams that finished with horrible records who make the postseason. The Redskins have a ways to go to reach that point, but some team will go from few wins to the playoffs this year.
John Keim: It's a done deal. The NFL does not announce these suspensions until the appeals process is over. Anytime you hear about a possible suspension, like Cleveland's Josh Gordon, it's because it was somehow leaked. But once it's announced? It's over. Now we can finally move on from this chapter about a guy who was discussed for two years -- yet never played a game.
John Keim: They only have three quarterbacks on the roster so if they keep all three then, yes, he'll make it. With Griffin's durability always an issue it's probably wise to have three quarterbacks just in case. McCoy is not a practice squad candidate.
John Keim: Actually, the NFC East does not have a tough schedule. Nobody in the division has a schedule rated in the top 16 (based on opponents' 2013 winning percentage). It's tough to gauge a schedule's strength based on what a team did a year ago, but it's the way it's done. And it's very hard to go through and guess how a team will do based on offseason pickups -- some will improve, others will not. So I'll just go based off winning percentage for now. According to this metric, the Redskins have the NFL's 17th hardest schedule as their opponents had a .490 winning percentage in 2013. That's also the hardest one in the NFC East. The others: No. 18 Dallas (.488), No. 20 Philadelphia (.479) and No. 26 New York (.465). Remember, those teams' schedules look easier because of Washington's 3-13 mark.
Briles' prediction? "So I think this year, I do think we'll see a very healthy RG III. I think we're gonna see a guy that's happy playing the game, that has a fire and attitude that you need to have a chance to be successful, because that's who he is."
Revisiting Week 1 2013: Steinberg also wrote about former Redskin Chris Cooley saying that Griffin should not have started the 2013 opener. It wasn't because of Griffin's health, but rather his readiness. Griffin was cleared by doctors and was ready physically. But it's clear in hindsight he was not prepared to play in an NFL game. Mike Shanahan did a bad job of managing Griffin, from not pulling him in the Seattle game despite his gut feeling to do so and to being afraid of how his moves were perceived by the young quarterback. If you have a conviction on something, do it. Instead, Shanahan did not and instead we got the mess of last December.
Power rankings: The Redskins ended the 2013 season ranked No. 31 in ESPN's power rankings. The rankings suggest they'll be better over the next three years -- but not by a whole lot. The panel of experts ranked Washington No. 24 for what it could do over the next three years. That's a dropoff from last season and it stems from a fall at quarterback and coaching. They dropped 12 spots at quarterback and 19 at coaching from this time last year. The knock on Griffin traces back to his knee injury and a subpar season. And going from Mike Shanahan to first-time head coach Jay Gruden caused a tumble (of course, had Shanahan returned after such a bad season they might have fallen far regardless). It's not as if Gruden's hire was considered a great one at the time, so until he proves himself there will be split opinions on him. They also were knocked for the front office. The Redskins need Griffin to rebound and they'll climb in the rankings, but they also have to do a much better job building the defense. If Griffin plays well, the offense is in excellent shape. But the defense needs more help and will need several new parts after this season.
As the Redskins look to the future, it’s clear that one person holds the key to their success over the next three years: Griffin. They could still succeed if Griffin fails, but that would require them to solve a position they haven’t been able to for a long, long time. (They’ve had two Pro Bowl quarterbacks since 1998: Brad Johnson in ’99 and Griffin in ’12.) Maybe backup quarterback Kirk Cousins could be that guy, but that’s far from certain.
Of course, the defense must play better. And the defense is hardly built for long-term success at this point, unlike an offense that features a young nucleus. The defense is aging and needs more good young players.
The head coach, Jay Gruden, needs to prove he can handle his new gig. The general manager, Bruce Allen, must show he can build a winner -- he’s fully in charge now for the first time in his career. The pressure is on both men, but Griffin’s play on the field trumps all because of the importance of the position. If he plays well, it’s easier for Gruden to coach and for Allen to build. If Griffin stumbles or gets hurt, everyone in charge has a much tougher task. Griffin's play can get guys paid -- or fired. That's power.
The Redskins also tied their future to Griffin the minute they sent a large haul to St. Louis in exchange for the No. 2 pick: three first-round picks and a second. That preceded news about the two-year salary-cap penalty that restricted their ability to fortify the roster. Add it up and Griffin’s success became even more important. They need him to deliver.
If Griffin improves and stays healthy, the Redskins have a dynamic young quarterback capable of delivering big plays and, perhaps, titles for years to come. Doing the latter takes more than one player, but Griffin’s performance in 2012 gave Washington something it had not had in a long time: hope. That hope still exists, though it now comes with fingers crossed. But nobody else can deliver what Washington needs more than Griffin.
Morgan agrees to service: Former Redskins receiver Josh Morgan agreed to do 32 hours of community service in order to have an assault charge dropped. Morgan was accused of punching a valet in the mouth for "looking in the direction" of a woman with the new Chicago receiver. Morgan said he didn't hit the man, though. Kind of a wild divergence of stories if that's the case. It's an unfortunate turn for Morgan, though the community service aspect is good for him. It's something he already does -- more so than anyone else in Washington the past two seasons. He also showed that he wasn't much help at receiver.
RG III ranking: My former partner and mentor Rick Snider didn't like ESPN's ranking of quarterback Robert Griffin III. A poll of executives and coaches (most current, some former) showed Griffin as the 19th-ranked quarterback in the NFL, in the third tier and tied with Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. I wrote about this last week, but Snider scoffed at this notion. You can't dismiss how people around the league perceive Griffin -- and this includes players, too. There are definite skeptics. And while Griffin has had a lot go right this offseason, and has worked hard, it's not as if he tore it up in spring workouts (he's still a young QB learning the game) so all that outsiders have to go on is: whatever they saw on tape and whatever they hear/read about him. I get the concerns over him, but so much is based on a subpar season in which a guy who desperately needed an offseason didn't have one. A year ago, before the injury (and perhaps even after), Griffin would have been a lot higher on the list. But he struggled as a pocket passer, was knocked by "anonymous" sources and his reputation took a big hit. If he has a big year, that ranking will shoot up. In other words: He can still change things. In a hurry. It would be interesting to talk to the same people a year from now to see how much opinions can change in one year and what the narrative is surrounding Griffin.
No more headdress: Amanda Blackhorse, who was part of the group that challenged the organization's nickname with the Patent and Trademark Office, said they targeted the Redskins first because they considered the nickname more offensive than, say the Chiefs or Indians. But those teams aren't off the hook, nor are their fans. While a small minority of Redskins fans -- or those of other teams for that matter -- dress in Indian garb, Blackhorse told the Grand Canyon News that no one should. "You can love Native Americans and not have anything against them, but yet your fans will do very bizarre rituals in these games that are very stereotypical of Native American people," Blackhorse said. "The headdress, the war paint, that's what I have a problem with," she said. "No matter how well ... you try to stage this sort of thing, you're always going to have that outcome."
Bronzed: Baylor announced plans to build a statue of quarterback Robert Griffin III at its new stadium when it opens in August. This had been in the works for a while – Griffin knew about the possibility during the season and, in fact, had photos taken of him for the project a year ago-- but the project was completed in May. The 9-foot statue will be unveiled before Baylor’s game against SMU on Aug. 31. Griffin is Baylor’s lone Heisman Trophy winner and obviously was given a lot of credit for Baylor’s rise. At some point the school will have to find a way to honor its coach, Art Briles (perhaps when he’s done there).
On second thought: Ben Tribbett, hired by the Redskins as a blogger to help in the name battle, announced his resignation via Twitter after only two weeks. Tribbett said on Twitter that, “I don’t want to be a distraction to the team as the political attacks have shifted towards being personal towards me.” He added in a separate tweet that he wanted the debate to be over the name and not over what anything he has said or done in the past. Tribbett, considered a liberal blogger, had been vocal in his support of the name in the past. But he’s also the one who wrote harshly about former Virginia Governor and Senator George Allen after he used the word “macacca” in a 2006 campaign. And Indian Country Today wrote about a few missteps by Tribbett in the past, including a tweet about an encounter at a casino. Tribbett tweeted, “Just took Chief for his last 300. I’d call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for.” Another move that backfired on the Redskins. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, their attempts to win the public over on the name front have not helped.
Obv. this issue with Redskins is one where I don't see eye to eye with some friends. I just don't agree with the attacks on the team name.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
I don't want to be a distraction to the team as the political attacks have shifted towards being personal towards me.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
So I'm going to send in my resignation to the Redskins. Hopefully that allows debate to move back to where it should be.— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) July 8, 2014
American Muscle: Receiver Pierre Garcon and nose tackle Chris Neild both will appear on the Discovery Channel series "American Muscle" this summer (it debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday). I’ll be talking to Mike Barwis, who worked with them on the show, Tuesday morning for a post later in the day. I'm curious to hear how this came about and what sort of work they did. Neild is on the bubble this camp while Garcon is coming off a record season. A key part of Garcon’s game is his ability to play physical. I’d say it’s underrated, but I don’t think that’s the case so I guess I won’t say that. But it does allow him to be effective on bubble screens and other short routes because he has an ability to break tackles. Among other players featured on the show: Seattle corner Richard Sherman.
Lauvao’s progress: Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said of new guard Shawn Lauvao last month: “He got better every day. It was all new to him. He needs to get out there and play. He’s more of a practice guy; he needs to be out there doing it. Trent [Williams] can make a lot of guys look good when they play next to him. He’s doing a good job with Shawn teaching him how to do things and [Lauvao] made huge strides from voluntary minicamp.”
Oops! A college student was asked his opinion on the Redskins name – and it turned out to be a break the police in another town needed. Jacob Close, 25, and a Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania) University student, was spotted by Ithaca, New York, police in the Bloomsburg Press Enterprise after his picture ran in conjunction with a story on the Redskins name. Turns out Close was wanted for jumping bail in a drug/DUI-related case, according to the Press Enterprise. The paper reported that campus police had been searching for him for more than a month after being contacted by Ithaca City Police in May. For what it’s worth, Close said the team should keep the nickname but change the mascot to a potato.
More work: Quarterback Robert Griffin III will work with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea next week. Griffin worked with Shea earlier this offseason for a week, but wanted another tune-up before training camp begins July 24. Shea focused hard on Griffin’s fundamentals, including narrowing his base, getting his feet to turn with his body in the pocket and raising where Griffin held the ball -- at times last year he held it too low, leading to a wind-up throw. Griffin clearly has worked hard this offseason. I'm curious to see how that pays off this summer and during the season. He’s also said to have his explosion back, as has been discussed for a while – as multiple people have talked about seeing a difference in that area. But the real key for him is developing in the pocket. Griffin needs to succeed without that extraordinary explosion, though it certainly does help when defenses fear your legs.
Vinny on Snyder's fight: Former Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato knows Dan Snyder well, which is why he doesn’t think he’ll abandon his fight to keep the nickname. Snyder is not going to suddenly think the other side has a point, not when he views the matter much, much differently. Besides, what has been evident over the years is that he’s ultra-competitive and does not want to lose this one. Cerrato’s point is one that others have mentioned, too: The only way Snyder might relinquish the battle is if (and he stressed if) he somehow gets a new stadium out of it in a decade or so.
Family torn on name: The Wetzel family is a pivotal one in the Redskins’ battle over the nickname as Walter Wetzel is the one who designed the current logo used on the helmet since 1972. Wetzel’s son, Donald, tells The Washington Post – and has told other outlets in the past – that he’s proud of the name and the logo. But his nephew told the Post that he definitely is on the other side with his thoughts. Guessing this is a microcosm of the debate played out among Native Americans.
Redemption: A lot of Redskins have talked about getting the “bad taste out of their mouths” from last season. Niles Paul joined that chorus in an interview with Omaha.com. Paul said, “This is clearly a redemption year for us, and we want to let that be known.” I did a two-week look at players with something to prove, but there’s no doubt the organization as a whole has a lot to prove. But the Redskins have said the right things in the past only to do ... nothing. They can back up these words if Griffin rebounds, the pass rush is terrific, the tackling in the secondary is a lot better and the inside linebackers produce.
Ryan Clark has left, if David Amerson has improved and if Brandon Meriweather is more consistent. It is impossible to tell most of that from watching them work in just shorts and a helmet. I do like what I saw from Amerson and in what I heard from him. He had a good grasp on what he needed to be doing to improve. In less than a month we'll get a chance to see how he's really doing. As for the starters, it's easy right now: Amerson and DeAngelo Hall at the corners; Meriweather and Clark at safety. They need Clark's leadership deep, but they also need to make sure he can still play at a certain level. Darrel Young has improved as a blocker during his time in Washington. He helps the run game and he helps on special teams too. But really this will depend on what they do at other positions. My guess is they'll want to keep nine or 10 offensive linemen. Would they really keep two kickers? How many safeties and corners? Usually 10 are kept, but they were willing to go with 11 two years ago. Would they really want to go with three running backs and a fullback -- or four running backs and no fullback? Last year's fourth running back, Evan Royster, barely played. They could always keep one on the practice squad just in case. Jason Hatcher plays well if Chris Baker comes through to give them a young rusher, then I think this group will be fine. They'd have more depth and versatility than a year ago. The line did a solid job against the run last year; their issue was a lack of pressure. But if Hatcher has durability issues because of his knee and Stephen Bowen does not return to a solid level and Jarvis Jenkins still can't do much in nickel ... then they will have issues. They're a question mark, like many parts of the defense.
For Griffin, this season is as much about getting his reputation back as well as his game. They’re obviously tied together. If he plays well, things that rubbed people the wrong way will be viewed differently. Some will still dislike him, but results are what matter most. We all know some of the reasons why he struggled in 2013, especially the knee and the lack of an offseason. But he also has to show he can become a consistent quality pocket passer. Even if he had never been hurt, Griffin needed to evolve in this area: It’s how you survive long-term in the NFL and he knows that well. Extending plays will always be part of his game and that’s what should still scare teams. Also, if he can’t succeed by running anything worse than a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, then he never should have been drafted second overall. It was his all-around skills that impressed people, not just his speed.
What he must do: Make big plays again and grow as a leader. Griffin understands leadership, which is why he was actively a part of free-agent recruiting and helped woo DeSean Jackson, among others. Griffin knew that he needed to understand Jackson and his motivation. Not sure anyone will outwork Griffin, either. But Griffin is only 24 and will learn more about leadership as he continues in the NFL. He’ll learn that it's OK to say something was his fault without going into great detail; my guess is you’ll see that more this season. And he'll also learn it's OK if everyone doesn't love you, as coach Jay Gruden pointed out, though I think Griffin is getting this as well.
Griffin is a hard-working player determined to have success. Yes, he has limitations as a quarterback -- all of them do. He, and the coaches, must find ways to work around those issues. But this offense, and Gruden's style, could be good for him as a developing passer. They have more receivers who can win one-on-one battles, which will enable him to work through progressions faster and check to better plays. Audibles alone won't help him succeed; the previous offense had automatic checks that many on offense said could get them out of bad situations (sort of like a pre-determined audible). Growing as a pocket passer -- which means not just throwing from here but also his presence -- will matter much more. The Redskins would be wise not to overload Griffin. He’s still a young quarterback now learning his second passing offense. They have the ability to keep it (relatively) simple this season and then build/add to any success. If the Redskins use more drop-back passes and no play-action, then the line must do its part and Griffin must help them with more decisive throws. The talent and style of the offense could make that possible.
Projection: Griffin obviously is the starter and, I believe, will play better than in 2013. But, the question is, how much better? The Redskins need more help from the defense; we've all seen the boost young quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have received from their defenses. Otherwise, Griffin's mistakes always will be magnified. Griffin looked and sounded like a more confident player this spring, which is a start. He’s had a strong offseason and has a coach with whom he’s not butting heads. Griffin will work once more with quarterback guru Terry Shea this summer (starting July 14). Gruden is inheriting a different quarterback than the one Washington had the past two seasons, one better positioned for success. Griffin now just needs to make it happen. And the franchise needs him to make it happen as well.
What he must do: He’s not going to get much stronger or quicker. So he has to play the savvy vet role and hope the offense doesn’t require a lot of deep drops that take 3.0 seconds to pass. That was part of the problem a year ago, compounded by a quarterback in Robert Griffin III who was unable to develop in the offseason. Chester typically plays with a good base and consistent fundamentals. He also shows good awareness in protection. Occasionally he would try to help right tackle Tyler Polumbus, but by doing so would knock the rusher into a better position -- leading to a sack. Chester has to return to the level of consistency he showed in 2012, especially in the second half of that season. Again, the style of offense will help. Offensive lines are aided greatly by: receivers who win quickly; quarterbacks who make good, quick decisions and a scheme that doesn’t put them in bad spots. They have the receivers to win that way. Griffin can help with his reads, though that will be aided by the receivers winning sooner as well. It all works together. But Griffin will always extend plays when possible, so not every pass will be thrown in a hurry.
Projection: For now, Chester is the starter. And there could be a distinct difference between he and the two likely challengers for his job. It’s hard to know that not having seen LeRibeus play since last August and knowing that Long is a rookie and has a lot to learn. Both have to prove that Chester doesn’t warrant a spot. But Chester has to prove that he’s worth keeping around after a tough season.